This one time at St Martins... I was rehearsing for the play Blood Relations, directed by John Preston. I was playing Lizzie Borden ('Lizzie Borden took an axe, gave her mother forty whacks...'). It was a beautiful team. The wonderful Jackie Kennedy played the other version of Lizzie- I was the 'real' Lizzie and she was the actress. During rehearsals another cast member told me he thought my work was going 'great guns'. I thought that was a funny expression, but was blown away that someone could think my work was good. That was a little turning point. It took time for me to dare to think it might be possible to work in theatre. It takes a place where things can happen. And someone to open doors, to give you a chance.
St Martins was such a place.
A story about a moment, big or small
Actually…Three moments from St Martins that shaped my path:
At age 20 – in Blood Relations, I have a distinct physical memory of a moment from performance – I was kneeling on the floor next to Jackie (the other Lizzie Borden) nestled against her knee, under theatre lights. I think it was the first time I sensed the intimacy-in-public of theatre. We were in a mysterious world – poetic, dark, sharing a private moment with people on the other side of the lights. It was such a high – the joy of being on stage.
At 21: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, directed by Beverley Dunn - I played Puck as a grungy dealer with oily hair - FUN. I discovered working with the body- the gait of Puck was not my gait – I was a trickster. It was Shakespeare and it was outrageous, flirtatious, magical FUN.
Theatre friendships were effervescent, excitable, open.
And work was not work- it was joy. I could happily have rehearsed for 20 hours straight. The high of it.
After that I got into VCA. That production was a turning point.
In my 30s: Anna Messariti asked me to teach Stanislavski workshops. Two young women in the group worked on the scene from Chekhov's Uncle Vanya – the late night (Act 2) scene between Sonia and Yelena - when Sonia asks ‘are you happy?’ and Yelena says ‘No.’ I fell in love with the play then - its honesty was a revelation. I wanted to be inside it, three-dimensionally, to meet those characters.
Nearly twenty years later I directed Uncle Vanya as a site-specific performance and got to watch those scenes again and again, in real time, in magical places, with amazing actors. That original moment sparked something and it came to fruition in a way I couldn’t have dreamed.
Bagryana is a director, actor, theatre lecturer at La Trobe university, dramaturge - and she isa mother of three adult children.
I've had the opportunity to work with incredible artists and to make projects with communities and with students. I've learnt from some amazing, inspiring people. I'm still learning. Life is full and wonderful.
– Bagryana Popov
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