‘Roles reject the actor, actors don’t reject roles’
The UB Post interviewed actor B.Zoljargal, who’s playing the lead role of State Academic Theater of Drama (SATOD)’s latest children’s play “Tsartsaa Namjil”.
The play, based on a popular Mongolian folktale with the same name, was launched on Sunday, February 5. The the play was originally planned to be staged on February 5 and 18, but actor B.Zoljargal says that there might be additional performances in between.
Director B.Khishigzaya, who has been working on the play’s script for nearly a year, shared that she hopes to develop children’s play, educate children through the arts, and promote Mongolian stories and folktales through the modern version of “Tsartsaa Namjil”, which tells the story of failed monk called Tsartsaa Namjil who accidentally becomes a revered spiritual figure.
The first show of “Tsartsaa Namjil” is tomorrow (February 5). Are you ready?
There’s only one day left until the opening. I’m very nervous but excited. “Tsartsaa Namjil” is finally ready and I would like to encourage everyone to watch it. In particular, I hope parents will invest in their children’s education and have their children watch this play.
Overall, I’m ready, but I have to say that I had a very short time to prepare for it. We rehearsed for about 20 days. Since it’s a production, we had a relatively small team of 100 members, 20 of whom were actors. I think that the preparation work was done very well.
All plays are reviewed in advance by our directors and management staff, as well as some foreign specialists. “Tsartsaa Namjil” was evaluated quite highly by them and they approved its public staging.
What was your first impression when you got this role?
I had no clue about it until the first day of work this year. On January 2, I was told that actors would be assigned to roles for a new play. Moreover, it was a children’s play. Then, I was told that I got the main role, Tsartsaa Namjil. I was very grateful. The story is a Mongolian folktale so I was familiar with it. With this as the first show, I think 2017 will be a very good and prosperous year full of happiness and energy for both the theater and me.
Did you have to audition for the role of Tsartsaa Namjil?
There wasn’t an audition. This role was assigned to me directly. When I got the role, I wanted to defend my character’s decisions and behavior. There were some challenges while working with this role. For instance, I had to study how I should behave as a child because I found this most difficult. I tried shaving my head and am continuing to study things for improving my portrayal of the character. I also thought a lot about how I should speak and what tone to use.
…If people truly work hard, they can succeed in the future like Tsartsaa Namjil…
“Tsartsaa Namjil” is a children’s play. What did you focus on while working on this character?
I wanted to keep make my Tsartsaa Namjil more cheeky, crafty and cheerful while preserving his traditional image.
Most people think that children’s plays are easy. I actually find children’s plays much harder. Children cry and shout out loud during plays. I need to think about how I act. Should I exaggerate my movements, or mimic to draw their attention and make them pay attention so that they understand the story better? Like so, it can be much harder and I think it requires much more skills from actors.
Is your personality similar to Tsartsaa Namjil’s?
In reality, I’m more modest but I do become active and outgoing when I’m with my friends. I didn’t find it too hard to play Tsartsaa Namjil because I’ve performed some of the scenes in this play when I was a student.
I heard that the play has been mixed with other folk stories. Can you tell us about this?
This time, “Tsartsaa Namjil” includes three other stories, which are: “Temee Buga Khoyor”, “Muur ba Khulgana”, and “Kheree Togos Khoyor”.
This play is very clear and so is the crux of the story. If people truly work hard, they can succeed in the future. Tsartsaa Namjil, who couldn’t learn anything before, had to learn things because he has no other choice. When someone is in trouble or a dire situation, they will remember what their teacher told them and learn to do things. For example, people need to learn to cut a bread and sweep the floor to live more comfortably. They learn this because they have to. Through this play, I hope children learn that they need to work hard and be sincere to succeed in life. The most important thing to learn from this play is studying.
What was it like working with director B.Khishigzaya?
I graduated from the Mongolian State University of Arts and Culture in 2011 under the guidance of State Honored People’s Teacher B.Munkhdorj. It was very easy to work with Cultural Leading Worker and director B.Khishigzaya because I’ve known her since I was a student. She used to be our assistant homeroom teacher. I’d like to use this opportunity to thank her for entrusting me with this role and responsibility. I will continue to work hard.
…Every student studying acting dreams of entering the SATOD. SATOD has a very high criteria. Every year, it holds one to two auditions and accept less than four people at a time…
B.Khishigzaya said that the play has been modified and that they tried to bring a better performance for children. Was the choreography difficult?
Cultural Leading Worker S.Gan-Ochir created the choreography for the play. I’d like to thank him for his splendid work. I didn’t find it very difficult.
When did you join the SATOD? What other plays have you performed?
I was accepted by the SATOD in 2014. So far, I’ve played in “Oulen Ekh” (a part of “Mongolian Great Queens Tales” dance play), “Cinderella”, “Anu Khatan”, “Romeo and Juliet” and others.
The first play I did after joining the SATOD was “Uuchlaarai, Ta Dugaar Anduurch” (Sorry, You Got the Wrong Number). I worked on the role of a killer. I also got the opportunity to work as an assistant director at the theater.
How do you “work” on a role?
First, roles are distributed. Then you have to read the script and reenact scenes. As you act it out, you have to think about how you say it, where to put emphasis. There’s a famous saying that you have to identify things not written in the script and demonstrate it through actions. I try to always keep this in mind.
Can you tell us more about your experience working as an assistant director?
Being an assistant director is extremely hard. You’re the first to come to the theater and the last to leave. I realized that assistant directors do the hardest job.
…I actually wanted to become a wrestler, but fate led me to acting…
Have you played in a children’s play before?
After graduating in 2011, I worked at Gatsuurkhan Children’s Theater, founded by my teacher Munkhdorj, for a year and a half. During that period, I performed in children’s plays “Muruudliin Uzeg” and “Altan Tulkhuuriin Erelt”.
Why did you decide to become an actor?
I never dreamed of becoming an actor when I was a kid, but I did think that it would be interesting to try acting. I actually wanted to become a wrestler, but fate led me to acting.
I became acquainted with this profession by coincidence. One day, I was walking past the Mongolian State University of Arts and Culture and noticed that the atmosphere around the school was very nice and warm. I really liked how young people behaved with one another. So I decided to enroll in the school and experience how it felt to be surrounded by these kinds of people and study in this school.
The more I studied, the more I fell in love with this profession. During my first year, I felt like a People’s Artist (a state title). During the second year, I felt like a State Merited Worker. During my third year, I felt like a Cultural Leading Worker, and when I finally became a senior, I became a student.
It was so hard when I came closer to graduation. I wondered what I would do in the future. Every student studying acting dreams of entering the SATOD. SATOD has a very high criteria. Every year, it holds one to two auditions and accept less than four people at a time. I was very happy when I was accepted in 2014. I’m very happy and grateful to be working with great actors of all age groups here, as well as everyone who works backstage. So much effort is poured behind the stage and people should recognize that.
What kind of an actor do you want to become? What is your biggest goal right now?
I want to be an actor who’s adored by the people – both children and adults. My near-future goal is to learn a new language like English or Russian. Everyone wants to participate in productions overseas. Right now, I’m still learning.
What are you doing to improve your language and acting skills?
Acting is a very busy job. You work while resting and rest while working. I’m searching for language courses that can help me learn a new language quickly between my busy schedules.
As for acting skills, I try to watch films and read books as much as possible. Books are essential to actors in my opinion.
Is there a particular role you’d like to try?
No, I’ll accept any role offered to me. The main thing is that roles reject the actor, not the other way around.
What will you do once “Tsartsaa Namjil” play is over?
Starting Monday, I will be rehearsing for “Notre-Dame de Paris” musical as it is February, the month of love. I will rehearse in the morning and perform for the audience at night or vice-versa from now on.