Eritasard.am’s interlocutor is Armenian movie actress and performing artist, director/film director Lilie Elbakyan.
Eritasard.am: Lilie, you are the daughter of two great performing artists, that is, Anna and Armen Elbakyans. As you became an actress, was it hard for you to be recognized as an individual and add to your parents’ contributions?
Lilie Elbakyan: Since my parents were already famous actors, I already imagined myself as an actress and film director when I was little. During my childhood, we were so focused on theater and lived for theater so much that I didn’t even think about any other profession. Later, it went from being a lifestyle to a profession for me. To this day, people stress the fact that I am the daughter of the Elbakyans, and this is painful because I am a creative individual who has her vision, dreams and creativity. If I was not the daughter of the Elbakyans, I might not have had this talent. After all, it is hereditary, and since I have that talent, I must create. It is the audience that appreciates my acting and directing, and the audience is truly impartial. After all, the audience is the judge. Acting and directing are like an open palm. Your parents can’t always provide you with opportunities in a field in which you can’t show yourself. I closely follow my children to understand if they can act and follow in our footsteps, or if I will make them miserable by letting them become actors. I think my parents also acted that way when I was a child, and if I have achieved something in life, it is thanks to me, them and God.
Eritasard.am: How did you pass the test?
Lilie Elbakyan: The most serious test that I passed as not only the daughter of the Elbakyans, but also as a young girl with acting talent were the admission exams at Yerevan State Institute of Theater and Cinema. I felt responsible because Sos Sargsyan, whom I had known since childhood, was a member of the commission. After all, taking an exam in front of a parent is harder than taking an exam in front of strangers. I had studied hard, passed the exam, received high marks and became loved. I was a talented student during my years of study (smiling).
Eritasard.am: How old were you when you discovered theater and when did it “discover” you as an actress? Could you tell us about your first role?
I have been living in the theater since the day I was born, and now my son, Edgar is doing the same. I would sleep backstage and wake up in the hands of actors such as Karen
Janibekyan and many other great actors whom I remember since I was 5. I can even tell you what my favorite meal at the cafeteria of the Sundukyan Theater of Armenia was during those years. I grew up in different theaters. It was the typical. Even at school, people would tell me that I was a dreamy artist. When I was 5, I played the role of Snow Maiden in the studio of Metro Theater. Children would be happy that Snow Maiden was a child, and this is how I started acting. My first role was in the play “Physics” directed by my father. My father played the role of a crazy man, and my brother, Edgar Elbakyan starred as his son, but since he was ill that day, I played the role of the daughter. My character’s name was Marianna, and I appeared on stage without rehearsing. I was supposed to cry on stage, but I didn’t know how. I wasn’t an actor at the time, but when I saw that my father was going crazy and was dressed in the clothes of a mad man, I started crying my heart out. I remember people telling me how well I acted when I went backstage, but I was really crying and continued to cry. Later, I realized that this is how my acting career began, and performing became something like an illness. I couldn’t live without it.
Eritasard.am: Do you prefer to act or direct, or are they interrelated?
Lilie Elbakyan: Yes, they are interrelated. In reality, I love acting, especially in my dreams. Unfortunately, I direct more than act. It is in stages. If I have good offers, I act. As a principle, I don’t star in my plays and never see myself as an actress in my plays.
Eritasard.am: Do you think one has to undergo hardships or, as great artists often like to say, live a life in order to act in theater or direct a play?
Lilie Elbakyan: Yes, you have to have some life experience in order to direct a play. For instance, the older an actor is, the greater his experience is, and this helps him understand the role more in depth, but sometimes one can lack experience and act excellently. There is associate memory when you have seen something in a film and become inspired. This is why an artist must pay attention to his surroundings because even though theater is a small model of life, it is not an insipid image of the reality. We take many things from life and spice it up with art.
Eritasard.am: Based on the number of plays that you have directed and the roles that you have played during the year, it is safe to say that you don’t have much time to relax. Is it because you are hardworking, dedicated to your job, or is it because you are a professional?
Lilie Elbakyan: I don’t relax at all because when I am relaxed, I don't feel relaxed. If I am not creating outside, I am creating at home, in my dreams, I direct my dreams. My plays are mainly directed in my mind. For instance, when I was directing the play “Romeo and Juliet”, one day, I woke up and said to myself that I will change the whole design, but the play was almost ready. My students were the actors, and they were amazed. I told them that I had had a dream in which there were nets that looked like big cages and that I had created the image of the street with the nets. I even saw the sketches of my first year of studies in my dreams and directed them. I can’t picture myself without creating. Even on an unknown planet where it is impossible to create, I will find two leaves, two trees, an actor and I will create.
Eritasard.am: You have a heavy workload. How do you manage to be a mother and a wife at the same time?
Lilie Elbakyan: I try to plan my day in such a way that I manage to do everything. True, I don’t have much time to spend with my kids, but I try to make up for that on Sundays and on my free time. You know, being a good mother is not just about spending a lot of time with your child. It is also about using your time wisely. It is more important to make sure that even the one hour with your child is enough for them to fully understand you, love you and know that you love them.
Eritasard.am: Many say that nighttime is the best time of the day to create. When is your creative muse awakened?
Lilie Elbakyan: It can be awakened as a result of different situations. For instance, it can be awakened when I look at one of my actresses, Tatev Horopyan, whom I often say that she is my creative muse. My creative muse is mainly awakened when I see a talented person, or listen to a good song, see a good dance or listen to good music. The most interesting feeling is when you go home, listen to good music and realized that, at that moment, everyone at home has to be quiet because your creative muse has been awakened. Of course, it is hard with children because the creative muse can be awakened at any moment (smiling).
Eritasard.am: What makes theater a theater?
Lilie Elbakyan: Theater has to keep up with the times. Theater will live as long as man is living. To make sure theater lives, it has to convey a message and a topic. I am often asked why I didn’t direct any play during the year. If I don’t have any message to convey, I won’t direct any play. There are few topics today, yet there are more slogans and thoughts posted on Facebook. People are living to see how others live. It seems as life has become a theater, and in this theatrical life, it seems as though theater has receded, along with its messages and topics. There are topics that have remained in the past because they don’t convey a message. Theater must be about us. I am not saying that it is necessary to direct classic plays, but it is necessary to direct them in such a way that it makes the audience think that the particular play is exactly about them.
Eritasard.am: What is the first thing you think about when the curtains go up and the play begins?
Lilie Elbakyan: When I am in the audience and am watching a play directed by someone else, I think about how long it will last. If I have directed the play, I think about how the actors will act. If I am acting, I always pray for the play before the performance. As soon as the curtains go up, I stand backstage in fear. Later, I go on stage and forget everything. I think this is the magical part of the stage. There has even been a pantomime performance where I had to make plastic movements and I have acted with a sprained leg. The pain went away on stage. The stage is magical and medicinal.
Eritasard.am: How do you select actors for this or that play?
Lilie Elbakyan: I select actors according to the description of the author of the given play and based on my notion of the character, and my and the author’s notions have to coincide, or if they contradict each other, I must have a justification. Talent, complexion tone and age for the particular role are important for me. I don’t care if that person is my friend or enemy. What is very important is for us to create within the same school and for the actor to understand me immediately.
Eritasard.am: Is it easy for you to agree to play this or that role? Have there been cases when you have refused to play a certain role and why?
Lilie Elbakyan: It is safe to say that I have refused more than agreed. I have received several offers to play in soap operas and star in great films, but I have refused. You know, if I play a certain role, I have to convey some message with that role. If there is no message to convey, I refuse. I mainly play the roles of characters that undergo transformations. I primarily create for myself and then for others because if I don’t create for myself, I won’t be able to create for the audience. If I agreed to play all the roles that have been offered, I would be an actress with the most appearances on television.
Eritasard.am: You also have many New Year’s plays such as “Laplandia” and “Crusher”. I would especially like to set aside the play “Heart of Ice”, which was performed at Sundukyan Theater and a play that became popular in Yerevan. What can we expect to see this year?
Lilie Elbakyan: I have directed New Year’s plays in various theaters every year. This year, I am recreating “The Crusher” with a new crew. At the request of many spectators, the play “Heart of Ice” will be performed at Sundukyan Theater once again, but this time with a new Elza, that is, talented actress Mariam Shahinyan. I think it will be very interesting to see how Shahinyan and Tatev Horopyan (Anna) will act. The play “Crusher” will also be interesting because when I direct a play in a new way, I look at it differently and convey new colors to the performance. At this moment, I want to take a little break from directing children’s plays. I am thinking about doing something more serious and unprecedented.
Eritasard.am: What is your most favorite play and role?
Lilie Elbakyan: That is a tough question because I fall in love with all my roles. As an actress, I consider the role of Aldonsa in “Don Quixote” as fatal. Aldonsa was an ordinary prostitute, and in her Don Quixote, who had idealistic ideas, saw the noble Dulcinea and made a marriage proposal. The transformation of that girl’s character is very interesting. She suddenly becomes noble, the Dulcinea that Don Quixote had pictured, Don Quixote’s companion and pursues him. Each person dreams of meeting his or her Don Quixote who will see that Dulcinea in him or her. That nobility is hidden in every woman. All one has to do is reveal it.
Eritasard.am: How would you briefly describe the world of theater?
Lilie Elbakyan: It is strange, but for me, theater is a game about reality and in reality. They say if you treat theater very seriously, you will die, but you must treat it seriously because it is a whole life.