Anatoliy Ogay and Tatyana Kim are artistic and life partners who have been in the entertainment industry for over ten years working in film, theatre, and music. From the steppes of Kazakhstan, their show “OTOSOTR” comes to New York City as a selection of United Solo, the world’s largest solo theatre festival. This solo piece is written and performed by Anatoliy and directed by Tatyana, artists whose works have been performed from Eurasia to North America. The premiere of “OTOSOTR” took place in Almaty, Kazakhstan with three sold-out performances in May 2018. Later in August, the show won an Asian Arts Award at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and was acclaimed by the media, rated ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ by The Scotsman and ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ by The List. Below, we caught up with them both to talk about their latest project, “OTOSOTR,” which will be presented at United Solo in October 2018.
Pat McAndrew: How did you discover theater and, more specifically, solo performance? Anatoliy: In Kazakhstan, where we’re originally from, theater is not something that you would often come across among people’s hobbies. When we were growing up, the country was still transitioning from the old government to the new laws, rulers, new currency and new beliefs. When we were growing up the only type of theater we knew was “post-soviet theater” – very classical and very cautious. Even to this day, it’s a rare case to find an amateur theater troupe at school. I was lucky to come across a community theater club at my university when I was 20. I started doing a variety of backstage work slowly discovering the necessity to be on stage. Solo performance has always been of my interest and I admire it in most of its’ forms, whether it be stand-up comedy, physical solo show or single musician performance. There’s power in it that makes me hold my breath for longer than I thought I could.
What inspired you to create “OTOSOTR”? It seems like there is a story within the title.
Anatoliy: In 2012 I had an interview with my grandfather without any kind of intention. I just felt like it was my duty to capture his story about deported Koreans in 1937, about his way from Soviet Kazakhstan to Nazi Berlin during WWII and about the values of those who manage to preserve their identity in an alien country. Today, this question of who you truly are and what are your roots is extremely important as we move from “I am a member of my community” towards “Iam the citizen of the world.” All these questions were driving my interest to talk about it and the story of my grandfather became a great vessel to the destination where essentially I juxtapose two generations with their own values, flaws and truths.
This sounds like a truly captivating story. Why do you believe “OTOSOTR” is important for today’s audience?
Tatyana: We are on the very risky verge of forgetting our own history. I feel it is extremely important to preserve it; to share the understanding that every story matters, every part of the world has its own unique voice. A story of two hundred thousand deported Koreans is an unknown fact. I think the western audience is still learning about what really was happening on the other side of the world, but that is part of our shared history. However, the point here is not to teach, but to show that we’re more alike rather than different.
That is the beauty of solo performance, isn’t it? What is your favorite part about this show? Anatoliy: On the one hand, it is the respect and tribute I can pay to my grandfather for what he did for the future of our family and the world. On the other, it’s understanding the importance of the main message of the story: peace. And if we talk about the performance itself, we love how people expect a certain style when they think about a WWII story, but we deliver it in a very unexpected, innovative, eclectic way.
As a team, what were some challenges that you faced in developing your production?
Tatyana: As a director and producer of the show, one of our challenges was to the find the right ways to talk to the audiences back home and in the west. Between our premiere in Kazakhstan and performances in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, certain things had to be adapted or tweaked in order to keep the authenticity of the story. When talking to the western audience we couldn’t go super deep into geographical details, for example, or cultural peculiarities without a proper exposition. “OTOSOTR” mixes a lot of styles, innovations in storytelling, and that creates a unique experiences for both audiences.
Anatoliy: For me as a writer, another challenge was the translation of my own text. We were working on drafts in Russian and in English and it was important for us not to fall into the trap of being too generic with descriptions and get lost in the commonality of the language.
How does “OTOSOTR” speak to other work you have done? Anatoliy: It’s a big honor for us to be able to share this piece of work and to present a story from Kazakhstan on a stage in one of the biggest progressive theater-capitals in the world. Tatyana: We work in multi-media, including film production, visual art, music, and sound. We bring all our energy and passion into anything we do and that’s probably the main thing that unites all our projects, along with the main intention to tell true and authentic stories that represent us and our culture.
It sounds like this show relies heavily on story and conveying a story that is not very well-known. What do you hope the audience walks away with after seeing your show?
Anatoliy: No matter the thickness of the clouds, the sun is always there. We’re all closer to each other than we think — we all affect each other in a way that we can’t even imagine. “OTOSOTR” is a story about one small ethnic group somewhere in the steppes of Central Asia, but more to this, it is a story about humanity, love, respect and dignity.
“OTOSOTR (On The Other Side Of The River)” Written and Performed by Anatoliy Ogay Oct. 27 at 4:00pm Directed and Produced by Tatyana Kim Co-Produced by Galina Kiryan Photos: courtesy of the production United Solo 2018 Theatre Row 410 West 42nd Street New York City