Friday, February 28, 2014

Spotlight On...Artem Yatsunov

Name: Artem Yatsunov

Education: Montclair State University, Montclair, NJ

Why theater?: Well my parents are telecommunications radar engineers, and Ben’s (the playwright’s) parents are park rangers, so we didn’t want to be unoriginal and follow in their footsteps. Cause like, please, I could be  a radar engineer in a heartbeat – I could wake up tomorrow and decide to just be one and I could do it, just like that. And Ben is all ranger, all the time. It is in his blood and he is one with nature. Seriously, you should watch him sprint a mile; the man is a gazelle.... so yeah, that’s “why theater”.

Tell us about Basic Help?: Basic Help is about two people on opposite ends of a journey through a crisis, of sorts. Cynthia (played deftly by Megan Greener) is reeling from a very recent failed relationship that has left her struggling to grasp who she thought she was and what she is now. Simon (the cool as ice Gavin Earl Johnson) in the meantime is slowly forgetting who he is – he has been working as a kitchenware sales associate since he graduated college and now is really good at it but none of his actual hopes, dreams or aspirations have materialized; he can potentially stay in the deep space vacuum that is the cubicle office workplace forever. Simon is not sad about any of it – until he meets Cynthia. As he watches her climb out of the darkness it sheds a stark light on how deep in the well of desolation he is in his own comfortable life. It’s a fast little play about going nowhere, about being stuck and about rapid change. It is a eulogy to the state of being in stasis. With jokes.

What inspired you to direct Basic Help?: Ben and I both regard ourselves as gentlemen of refined manners and pride ourselves on our incredibly amiable phone banter etiquette with help line personnel. We’re wonderful to catch on the phone! Every time my Chase bank account manager calls me concerning my once again over drafted bank account I have the cheeriest, excited disposition; although it is never ever ever never good news – it is always only very bad news when the bank calls – I strive to make the banker's day a little brighter - and I always succeed. It’s almost a competition, who can out-polite who. This play examines the concepts of the private and the social using long distance communication – we see the two people in their own private worlds, communicating with one another only through phone calls. The “kitchenware help line” serves as a conduit and their only social contract between each other. There’s a lot of comedy in how hard and awkward it can be to get comfortable talking with a complete stranger who you can’t see.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I feel like we gravitate to theatre that is uninhibited. That may seem like a really general and naïve answer but we’re actually really old timey fellas who prefer straightforward daring storytelling. We like fearless stories, plays that don’t hold back – ‘Night Mother, or The Pillowman, for example. Tina and Amy: Last Night in Paradise is a very current kindred spirit to that mission, too. Not to be missed!

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Antonia Lassar, Emily Mann, or Clay McLeod Chapman.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Tina and Amy: Last Night in Paradise - if I wasn't a man, which I am, I would want to be a cast member in that show. I've told them countless times that I could get in good enough shape by the end of February to be in the production, but they are still insisting on flying George Clooney out to be their stage hand  and the aerial acrobat for their "sexy-dance-with-circus-giraffes-and-veggie-oil" sequence.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Idris Alba, "The Tides of Tomorrow". It’s set on an island after the apocalypse and Idris Alba is playing me as a super scientist stranded, having just survived a super special and deadly people-killing planet-wide explosion. Fearing that the world’s populations is dying out, Idris (me) constructs a clone machine – out of conch shells, palm leaves, coconuts, etc – and creates many clones of himself (me)…. But the clones don’t care about the world population problem, the clones just want the island and the planet all to themselves. Action, mind games, lethal coconut bowling tournaments, the hunter is hunted, and of course – romance! It’s sort of like that scene from "Total Recall" at the very end, meets "Cast Away", meets "The Wire".

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?:
All of them. I only have big pleasures and I feel really guilty.

What’s the most played song on your iPod?: I don’t own any Apple products. I like Tom Waits.

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: Colonizing the moon.

What’s up next?: Probably a production of The Pillowman or Macbeth in New Jersey in May. Then, I’m going to tour around Canada with my girl-friend Antonia Lassar, who is a real-life dragon and the star of Tina and Amy: Last Night in Paradise, and we will be performing our two-person musical audience-participation-show called Pair of Animals… wants to marry YOU!  We’ll be at Edmonton and Winnipeg Fringes so check us out! And we’re hoping to get into Minnesota Fringe, too – cross your fingers and your toes for us, everyone!