Platform for Arts, Institute of Art Studies, BAS, did a series of exclusive interviews with this country’s leading artists and art historians about how does it feel to make art amid the coronavirus pandemic, about its impact on culture and long-term implications.
Velislav Pavlov studied acting at NBU. Played in such theatrical productions as Idiot, The Stag King, The Fisherman and His Soul, Three Sisters, The Karamazov Brothers, etc., and for TV shows and a number of national and international film productions such as Zift, Eastern Plays, Operation Shmenti Capelli, etc. Winner of Best Actor Award for his role in Omnipresent, Golden Rose Bulgarian Feature Film Festival ’17, Varna.
Q: What are you doing now during self-isolation at home? Are you making the best use of your time?
A: My self-isolation began only recently, in the mid of April, when we completed the principal photography of Stolen Life TV series. I can safely say that I am relaxing: reading, listening, watching, sleeping, shopping, helping my son with his homework, keeping an eye on the developments, … Not much differently for now!
Q: At what point of your work were you caught up in the COVID-19 crisis?
A: Rehearsing a week before the premiere at the National Theatre of A Capital Mistake based on Ödön von Horváth and directed by Ivan Panteleev. On the other hand, cast and crew compliant with the safety measure, we succeeded in completing the principal photography of a season of Stolen Life TV show. The process was also completed a month earlier.
Q: How did the pandemic change your everyday life, professional agenda and decisions?
A: First of all, the theatrical productions I played in were cancelled… The worst loss is that of the cancelled rehearsals at the National Theatre a week before the premiere at the vital stage of accumulation of quality and nobody knows if and when they will be resumed… Then, the future film and TV projects seem problematic. The same is true of the productions that were on… I hope that this summer it will be possible to travel in the country; I miss it…
Do you have a room of your own to work in or you find it difficult to isolate yourself, taking care of young children or students?
A: The second part of the question gives the answers. Presently, I do not feel like working right now, we have much more important tasks to cope with.
Q: What smouldering problematic subjects surfaced as a result of self-isolation and with all activities across Bulgaria and the world cancelled?
A: Problems will really be seen clearly only when actors return to their field of activity, bringing up the big questions: what are they doing and what is the social significance of their work; what the vital conversations with the audiences should be about? The new important subjects have to be found. The perennial subjects are the same, but put under the microscope more than ever: what should we do with ourselves and how should we live?
Q: Your opinion about the impact on creative and research quests and the long-term implications?
A: It is hard to guess; besides, there’s no point in predicting… It will be hard, of course, I suppose; the ‘damages’ from a human perspective should be first construed… I expect an enormous shock that will give birth to something really new and worthwhile. The economic situation is of paramount importance as posing a great challenge.
Q: Where do you expect to get support in the declared state of emergency over Covid-19?
A: Being a freelance actor, I expect my relations with my partners, i.e. theatremakers, film producers and crews to be renewed. I will fill in the application form for the grants offered by the Ministry of Culture as I meet the requirements; let’s see how things will turn out this time… Still, the support of my family and friends matters most.
Q: What about the therapeutic role of art in the resocialization after the pandemic ends?
A: Art will play such a role, when it starts doing the right thing: communicate with the audiences. If and how it will happen depends on the talent, sensitivity and courage both of the actors and the audiences. Hopefully, our criteria will become more uncompromising in asking questions, in the quest for the truth both onscreen and onstage. I think that it will be even more imperative that we add more personality to what we do before the audiences. I hope, in short, that after the crisis we will become more critical, thinking, honest and open.
Q: Any ideas about how to resume this country’s cultural activities after the end of the pandemic?
A: We should be aware of the fact that cultural activities are only possible when along with those involved in them, actors broadly speaking, there should be people who experience it, audiences broadly speaking. So, the problem has, in my opinion, always been aesthetic. I hope that cultural ‘living’ would resume as soon as possible, but with a new quality to it.
It is very important how would actors go through this crisis, what will be the ‘injuries’, or to put it in Covid-19 terms, how many will be „healthy’ in the end and how many will still ‘on ventilation’. I hope for a heated debate about the funding of the different sectors and doing best to resume work as quickly as possible. Yet, cultural and creative industries are directly dependent on all the other spheres, we all live together… So, what matters most to me is how would we all wake up from this nightmare and come to life, hopefully moving on.