The story started when I was a little child and my parents often took me to a theatre play. From these performances I remember nothing but the emotions. I couldn’t imagine how this thing before me happens. Is it true or not? Is it real what I see? Do the actors read the text from somewhere, and if so – why don’t I see from where, and all this kind of questions… But the biggest question that got stuck in my little brain was where do the actors go after they leave the stage? What’s there on the side and on the back of the stage, where nothing is visible? At each performance as we entered the hall, I was rushing to the fore-stage to glance at the sides. But I never saw what was there. I imagined that the actors were flying and staying in the air until they had to show up on stage again. I couldn’t find an answer to this question. These are the first thoughts and questions I had about this type of art. After that I always imagined being an actor. Me and my brother, we used to do theatre plays with sets in our living room. He was a king, and I was his servant and we brought our cousin along to be a princess. The years passed, but that thought stayed in my head.
As I grew older, I started to feel shame that I thought about it. Shame from me a little overestimating myself, being insolent to think I can become an actor. At age 14-15 I thought that in order to be an actor you have to come from a family of actors, to continue the tradition. You can’t become an actor just like that. To be an actor, you have to have a different blood, to be elite, and this talent is inherited. And that’s why I was ashamed to think about it. I hadn’t told anyone. There was no actor in my family, but my grandparents were good singers and they had sung at community clubs, festivals and in amateur groups. It’s still something. In the 7th-8th grade, I was already thinking of this “craziness” more and more often. Since I am a boy from the outskirts, I didn’t go to the centre often. I became curious as to what the school of actors looks like. I happened to ask my parents, just as a common culture, what the name of the school is and where it is. They told me it’s called NATFA and is located on “Rakovski” Street. I decided to go and find out how to apply, to see it. I already knew the address, but I had no idea how to get there. And while I was wondering about it, I suddenly figured out, or rather, I guessed which building could be the NATFA building. To this day it’s a big joke among my friends. I thought NATFA was the church next to the Fire Station. I imagined it looked like a church, because artists study there, and the building itself is artistically made, to be more crazy. Yes, I was definitely sure I was right. It took me a few weeks to decide to go, but I finally set a date. I remember lying to my parents and after hours I headed to the Artistic building of the talents. When I reached “Rakovski” street, I thought it was the biggest street in the world. In front of the church my heart started pumping hard. I didn’t doubt for a second that it’s NATFA, and not a church. I went to the big gate and decided to knock on a large latch. Again, I thought that’s how it’s done. Yes, it’s a bit strange, but artistic. I started knocking on the door, but no one answered. What’s happening? Are they on vacation? I knocked again, and again, and again. No one answered. I was getting desperate and the pounding was getting stronger. Finally, a very angry priest answered and, in an angry tone, scolded me that I was knocking too hard, and why didn’t I just go in, that’s how you do it in a church – you go in, you make the cross sign, and you go in without banging, the door is closed against the wind.
I said that, in principle, I know how to go in a church and I said I wanted to know how to apply to this school. All these things that he told me and the black cassock – that was a role he performed for me. He asked me what school I was talking about, and I said it was the one for the actors. He laughed, everything was clear: “Oh, is it NATFA you’re looking for?”. And I said, slightly indignant: “Well, isn’t this NATFA?”. He said I was wrong. This was not NATFA, but a church. I peeked inside and saw people praying, and suddenly realized what a terrible situation I’ve found myself in. I was very embarrassed and thought of the lie that I was from a remote part of the country, and people there lied to me that it’s the Academy. The priest began to laugh and to wonder how they could have misled me like this. I was all tomato red. He gave me instructions: “My boy, now from here you walk up the street, you walk only straight and you will get there”. I started and walked quite a lot, after every block I asked people, so I don’t get it wrong for a second time. Finally I arrived and… I was rather disappointed with the building. It seemed to me rather dull, like a parliament, and there was nothing artistic about it. I went into the lobby and asked the real door-keeper how to apply. He gave me a sheet of paper with an explanation. It turned out that year Todor Kolev and Krikor Azaryan were taking classes. I immediately asked when they would pick students again, and he told me it would be four years later. It was one of the most emblematic moments concerning this dream of mine. The thoughts started rushing into my head. Todor Kolev was an absolute favourite of my parents, as of me and my brother. I have seen him on stage, we had all his songs on records, and we had seen his films many times. Just imagining that I could study in his class made me sweating and feeling totally amazing. I remember walking out, crossing the street and sitting on the sidewalk against NATFA to look at it. Wait, what did the door-keeper say? After four years, they both will take classes again. I am now in 7th grade, 8 plus 3 years for secondary education, and it turns out that they will have classes exactly when I can apply. This fact made me think about my dream every day, and every day I imagined how Todor Kolev talks to me about things, how he scolds me, how he praises me.
I have completed primary education, I have tried after both 7th and 8th grade to apply to the Economic School, but kept failing the mathematics exam, and I was facing the dilemma where to study, where to complete the secondary education. Then I had a great idea. I will study in the Culinary School in Bankya. My brother was a star there. He was very good as pastry chef, and with his glory I would manage to complete my secondary education, so I can get to applying to NATFA. So it happened, and I started studying for a pastry chef. I’ve never made a cake in my life, but that’s the situation. Okay, but there remain a serious problem. I can’t just like that go to the exam, without anyone preparing me, showing me how to tell my pieces, generally what materials to choose and from where. A big problem, but I didn’t have an answer to it. In the second year at school this problem was still standing. Then the students from the Culinary School started having practices at “Rodina” Hotel and help and learn from the pastry chefs there. We were mixed with students from the Culinary School – Sofia. Once we were sitting at the hotel café, and a girl raised the topic about what higher education everyone will continue to study. Everyone said what they wanted and it was my turn. For the first time I said it out loud that I wanted to become an actor. I got very embarrassed because I was expecting ridicule, but to my surprise, one of the girls said that her best friend also wanted to become an actress and was going to a theatre school every Saturday and Sunday.
She said she would ask her girlfriend to take me. She called and the appointment was arranged, on Saturday at 10 a.m. in front of “Salza i Smiah” theatre. I had to prepare something for the exam at the school. I could not believe that my problem was solved in 2 minutes. I was very happy, but there was a new case. What should I learn in 2 days, and rather how I will learn it for so little time, I have never been able to learn by heart and that was my school hell. I returned home excited and told my mom and dad everything in details about this secret of mine. They gave me some ideas, but I didn’t like anything. At a complete dead-lock, I remembered a childhood tale of Leda Mileva, which my mother had read to me as a child, and since I loved it and read it many times, I knew it by heart. Yes, that’s the one! Saturday came and the girl in question (now actress at “Zad Kanala” theatre – Tanya Pashankova) was waiting for me and took me straight to the hall of “Slavyanska Beseda” community club, at the school of Boncho Urumov. Boncho Urumov was the first great person in my life and my first teacher.
He welcomed me and asked me if I had prepared something to perform. I confirmed and got on the stage. It was only then that I noticed there were many people in the hall and it was almost full. Despite the worry, curiosity prevailed, and I looked at what was behind the curtain. What’s hiding there? The question that had been sitting in me since a little child, now, years later, found the simple answer. On one side – piano, and on the other – chairs. I relaxed and prepared for my performance. In a timid voice I said that I would perform Leda Mileva’s “Working Mamma Bear”. The whole room started laughing, it definitely embarrassed me because it sounded like a mockery. But there was no turning back and… “Early in the morning our Mamma Bear got up…”. I remember only that all the time Boncho Urumov and everyone in the hall were laughing their heads off and I was outshouting them, and when I finished, I got my first wild applause. Boncho stood up, hugged me and told me he was very happy that I will be his disciple.
So I started going to this school and making the first small steps as an actor.
text – Vladimir Karamazov
photos – Vladimir Karamazov for #Karamazovfoto and personal archive
….05.2018 Vladimir Karamazov®