(To learn more about Marcy Arlin’s Artist, Immigrant blog series, click here.)
These days, I think Tony is one of the hardest-working actors in town: film, TV, readings, shows, classes. He can play a thug, a G-man, or a romantic despot, and can sing these beautiful, sad, haunting ancient Balkan tunes that can stop a show.
What do you love about theatre in the U.S. for yourself and in general?
The freedom of being a freelance actor. This freedom gives me independence, hope and a great landscape of opportunities of diverse styles, ethics and aesthetics, working with the ‘entire world’ in the epicenter of the arts, New York City. This creates an atmosphere of always pushing my boundaries and constantly working on building myself as an actor, an artist and more importantly, as a human being. This gives me a greater sense of responsibility toward the society and the world we live in nowadays. Being able to be a part of this rainbow of theater culture in America is like having the world on a string. Once, Socrates said ‘a perfect human being is many human beings’. So for me, a perfect actor is an ensemble of actors — many actors. What’s a better place on the face of the planet that suits the above ideal than the United States and New York City?
What do you miss about working in your homeland?
Macedonia, like the rest of the European countries, has a government-subsidized program for theater. This is another freedom of finance and support of the government for projects in development. I believe we could have a little more of that European tradition in here, combine both and create something even more powerful than what we individually have as Europeans and Americans. The luxury of time on working on a project comes from that financial freedom and security. Once a theater is sponsored by the government, it is labeled as National Theater or State Theater. That theater is there for the actor, open and free for rehearsals at all times. If we lack time and feel that we are not ready, we can just postpone the opening night and nobody suffers. I think that not many Europeans realize and appreciate this privilege and sometimes tend to indulge too much in it. I also like the limitation of time we have here [in the US] too, as it brings something special to the creative process of the artist. We somehow function better when limited.
How have you combined, in your work, both country’s theatre training and culture?
I am one of the luckiest people on earth. I have studied, lived and worked in Macedonia, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and Australia prior to coming to the US. My individual culture, if I can call it, has been influenced greatly by all these wonderful traditions and cultures of art who are in the heart of Europe, influenced by all that surrounds them. To cover three continents is a privilege of life. So ‘my culture’ has been changing constantly, I think thus I became a perfect candidate to become a New Yorker. I combine all my knowledge, experiences of all the mileage of life in art and myself in the different societies adopted and adapted it. I am still doing so on a daily basis. As the great Olympia Dukakis would say ‘Ask me again tomorrow’, so I combine and apply everything that has ever influenced me from everywhere. It is like mixed martial arts.
How do you see yourself/identify yourself as an artist in terms of being an immigrant? Does it matter to you?
Everybody is an immigrant. We are all ‘refugees’ within ourselves and we are all looking for our utopia. A man moves to satisfy a need; movement is the principle of life. This has been going on forever and ever in the world, we are just momentarily shaped the way we are, otherwise Panta Rea (Everything changes, everything flows). From a commercial perspective there are definitely some challenges of being considered an ethnic actor and having an accent, but at the same time there are a lot advantages, too. I see it as a great success for me to be given the opportunity to belong to this artistic society that represents most of the best of the world. As one of my incredible acting teachers Robert Castle would say ‘If you randomly throw a stone over New York City, you would probably hit 10 geniuses’. I also think that a lot of the so-called ‘immigrants’ do not enough appreciate the opportunities and freedoms we exercise here as well as the possibilities of the future. So we can either complain about it or do something about it. Why not do something when there is so much out there to be done regardless? No one forced me to come here, so I make no complaints about being ‘limited as an immigrant’ in the US or being a minority. Ultimately every single individual is a minority, by age, sex, sexual orientation, martial status, race, nationality, tradition, culture, background, accent, educational level, financial level, etc, so there is nothing to complain about.
How does it affect your getting work? (accent, ethnicity, etc.)
It certainly does affect getting work, but then how many people can also work in a couple of other different countries where they speak the local languages? If we truly believe the world has gone global then that is the answer. I am very happy and fortunate to find myself where I am and to be doing what I need to be doing — acting, regardless how brutal and hard it may be. On the other hand there is always more work that could be done in the direction of non-traditional casting. I always question myself why do we need to perform and cast Hamlet with a British accent or even neutral American when he was Dutch, or Romeo and Juliet, Anthony and Cleopatra, Julies Caesar or any of Strindberg, Ibsen, Chekhov’s plays, etc.? Would it not be beautiful, especially in this day and age, to perform beyond the boundaries of ethnicity, gender, race and accent, but bring out the depth and truth of the characters we perform? Some may argue and say yes, artistically a lot of people would agree with you, but commercially the audience expects certain standards that have been established for long time. I say we should never underestimate the audience: the audience is open and intelligent and will buy what we sell, if we do it WELL. Thus we can start reshaping the way we do things and they will sit back and take it and enjoy it and there will be a new generation of theater goers that would see a Japanese Vershinin or an Aboriginal Hamlet or Latina Nora, cause the matter of the fact is that it is not about race and gender and any types of whatever…but the human nature, and human relationships, that is where every single play starts with, human relationships and the rest is within the truth of bringing the character to life. If a woman makes me believe as an artist that she is Hamlet, I have no problem with it, it has been done in the past so many times. Why not continue that road where nothing matters but to believe the actor being transformed into the character she or he plays. Otherwise if we want to be so truthful to Oedipus Rex why don’t we do it with an authentic Greek accent?
What are you doing now? Here and/or abroad?
Just wrapped a wonderful independent film WHAT ABOUT US starring Jasmine Guy, a story about missing children. I am working on producing and acting in a great play embracing the Theater of the Absurd, my favorite genre, called LISABON by the eminent Bulgarian author Zachary Karabashliev, We are also working on a one-man show that will is tailored for me and directed by Zishan Ugurlu. Also I am in rehearsals for MEDEA. I will make an attempt to bring justice to the character of Jason as part of the salon series of Gia Forakis & Company for which company I am an Artistic Associate for this season. There are a few other projects in the works. Soon I will start coaching acting.
Can you tell me a theatre short story/anecdote about when you first came here? A more recent story?
Well, one day after me being here for only two weeks I got a call from NYU industry liaison Jeremiah Jay Newtown who told me that Anna Strasberg wanted to meet me. As in a dream I met with Ms. Strasberg and she granted me a full scholarship for a year’s studies at the Lee Strasberg Theater and Film Institute in New York. Out of 1200 students I got the scholarship, which she gives only to one student every two years. This changed my life forever and I will be grateful for the rest of my life for that event. That was my foot in the door to move to New York from Australia where I had previously graduated with a Masters in Theatre Studies at the UNSW, in Sydney my city of birth.
Anything else you want to add?
I think of how can I be a better person every single day. What is my responsibility toward the society and the world I live in? I find myself extremely lucky and fortunate to be an actor and to know that from a relatively early age. I grew up in artistic family of musicians and singers. Only my grandfather was an actor and I am living the dream of all my family, especially of my mother who never became an actor and always wanted to. The beautiful thing is that dream has become bigger than my family, bigger than me and my individual aspirations and ambitions. It is about us, the world we live in, it is about the magic of theater and our responsibility to the society. It is about being selfless in the process of giving to others and not expecting anything in return, cause you get more back anyhow without pushing for it. The power of the theater will never stop. In theater we could be, live and experience the unimaginable and I strongly believe there is a more powerful future in the theater of tomorrow, the theatre of unity. The theater of the future is the theater of the past. We must know where we come from to know where we are going.
Tony Naumovskiis a Macedonian-Australian, New York based classically trained actor. He has appeared in over 100 Theater, Film and TV productions. Recent film credits include: WHAT ABOUT US? w/ Jasmine Guy, the European Premiere of the comedy ‘THIS IS NOT AN AMERICAN MOVIE, the award winning ‘US, A LOVE STORY, directed by Alrick Brown (Sundance), AMERICAN HUNGER (coming soon). TV credits include: Law and Order ‘SVU’; America’s Most Wanted’ FOX TV; The World’s Astonishing News’; Japanese National TV. His most recent NY theater credits: Jason in MEDEA, Gia Forakis & CO, Bugsy Brodsky in Tennessee Williams’ SOMETHING CLOUDY AND CLEAR; KGB agent Laverenti in the US Premire of PURGE at LaMaMa; Cengiz Pasha the leader of Crete in the World Premiere of Ruth Margraff’s THREE GRACES w/ Immigrants’ Theatre Project at the OBIE winning SOHO THINK Ice Factory Festival, Hamlet in THE OPHELIA LANDSCAPE (Mark Morris); Odysseus in THE ODYSSEY; Jocasta in OEDIPUS REX. Tony is fluent in four languages. He is also a singer, a drummer and a martial artist. www.tonynaumovskirotino.com
Marcy Arlin is Artistic Director of the OBIE-winning Immigrants’ Theatre Project. Member: Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab, Theatre without Borders, League of Professional Theatre Women, No Passport, and Fulbright Scholar to Romania and the Czech Republic. She curates Eastern European Playwrights: Women Write the New. Her project East/West/East: Vietnam Immigrants Out of War, is a binational, Vietnamese/Czech/English theatre project based on interviews with American and Czech Vietnamese. She created Journey Theatre with survivors of war and torture. Directing venues: 59E59, QTIP, LaMama, MESTC, Vineyard, Oddfellows Playhouse, Artheater/Köln, Nat’l Theatre of Romania. Co-Editor Czech Plays: 7 New Works. Teaches theatre at CUNY, community-based theatre at Yale, Immigrant Theatre at University of Chicago (her alma mater) and Prague Quadrennial, Brown, and NYU.