Acting roles keep Baryshnikov on his toes
NEW YORK: Growing up in Riga, Latvia, little Misha was introduced to the world of drama by his mom, Alexandra. “When I was five or six, my mother used to drag me around to the theatre,” the world’s most celebrated living male ballet dancer says.
At the Leningrad ballet school at which he trained, “we were forced to read Russian plays: Turgenev and Gogol”, he explains. Theatre tickets were dispensed to the students, “and I went every night when I was free”.
If the ballet was where he made his indelible mark, the world of plays is where 65-year-old Mikhail Baryshnikov is increasingly finding an artistic home. He was off recently to Antwerp and Paris to perform in The Old Woman, a stage adaptation of a novella by Russian surrealist Daniil Kharms co-starring Willem Dafoe.
And now he arrives in Washington with Man in a Case, a mixedmedia performance piece.
His acting roles on film have sometimes been in highly commercial ventures: he was the controlling egomaniac in Sex and the City.
Baryshnikov made his stage debut in 1989 as Gregor Samsa in The Metamorphosis.
The Broadway adaptation directed by Steven Berkoff was skewered in The New York Times by Frank Rich, who described Berkoff ’s take on Kafka as “Marxist kitsch” and observed that Baryshnikov’s performance, “however dignified, amounts to little more than a sideshow to the loud circus surrounding him”.
“You gamble onstage,” Baryshnikov says now, reflecting on that experience. “I have been in successful productions sometimes. And I’ve sucked many times, too.”
These days, he prefers to succeed or fail with collaborators, like Wilson or Parson, whose own accomplishments provide a baseline confidence in the strength of the project and for him, enjoyment in the process of making it work.
“It’s too late in my life for unpleasant surprises,” he says. – Washington Post