Thinking for the concepts of (as first) the Symposium, and then of (as second) this monograph publication1F, on the acting mastership of Risto Šiškov, a mastership that in relatively short period of existence – barely 20 years (since 1962/64 until 1984/86, when he plays his last roles), I did insist on – at first – to determine what issues, the team that had to realize this project, didn’t want to work on. Determining – in advance – our goals (to offer as much as possible various, but concrete and exact scientific-theatrological argumentation/explication of the position and the status that Risto Šiškov build for himself in the newer Macedonian theater, film, TV and radio history…), I confined the frames – at first – what all of my co-workers accepted as a strategy by which they did their studies:
That we will deal exclusively with a clear and firm, scientifically and methodologically “provable” and “measurable” elements, elements that do structure (make, shape) the so-called Šiškov Phenomenon.
To talk like this – cold, rational, with distance, exact – of the fluid, ephemeral, highly emotional phenomenon as the acting performance is, maybe isn’t that much complicated as it is unusual, (at least here and now). Our whole theater science and critic, suffers from the lack of the factographical/scientific knowledge (above all of the lack of methodology), therefore – in the equal reciprocity – from the surplus of the – mostly – non-argumented and shallow) emotionality. Even besides the fact that, recently, this multi-decade-lasting “suffering” do decrease – because (in spite of all!) some different critic and scientific approaches do affirm in this part of the world, and those impose some more serious theater analysis – on the theater, especially of the acting performance, still are (mainly) based upon the personal impressions and upon the emotional/aprioristic determinations (“for” and “against”). Even the (on the surface) most ambitious kinds/forms of the theater studies, structured (sometimes) in whole books, aren’t any exceptions.
The whole – until now – writings on Risto Šiškov is a superior example of this “powerless” scripture standard.
* * *
Maybe exactly through the careers of the three Macedonian top actors we should determine and evaluate the three key levels/phases of the development of the Macedonian acting performance mastership:
The first one is Petre Prličko, the iconic omen of that initial, intuitive – ethno-beat – and still completely mimetic phase of the Macedonian Theater history.
he second one is Risto Šiškov, a paradigm for the phase that chronologically followed, and it will be quite insisting on its own education, understanding it as the only modus through which the art will be transformed into the real art; this process of self-forming will function in the way of imposing and maintaining, adopt and practice the affirmed acting methods, namely, the famous system of (understandable, which other) Stanislavski; Šiškov and his actor’s generation, by their method, factually belong to that great school/tradition;
The third one is Nenad Stojanovski, a synonym of that phase which will dramatically impose – not only some different sensitivity, but also some very different understanding of the theater (as an art, and as a media, as well) – this level/phase will affirm the so-called imaginative acting, the one that the American pedagogue and director Michael Chekhov describes as an ability/capacity of an actor to imagine (and not to relive) the role he ought to act.
* * *
The legendary stories, as the literature theory claims, are the oral narration forms with the religious-fantastic content; the exuberance of the supernatural elements and situations encloses them near the form of the fairy-tale; the basic intention is to amuse, not to educate or cognize; the basic way of expression is very picturesque – images illustrate the ethical norms and principles; the characters are somewhere between the profanity and the heavenly forms, but without the clearly drawn line between those two.
Here somewhere – in the exuberance of the supernatural elements and situations, between the profane and the heavenly forms – we keep looking for and we find the stories-metaphors-allegories-legends of an actor: the film/theater writings (our critics and scientists, etc.) almost until today didn’t learn how to describe/interpret, except with the phrases as “extraordinary gifted”, “highly creative”, “quite interesting”, “expressive”, “robust”, “masterful”, “top”, “extraordinary”, “great”, “ingenious”, “fantastic”… In one of those allegorical observations, which dared to go most far, we could find the describer who overcame all of the others: by him, Šiškov is “a fountain on the stage”!
Of course, such irrational and (for the theater science) completely irrelevant stories-metaphors-allegories-attributions-legends either can’t confirm, and even less can prove WHY all, even those most strict theater researchers consider Risto Šiškov (with every right) as one of the most significant Macedonian actors of all times. And, what’s even more important, can confirm their “opinion“ with any rational arguments.
Preparing the Symposium and the book on Risto Šiškov, the theater-researchers from the Institute of Theater Studies of FDA 2F were very aware of their ungrateful job/task:
Namely, insisting on gathering, evidencing, classifying, analyzing and comparing all the known and available facts/elements/arguments from the civil and authorial biography of Risto Šiškov (but exclusively and only the concrete, scientifically/methodologically checkable, exact, “provable” facts/elements/arguments), and all that in order to – FINALLY – to define his important esthetical position in the history of the Macedonian theater, film and in the Macedonian culture in general, those decided and knew that some of their findings and conclusions would inevitably come to the collision course with many of the (above-mentioned) fairy-tales and legends.
As all legends, those also – the contemporary ones – for and about Šiškov, has its own keepers and supporters and sentinels, which is quite understandable, and even nice, in some way. But it becomes very problematic when one tries to explain the relevance of Šiškov to some new generations – some different generations whose structure of material sensitivity and of the thinking models are significantly different from those to whom even Šiškov himself belongs. That’s often a case even with his contemporaries, co-workers, friends or enemies, or with the contemporary sentinels and interpreters of the fairy-tales and legends on him.
For the skeptical, a priori doubtful generations today, as for those who are yet to come (and they would probably be even more skeptical toward the legendary genres), the naked syntagma Šiškov – the Magnate of the Macedonian Acting would hardly be enough alone-and-by-itself. From my own pedagogic experience, I know that – even – its inevitable thesis/claim nature automatically provokes resistance. The attributions as “great”, “ingenious”, “top”, “fantastic” or – God forbid! – “a fountain on the stage”, are being commented (by the young individuals) with a cynical smile. Twenty-year old boys who don’t accept anything for granted, boys that have never saw Šiškov “alive”, but only in those eleven feature films (the most often screened at the official/state/national/holiday occasions), or in some of the (very few) preserved four or five TV-dramas (filmed before some thirty years, more or less), most often react with fierce criticism on the kind/model of acting he practices. Their reaction is quite understandable: in the meantime – from his last roles until today – many things changed, not only in theater, but in the film practice also, and even in the pedagogy which is appreciated in the schools specialized in acting.
To interpret Šiškov they way it should be done – as a magnate of the Macedonian acting, but also as a protagonist of the one of the three key phases in the development Macedonian acting, because that’s what he is – we should lean on the key research method upon which the theater science is based on – “as itself“, the method of reconstruction. Namely, in order to understand WHY Šiškov should be understood as one of the most important Macedonian actors, protagonist of the one of the three key phases in the development in the development of the Macedonian acting, we should carefully reconstruct not only the context in which he plays not only during those already twice mentioned most productive years of his career (1966-1979), but to do the same with the general context of his civil and art biography also.
The affirmation of the so-called “New Historicism“ – the American methodology school, which approaches towards the so-called past in a very different and more complex way, and which became especially popular in the period of the last decade – for the theater science opens additional possibilities for more thorough reconstructing of the contexts which it deals with. This book, especially in some of its parts (Third Part – Memories; Fourth Part – Facts, but also in the great number of the texts of the Second Part – Analysis), tries to achieve exactly that: to actualize (relativize), the subtle separation/difference between the fiction and the facts. The story of Risto Šiškov should be placed between these two “extremes”.
1. Because of the space limitations, we had to do a small redactorial cut in this text, but only in the Shiskov’s biography segments. The integral version of the text can be found in printed/published form: “Šiškov” (monograph), by group of authors, assembled by Jelena Luzina, FKT “Risto Šiškov”, Strumica, 2002
2. Faculty of Dramatic Arts