Exclusive Interview with Amina Zhaman- Filmmaker & Theater performer
NY Glam: Tell me about your experience as a Theater performer?
The list of my roles in theatre is short, but impressive. As a student I staged an episode from Oscar Wilde’s “An Ideal Husband” where I played Mrs. Cheveley, and I also staged a play by Prosper Merimee “Le Carrosse du Saint-Sacrament” where I portrayed Perichole. After that I focused on films and made 4 movies. In 2 of them – first ever screen versions of Eugene O’Neill’s plays “Before Breakfast” and “The Movie Man” I portrayed Mrs. Rowland and Anita Fernandez respectively. My big stage debut as a professional theatre actress was on Hollywood stage – nothing less, nothing more. I played Antonia in Alim Kouliev’s show “Till Death Do Us Part”. And currently I play Eugene O’Neill’s third wife, actress Carlotta Monterey in my theatre production, comedy with elements of opera “Chaliapin/O’Neill”.
NY Glam: Define your job as a performer?
Making people’s life happier, their cultural life brighter and spiritual life richer. Through my films and stage productions, plays and scripts, songs, lectures, master-classes – through everything I do I try to enlighten my audience. I want to inspire people through my work.
NY Glam: How long have you been a theater artist and when did you get your start?
Ever since I was born. We had a class of theatre at school in Nalchik. Before that every year we participated in amazing theatre shows at a kindergarten in Nalchik. It may sound childish and amateur for someone, but our shows for New Year’s Eve or graduation party were fantastic and truly professional. Starting from the costumes and ending with talented performances by then kids. I studied acting for 4 years in Moscow and graduated from the most prestigious Russian Academy of Theatre Arts (GITIS) in 2007. I decided to found my own International Luxurious Theatre – AM/NA THEATRE. 10 years later my dream came true and in 2017 I staged 2 shows – “7 Days. 7 Nights” and “Faithful Wife”, in 2019 I directed my third and biggest theatre show so far – “Chaliapin/O’Neill”. It’s been a very long way, but it’s my way and it’s truly original. There’s nothing greater than performing on stage, and I intend to make more theatre shows in the close future, star in them and write original soundtrack for all of them. German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once said: “Without music, life would be a mistake”. I will rephrase his line and say – Without my music, my theatre productions would be a mistake. People love it. Those who don’t read the program before the show, think that O’Neill’s theme – jazz – is written by George Gershwin, and they guess who’s the composer of Chaliapin’s theme – instrumental composition “Heaven”. Both themes are written by me. I am so happy people love my music and I am happy to be confused with Gershwin.
NY Glam: What is the most exciting opportunity you have had as a freelance artist?
Playing Antonia in “Till Death Do Us Part” opposite Alim Kouliev on Hollywood stage – at Stephanie Feury Studio Theatre – was the most exciting opportunity I’ve had. I really enjoyed working in Hollywood with brilliant actor/director Alim Kouliev. Starring in Kouliev’s production was an honor and joy. I wrote an adaptation of Dario Fo’s and Franca Rame’s play “The Open Couple” for this show and it was an additional pleasure to perform it, especially my monologue, new dialogues and sarcastic lines and jokes I added throughout the play.
NY Glam: Where do you get your inspiration from?
From Eugene O’Neill’s work, he is my biggest inspiration. Rudolf Nureyev inspires me each time I see his beautiful face, I mean he doesn’t even need to dance to inspire me. Michael Jackson is my never-ending music inspiration.
NY Glam: What advice would you give to someone who wants to have a career in Theater performing?
Respect your colleagues. If you are ready to perform 9 shows a week on the highest professional level and if you are a team player, you’re going to make it everywhere. Discipline, hard work and work ethic will get you where you dream to be. Of course, it’s great to perform on stages of famous theatres worldwide, but at the end of the day it’s not the most important thing. It’s incredible to have a sold-out show in the well-known buildings with a lot of history, but still buildings must not be the main aim. More important, in my opinion, is how you will be remembered as a professional and as a human being, a humanist, a true artist who doesn’t bring drama backstage and doesn’t have a diva attitude. Someone actors/directors would love to work again with, someone people would love to see on stage and meet off stage after the show. I’m talking about real class many actors miss today.
NY Glam: Are there any new exciting shows or projects that you are working on or have lined up in the near future?
There are so many of them! In 2017 I wrote an adaptation of one of Alexander Kuprin’s stories. I hope to stage it soon. It’s Russian classics and the production will be in Russian language. I am revising my play about Rudolf Nureyev at the moment. When it’s ready, I will stage it in English. Literally can’t wait for it to happen. I have 2 amazing movie projects – short and feature, both in a comedy genre. I am beyond excited about the upcoming 9th International Filmmaker festival of New York (IFFNY) – May 15-19, 2020. As a Festival Art Director, I want to underline that IFFNY becomes global, we have a lot of submissions from around the world. IFFNY is respected within United States and internationally, it is prestigious and unique. By the way submissions are open till March1st, 2020, you can submit your films and music videos on www.filmfreeway.com or www.iffny.com. This year is set to be the biggest yet. All filmmakers who participated at IFFNY, want to come back to our festival with new movies. It again proves the highest level of IFFNY, incredible atmosphere and diverse, strong program where gifted independent filmmakers dream to see their films.
NY Glam: Do you express yourself creatively in any other ways?
I do, in all the existing ways – I compose music, write songs, poems, scientific articles, scripts, plays, reviews on Broadway productions of Eugene O’Neill’s plays. With each show in my theatre I expand the format of the evening. AM/NA THEATRE is more than a theatre. It is a festival in one night. In Addition to 3 sold out shows “CHALIAPIN/O’NEILL” (2019) in Moscow we made an exclusive exhibition “Chaliapin and O’Neill” for the audience. MTS Bank was the General Partner of the Performance on December 16th, 2019 in the Museum of Music. I gave a lecture “American media in the life of Feodor Chaliapin and Russian media in the life of Eugene O’Neill” at the Russian Presidential Academy. Right after the World Premiere of my play/production in April 2019 I had a PUBLIC TALK with the Principal of Russian Academy of Theatre Arts (GITIS) Grigory Zaslavskiy. After each performance everyone can meet and greet cast of the show. Like on Broadway, people can get their program signed by actors, also program is included in the price of the ticket. Starting ticket price has increased 4 times because of huge success of the show. I am very happy with the result in Moscow and looking forward to moving my production to Broadway – where my favorite playwright Eugene O’Neill was born.
NY Glam: What can we expect from you in 2020?
An international tour of “Chaliapin/O’Neill” and new theatre productions. InshAllah!
NY Glam: Where can everyone keep up with you to learn more? …social media…website
On Facebook: aminazhamanofficial, amina.zhaman and