Written by Yevgeny Kazachkov
Directed by Semion Aleksandrovskiy
Pop Up Theatre, St. Petersburg
April 1, 2pm
Fuel is a monologue based on interviews with David Yan, a founder of ABBY, one of the largest tech companies in Russia. There is no set, save a projection screen. A man walks onstage and begins to speak. His delivery is simple, calm. It is as if he is giving a lecture: a more casual, quotidian TED talk, or maybe a toned-down Moth Story Hour performance.
The complex, contemplative text, part narrative and part philosophical contemplation, begins with Yan instructing the audience to take note of where we sit: who sits on either side of us, what is in front of us, behind us:? Take stock of the moment. And then, acknowledge that this moment will end. Did end. Never to be experienced again.
Yan then dives into his story. His childhood (he wondered about the fleeting nature of life even at ayoung age), and his initial career path: that of a physicist. He describes the process of applying for, getting into, and struggling through schooling at MIPT, the most important physics program in Russia. Along the way, he is met with racism (as a Chinese Russian), a grueling workload, and thoughts of suicide. He describes watching himself separate in two, and witnessing a part of himself jump out a window or run into a wall.
At certain moments, Yan breaks from this story to describe a flash mob. During these descriptions, we see footage from perhaps the same flash mob on the screen. These moments stand alone, unexplained, for the time being.
Director Semion Aleksandrovskiy makes one major conceptual choice: at times, the actor playing Yan will stop speaking, and his disembodied voice will continue the story over the speakers. Or, the image of the actor will appear on the projector screen, and this image will continue the story. The actor onstage listens to the voice or the image, and then picks up where either leaves off. Sometimes the image will stay on screen, listening to the man onstage. Sometimes, there will be multiple images on screen, speaking or listening—always calmly, always politely.
As Yan’s story continues, Yan describes the shift that will change his life. On almost a whim, he stumbles into a business that will become his career: Yan creates an online dictionary of the English language for Russians learning English. The dictionary takes off, wildly. Yan becomes successful, continues to work himself to the bone, and has something like a nervous breakdown after going days without sleeping and travelling from country to country.
At this point in the story, he comes back to this idea of the importance of fleeting moments. He talks about his long time work partner, Illyana, who he had earlier described as family, who sensed that he was struggling and flew from Moscow to New York to be with him, for just a moment, to offer him support. He describes seeing her, an apparition. He has trouble putting the import of that moment into words.
He comes back to the flash mobs. A collective event that is again fleeting, always absurd, surprising, but powerful. It seems he started to organize flash mobs in Russia. It seems organizing these events has been the thing that has made Yan feel whole, feel perhaps immortal.
Early in the piece, Yan lays out his life goal: to determine what makes a human “immortal,” or whole. Yan began to feel the import of his dictionary because it was a tool that allowed people to connect and understand one another better. The flash mobs furthered this goal in a more immediate, if more fleeting way. We see, again, only one image of Yan onstage: the live actor. We have come together to witness his story. The show ends. We disperse.
NUTS AND BOLTS
Cast size and detail: 1
Touring Size: 3
Minimum height/width/depth of stage: 4m, 5m, 4m
Set Up time (including sound and light): 5 hours
Duration: 1 hour 10 minutes
Representation: Anastasia Kim, +7-962-684-3611, +7-911-292-7279