Nathan Cooper is an American actor who has been living in Bulgaria with his wife Vasilena Radeva for 4 years. Along with their two children, theatrical engagements, dream capture and the projects he is involved in, we were able to talk to him about the theater, the family and the goals he pursues. He and his wife created the Panic Button Theater. Nathan is also the founder of the Single Carrot Theater in Baltimore. 

What inspired you to become an actor? How does that shape you as a person?

A friend of mine encouraged me to go to high school. I was not inclined, but I went and actually had a lot of fun. I liked the feeling of being part of a group working together to achieve something. Then I went to audition for a play in high school and fell in love with the theater community. I thought twice about giving up. However, I returned to the theater again for a few months before deciding.

My path as an actor is inextricably linked to my path as a person. In my daily life, I constantly scan the world to find inspiration and ideas that I can put into my work. Through work, I am constantly discovering things about myself that I use in my daily life. I'm looking for a holistic approach to everything I do.

On 15 November, he participated in production by Frederick Sontag - George Kaplan. What was your role in this mystical story?

This is a bit of a tricky question. The play deals with a very broad topic - democracy. Characters, in the traditional sense of how we imagine them, are less important than their relation to the theme. Since each character is a specific person (with a story, etc.), what is more important is how each of them relates to the idea of ​​democracy through their specific circumstances. The play is written in three parts and I play a different image in each part.

Each part of the play introduces us to a different level of democracy, starting with a small group of activists who want to destroy the "system". He then moves on to a group of screenwriters who develop experimental scenarios of threats to democracy, and ends with a group of high-ranking officials running a shadow government using scripts from writers.

What are your most inspirational inspirations?

I am inspired by people who live their lives to the fullest, who have a gleam in their eyes that open themselves to people and welcome them! There are such people in the pastoral picture of life, from the rich and famous to the most ordinary person you see on the bus. I try to keep my eyes open for new inspirations not only from humans but also from nature.

Where was the most exciting audience you played for?

I was working on a project called Quark Time here in Sofia. This was the implementation of the scientific installation by Gergana Dimitrova and her company "36 monkeys". There were many interactive installations explaining some of the principles of quantum physics. Also a live radio interview, two dancers and an audience. I was one of the dancers and we played tangled quarks. It was a really weird and unique project - we played with the audience as moving installations. The audience was extremely entertaining and she herself became a great inspiration to us. The whole project was an interesting live experiment.

 

What do you want to contribute to, or create, in the world of theater?

I have always sought to find different ways to make the theater an interactive experience and to engage the audience in the atmosphere. This does not mean that people should participate directly, but be part of it ideologically. We, as a society, need, more than ever, to interact and engage the audience interactively in performances. For me theater is a place where people can communicate and come up with ideas and minds.

I want to support theater in society as an important and meaningful experience! I want to find new ways to present the performances! I want to inspire others, find reasons for discussion, and hope that this interconnection with society will come about!

 

You have been living in Bulgaria for 4, you have a family with two children. How did it all start?

I was in Baltimore with Single Carrot Theater when a friend suggested I contact the 36 Monkeys formation in Sofia to find out if we could create some kind of collaborative work together. I met with Vasilena Radeva, who was working with 36 monkeys at the time, and that's when it started. Vasilena and I were married, we have two children, a cat and a theater company! As acting artists, it is better for us to live in Sofia than in America. Vasilena continued her work as a director, and for me Sofia is very hospitable as an actor. I have met many talented artists and friends who support me here.

 

You play many films and theatrical productions simultaneously. What is the reason for this constant energy?

Faith! When a person believes in what he does, the energy goes to him. My work inspires and energizes me! Of course I go home tired after a long day like everyone else, but I really love what I do! I need some sleep and I'm ready for the next project.

Together with your wife Vasilena Radeva you create Panic Button Theater. Your debut show last year is Dissonance for Two Artists - based on dreams, childhood memories and fears. This interesting project is entering new spaces of human reality. What did this idea show you and are you working on something similar right now?

The idea for the project came about a year after I moved to Bulgaria. I felt that everything here was so familiar, but at the same time it was completely alien and strange. I started having very bright dreams and sometimes felt like my life was a big dream. I had just begun to understand the language and yet I often had conversations in which I did not understand more than half of what was being said. From time to time I found myself in a familiar situation where nothing was as it should be. I felt professionally isolated. So Vasilena and I decided to start working on a project based on my experience.

The path of drama was still unclear. We played with Jung's archetypes, thinking about how to analyze our own dreams to create her character and history, and at some point we got lost. At this point, we left Jung as the basis of the project and rushed more into the neurological aspects of dreaming. While Jung uses dreams and dream symbols to develop conclusions about a person's psyche, the neurological approach states that dreaming is a biological process that helps the brain work through associations. These associations are vital to our survival, as we must associate certain impulses with threats or dangers. Once we began to look at the idea from a neurological point of view, we freed ourselves from the limitations we set for ourselves by arranging the drama. This allowed us to make bold choices by "jumping" from topic to topic based on pure associations. This allowed us to build the plot using the logic of the dream. Moving away from Jung's analytical approach, we were able to create a character who moved through his own dream with ease and clarity.

We started by examining Carl Jung and the principles of conscious dreaming. I recorded my dreams as memories and dreams of my childhood. All this gave us enough material to start developing the dramaturgy and we quickly realized that we needed to invite another participant in the project. We invited Bogdana Kotareva, who, to our surprise, was already recording her dreams. We were particularly inspired by Jung's collective consciousness theory and decided that the purpose of the project would be to give the audience the impression that they were dreaming of their own dreams. We thought that if Jung's theory was true, people in the audience could look at our personal dreams and realize their own.

The path of drama was still unclear. We played with Jung's archetypes, thinking about how to analyze our own dreams to create her character and history, and at some point we got lost. At this point, we left Jung as the basis of the project and rushed more into the neurological aspects of dreaming. While Jung uses dreams and dream symbols to develop conclusions about a person's psyche, the neurological approach states that dreaming is a biological process that helps the brain work through associations. These associations are vital to our survival, as we must associate certain impulses with threats or dangers. Once we began to look at the idea from a neurological point of view, we freed ourselves from the limitations we set for ourselves by arranging the drama. This allowed us to make bold choices by "jumping" from topic to topic based on pure associations. This allowed us to build the plot using the logic of the dream. Moving away from Jung's analytical approach, we were able to create a character who moved through his own dream with ease and clarity.

For some people, the play resonates deeply within them as it presents itself entirely from the actor's gaze. Several people shared that they had incredibly similar dreams, and as they watched the scene, it was as if they were watching their own dream.

I think Dissonance fits into the really interesting aspect of theater that is "meeting." Looking at Jung's collective consciousness theory, she says that our subconscious is to some extent influenced by our genetic inheritance. We all bring memories of different symbols into our subconscious and as such we can relate to one another in a fundamental way. Theater is where this happens. A place where we gather to share experiences. A place where we can fight our humanity together, to some extent (whether we realize we are doing it). We decided to play this way intentionally with this aspect of the theater.

Dissonance came up with interesting and meaningful things, though we have no plans to continue the project at this time. We thought that if we continued the process, it would not be an extension, but rather the next chapter. It does not have to be related to the first performance, which is deeply expressed in my life as a new father, husband and in a new country. If we continue with Dissonance, we will use the same approach, but we will start from scratch. It would be interesting for me to look at this project after 5 or 10 years and see how deeply we can get into the subject.

 

What is your greatest happiness for you?

Reflection! I like to stop from time to time and look back - at my life and all the things that have brought me to where I am today. This is a great moment of irony when I think about all the difficulties I have encountered to get to where I am now. And how insignificant these difficulties are when they have passed. The moments of reflection allow me to laugh at myself and appreciate all the experiences that made me what I am today. Life is full of surprises! 10 years ago I would have never imagined that I would live in Bulgaria. It was difficult at times, but I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. I always try to move forward and I get excited about this: How much more can life offer me ?!

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This