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tv   Tavis Smiley  PBS  April 29, 2014 12:00am-12:31am PDT

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tavis: good evening. from los angeles, i am tavis smiley. tonight a conversation with mikhail baryshnikov. to reinvent himself. never shying away from the creative challenges that would overwhelm a lesser artist. he is performing the lead role in "man in a case," by anton chekhov. a conversation with mikhail baryshnikov coming up right now. ♪
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>> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. hass: mikhail baryshnikov received just about every honor an artist can receive. he never rests on his laurels. gravitating to what may be called experimental theater. he is in los angeles playing the title role in mikhail baryshnikov -- "man in a case," stories about love and loss. this is a scene where i frustrated schoolmaster
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.ismisses to students i hope it does not reach the ears of the authorities. i hope nothing comes of it. there could be trouble. therefore, it would be a very good thing if the student were expelled from the second form. from the fourth. is this a fair description, experimental theater? >> it is american avant-garde.
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-- theyctor is known developed their style of presenting stories. they always look for pieces of literature which could be open. let's say this is two short stories of chekhov. big plays.is which is only more difficult to newt to present something in them. short stories because they are so short, allow directors like that to go in and interpret personage.roes, the little about
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him. not about his family, his education. he is teaching thing which is like ancient greek. ancient greek.ke all these sociopolitical evidence -- elements are -- evident ins his the hitter. behavior. tavis: i want to talk about the multimedia aspect. i think i know the answer. but for you, why tech of -- che khov. >> we developed this in connecticut, this new director. toy give me carte blanche
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develop something for his first season and position. trigger towinning a the house -- putting a tree or building a house. playlike -- great actors once in a while. russia is -- russian is my mother tongue and i grew up reading chekhov. stories, "manhort in a case," in the first part. the 1880's if in mistaken.
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more than 100 years ago. it is so relevant because it is of --out universal kind you speak about loss and ethics. it is about responsibility. it is about self-examination and duties of a man and fears. .t is a classic theme let me go inside the production for just a minute. it are of the stories would have been too short so you -- either of the stories would have been too short so you weaved them together. t -- thegested tha directors, i knew them socially and i admired them and after our first meeting we are allies.
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it would be too short for the full evening. it would be at least an hour. and because they worked with suggestedfore, they about [inaudible] as you realize the construction of the play, actors sitting around the table talking turkey. this comes into the play and then after the first part they come back to the table. and the character who died comes alive again as an actor. and introducing the second story. that is how they bridge the two stories together. was fascinating for me. i suspected that any fan of yours who comes to see you in
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anything hopes you are to do some dancing. >> i did a little bit. it is never enough. tavis: for your fans it is never enough but you are ok with that, obviously. >> a 66-year-old man to dental evening. that is what they wanted. tavis: you can still do it. --recently a few months i ago i danced and i was part of the evening and had a great time. there is different kind of dance. the people who i work with like mark, forexample -- example, they know how to use me. dance physically certain things.
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at tango dancers or flamenco or japanese classical theater. andou're smart enough collaborate with the right choreographers, you could really age. your examples toot of it. ,artha graham, twyla tharp because they are choreographers they know their physicality. they know what not to do and how to use your body. who isi had a guest still dancing her age. as you put it. is to sit inng it
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the audience as i did the other night and watch you play these characters -- this character who was so muted, so staged, so th is. and the person playing him has always been like this. that is when you are good actor. is a challenge to get into the skin of that character. i was always fascinated by classical russian theater. russia,p in latvia and ten years. i had an access to see the best of the russian theater. tolstoy, dostoyevsky, miller, some american theater, i thought it is magic when the actors are
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saying something. it is such a revealing form of art. such a transparent and good actors emma they are part of individuals. i always dreamt to that one day i would open my mouth on stage. blessed -- inare be. we are blessed to exposed to these brilliant productions. we are on the left coast, the west coast. more and more we are getting exposed to the kind of stuff that is making the culture in the city even more rich but when ,ou are on broadway in new york is there something you want to tell me about performing in los angeles? >> in the last two years, this and this is ane extraordinary institution.
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i love the area. it is really comforting. in general, look at how many theaters opened in the last few years in los angeles. there is suddenly two modern dance companies, body traffic, arel.a. project, and they forming in new york, and paris, travel around the country, and i think there is audience. i know there is audience. i can feel it. tavis: you have received just about every major award and yet you keep pushing yourself to innovate, create, to try different things. what is that about? >> you do not measure your life by receiving awards. i am flattered and awfully -- deeply honored.
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it is -- i afraid to get bored with myself. that is number one. -- i am afraid to get bored with myself. the second point, my day job, it is my center in new york. i run that center and i perform at the same time, it keeps me alive. needs of the young artist, new their needs are, what ofk city -- i had the kidnd strange relationship with new york city. a total love affair in the 1970's and then retreat.
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and then kind of conservative politics and real estate and business and now i am again kind of fighting for the justice of the city, to open the city for the artist. andart education for kids education per se. that is important. that is the future of our country. tavis: tell me about the work that you hope to do through your center. open are trying to possibilities for young people who want to be actors, from our colleges, from young choreographers, young people who dream to become playwrights and photographers, artists.
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musicians. we are giving opportunity for workshops and cooperative processes. we worked with a different center. we worked with the governments from europe and elsewhere to bring people. the world want to come to the united states to create. an inspiration when i speak in england or germany or france or australia, south america. people, new york, los angeles, chicago. they want to experience that admiration to american culture foreign-policy more and more, especially with the obama administration, how how heads -- how people's
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come out with their chins when the speak. they're very proud. tavis: i wanted to say something about the young people that you work with. people want to see their artistic efforts burgeon and grow. i want to talk specifically about the really young people. those who are school age and what you make of the fact and what you ultimately think the price will be that we will pay as a nation for not exposing these young people to the arts in the way that you were as a child and russia. you talked about earlier the fact that you were reading chekhov, you are exposed to great art. i fear personally there is a huge price this country is going to pay by denying these young people in school today access to arts programs of all sorts. what are your thoughts? art, it is such a
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mystery, you know? people on thee hill in washington that no matter how much money you can spend on education and art education especially, that implants, it is a direct -- affects a young person for the rest of their lives and always in the most humane and positive and unified manner -- dignified manner. somehow, you cannot put it on paper. is a seed -- not a seed that you can put in and expect the next day to be a flower. it takes, it is not water in a
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drain. you invest into the future. that is how young people become human in the best sense of it. through the great experience of to mahler's symphony or see a great play by tennessee williams or experience something, the ballet. 10, 11, 12, 13. that is a much more difficult to start your education in your 20's and sometimes it is almost too late. tavis: at this point in your
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life, as you reflect on what art has taught you about your own humanity, and the humanity of others, what can you share with me in that regard? i kind of had a strange childhood. conventional. i discovered theater when i was nine years old. in fact much earlier because my , probably dragging me i was 5, 6 or so to see opera and the ballet. she was a very simple woman. she was not university educated. she came from the center of tosia, from the volga river riga, latvia as the wife of a soviet and military officer. i was the son of the occupant.
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-- in veryvery early early years of my life that we are not invited here. it is not my country. it is not my language. -- we are in this country because of joseph stalin sent us right here and he just occupied these three baltic countries. estonia., latvia, on the streets, it was -- everything was very evident. i was walking with my father and mother and he was wearing military garb. people look at us, what the hell are they doing here, why are you here? i do not have any answers but i knew something is wrong here.
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it is later on. now i am looking, i am glad that stalin sent us there. i look into the politics of russian politics from a childhood's eyes. i really understand already certain things, what anti-semitism is, what is the situation between latvians and the russians, what our army is doing their. -- there. there is a statue of freedom which actually probably was facing west which is an interesting dichotomy. my motherou know, passed away when i was 10 or 11. i discovered theater and it was
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my home. my father remarried. i was last few years when 14, 15, 16 and i left to russia, i was like a sponge. was a verye mediocre student. i liked literature, like history, i liked dance elements of it, acting, etc. much felt that i grew up faster. i realized there is not always a relationship between people are given. sometimes somebody is wrong and somebody is right for different kind of reason. politics are love or just
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craziness. because those people are sometimes portrayed in the theater, in dance, in music, all the elements. they are in your mind and in your heart. when i arrive as a provincial young man into russia and i was accepted, this incredible institution, now it is an academy. with a famous teacher. i was on my feet. inhale the old real culture of russia. was arstood already, that of start of lyrical processes and -- political
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processes, it was an era of leonid brezhnev. very conservative, very stale. very brutal in a way but at the same time, i received a free education which i would never and ever receive anywhere else. tavis: i could talk to you for hours. the last time mikhail baryshnikov, the conversation was so rich and delightful that it turned into two nights. i want to do that now. i am tempted to do that now but i need to protect his voice. he has got some more shows to do in town so i will do you a favor and let him save his voice. go see him in "man in a case," he will have some pipes to work with. he is starring in "man in a case " in l.a., santa monica.
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if you have a ticket you should -- if you can get a ticket, do yourself a favor while he is in the city of angels. there might be a voice you might recognize somewhere in this play. good to have you on. thanks for watching and as always, keep the faith. >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at pbs.org. tavis: hi, i'm tavis smiley. join me next time for a conversation with broadcast legend larry king. that is next time. we will see you then.
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♪ >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> be more. pbs.
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hello and welcome to business. this week we're in say toga at the arts center. this place is built on 175 beautiful acres. it was built by a former san francisco mayor and senator of california james. the mediterranean style villa and exquisite style garden was left to the people of california. we'll take a peak around the villa and learn more about the interesting man who built it later in the show. she's the young woman to keep your eye on if you can keep up with her. she's always on the go tackling just about every subject imaginable. a 20-year-old entrepreneur and the youngest person to ever receive

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