Nikolay Karpov was born in 1949 in Russia, in Malojaroslavez (Kaluga region).
His childhood was held in Olimpiyskiy Prospect. He begins his artistic career in the Theatre studio Majak-64. In 1971 he graduated the Shiepkin Theatre School (course of N.A. Annenkov) being the assistant in Scenic Motion Unit (with professor A.B. Nemerovskij).
He used to work as an actor in the Theatre for Youth of the Moscow region.
In 1976 Mr. Karpov became a professor of Scenic Motion and Scenic Combat in the Russian University of Theatre Arts (GITIS). Among his students there are many famous names of the Russian cinema and theatre: Sergej Golomasov, Sergej Jenovach, Andrej Rostozkij, Andrej Ryklin, Dmitry Djugev, Viktor Rakov, Elena Jakovleva, Vladimir Pankov and others. Mr. Karpov created his own Stuntmen group represented by both athletes (A. Malyshev, V.Volostnyh) and professional actors (A.Rostozkij, G.Bogdanov and others) which made significant contributions to the development of the Scenic Fencing by creation of fighting scenes and duels for the cinema and theatre. N. Karpov conducted workshops on stage motion in various theatre schools in Europe. Since 1990 Mr. Karpov used to conducts regular seminars in the International Theatre Summer School «Before the Theatre» — Pisa, Italy, as well as in Italian theatres.
Since 1991 Nikolay Karpov became Director of Scenic Motion Unit of the Russian University of Theatre Arts (GITIS).
After graduation from the Shiepkin Theatre School, he worked as an actor in theatre and cinema. Gradually teaching of stage motion became his main activity. Mr. Karpov used to be the Director of Scenic Motion Unit in the Russian University of Theatre Arts (GITIS) for long time. At the beginning of his activity N. Karpov based his practice on existing experience related to scenic motion; afterwards he gradually developed his own method of training of young actors. Mr. Karpov’s method combines principles of Biomechanics of Meyerhold, Stanislavsky method of physical actions, Chekhov Method and diverse types of body activities in various kind of movement. Nikolay Karpov contributed to the evolution of scenic motion escalating the development of new approaches to actor’s motional work. Special attention to the method was devoted to preparation and training of actor’s body. The actor’s body must be strong, responsive to be able to work with various kind of motion. Today this area has a significant role in professional training of actors. Nikolay Karpov devoted more than thirty years to development and expansion of scenic motion teaching. Over the last 25 years he has been teaching a lot in Europe, especially in Italy, where he has elaborated his method of actors training, which represents the unity of the basics of scenic motion and dramatic text analysis.
Mr. Karpov was a genuine vaster of motional text analysis with focus on development of “From motion to action” approach.
On November, 15th 2006 Scenic Motion Unit celebrated its 60th anniversary.
Teaching of scenic motion and fencing has been practiced since the beginning CETETIS — 1930. However, teachers were working in department of acting technique. The decision to implement separate department was made by a mysterious body — VEVSH of SNK of USSR in October 1945. On December, 29th 1945 the Order no. 151 regarding implementation of department for motion: dance, dancing and scenic motion was issued in GITIS. Dancing and scenic motion has been together for 45 years and only in 1991 department was divided into two. The director of the new department of scenic motion became Karpov Nikolay Vasilievich.
Scenic motion represents one of the basic subjects notwithstanding the fact that it is studied during two years opposite to dancing which is taught for three years and a half. Dancing and fencing do not compensate scenic motion classes, and students lose their skills quite quickly. Summer holidays are enough to lose the skills acquired during the year.
Teachers of scenic motion may be considered as virtual single department. Thanks to that I being the graduate of PhD met Andrei B. Droznin who was finalising huge work in first studio of Tabakov. Nobody introduced us to each other. I saw Droznin working with Tabakov’s first year students. He visited by classes in the studio of the Central Child’s Theatre of GITIS. A small but crucial revolution has taken place. It became obvious that something which was considered to be valuable and interesting was out of day dramatically and has no longer been required in theatrical schools. A kind of explosion happened; a new meaning was given to scenic motion and everything was set up side down. Droznin and I are very different. Nevertheless, our intensions were similar. A revolution was supported by Galina V. Morozova. We started working together, organised metrological laboratories, tried to find teachers who practiced in Moscow, PhD students appeared. We understood each other. That doean not mean that Droznin acts just like I do. Definitely, he act on his own. Same time, there are some mutual basics in the beginning and in the end but there are differences in process. Taking into consideration the final result (working in Schukinskaya School) unity of our views and targets may be seen.
Development of the subject in future is our main concern nowadays. Therefore, the main issue is its development today, in each moment, within particular institute, studio, with particular teacher.
To enhance training of professional teaches is the basic target for the sub-faculty, with which a lot of people cooperated but no many remained with.
In 2007 the first festival of scenic fencing “Silver Sword” was organaised by N. Karpov who became its president. Since 2013 the festival has become international..
In 2013 N/ Karpov organised “Scholl of Yong Musketeer” — the first school of scenic fencing in Russia for kids of age 6-13 years. The basis of the scholl were children and grandchildren of famous actors (D. Pevtsov, I. Starygin, G. Maykov, A. Bogart, M. Politseymako, etc.)
Roberto Scrapa — Director of International Festival Prima del Teatro, Piza, Italy
(interview for memorial evening of N. Karpov in Moscow, November, 2015)
It began in 1989. I organised meeting of main Italian schools. The first meeting took place in 1985 in Piza. Acadely of Silvio D’Amico, School of Oracio Costa, Scholl “Bottega Gasman”, School Proetti — the main Italian theatrical schools were attending. In 1989 I distributed several international invitations in London Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Scotland Royal School, New York school Drama Department and in GITIS (at that time is was named Lunacharsky Academy). Aroud 80 students came that year to participate in the international programme (which was held in addition to national one). All the students were training with “The Seagull” by A. Chekhov. Students has been working with Oracio Costa for 5 days, with Irina Braun from Guildhool for 5 days, with Ron Ardgelander from NY Drama Department for 5 days and with Sergay, Vasiliy and Nikolay for 5 days one by one. This experiment was a success. I recon that the most gracious applause were there. I am not sure if one can teach theatre (Nikolay probably will not agree with me); however, I am convinced that one can be taught theatre. Nikolay turned out to be a brilliant teacher in international aspect. He managed to merge into teaching process with his special method, which I would call a “classic” one because it was rooted in classical Russian school. I do not know what is the secret of Nikolay’s success but I am sure he possessed a unique ability to overcome cultural differences. This lead him to success illustrated by figures: he carried 23 courses with Prima del Teatro what means 69 weeks of teaching (almost a year and a half) and more that 500 students from the whole Europe passing though them. Many Italian theatrical schools were eager to continue working with him. These are National Rome Academy Silvio D’Amico, Centre of Cinema, Academy of Filodrammatici in Milan, school of Torino Teatro Stabile. His success was no only in ability to work with scenic motion but in ability to prove that actors’ authorship (to be an actor means to be a co-author of the play) does not contradict to classical and modern drama; opposite to that it may and should cooperate with the later. This was irradiation not only for Italian students but for English once as well. I have never noticed any opposition between poet or dramatist and body in Nikolay’s work; a union of body language and language of poet has been always seen. Nikolay’s classes represented practical workshops of theatrical community which was speaking five languages. No differences could be felt there all the way which brought you there was forgotten. It was a kind in imitation of theatrical troupe — the only possible answer to step forward to audience community.
We need to prepare and to create theatrical community which will go to the audience with its work — a play which we prepared could be handed as a gift.
I would like to quote Iosif Brodsky: “In genuine tragedy not a hero dies but a chorus”. I devote this simple at the firs glance phrase of Petersburg poet to Russian theatrical school and unique practice of Nikolay which he has carried for the last 25 years.
Alessandra Comanduci, Alessandro Bianki — Actors of “Cantiere Obraz” — theatrical association created under initiative of N.V. Karpov
“Cantiere Obraz” is a theatrical troupe which has been existing for almost 10 years; all its activity being based on N. Karpov’s mthod.
In 2004 Nikolay decided to carry a number of laboratories and workshops in Florence and Lucca. His interpreter Natasha Loginova organised the laboratories.
Actors who could not meet and cooperation with him in theatrical schools became participants of these laboratories. From the very beginning the interest was immense. Huge quantity of not only Italian (some were coming from Spain) actors participated in the laboratories.
Afterward Nikolay and Maria Shmaevich selected a group of actors. Maria continues to carry theatrical laboratories with “Cantiere Obraz” up to now.
Yea, they held a casting among the laboratory participants and chose 10 people and created a permanent laboratory aimed at deepening of N. Karpov’s method. That’s how troupe “Cantiere Obraz” was born.
Each of us continued to learn and deepen into method’s specifics in the sphere which was interesting. For some it was pedagogic because some of us are teaching in theatrical schools, for others — motion and theatrical biomechanics. In any case we were still occupied in plays. During that time Maria Shmaevich started to act and director actively. Thus, new plays came to life with Nikolay as project producer and Maria as a director.
“Bridge” has become a very important show for us. It was demonstrated in many parts of Italy and united troupe “Cantiere Obraz” a lot. Nikolay believes in project and support it. There were more shows after “Bidge”. The last on — “Masquerade ” by Lermontov with Nikolay as project producer and Maria as a director as well.
I would like to say that we are very lucky — we had an opportunity to be his students during the last 8-10 years. This period of Nikplay’s activity was dedicated to development of actors’ skills and collaboration of working with body and text. He taught us to appreciate effort. I recall how one of the students asked him: “Maestro, what talent means?” Nikolay answered calm and simple as usual: “Talent means not to feel weariness”. He taught us such understanding of theatre and life and became our maestro along with Maria.
Actors of “Cantiere Obraz” are distributed all over Italy. School is situated in Florence; meetings with teachers and directors are carried out regularly.
Now we are intended to continue the way with Maria Shmaevich. This is the only way to express our gratitude to his teaching for bright and notable changes in our creative and personal lives.
Katerina D’Amico — President of National School of Cinema , Rome, Italy
(interview for memorial evening of N. Karpov in Moscow, November, 2015)
In 1990 I was director of school, namely educational Centre of Cinema. I decided to become a partner of festival Prima del Teatro in order to have an opportunity to take part in summer laboratories. I wanted to enhance the programme and to increase professional level of actors in our school where studies used to last for two years only which seemed not enough for me. I was eager to provide by students with opportunity to enlarge their experience. I convinces school administration to male such investment and we became partners along with Verdi Theatre from Piza, National Academy of Theatrical Arts and other schools. Upon return from the festival students discussed their experience with enthusiasm. It is worth saying that our actors’ course structure at that time was weaker compared to the current one, therefore their enthusiasm was overwhelming. They almost fell in love with one of the teachers. They said there was a wonderful and brilliant Russian teacher and that we should start cooperation with him. They were so consistent that I gave up. I knew that he used to carry workshop in previous year in the National Academy of Theatrical Arts I asked his to come to our school as well. It was convenient and suitable, as we shared costs with the Academy which were quite notable not due to the fact that the teacher was expensive but since he like all Russians pretended that does not speak Italian and had to be accompanied with the interpreter, what increased costs. Quite soon we were convinced to send our students in Moscow to enable them to continue working with Nikolay. They demonstrated such a huge interest that I was glad to support them. Afterwards I asked Nikolay of his opinion regarding these students, if he thought they could represent not assistants but bearer of his method in Italy. By doing that I tried to explain my crazy decision to finance our students. I knew I would no be able to give them another opportunity to lean with him. To my surprise he replied “Yes”. He said these girls have all necessary features to become teachers and started to train them. In our country such thing happen rarely. Our teaches are rather shy and are not much convinced in their methods of teaching; moreover, they are quite jealous and see signs of competition in their young colleagues. Nikolay was extremely generous. He became a maestro mostly or Lilly Cecere as well as for Valeri Venedetti Michelangelo in the very beginning (afterwards she moved to England to specialise in other subject). Thus, he let us to implement his method through his students trained by himself. He visited us more seldom; however, continued to do so till 1994 while I was in school and renewed visits further after 2000. Now one can say that there is a generation of actors — our graduates — who were much influenced by Nikolay’s teaching related not only with biomechanics. He definitely based on that but his method was wider. He was able to present several elements in panoramic professional training. I thin he taught students to combine them. I am sure that starting from graduate of Velentina Ludovini, Alba Rohrvachter, Julia Bevilakva till actors of the lat graduates Nikolay’s influence on their actors’ formation is quite notable.
Teachers whom he studied are the ones who not just repeated what he was doing but the ones who asked him directly to train them and form them as teachers. On the other hand it is not much common either.
I recall when news about Nikolay’s disease came to Italy. This new was like a wave in actors’ world, cinema and theatre who knew him and whom he taught. This news was distributed with the speed of thunderbolt. That is a prove of love and deep respect to him. I think that when he passed away he left many orphans here.
I remember his as a cute person whom came to visit me on his first day every time he came. After our talk he went downstairs where students whom he left last year and gave some task were waiting for him as well as new ones. Before leaving he used to meet me again. He preferred this meeting to be formal. He stated accurately and clearly everything what happened and provided his opinion on each of the actors.
I also remember that when it was time to put annual grades (they were always mathematical average) all teachers before putting grade were interested In Nikolay’s estimation. He was an authority and was approached for advise and estimation. He was asked “Shall I be able to?” “If Nikolay says I will, that means I will”.
Masters are coming from heavens.
If you let me say (I’m speaking about previous several generations) Sergio Tofano was a great Master of Academy of Theatrical Arts. And what was so special with him? I do not know. Karpov always reminded me of him. Maybe because Tofano was also slim and tall. It seemed that his body was notable even in physical sense and is on its place but he practiced in different sphere. I think it is happiness to meet teachers with so much bright inside notwithstanding which subject they are teaching.
Lilly Cecere — Director of International Centre La Cometa, Rome, Italy
(interview for memorial evening of N. Karpov in Moscow, November, 2015)
— Ciao, Max. Hi everyone.
— Ciao, Lilly. I would like to ask you about Nikolay as you’ve known him for several years. We are in your school, which is an important place both for you and for Nikolay. Please tell us how you got acquainted and how your relationship developed.
— I met Nikolay for the first time in 1989. I’ve just graduated from National Cinema School. This meeting became very important for me and my friends. It was a meeting with a new strong pedagogical method which we had never met before. Thus, we met in 1989, since 1990 till 1996 we try to follow his as much as possible. We start to invite him to Italy to carry workshops at least three times a year and decide to visit him in Moscow (GITIS). I personally was in Moscow in 1993 with the workshop by Nikolay and Gennady Bogdanov. Afterwards bearing in mind that we are graduates of National Cinema School we decide to introduce this wonderful teacher to the school. He starts to teach in the school and we assist him. We couldn’t help learning from him each time he came to Italy. He comes and starts working with course and leaves us, and we continue working until he comes again. One day he says that it is not enough and that we need to create a school with the best teachers. This school should be without mousetraps and sluggish bureaucracy. We start thinking about structure of such school. He insists that school must feature European international character; therefore, we attract a number of English teachers. It is important to remind that in 1997 Europe just started to be united and Nikolay was thinking about European school. The school was founded in 1997 and exists nowadays. Our numerous graduates have been spread round the world. From this point of view his idea of European school was realized. Many of our graduates do not work in Italy, some of them work in Germany, in the South America, in Spain, in France, move from one country to another. Their theatrical education and training is public code. Right after school foundation in 1998 (we all know his tireless character) he approached with the following: “ Lilly, why don’t you start training again to become a teacher of acting technics? You should not freeze as scenic motion teacher you should go further. Scenic motion teacher trains students also to act; thus, one should be teacher of acting as well.” Thank to him GITIS teachers started to visit us. For example Irina Promptova, Natalia Orekhova, Natalia Zvereva (she must be present here today. Greetings, Maestro!). We continue to cooperate with Natalia now. She visited us again last year in October, and we hope to see her in future. Our school is much experienced in teaching by representatives of Russian tradition. I’m glad to say that during that period Nikolay was developing and polished his special method. Since 1993-1994 up to 1998-1999 and even 2000 he tried to give answer the following question: how to make biomechanics by Meyerhold more alive, actual and concrete in modern creation of an actor. Ten years ago he was constantly working with it, thinking about it every moment and every place – in a bus and in class. With constant training he achieved the result. He developed method of construction of plastic phrase (motion phrase) on the basis of four principles of biomechanics. This method lead him to acting technics classes. Simultaneously he invents new exercises. Definitely he basis his effort on pedagogical tradition of GITIS but he managed to fix the rules in such way that all Meyerhold’s heritage becomes alive.
— So, since 1997 Nikolay comes to Italy regularly.
— Yes. He has taught in our school in National Academy of Silvio D’Amiko and in National Cinema School for several years. You will meet the Director of Academy and the President of our Cinema School and they will tell you that it so happened that he chose us. When we invited him into Experimental Centre of Cinema (at that time it was named National Cinema School) he said to the Director Katerina D’Amiko: “I think that these two teachers – Lilly Cecere and Valeri Venedetti Michelangelo (our colleague who founded our school) may teach. They need my presence and my guidance but they need to practice on their own.” That’s how our way started.
I would like to express two more ideas. Presence of Nikolay in Italy in 1989 not only as a teacher but also as theatre specialist was very important. I guess nowadays there is no notable director or actor who had not met him. It is more valid for directors. Currently one of our graduates director heads the actors’ troupe which consists of our graduates what means that they all studied with Nikolay or under his method. She stages “The Cherry Garden” in Rome. In May she worked in Piccolo Teatro in Milan. Our students were rewarded with numerous prizes. The school gave live to four different theatrical troupes, many of our graduates devoted themselves to teaching, some of them were specially trained by Nikolay in GITIS. I deem these to be quite good achievements.
— I would like to reverse to the issue you have already started to speak about. Today there is the whole generation of actors, artists in theatre and not only in theatre which more os less bear Nikolay’s heritage. As if he managed to create a new generation of actors. Almost everyone in Italy nowadays know who Nikolay Karpov is because they participated in a workshop.
— There are some people who know his without being aware of that. They worked with someone else on the basis of his method. He grew not a single generation. His method was eccentric at that time. Nowadays there is no a single actor in Italy who does not use his body but when Nikolay just arrived the word “motion” sounded curiously. It did not exist as a term, there was a term “dancing”. I would not say that there was no tradition in Italy to move on the stage, but as it often happens good traditions are forgotten. That is why when Nikolay came he made a huge innovative work. He grew a new generation of actors and we are not specking about exercises and overturns. Everyone may be trained to do overturn. We are speaking about educated and not trained body — there is a difference. We are speaking about brave and courageous body ready to risk which will support you in situation when no other mean actors are used to rely on will work.
— He often said “wise body”.
Sure “wise”. It should know and should work. One of the English teacher of zoomorphism of motion told me about not trained but educated body. After working with our students he told me that they are wonderful because they are not trained but educated on the basis of some principles. Even if material I’m giving to them has a different cultural base, they understand me perfectly and are taught quickly. That means that language is unified.
— Shall we walk through the classes you were working in?
— Yes, we’ve been working here since 2000. We celebrated Nikolay’s 50th anniversary here. I will lead you to the class where the party took place later. On his 50th birthday he was in Italy, here. Our graduates came from different paces. He said, that here should be sweets fro teachers.
— Here we see Nikolay’s photos. I’m following you.
— This was in October 2012. We sent video of our graduate show for competition and our school (the only Italia one) was invited in this theatrical festival in Moscow. I definitely visited GITIS and saw Nikoaly.
One day Nikolay asked me:
— Lilly, what doe you see?
— I see city/
— No, be more concrete. What do you see?
I couldn’t get what he wanted from me.
Afterwards he told me:
— Name three subjects you see.
I named: volcano, sea and a very beautiful street, which spread ahead.
— You see, now you are learned some exercises, drafted you program, you have some targets in this program but please remember that a teacher becomes a teacher only after he is able to see and understands what he sees.
I always quote this example to my students who want to become a teacher.
One more story.
We were in Theatre Centrale. We had not seen each other for several months by that time. I demonstrated the work we had made during this time. We discussed when he could come again to finish the work together.
He told me than:
— Lilly, I will not be able to come. But you need to understand something very important. You entered by home, saw something inside, lived with me in my home and now it’s time for you to built your own one. I will definitely come to visit you in your home. In any case your home will be more developed that mine.
I often recall this conversation. I understand its sense more clearly now. Especially when I talk to young people who want to become teachers of scenic motion.
His generosity is incredible especially compare to some other teachers who try to keep their secrets. A meeting with the person who shared with us so generously from the human, philosophic and pedagogical points of view changed our lives.
Lorenco Salvieti — Director of International Academy Silvio D’Amiko, Rome, Italy
(interview for memorial evening of N. Karpov in Moscow, November, 2015)
I met Nikolay in 90th. His visit to our academy was a kind of revolution. We owe Nikolay for the opportunity to think. Why do I speak about it? Because before Nikolay in our school (which exists for more that 100 years) the basic teaching method was text analysis, “speaking” acting, etc. Probably a lack in actor’s body education existed. I remember that in Nikolay’s first visits in 1990th (I used to teach acting technique and we carried some seminars together) our teachers and students started to think about perception of mind and body as a single whole. Are voice and brain as well as other part of the body divided? That is why for us his presence was not just an opportunity to have a wonderful teacher but he was a genuine Maestro. Each time when he came and left he stated some targets to think over and insisted that we should develop in this direction. For our school and for Italian theatre in general at that time it was a key point.
I can say that Nikolay left a heritage which will remain alive because he taught us to state serious problems. That means holistic approach to actors’ perception and not analysis of its integral parts: this is voice, this is acting, and this is motion. He taught to see all these alive aspects simultaneously. This is Nikolay’s main achievement. One more achievement is worth mentioning. He taught (this was obvious notwithstanding if he carried classes or worked with graduate show) that discipline and artist freedom, discipline and fantasy should be hand in hand and not one by one. This becalm a valuable advice for our students, some of which are currently the main Italian actors. Possible someone else taught them of this but only Nikolay succeeded. Nikolay was always extremely tough in working notwithstanding in classes or in graduate show, singly course or in cooperation with other teachers. Same time along with this severity respect to fantasy and creative spirit of personality was in place.