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Sam Buggeln: “… one of the coolest things that the arts can do is to create connections between different cultures and peoples”

July 26, 2012 by · 1 comment

Jasmina Tacheva talks with Samuel Buggeln who will be directing Ivan Dimitrov’s play “The Eyes of Others” in New York City

Indiegogo video for The Eyes of Others by Ivan Dimitrov, produced by Bug Company and presented by the New Ohio Theatre this September.

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Hi Sam. You are currently working on a very special theatre project, namely Ivan Dimitrov’s much acclaimed play “The Eyes of Others” which is going to be among the few Bulgarian plays produced entirely in NYC. How did you meet Ivan? What was your first impression of him?

I first met Ivan when I was hired to direct “The Eyes of Others” at a festival called hotINK, at the Lark Play Development Center, in March. It’s an annual festival curated by Catherine Coray, of readings of new plays from around the world. My first impression of Ivan was funny: I thought that he was a very serious dude, maybe kind of dark, definitely the soul of a poet.

Then it turned out that mainly he was very tired and jetlagged, and understandably nervous about the reading. After the reading went so well he was very happy and bubbly, not dark. But he still had the soul of a poet.

What did you like about the play? What made you decide to do “The Eyes of Others” as your first show under the Bug Company banner?

This will actually be the second play under the Bug Company banner—two years ago we produced a new translation of Le Misanthrope by Molière that I had written, called Hater. That production was very successful and made us interested in what another Bug Company project might look like. (We had also made a very short film called The Question, that was based on a short play I’d directed, by Adam Szymkowicz.)

Ivan’s play seemed like a fantastic second project for us in part because from an American standpoint it’s very unusual in its absurdist form, its humor, the way it grapples with big questions of our day, while at the same time remaining very human and very entertaining. It breaks all kinds of “rules” of contemporary American playwriting, and that’s very refreshing. As plays go, it really stands out in the crowd.

Could you give us a brief synopsis of the play?

I don’t want to give too much away, but the premise is simple: it’s lunchtime in the main square of a mid-sized city, we don’t know where. Two men have come down to the square, from their office jobs, to meet each other. They do this every lunchtime (they never eat lunch). In general they seem kind of jumpy, anxious about whether they are doing the right things.

But they find some comfort hanging out together. And some comfort in their designer watches and shoes and so on. Also: someone is watching them. They don’t know who he is. And weirdly, instead of being freaked out, they find some comfort in that fact too. And we go from there.

How far along are you in the directing process? Have you chosen the cast yet?

We are in the process of casting and lining up designers— so far three of the four main cast members are confirmed. It’s a very exciting lineup, but I can’t say who until we announce the whole slate. In terms of my work now, I’m trying not to think too much about the physical production until we have the set designer in place. I don’t want to step on his or her toes by having too many preconceived ideas. I’m just doing my own advance work on the script.

Why should people support your project?

Well, I think that one of the coolest things that the arts can do is to create connections between different cultures and peoples. The US has a very strong theatre community (even though everyone loves to complain about how it’s dying), and a very strong infrastructure for developing new American plays.

But we are not nearly as good as other parts of the world are at engaging with plays from other countries (except for England.) And this play is at the same time so foreign and so accessible, I think that bringing this kind of writing to the stage in the US is a terrifically important—and enriching, and entertaining—project.

But of course, very little theatre pays its bills through ticket sales alone. So we’re hoping people will be as enthusiastic about this as we are, and chip in to be a part of it and help make it happen.

When can we expect to be able to watch “The Eyes of Others” on a New York stage?

We are set to open on September 6. (So soon! I’m having a small heart attack as I write that.)

Speaking of Bug Company, can you tell us a bit more about it? How did you get the idea for it and how do you envision its future?

Well, as a freelance director I’ve been very lucky to have been hired by a number of great theatres to direct terrific plays in their season. But pretty regularly a project would come along that I wanted to develop myself, and I’d pull together my friends and collaborators and kind of make it happen.

When we did Hater, we decided to put the name “Bug Company” on the producing entity, so I guess it was born then. I’m not putting any pressure on the future of Bug Company really. There’s no structure or timeline—I think of it more as something that can be activated from time to time, when a particularly good project and opportunity comes along.

Would you consider working again with Ivan Dimitrov or with other Bulgarian playwrights now that you’ve gained an insight into Bulgarian drama through his work?

Of course!

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