Week 8 | Artist 8 of Created to Create 2017 | Djordje Kukuljica, Professional Actor
I was born in Belgrade, Yugoslavia on September 19th, 1973. After completing my primary education in Belgrade and finishing third year of high school in 1992, I was fortunate to be accepted to study Acting at the Belgrade Academy of Dramatic Arts. During this year, I was a part of “Vreme Cuda” performance at Atelje 212, Theatre, which for such a young student, was a great honor and still is.
As the situation in ex-Yugoslavia started to heat up and the civil war was starting to boil, my family decided to move to Croatia. In Zagreb, I was forced to start all over and Zagreb Academy refused to acknowledge any of my first year exams. At the Zagreb Academy, I received a grant from Gavela Theatre, where I performed as a student. In 1996, while still a third year student, I landed a leading role in the ”Zenidba-Kackarjov” play, but due to unfortunate circumstances, I was never able to act in this play. On the eve of our opening night, I had a tragic car accident that left me in a coma for more than three months. After a full year of medical recovery, I was able to participate/act in Molière’s –Misanthrope. In the three years that followed, I was only able to play supporting roles due to my fragile health. I graduated in 1999, and due to my circumstances and health, was left without full-time employment at the theatre. My situation seemed grim at the time, a young man, partially an invalid still, having to provide for his family with no prospect of a steady income.
I focused my efforts in Children’s Theatre’s, such as GDK Tresnja (Plays such as Peter Pan, Jezeva Kucica, Zlatarevo ZlatoTeatar Zar, La Fontain’s Fables Little Red Riding Hood). With time, I was fortunate to start booking many TV commercials, film work, etc. In 2005, I became an Ensemble Member at Gavela Theatre, where I am still working, performing in many shows. Since 2003, I was able to create over 17 different roles in TV.
Where do you live/work?
I was born in Belgrade, Yugoslavia and live and work in Zagreb, Croatia.
What fuels your desire to create?
I am fueled by passion, by the Eros of human experiences and by our powers of survival and rejuvenation. Nature is a miracle, and I experience this thought and joy of creation every time I start working on a new project or shooting new film work. On the other hand, there is Tantos - the force of death, destruction, threat and doubts in my thoughts, which makes me fear the end of it all. I feel both Eros and Tantos are my fuel, as long as we as humans can find peace and accept that everything has an end one day.
How do you deal with fear/doubt that often accompanies the creative process?
Every time I receive a text for a new play, I begin by looking at the cast list, to see who will be my actor friends that I am going to be ready to die for in the process. It is so important to have good colleagues - those individuals that you are ready to “die for” during this process of preparing a play. A good cast is half of the job well done. My doubts do start soon after this moment, though. I always worry about how the director is going to “read” this play, am I going to be able to fit in and contribute to this concept - am I going to able to see clearly all the traps that each new role brings?
In this moment, I return to the power of the ensemble, as I feel it is important for the whole cast to stay together, to be united by trust, strong and solidified in their will and their generosity to each other. I see the power of the ensemble as my refuge, as a group working together, creating an impenetrable wall of trust, strength that can defeat fear, doubt and lack of trust. I imagine that this “wall” of trust, feels even as an Ancient Greek Phalange, and it supports moving forward towards an opening night, sand upports creation in a powerful way and dispels fear - doubt and all the shadow feelings that can accompany creative work. I strongly believe that a great ensemble is the most powerful ally in dealing with doubt.
What is the greatest obstacle in working with self?
The greatest obstacle for my work so far was my ability to speak, thankfully this is becoming less so. Due to my car accident and horrific injuries I sustained, my head - center for balance and center for speech -was badly damaged. I had to learn to speak, walk, balance, etc. all over again after my accident and it took a very long time.
In this painful process, I was able to discover my own breath and breathing as a powerful tool in creating work. I had an epiphany in my acting work which shirted my focus from trying to re-gain perfect diction. I realized that an actor’s obstacle is not the inability to create a perfect diction and beautiful speech. I realized the great power our breath contains and that if I am working with my breath with skill, I discover that breath is responsible for an image or a thought that it transforms then to a powerful weapon. An actor’s breath contributes and can transform all self-perceived speech obstacles with pure ease. After my accident, I was, for a long time, breathing in a shallow manner - my breath was anxious and depleted. But with practice, I was able to bring my breathing to a different level and use it in a new way in my work. Additionally, I was able to re-build and re-gain my self-confidence.
How do you deal with rejection?
I do not have any particular way to do this. Rejection happens or does not happen, I have no control over this. In my life/acting experience so far I can only say: all that has already happened has already happened; and also all that will happen will happen anyway. But in real situations in life, the first moment I feel the sting of pain, I might seek a refuge in an embrace of someone I love, or in a cigarette. I also try to get enough sleep that night. Sleep usually brings me awareness that whatever has happened is probably for the best. I feel there is nothing good to be gained from complaining and indulging in self-pity. I get up, I get myself together and I continue fighting - there is no point in surrendering.
What are you inspired by NOW?
At the moment, I am inspired by a beautiful head of hair; by a certain someone’s neck and back that are once again close to me on stage. Every time I work on a new play, I fall in love with the work, with my wonderful colleagues, I wish this beautiful “merry-go-round” that my work offers, would never end. In short, I am inspired by love!!
Tell me about any mentors/teachers that have inspired your work.
I am only discovering today and able to put in practice, after 25 years of being a student at Belgrade Academy, some of the words and acting advice from our Professor, Milenko Maricic. At the Zagreb Academy, I have received much from Professor Neva Rosicc and Professor Tonko Lonze. My colleagues constantly influence me positively on stage and in rehearsal room; I hope I am able to positively influence them, since in my experience acting is alive - it is a practice happening in this moment. Every day something is different, surprising and alive and happens in the moment, and you are able to choose if you want to use what is happening, or if you must let go of it.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
I see my young self as a first year acting student at the Academy of Dramatic in Belgrade and I see myself during the break in between Speech/Diction class and Voice Technique class, and in this image, I would say to myself: “Djordje dear, perhaps it is best for you to stay here, in your own city, among your own peers and colleagues - to just stay here forever." On the other hand, I am not wise enough to give advice to the young Djordje Kukuljica.
Tell us about your next project.
My current project is a play, “KOMET” by a German playwright, Justine Del Corte. I will be the character of Lothar, a man who dies and then comes back to see his friends. We will open on March 11th, in Zagreb, Theatre Gavela. I hope you can come and see our show.
What are 10 things that make you happy?
I love visiting town of Trieste, Italy. I love shopping for clothes, I love good Italian pasta. I love visiting the castle of Miramare, I love my friends. A well-made espresso makes me happy, Marlborough cigarettes gold make me happy. I love walking by the sea, beautiful girls make me happy.
What are your hopes and dreams?
I dream about becoming a father to a child, someday. I would be happy to be a father to a girl or a boy, regardless - the experience of being a father is what interests me. I hope to get the opportunity to share with another human being my own child and all my life experiences so far and speak about all I have been through. I hope that if I am lucky to be a father one day, and in this sharing, all my life experiences would not be in vain.
What advice do you have for auditioning/performance?
For an actor, a calm mind and a hot/radiating heart will leave an audience with an experience that brings transformation. If one works from the heart, one includes the mind into the process too, but we lead with the heart. An Actor’s belly is a powerful center is to be used as a fantastic tool. I was not able to draw energy from my belly for a long time, but I am working on this now and I would love to continue developing this skill. I would love to be able to have mastery and awareness of all my acting centers and deepen my ability to use them in performance. I am so aware how little I do know, which is a beautiful thing. For my personal self: Just be yourself, in life; every time, every place, and that is the key for everything good in your life. Being authentic is much harder than it seems, and staying true to self in life’s circumstances seems impossible so many times, but I feel that authenticity of who we truly are as humans is the only thing that has true value.
In 2017, SUPER SPACE is serving as a vehicle to facilitate Created to Create Project.
CREATED TO CREATE
INTRODUCING ONE ARTIST PER WEEK, FOR 52 WEEKS IN 2017.
Beginning, January, 1st, 2017
ACTORS, ARTISTS, THEATRE MAKERS, FILM MAKERS, DESIGNERS, TEACHING ARTISTS, STUDENTS all chosen because they spend a part each day creating. Artists will be chosen in no particular order.
Introduce artists from different parts of the world. People who use different mediums and whose practice is at a different skill level. A thing they all have in common is unique sense of style and self-expression.