Having followed his steps since the Star Academy success, from interviews to concerts, and book signing ‘And Yet,’ Bruno Tabbal has once again proved that art can, against all odds, take several forms, and reveals itself in many many shapes and colors, voices, and characters in theater plays. Bruno’s latest -ongoing- stage appearance is taking place at Theatre Gemmayze, for the Liaisons Dangereuses play, directed by Joe Kodeih and starring Bernadette Houdeib, Solange Trak, Patricia Smayra, Joe Kodeih himself, with a special appearance for the legendary Renee Deek.
Having decided to meet in a coffee shop for the interview, Bruno led the way to the beach, -no wonder, as he is always faithful to that kind of harmony with nature, which makes him whole. Throughout the years, challenging himself on the mountains or in the midst of a ‘VIP’ event, there is a part of him that remains untouched, as an ode to nature and natural. This might be one of the things that helped him stay out of the game of ‘fame’ and kept him grounded, -not to mention his cultural background, his infinite kind soul, yet logical and sharp mind.
Bruno’s favorite book is Marcel Pagnol’s ‘La Gloire de Mon Père’ –although he has first hesitated between Marcel Pagnol and Amin Maalouf, his two favorite authors. His favorite movie remains English Patient and he has a deep admiration for many contemporary and not-so-contemporary actors and actresses, such as Michael Fassbender, Ralph Fiennes, Kate Blanchet, Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, and Christine Scott Thomas.
Close up on Liaisons Dangereuses
Writing, singing, or acting, where do you find yourself the most and does the stage mesmerizes you among anything else?
Yes, it’s the stage calling I respond to first and foremost. What I mean by stage is the interaction I have with the audience. We usually are ego seekers when we perform on stage, but I also think that acting incarnates the harmonious fusion between singing, dancing and playing. Thus, I have never known what I like the most. The plenitude I would love to feel is to perform one day during a musical, which would combine all three arts abovementioned.
What does theater bring you?
A renowned expression comes to my mind: theater is life. What we experience through theater is unique as we are under the impression that we are living a lie. Still, as Joe Kodeih states, we simply do vomit everything we are on stage. Theater has a therapeutic and existential function at once, as we create the life we would like to live but that would be impossible to live sometimes.
Besides, theater isn’t only restricted to what we experience on stage; its mechanism begins with the text adaptation, rehearsals, backstage experience and warming, relationships and bonds that are built day after day between the members of a team, be it actors or not. I would say it’s a microscopic society that puts up day after day and we often try to turn all these components into an idealistic aftermath.
What did Danceny, the character you play in Dangerous Liaisons give you and what did you have to offer the character?
I wouldn’t know what to answer. I would say all the sincerity I have and the sincere person that I am… He gave me a lot of discipline. While working on this character, I had to improve my voice projection and my physical posture for instance. Most of the people think that once we’re off stage, we take off our characters, as if we were taking off masks, but I don’t agree. I think that when a play ends, we always take a part of the character with us.
How did the rehearsals go with Patricia Smayra on the acting level, as she plays the role of Cecile De Volanges, knowing she just graduated and you have a significant previous experience on stage? The harmony reflects enormously between you both on stage. Did you build it up or was it spontaneous?
I was waiting to see if your question would include the word ‘spontaneous.’ Well yes, actually it was really spontaneous indeed and I guess this is a chance since most of the time there is no connection between actors who have to play the biggest lovers in the world. So I would say we are not that we have the merit of this stage synchronization, as this is naturally born.
Still, as each and every single thing, one could destruct what one has or can do something out of it. We are nurturing this complicity born from spontaneity and it’s evolving from performance to performance and we naturally would seem like the biggest lovers in the world.
What about stage freight? How would you compare it to the stage freight you have before stepping out on stage for singing?
I think it is higher now, should I have to compare it quantitatively. When I’m on stage for singing, I am freer; it’s my field somehow and I am the master of my own actions. There are no limits nor limitations… whereas now, I have the responsibility of acting for someone, incarnating a role that someone assigned to me, and I have the character limitations in addition to a kind of decency I have to abide by. Thus, I practice censorship on my role as I’m not totally myself, but I’m the character I play.
Moreover, I would like to highlight something; the days I don’t have stage freight, or somehow less than usual, I act less good than when I feel it. People wouldn’t feel the difference maybe, but I definitely do.
What would you say about Joe Kodeih -the director mainly-, after all this way through with him?
He is an untamable eternal rebellious person. This human being who is full of contradictions is initially and primarily human. To me, he represents authenticity itself. Even when he is sarcastic, mean, or angry, he is always authentic. This would not be easy to be or work with someone who is that genuine, as people are used to certain formatting, mask, ‘politically correct’ things to say. With him, all this wrapping doesn’t even exist. What emanates of him is purely human essence. Finally, we end up understanding that this, is all that matters.
Joe the director is the extension of the human being he is. He is experimental in each and every way possible, but it’s the reverse of the genius medal. The sappers is out of the ordinary and this explains the extraordinary stamp geniuses leave. That makes it even harder to find the right way and reach excellence. There are many obstacles one needs to overcome to reach excellence. One cannot reach distinction by being a shallow person.
What did this acting experience teach you?
I would say it has taught me to remember the things I already knew. Joe brought back what I had learned and removed the dust that accumulated over the years, for me to remember what I know and what I am so that I would be able to move forward. He is not an upstage person, as other directors might be. He doesn’t demolish his actors to build them back again. On the contrary, he helps his actors seek the characters they will play and encourage them to search for the deconstructed pieces within themselves. He doesn’t look to credit himself through his actors. He is no despot and he trusts us and helps us find our own truth just by guiding us. This is really rewarding.
From all the characters in Dangerous Liaisons, who is your favorite character?
Danceny, no doubt. It’s the character that evolves dramatically but still, remains himself against all odds. One wouldn’t be able to evolve while remaining true to oneself. I really find that fascinating.
Would you have a message to yourself after this experience?
Now, more than ever, I have the conviction and ultimate trust that I am born to be on stage in this life. This is the place I want to be and there’s no place else I’d rather be. When I was very young, I thought one would need to bypass everything and stick to shortcuts in order to become successful. Still, now, I am glad I haven’t done that, as I found my way step by step and I am glad I’m on stage.
And then, when asked ‘what would be a sentence that comes to your mind?’ He answered: ‘It is not what you are underneath that defines you, but what you do. You might be many things on the inside, but if you don’t do anything about them, everything would remain the same. With his irrefutable logic, he left me with no words, as he also has a natural talent for that. ‘Anything else you would like to add?’ He laughed and replied, ‘No… life is beautiful.’ And again, I believed him.
*Interview conducted by Marie-Christine Tayah