Nikolai Afanasev is an actor, director and immigrant from Russia. After arriving in Canada in 2013, he has been studying theatre, drama and performance, psychology and human development through different spheres of life. He acts, directs, and helps to bring communities together, and teaches meditation, yoga philosophy, and a universalist mindset. Nikolai aims to expand individual consciousness and transcend dogmas and narrow sentiments.
Nikolai Afanasev has volunteered for Meditation Steps and Ananda Marga, socio-spiritual organizations. Additionally, he hosts group meditations and aids in arranging retreats in Ontario and Quebec provinces. Nikolai draws inspiration from P.R. Sarkar’s social, artistic and spiritual philosophy of getting liberated from narrow-minded thinking and creating a global loving community. As a storyteller, he helps to stories that promote Neohumanist values of global brotherhood and sisterhood. Nikolai Afanasev is curious about art that helps people develop physically, mentally and intuitively. His recent work in acting includes portraying a radicalized youth at the war-torn Donbas in the play by Annie Valentina “Ballad of the Motherland” at the Neptune Theatre.
Nikolai has recently become part of the Crane Creations Theatre‘s prestigious Summer Ensemble 2023 as an actor. This unique program offers aspiring artists in the Canadian theatre industry unparalleled work experience. The Summer Ensemble specifically recruits talented individuals aged 18 to 30, providing them with intensive, full-time training over several weeks. Participants not only acquire valuable skills but also gain invaluable experience in a fast-paced and dynamic environment.
Nikolai Afanasev is now collaborating with other talented actors, including Celine Daaboul, Marie Barros, Reymark Andres, Sofia Farahani, Kay Vukelic, Boro Milosevic, and Hope Van Der Merwe who will together be creating an exciting and dynamic collaborative environment
What Will Nikolai Gain In This Arts Job?
Artistic Skills: Explore classical and contemporary text, improvisation, and theatre around the world and their relevance and impact on art jobs and society today.
Orientation in Arts Jobs: Honest insight into professional organizations, structures and systems in place and how to navigate them successfully
Financial Skills: Budgeting and financial literacy delivered in a comprehensible and easy to understand way, tailored for theatre artists’ needs.
Leadership: Debate complex questions and develop ideas and strategies on how to build not only your career but the theatre ecosystem in Canada and Internationally.
Touring in Arts: Discover how artists around the world use international touring as a source of income, and learn how to create shows that can allow you to participate in that market.
Digital Skills: Discover how blog/content writing can earn you additional income, and promote your work, while mastering WordPress, one of the most desired skills in today’s job market.
Nikolai Afanasev has gone through the joint program of Sheridan College, the University of Toronto Mississauga’s theatre, drama and performance studies program from 2014 to 2018. He left the theatre specialist program after two years to major in theatre, drama and performance studies with two minors in art history and cinema studies. After graduating from UTM, he has completed five levels of improvisation at Second City and done on-camera acting, clowning and physical theatre workshops with John Gordon, John Beale and others. Nikolai Afanasev has completed 2 levels of professional coaching at the Adler professional graduate school.
Nikolai has acted and collaborated with the Pulse Theatre, Vakhteri, Neptune Theatre and Collectiffbus123 theatre companies. His selected work experience includes being a driver with Uber, English as a foreign language teacher with the International Learning Academy of Canada, House parent with Columbia International College and others.
About Nikolai. An Interview with Nikolai.
Where Are You From Originally? What is your favourite thing about your home town?
Growing up in Smolensk, Russia, I was an exuberant and inquisitive child, known for my playful nature. I cherished moments of play, impersonation, travel, and quality time with my loved ones. Dancing, singing, and performing were my greatest passions during those formative years.
It’s a small city in Russia, it’s old, not populous (300,000 people. Well, it’s not populous in Russian terms). My family and friends are there. I speak the same language and really understand the culture deeply as it is native to me. I like how everything is close in my hometown and you can go through the entire city in only 20-30 minutes and see your family or friends.
Do You Have A Favourite Book?
My favourite book is Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. It tells a story of a person, who is apparently sub-human but he surprisingly goes through a major transformation to become a heroic figure. He never wanted to go on a journey but once he ventured on it, the adventure changed him forever. For good.
Do You Have Any Hobbies?
Expressing my creativity, I find joy in writing poems, diaries, thoughts, plans, and songs. Moreover, I have a deep appreciation for reading and learning, with a particular emphasis on fiction, biographies, and spirituality books. I am passionate about communicating, connecting, collaborating, creating and sentient community building. It makes me happy to help others and support other people’s growth and progress. I am passionate about travelling, hiking, communication, writing, educational course designing and teaching. My greatest passion is talking about yoga, meditation and spiritual philosophy.
I love explaining and helping people understand inspiring topics, and concepts about the personal and spiritual mission of every human being. Another thing that keeps me passionate is listening to others and allowing them to share their thoughts, ideas, dreams and goals. I love to give people time, attention and compassion to facilitate their own growth. Another hobby that I would like to dedicate more energy to is meeting interesting, curious, artistic, creative and spiritually aligned people.
What is Your Favourite Meal to Cook? What is Your Recipe?
I love to eat simple vegetarian food that has been cooked with genuine love and good intentions. Buckwheat porridge with fried tofu and stewed carrot is my favourite one to cook.
Soak the 1/2 cup of buckwheat overnight. Boil it the next day for 15 minutes. Add salt to taste. Fry tofu. Chop carrots finely and add to buckwheat. That is, before boiling. Add sesame oil.
What is Your Favourite Thing About Mississauga? Tell Us Why?
My favourite thing about Mississauga is that it has beautiful parks, it’s not crowded with people and it’s close to Etobicoke and Toronto. It’s a peaceful place, away from the busy downtown of Toronto and it has been my home for the last 6 years. Also, I went to university here and I have changed a lot personally by going through a spiritual crisis. It’s a place, where I have grown a lot.
What is one project you worked on that you are proud of?
Participating as an actor in the Ballad of the Motherland production by the Neptune Theatre was a unique and extremely personal experience for me. I portrayed a young 16-years old separatist-soldier Volodya of the Donbas region. By being a part of this production, I learned more about myself, and what it means to be Russian, a man, a human being. I learned that the true value of human beings is their existential value, their presence and not their name, culture, language and other external things. This experience has made my 10 years of “trying to make it” into a career worthwhile.
Do you have any advice for aspiring actors?
Get a deep connection with your inner “I” feeling. Spend some time with yourself, and embrace your differences, peculiarities, challenges, skills, values, and principles. Do things and put yourself through different experiences lovingly. Discover meditation, give it a chance, and find a good company of people who support your growth, and accept you with the “good” and “bad” traits and qualities. Dedicate much time to figuring out your vocation in life.
Try these questions: What are you called to do in life? What makes you happy and complete? Who is the person that I admire and want to be like? Who am I? What is this world? Where do I want to go? What is my greatest challenge/struggle in life? What do I want to change in the world? I would invest time in spiritual and mental health. Find a good listener to support you, a teacher, a coach, or a psychologist but remember that it’s all about connecting with your inner “I”. Nobody is responsible for your personal growth.
Only you can take your life to a new level. If you want to do something intensely you will make it happen but you have to figure this one out on your own. Like Uncle Iroh said to his struggling nephew “You have to start asking yourself big questions: Who are you? And what do you want?” Then, if you discover that art is something you can’t live without, then do it but only do it out of deeper internal passion, never for money, fame, recognition or anything external. All else will fail you but your inner “I”, your own soul will always have your back.