As a big fan of Broadway, and a member of the theatre community in NYC, I must ask our readers to take my word for it when I say that it is so rare that I go to see a Broadway show and am taken aback by the presence of a tall man on stage. More often then not, your male principals and ensemble are comprised of the 5'9"ers. Much to my liking, shock, and surprise there was Dmitrious Bistrevsky, a 'player' in the current running Broadway hit 'Pippin' (he is now a member of the national touring company).
The wheels began to turn as I watched his 'infamous' handstands and circus tricks manifest onstage with astounding grace and precision. And so began the newest section of ThereAreGiants.com; 'BroadwayGIANTS' - where we seek out the men of Broadway who stand tall, stand out, and sing for their suppers.
Dmitrious Bistrevsky - 6’7”
Homeland/Town: Spokane, Washington to LA to NYC
Profession: Action Acting/Circus performing
What got you into circus performance and acrobatics, etc. in the first place?
I learned how to do break-dancing in Spokane, Washington around the same time that I was doing (community) theatre; about 22 years old. I realized I wanted to take it further; I love performing and being physical, so I moved to LA to do stunt work where I soon met a woman in Starbucks who recruits people into Circus work. At first I thought it was lame and I didn’t want to do it. A few days later, I met some girls at the beach who asked to take photos with me – because I’m so tall, but I was also doing my handstands. The girls gave me their card, and it was for the same circus school as the woman at Starbucks. Obviously that was destiny, so I went.
I find theatre and circus to be similar; I love stunt and circus work, but wanted the thrill of live theatre.
How did that lead you to Broadway?
Meeting the right people. It was one of those ‘right place right time’ situations. I met Orien Griffiths in San Francisco while training. We kept in contact and after some time Griffiths told me he got Pippin on Broadway – so I added Broadway to my goal list. I ran into the director in Montreal; I have a similar skill set to Orien, and the rest is history. Jokingly, I say I got pippin through ‘law of attraction’, but ultimately because I wrote ‘Broadway’ in my dream notebook.
Before Pippin, have you done other live theatre/musical theatre? What other performance have you done, if any outside of Pippin and the Bistrevsky Brothers?
I started out in variety shows in LA. Before that, I was doing some community theatre in Washington, but nothing professional.
‘The Bistrevsky Brothers’ is a slap-stick and physical comedy show mixed with acrobatics and other circus elements. My brother and I write our own material; we spend most of our time writing and arguing over what gets cut and then we start over until we agree on something. It’s a very fun and modern circus act: abstract and not traditional. Cartoony.
How did the idea for a circus act with your brother come about? Were you both interested in circus performance together or did one follow the other into it?
I started off doing church theatre plays and theatre in the Spokane community. My brother was doing theatre in college. We both talked about move to LA to do theatre, but my brother left to study abroad for a semester. At the time I owned and was running a carpet cleaning company and just decided to ‘go for it’. I sold the company for 10% of what it was worth, went into debt, and moved to LA. As I mentioned before, it wasn’t long before I got involved in circus after moving there, and I kind of dragged my brother into it.
Have you found that being your height has been an obstacle or advantage in your performance career?
Over all (my height) is definitely an advantage. When I do stunt work I usually end up as the villain, or I do featured fights w the lead. There are only (about) 8 of us in LA in my size range, so if casting needs a big guy you get called a lot. Being the bigger stunt guy, you don’t get hurt as much, you’re featured more, you do a lot fewer stunty things; I don’t have to fall as much, I’m usually throwing people.
On the other hand, I’m very agile. If it were up to me I’d be doing everything full speed. For film there is ‘big man fighting’ that you have to slow down for – slow motion ala Game of Thrones… I haven’t done that one yet.
Being so tall, obviously we know finding clothes is difficult. Where are some places that you find to be reliable in finding clothes that fit?
The biggest thing I have a hard time finding are jeans because my proportions are different. Jeans are cut either really thin or really wide; I have big thighs, but my waist is smaller. Buckle’s online store has worked well for me; I usually buy all pants or jeans there. I train a lot and find that I am in sweatpants a lot. I wear a size XXL; really it should be an XLT, but they don’t make that in sweatpants so I have to tie the drawstring very tightly around my waist and I end up looking like a parachute.
I went through a phase with shirts at about age 18 where I was 6’6” and wore skin-tight mediums that sat above the waist (like a belly-shirt) because I refused to buy a large. Bistrevsky bro #2 is 6’3” and skinny so I would steal and wear all of his clothes and stretched them out because of the size difference.
What size shoe do you wear? Where do you find shoes that fit you?
When I was 13 my shoe size was 15. At that point once you go higher than 13 you have to order special shoes or really ugly shoes, so I continued to wear 13s through adult hood and now have ‘Chinese Princess Feet’ and can fit into a size 10. It’s not comfortable, but can do it. My toes may be a little bit deformed, but it is totally worth it for the convenience of finding shoes that fit and aren’t ugly. However, my actual shoe size is 14.5/15 and generally end up in Nike’s or Asicks that I can train in and wear for comfort. I order online a lot.
Do you custom?
Not really. All of my suits have to be tailored otherwise I look like I’m stuck in a very nice parachute. There is an ongoing conversation about me wearing stretch jeans; they’re very flexible jeans that take away about 60% of immobility. If I could find stretch jeans life would be easier. One of the costume designers from Pippin has been talking about making me a pair.
What are some of your biggest Tall Guy Problems?
Hitting my head on things. Flying. Busses suck! I am very flexible so I can get away with some confinement, but for me to be comfortable on a plane I have to sit knees-to-face. People stare. Sometimes I end up putting feet up on the luggage rack. One time I was bussing from LA to Vegas and fell asleep with my feet straight up on ceiling and as I was falling asleep my feet relaxed and hit the guy in front of me on the head. I don’t fit in the seat – what are we supposed to do?
Being so large has made me very conscious of others and very polite in crowds. I can’t really push through crowds because I’m so noticeable; it takes forever to get anywhere in a large crowd because I’m so big and tall – and not rude. On the subway when it’s packed shoulder to shoulder, I’m up in a different atmosphere. I check out peoples hair (and see) if they have split ends or dandruff.
What is the strangest thing someone has asked you about yourself or has said to you because of your height?
Backhanded compliments: People who watch me perform often say “You’re amazing… for a tall guy.”, as if, if I were short I’d be unimpressive. “Wow you’re so big I can’t believe you juggle.” I often get stopped a lot to take pictures; I get “HEY THOR” because I have long hair or “HERCULESE”.
“Do you play basketball?” I’m terrible at basketball. Sometimes my agent sends out to basketball auditions and I refuse to back-out of any audition, so I’ll get there and the call sheet says ‘professional NBA level basketball players’. They’ll have us do a lay up or dribble, and I’ll go for it thinking ‘please don’t fuck up, please don’t fuck up’. I did make both lay ups, somehow, but didn’t get the commercial (Nike?), but, hey, I did it. My other brother is 5’10” so he gets the opposite (inquiries) that I do: “Why aren’t you so tall like your brother?”
Do you feel as if though people treat you differently or behave differently towards you because of your height?
YES! I get ‘shotgun’ (front seat) all the time. I’m just as comfortable in the backseat, but YES I do need shotgun. I do go out of my way to not be treated differently. I have always had the tendency to do the opposite of what people expect of a tall person – gymnastics, break-dancing. I get fed more from friends’ parents. “He’s a growing boy.” I find that after I work on certain projects I get treated differently. I always try to judge someone by character not by profession, so sometimes I’ll tell people I work at McDonalds to win them over and THEN tell them I work in film and on Broadway. It helps avoiding becoming a THING instead of a person. That’s what LA taught me; sometimes people become robots when they move there; I try my best to resist all of that.
When I was in Japan, I started playing a game with people. The Japanese are very polite, so they won’t make eye contact with strangers. So I would peripherally see people staring at me because I’m enormous over there, wait until the right moment, and whip around and look right at them. They would scramble and hide because they were caught. It was so funny.
Words From The GIANT: I’ve never considered myself tall, which is weird because I am. I find it more of an insult to me when people would call me tall, because often it is imposed upon me of what I can and can’t do because of it. My parents said no to gymnastics at 14 because I was ‘too tall’. Everyone thought I was crazy. When people ask how tall I am I say I’m average because of course height is relative to what you’re talking about. In Japan everyone is tall. In basketball every one is my size.
In a hand stand im 9”. When I was looking for apartments, the only things I required was a hard wood floor and ceilings tall enough where I could do handstands.
Anyone can achieve anything; Its not contingent on height, size, etc. I’m tall and can do everything everyone always told me I couldn’t, like gymnastics.
Basketball coaches tried so hard at college to recruit me. I hate running and am self-driven. Other players in team sports would get frustrated with me because I don’t have that competitive edge: “I’m having fun” vs. “you fucked up the whole game.”
For a short period of time I did martial arts. I loved the training, but hated hitting people and they would always have to hit me first before I hit them. I was 6’6” and 205lbs; you need body fat to lubricate joints and I sprained my ankle, Thankfully before a competitive fight. It was the end of my fighting career. I still use those skills in action acting; it very much still requires martial arts, but you don’t actually have to hit people.
I do ‘Partner acrobatics’ which is similar to cheerleading where you pick people up and throw them around. There are a lot of short girls – life is good.