joi, 6 martie 2008
Theater Romanian Landscape Today: Between Directing and Playwriting
“We’ve filmed hours of videos in extremely special conditions: actors were naked in the snow, or “acting” in the Zoo just to see how it feels to be in a cage, like an animal” – said Andryi Zholdak’s at the press conference to introduce his latest production in National Theater in Sibiu, Romania -“Life with an idiot” (after Victor Erofeev). Zholdak, a Lithuanian who’s now living in Berlin and working in Volksbuhne Theater, is an example of “outsider” that has been “fecundated” the Romanian theater in the last years, making waves and agitating the spirits in the Romanian theatrical rather quite environment.
Zholdak’s performances either staged in Sibiu, or presented here in tours, as part of International Theater Festival run by Constantin Chiriac, bring a breeze of fresh air, powerful images and an input of originality wonderfully connected to the tradition of Romanian theater. Another good example for this phenomenon is Russian Yuryi Kordonskyi, a former student of Lev Dodin now living and teaching in the United States but coming to Romania once a year to give another beautiful, generally acclaimed performance. Of course another great figure also coming to Romania from time to time to give his theater directing lessons is Romanian born Andrei Serban, professor of Columbia University, who staged in 2006 the first important and extremely debated version of “Purification” by Sarah Kane and also a new version of the Seagull by Cehov. His public interventions were very taught, claiming deep crises of the Romanian theater.
The truth is that this “boat” is only swimming in the small water of its former power of expression, lingering between the great tradition of directors’ personal poetics and the need of young theater people – some of them directors who also write – to connect to the new tendencies/ realities.
Yet, there are still some “old lions” who carries on the tradition. They have completely reinventing themselves after the fall of communism in 1990. Alexandru Tocilescu came back from abroad and soon regained the status of a “master of avangarda”. His merit is that he reinvents in every performance his stage universe, fighting for a fresh view and never fearing the unknown. He likes to “play” with other arts as well, working in visual area with team partner Dragos Buhagiar, a very gifted scenographer and including elaborated forms of music in his shows: large choruses, live music, original compositions.
The other “lion” that can be mentioned at the top of the Romanian theatrical movement is Mihai Maniutiu who runs his theatrical researches especially in theaters from provinces, where actors can follow his lead without having to worry about filming or TV shows appearances like in the Capital. (It’s very difficult to make a living only on theater, even if the state is still financing a lot of the theaters opened in the Ceausescu’s regime). Maniutiu is elaborating his own receipt of performance made out of dance – his close partner is choreographer Vava Stefanescu - sometimes with Romanian traditional music, when he is not going deep into questioning personal theological beliefs. His “Jewish Trilogy”, premiered at Sibiu International Festival this year, is composed of three different pieces played in different performing spaces in the same industrial area near the town: Job’s experiment, Interviews with Primo Levi and ending with The Ecleziast – put into an absurd frame of noises made by a Matrix-like small army of people. They are all looking at and judging a sage man (Romanian leading actor Marian Ralea) exposed in a glass box where he executes a little boy, his small-size copy, the symbol of the inner child. Modern and unpredictable, going to the heart of the human tragedy, Maniutiu is one of the strong survivors of an universe of leading directors, the pride of the Romanian theater.
Their steps are followed - even if in a polemical way – by Radu Afrim, a young radical director who “executes” classics with style and discovers texts (old or new, it doesn’t matter for him) fit to his own declared obsessions: sexuality, love, illness, aging, death. Afrim’s personal poetics is the most powerful in the new generation and includes videos and photos made by him together with a special “treatment” of the physicality of actors, among who he places each time young non-professional good looking boys and girls drawing a fascinating body landscape on stage.
In this world of directors’ obsessions there’s almost no room for powerful playwriting. After years of elaborating metaphors and allusions (before 1989), and of fighting the directors who didn’t even want to consider staging their work (in the decade that followed) some of the Romanian playwrights gave up the dream to be on stage and just kept on publishing their plays) and few changed their writing. But there’s a huge need of storytelling in this area and young authors emerging after 2000, like those included in this book, are following this “simple” road the same way Romanian film directors do with huge international success.
Their marginal position in the Romanian National Theater Stage is forcing a minimalist approach of the performance based on new plays due to found raising problems.
Yet, there is still an example of happy colliding of directing and playwriting in the person of Gianina Carbunariu, an inventing young female director. Driven to visual arts, Carbunariu’s powerful work contributes to a reborn of the Romanian directing tradition connected to a new type of writing. Her latest show, Sado-Maso Blues Bar, based on a text by Maria Manolescu, is performed in a window opened to the city and thereby has two audiences: one inside and another one on street, because passing byes are fascinated by what happens inside. Another performance of her, mady-baby. edu, has been toured for four years now all over Europe and her plays are staged in Berlin, Paris, Wiesbaden, Munich, Leipzig, etc.
Leaning upon these “pillars” that I’ve mentioned before, connected to the world by importing talented directors – as shown before - and exporting new plays about new East-European realities, Romanian theater is looking full of hope to a future that seems to be fulfilling in all art fields at this happy moment. After the fall of the Iron Curtain, it’s the first time we can talk in Romania about cultural recovering.
foto: Life with an idiot, National Theatre Sibiu, 2007