Ask a Romanian: What’s the theater scene like?

A few days ago, Megan wondered about the Romanian theater scene: What are theatre-goers going to see? Are there many musicals? What can Western theatre artists offer to Romanian theatre artists, and would they even be interested in a collaboration?

I thought Luiza might have some knowledge of this as she did some reporting on the topic a couple years ago and still keep abreast of some developements. Her answer is relatively Bucharest-centric so if anybody has any knowledge of the theater/dance scenes in other Romanian towns, please share your views.

Luiza says:

“In no way is this statistically proven, or at the very least I’ve not done research on the topic, but it seems to me Bucharest theatre goers still prefer the ‘conventional’ scene – you know, the big old theatre, classic play structure, famous and somewhat critically acclaimed cast and director and the like. However, over the past few months I’ve dabbled in the alternative/experimental scene, and the offer is surprisingly varied.

Also, Romanians, do go to the theatre a lot, be it Shakespearian or alternative plays – at least in Bucharest they do. As for musicals, the Romanian version of Chicago, launched maybe two seasons ago, played with a full house for many, many months.

Also, from my limited experience, I would say one could see plays in English or French, at the very least during various festivals. Somewhat off topic, we have a very beautiful and old Jewish theatre where most plays are in Yiddish – with some simultaneously translated in Romanian.

Now for that alternative scene I mentioned – there’s this little theatre company that staged a play in a car – for an audience of three people at a time. Maybe three weeks ago I’ve seen a beautiful experiment called Un Tango Mas – tango dancing on a theatre stage; the story was there, except it was told not through dialogue but through brilliant choreography and the music to match it.

There is improvised stand up comedy, there’s a multitude of plays and experiments done in various Bucharest clubs, there are theatre elements meshed with dance lessons for amateurs at youth clubs and whatnot. The fine arts institute in Bucharest has this thing called Studioul Cassandra, where acting/directing students stage their own plays as a graduation requirement – the quality is excellent, the entrance to the shows is free and during my student years I was quite the regular.

So, yes, we have the traditional big theatre that can accommodate a great number of spectators, but recently I’ve noticed rooms getting smaller and theatre becoming more intimate.

Last I checked, though I’m not an expert, there are theatre festivals all over the country. We have quite a talented generation of young actors and directors moving things along, in addition to the renowned old school guard. Also, there are all sorts of collaborations if you will – local or regional troops coming to Bucharest theatres and vice-versa. I’m sure a reviewer from any number of print or online publications would be far more up to date with the theatre scene than I – I don’t have a theatre going tradition or pattern, I’m just experimenting (based on the ‘one of each’ approach).

I’m also appreciating the selection of plays – you could still see the classics, but more and more contemporary plays are getting out there. Also, experiments, combining film, music, dancing, laser shows and the like with theatre are increasing in numbers.”

2 Responses to “Ask a Romanian: What’s the theater scene like?”

  1. In Brasov, our primary theatre hosts a number of musical acts (generally of the jazz, blues, or classical variety) as well as many different stage plays (whose name escape me). The longest running stage event has been “Fuck You, Europe!” and I am still hoping to see it, if it hasn’t already left town.

    There’s another theatrical venue which hosts various high school quartets, ballroom dancing lessons, and other less popular events.

  2. Thank you so much for your comments. I truly truly appreciate it. I found a website on the history of Romanian theatre which was partially in English, but the names of the plays are in Romanian. I tried to use one of those free on-line translation tools but to no avail.

    I would love to know more about the theatre festivals in particular because I am interested in applying to international festivals with my theatre group. Also looking for “residency” or internship opportunities. Any names of theatre or arts publications you could throw my way? My searching online is hit or miss- often everything is in Romanian and of course I am lost.

    Thanks again, I’m so intrigued by Romanian culture!

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