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Interview with Constantin Chiriac, Director of the Sibiu International Theatre Festival

Constantin Chiriac, Director of the Sibiu International Theatre Festival, talks to Magdalena Popa Buluc about managing one of Europe's greatest festivals.

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Magdalena Popa Buluc - in dialogue with Constantin Chiriac, Director of the Sibiu International Theatre Festival:

“I shall continue to believe people need soothing, dialogue, and stories”

Interview by Magdalena Popa Buluc, originally published in Cotidianul Newspaper, Wednesday 22 May 2013. English translation by Profusion International
Constantin Chiriac, one of Romanian theatre’s most important managers
Constantin Chiriac is a great builder and achiever of projects that no-one else would think of, or even dare to dream – and, for these reasons, he gets to the point of realising them. He is a manager and moulder of the impossible, converting it into the possible. He works with the future. Whereas others may get stuck even in their tomorrows, he builds buttresses and levers around his cultural projects and integrates them in resonant spaces, so that everything he does has an echo, develops other echoes, and has the shine and urgency of ART.
Like a Midas, but  not punished by the well-known legend, he transforms everything into gold. This is how he managed to turn the Sibiu International Theatre into the Great Market of 24 karat World Theatre. Everything he does and chooses for the Festival which he established is theatre in all its guises, current and future, full of values,  because he considers that “all you need is to believe in what you want, and to fight for excellence”. He also is an opener of eyes, showcasing real values for local, European and world markets. He knows how to turn theatre into a feast of the “now”, but also a feast of the eternal. While other people waste themselves in projects of little breadth and cannot see further than the path that leads home, Constantin Chiriac thinks of the fact that we need to be prepared, from this very moment, for the appointment of the next European capital of culture.
Every time I listened to him telling me about his most recent projects, I never had the feeling of illusions and utopias which often undermines the dialogue with people of various professions. This power to transform the future into an accomplished present, that conquers and fascinates us, is the secret of this admirable and unique prestidigitator of the cultural management field, in Romania, and in the world of theatre from all continents.
Tout va bien directed by Alain Buffard
For 10 days, the city of Sibiu will become a giant outdoor stage, a mega-spectacle. Through its standing, environment and the partnerships which Constantin knew how to create, the event has contributed decisively in the past 20 years to the increase of Romania’s prestige in the world, and to strengthening the image of a community in possession of world-class spirituality and down to earth models of action. We also have to recall the fact that the existence of this prestigious festival, and its ambitious programme, are due first of all to the excellent manager and director of the Festival, Constantin Chiriac, a man who’s been trying for two decades, with passion and painstaking patience, to convince the politicians of the world about the importance of the gates that culture is able to open.

Constantin Chiriac invites and brings to Sibiu the best Theatre, avant-garde theatre. Theatre full of virtuosity, theatre which exudes the joy of spectacle. There is no important and theatrical trend-setting show that Constantin would miss. And because he works with the future of theatre, each edition of the Sibiu International Theatre Festival can give us a precise reading of the clock from all the stages in the world.
The Festival grew like Prâslea, the fairy-tale hero
Scene from Three Sisters
You managed the performance which announced the 20th anniversary of the Sibiu International Theatre Festival. This is a Festival that demonstrated, when Sibiu was declared European Capital of Culture, that if it is well managed, culture can be well ahead of the political sphere. What are the strengths of this edition? The tradition of the Sibiu Festival is already well known and universally accepted. The fact that the Festival grows in diversity and quality, year by year, is exceptional.
This festival was born 20 years ago as an independent initiative, out of the need to have a dialogue with European structures. In ‘92, when I travelled around Europe and took part in the Anvers Cultural Capital, I had the chance to see what such a phenomenon means. I understood the meaning of a great density of artists and excellence in a city of quality, in a city which made a goal out of promoting culture in a coherent fashion. I then thought that a community in Romania could also produce something similar. I organised the first edition according to the way I thought back then, and in the way I was influenced by the festival forms I’d seen before: with juries and prizes. It was as if we’d compare apples and plums, or grapes, or bananas.
We organised the Festival for some years around the date of 27 March, World Theatre Day. This was a fabulous initiative behind which there was no institution. We started from nothing. In the beginning, there was “The Festival of Young Professional Theatre” (Festivalul de Teatru Tânăr Profesionist), so people would understand that we were making a perfect and clear departure from everything the [communist state-endorsed] festival “Cântarea României” (Praise to Romania) had meant; that was because I had many friends who were sympathetic to the ideas with which I started in a quixotic adventure. I had moments when, in order to get hold of money, I pawned my house. There are probably not too many ladies in the world who would accept the madness of a husband that might leave you under the open skies at any point in order to be able to organise a festival. And this thing did not happen just once, but some three times. Although there have been moments of great drama each time, things didn’t reach tragic proportions. At the same time, I learned on my own initiative how to find routes to forms of financing, as I was not an expert in the field back then. Slowly-slowly, I formed a team. I managed to gather around me other “madmen”, other people passionate about the theatre.
You managed to bring, each time, remarkable shows to the festival’s stage, but also famous names such as Luc Bondy, Eimuntas Nekrosius, Andrei Şerban, Yuriy Kordonskiy, Andrij Zholdak, George Banu, Jonathan Mills, Claire Cunningham, Emma Dante, Ascanio Celestini, Inbal Pinto, Burgtheater, Teatro de la Abadia, Teatro Stabile...
I started from the principle that you can do nothing if you don’t have quality. When we began, there were 3 countries and eight shows, and this edition we have 70 participant countries, 350 shows that take place in 66 locations, with approximately 60,000 spectators each day. The Festival is the third biggest in Europe, after Edinburgh and Avignon.
Sibiu anticipates future
Sasha Waltz brings the essence of movement
Why did you choose “Dialogue” as this year’s theme?

I am trying to raise the audience’s awareness by concentrating on the importance of culture in Romanian society. We also need a culture of business, of the political, of democracy, and we need people who understand that you can’t build a thing by “holding the materials on your knees”, trying to improvise. You can’t do a thing without having elites, without having models. When I saw how lonely people are at this moment, when I see we only have monologues – even when it comes to faith, and even in family matters – and that we are holding dialogues between deaf people, I decided this year’s theme would be “Dialogue”. Europe asked us this year that we should celebrate the citizen. This is, in fact, a daily duty. Imposing quality, we managed with the “Radu Stanca” Theatre of Sibiu to have 85 shows in the repertory, 400 shows in one year, with all tickets sold.
France, Guest of Honour
Constantin Chiriac and Jonathan Mills
What are the strengths of this year’s edition, especially if we bear in mind that the press conference at the French Institute was attended by personalities from the world of diplomacy, such as HE Philippe Gustin, Ambassador of France to Romania, Stanislas Pierret, Director of the French Institute in Bucharest, HE Keiji Yamamoto, the new Ambassador of Japan, HE Philippe Beke, Ambassador of Belgium, Benoit Rutte, the Delegate of Wallonie-Bruxelles, Ana Serafim, Ambassador of Canada, Maja Wawrzyk, the Director of the Polish Institute, Rene Kubasek, Director of the Czech Centre, Malgosia Mostek from “Adam Mickiewicz” Institute, Ann-Mareike Otte, from the Embassy of Germany, Arezoo Hersel, from the Embassy of Israel. Also, the 20th anniversary of the Sibiu festival coincides with Romania’s accession to the Francophone Organisation. What does the French season brings as premieres, bearing in mind there will be important organisation as the Festival’s guests, such as “Théâtre de l’Europe Odeon”, “Théâtre du Soleil”, Alain Buffard Dance Company, “U Teatrinu de Corse”, and also numerous surprises such as plays by Richard Demarcy, shows from the companies “Les Goulus”, “Divine Quincaillerie” or “Kabaret de poche”?
France, the country with whom we have centuries-old relations, is the Guest of Honour. During the 10 fest days, there will be remarkable shows, directors, and artists coming to meet the audience in order to show French theatre’s vitality. France proposes a panorama of artistic diversity. Stanislas Pierette, Director of the French Institute, underlined the exemplary activity of George Banu, professor at “Sorbonne Nouvelle - Paris III” University. Beyond a cultural presence, we wanted theatre training, a field in which France has significant experience, to become a priority trend for our actions. The twentieth anniversary of SITF will also mean the official signing of the agreement between the “Lucian Blaga” University of Sibiu and the Sorbonne Nouvelle, with an aim of creating a PhD theatre school in Sibiu. It is the first time that we have managed to bring the “Odeon” Theatre of Paris, which will stage “The Reunification of the two Koreas”, the most recent creation of Joël Pommerat, who received the “Europa Prize” for Best Director two years ago. Besides being realist, his is action theatre, rather than text-based theatre, or textual poetics. If you don’t prove to be a great partner based on quality, nobody will come to you, no matter how much you are paying them. It’s also the first time that I’m bringing “Théâtre du Soleil” of Ariana Mnouchkine, with the “Molière”. This is a great cultural event. At the same time, we also bring her most recent book.
Jean-Jacques Lemaître will also come; he is probably the greatest composer and maker of musical instruments in the world, he managed to make each instrument to be a show on its own, a whole world. During the Festival, there will be workshops with these three great artists. I should also mention Duccio Bellugi Vannucini, the creator of masks for Ariane Mnouchkine, and an important actor of “Théâtre du Soleil”, and he will also work with the artists. Finally, these three great artists will meet everybody that took part in the workshops in order to have a dialogue. There will also be a screening of the documentary “Avignon, Court of Honour and battleground”, by Michel Viot and Bernard Faivre d’Arcier, director, for years on end, of the Festival of Avignon. The guests for the screening are George Banu and Bernard Faivre-d’Arcier. Alain Buffard will also be here, one of the greatest French choreographers, with the show “Tout va bien”, which will present mad musical tempos, banged and screeched, asymmetrical costumes, an embrace of dance and war with absurd developments taken to the extreme. It also has syrupy-sweet accordion tunes. The artists will pull faces at the war machines, microphone stands will be transformed in carbines, and theatrical techniques will work in reverse. You should add to the line-up the countless street-theatre companies. All theatre ingredients are found in the “Farce of Master Panthelin”: colourful characters, intrigue, dramatic turns, quid pro quos, the madness of carnival, funerary rites. With this occasion, the actors of “Naif Théâtre”, musicians, acrobats and sheep trainers, will be wearing the clothes and masks of a small itinerant circus reminiscent of Fellini’s “La Strada, with live music composed by Nino Rota, Morricone, as well as featuring itinerant fanfares. The staging of the “Farce of Master Panthelin”, after an anonymous 15th century author, is signed by Richard Demarcy and met with extraordinary acclaim in Paris. The adaptation to a contemporary vision does not stray from the spirit and moral of the story, and the scenography is a bridge between past and present.
The actor Constantin Chiriac in Me, Rodin, with Esther Cloet
As HE Philippe Gustin, Ambassador of France, mentioned, we have a double celebration this year: two decades on from both the establishment of the Francophone organisation, and the establishment of the Sibiu Festival.
This is also the reason for creating a francophone season. “U Teatrinu” presents “The Shoemaker’s Wonderful Wife”, after Federico Garcia Lorca, directed by Guy Cimino. We can’t forget the shows by “Les Goulus” company, with “The Cupids”, in which you can admire the statuesque Greek gods that put arrows through people’s hearts, the shows by the “Divine Quincaillerie” troupes, with the shows “The Bohemians”, “Kabaret de poche” with “A Small Wonderful World”, in which you can enter a land of dreams, emotions, and miniature cabaret where games and light effects will bring you into a magical atmosphere. Without claiming exhaustiveness, we propose a panorama of France’s artistic diversity, which will be illustrated through daily meetings. The performing arts are a transversal field which feeds off text, and in its turn nourishes cinema. To this extent, there will be a space set aside for a French bookshop at the entrance to the theatre hall, as well as various film screenings that will round off the Festival. Besides the very rich programme, this honorary invitation also stresses out an older collaboration between SITF and France. At the same time, it establishes a renewed frame for the cooperation between the French Institute in Romania and the city of Sibiu. We now have a local presence through the new university lectureship whose activity covers all the Institute’s fields of activity in the cultural, linguistic and university areas, especially the organisation of exhibitions and the creation of a francophone network. This will come to support the actions of “Maison d’Ile et Vilaine”, an excellent example in the field of decentralised cooperation between France and Romania, which takes place in Sibiu.
The partnership with “Chekhov Festival”
The Polish fanfare and graceful cheerleaders
The Festival also focuses on Russia. What can you tell us about the “Russian Season”?
I am proud to have created this partnership with the “Chekhov Festival”, an event that starts at the end of May and finishes at the end of July. The advantage of the Sibiu Festival is huge because it takes place at the same time with “Chekhov”, and also with “Festwochen” of Vienna – which starts at the same time. The Sibiu International Theatre Festival brings together some of the most important theatre makers promoted by the sections “Golden Mask Russian Performing Arts Festival” and “Chekhov International Theatre Festival”. The Russian season in Sibiu marks a gala of young Russian actors, who will be in a dialogue with the older generation of actors from Moscow and Sankt Petersburg. Our selection wants to emphasise the new trends in this theatrical space, offering to the audience a challenging vision of the surrounding world and of the limits of humanity, through the complexity of the staging brought by some of the most important European theatre makers of today. One of the most decorated playwrights and directors, Ivan Vyrypaev, will be present in Sibiu in order to present his show “Iluzii/Illusions”, a melodrama of frank values, without any complexes, under the guise of a dialogue with the audience. The actors of “Praktika” Theatre do not play roles; they simply tell the story in the darkness that envelops the theatre hall. The show will take place on Monday 10 June. As a playwright, Ivan Vyrypaev won some of the most important theatre prizes in Russia, among which is the “Prize of the Presidential Council” for his contribution to Russian literature. As a recognition of his oeuvre, the festival’s agenda includes the playwright in a reading performance after his work “Delhi Dance”, translated by Maşa Dinescu. The event will take place on Sunday 9 June, produced by “Radu Stanca” National Theatre in partnership with Romanian Radio Society. Furthermore, Vyrypaev’s debut film, “Euphoria”, will be screened the same day. For this film, Ivan Vyrypaev received the “Special Jury Prize” at the “Kinotaur” Festival in Sotchi, the “Leoncino d’ Oro” at the Venice Film Festival, and the “Golden Lily” grand prize at the Wiesbaden Festival. The screening at 16.00 hours will be followed by a screening of “Delhi Dance”, a 2012 film made after the play of the same name. The artist will be in Sibiu for all these events.
Kmehin, a choreography by Kolben Dance from Israel
To what other exciting shows are you inviting us?
“Trei surori/ Three Sisters” of “Nebolshoi Drama Theatre”. The show, directed by Lev Erenburg, was awarded the “Golden Mask” prize three times. It is a tragicomedy about the impossible, about the unrealisable; a ruthless story, sharp and cruel, staged in a traditionalist fashion. At the premiere, the critics from “Sankt Petersburg Vedomosti” said the show was “a profound and brilliant psychological analysis and a new human effort to answer the question of ‘why are we not happy?’”. Each character has their own sorrow, their torment, and their impressive sadness is mingled with a kind of physical suffering: on the one hand, love is accompanied by toothache, and then loneliness is rendered deaf by a cold. I would also add “Nunta/ The Wedding” by A.P. Chekhov, directed by Vladimir Pankov, a co-production of “Chekhov International Theatre Festival”, “The National Academic Janka Kupala Theatre” of Minsk and “International Confederation of Theatre Associations”. The modern take on Chekhov’s text runs in a straight narrative line, in a space of dreams, illusions and the grotesque, and it combines the actors’ play with musical and dance interventions. The production brings together 27 of the most awarded Russian actors in a modern show that explores syncretism in the arts. Pankov uses both musicians of the new generation, and members of the classical music stage. It is a huge tour de force that talks about the passion of love. Born in 1975, Vladimir Pankov, who is considered to be the enfant terrible of Russian theatre, studied at the “Russian Academy of Theatre Arts” and became a professional of classical music, jazz and balalaika; he is also considered the founder of the theatre genre of sound-drama. He is also a favourite of Theatre Odeon of Paris, and of the Theatre of Lille, as well as of London, German or US stages. I also brought to the Festival Kiril Serebrenikov, one of the strongest young characters of Russian theatre and cinema. He established a research centre in a factory quite recently. I fought to the bitter end in order to build a partnership with him which would be based on equal terms running the same expenses. I’d like to see the same kind of partnership with the Russians happening also in the fields of economy and politics. I want to emphasise here, once again, that we need to invest in values, such as the recently awarded young researchers, or our actors and directors who receive applause abroad, and are praised in the pages of foreign magazines – but who nobody thanks here in Romania. I am proud that we have built here, in Sibiu, a “Research Centre” in order to showcase our values. Foreigners know these things and that is why they treat me as their equal.
A Festival open to theatre, street arts, dance, circus…
A Black Fairytale by Yossi & Oded company
I would not want to forget to mention the Festival presence of a show by the celebrated director Eimuntas Nekrošius: his visionary “Divina Commedia” after Dante Aligheri, a production of “Meno Fortas Theatre”. This is a show created in the autumn of the last year, and it conquered Italy, among other countries. Nekrošius transforms Dante’s travel through the Inferno, Purgatory and Paradise, looking for his beautiful Beatrice, in a rediscovery of love in the most hidden nooks of the human soul. A young Dante dressed in a red shirt, in full teenage crisis, breaks the heart of Beatrice, dressed in an elegant dress, pearls round her neck. Virgil has a cigarette in the corner of his mouth and all characters look like they belong to today’s world.
Nekrošius himself said: “We can work a lifetime on this text, trying to understand something, and there is a chance that we will never succeed”. The show lasts for almost five hours. I am convinced there would be a great number of people in the audience. The Lithuanian director Eimuntas Nekrošius has visited Sibiu before, two years ago with “The Idiot”, and in 2009, again in the SITF, with “The Cherry Orchard”. He now brings the newest production of his company. The director about whom Arthur Miller said he was “some kind of genius” creates a fascinating world through a theatricality that emphasises the poetical use of image and sound. The main role in the show is performed by Rolandas Kazalaz, who portrays Dante as a sensual, passionate character who does not accept losing. He runs to the Inferno after Beatrice, because “without her, hell is everywhere”. The show is produced by “Meno Fortas Theatre” in partnership with “Teatro Pubblico Pugliese Bari”, “International Stanislavsky Foundation Moscow”, “Baltic House Festival” of Sankt Petersburg and “Lithuanian National Drama Theatre”.
Scene from Ubu Rex directed by Declan Donnellan
In this deluge of great shows it’s impossible not to have a German season. Renowned for the high standing of her choreographic creations that combine, in a completely original fashion, dance with theatre and music, Sasha Waltz is one of the most successful women in the world of contemporary dance. How did you convince her to come to Sibiu?

Whether we want this or not, we do have a German heritage here in Sibiu. The first theatre built in the city was a German theatre. There was also a theatrical weekly publication. There still exists a curtain from the first theatre: it’s 429 years old. I have to pay attention to the vectors that developed this city during the years. I bring Germany’s Sasha Waltz for the first time, with the show “Continu”. It is a show generated by a tension field in the energy currents released by chorography, music and the visual. The title shows the continuity of the perpetual forces of nature. Sasha Waltz brings in plenary impulses previously explored in major projects that took place in various museums in 2009, with the occasion of art openings by the architects David Chipperfield at “Neue Museum” in Berlin and Zaha Hadid at “MAXXI” Museum in Rome. With the help of 24 dancers, Sasha conceived a choreography on a large scale. The symphonic opera “Arcana” by Edgard Varese represents the musical core to which compositions by artists such as Iannis Xenakis and Claude Vivier are added. In “Continu”, Sasha Waltz brings the essence of movement. The German artist has received numerous awards for her creations, among which the most important cultural order in France – “Officer of the Order of the Arts and Letters / Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres”, as well as the “Federal Merit Cross / Bundesverdienstkreuz am Bande” of the German Federal Republic. Sasha Waltz studied dance in Amsterdam and New York, and in 1993 she established the company bearing her own name. During 2000 – 2005 she was part of the artistic board of Theatre “Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz”, and the company’s current repertory has 18 creations presented on the most important stages of the world, as well as a portfolio of collaborations with more than 250 artists and ensembles coming from 25 countries. I also bring to Sibiu the biggest outdoor theatre company, “Titanick”. Homer’s “Odyssey” is the starting point of this production in which the director of an itinerant theatre tries to stage his own version of the classic story, losing his way in his own bizarre world. The images full of force and irony are mixed with the real life of the theatre group and Homer’s epic, all making a show that can talk, in equal measure, about the present day and about Antiquity. I hope this theatre feast will be seen by more than 40,000 people, because it will be a grand show.
Focus on Poland
Constantin Chiriac with the Mayor of Sibiu, Klaus Johannis
This year, the Festival also includes shows from the four corners of Poland, and especially from Wroclaw, a city that is now preparing to be Cultural Capital in 2016. As Pawel Potoroczyn, Director of the “Adam Mickiewicz” Institute, said: “what this year’s shows have in common is not just the place where they come from, but also their musicality. We hope to offer you a chance to meet Polish culture through the magic of theatre”.
The audience is already used to the “Focus on Poland”. Adam Mickiewicz gives to these shows more money than I get from the Romanian Ministry of Culture, ICR – Romanian Cultural Institute, and the Romanian Government combined, and that is only for the five companies that come to Sibiu. The Poles were the biggest investors in last year’s Edinburgh festival, too. They brought conductor Valery Gergiev, who then became Honorary Artistic Director of Edinburgh Festival. He conducted a work by the Polish composer Szimanovski. The Poles invested 1,800,000 Euros in order to have 104 shows by 23 companies. This was an incredible cultural boom. All Europe and UK talked about it. Can we ask ourselves why the European Commission of Budgets has a Pole on board?! Why the former president of the European Parliament was also Polish? Why there is a proposal for the future president of the European Commission to also be a Pole? Why was Poland one of the few countries in Europe that did not go through a recession? Here is the answer: because they know how to invest in advance, even in the field of culture. Pawel Potoroczyn and Adam Mickiewicz will come to Sibiu to hold conferences together with the president of Edinburgh Festival.
The Austrian show Raving Loonies (Nebuni de legat)
Since you brought so many questions, can I ask one as well? Why do you believe the Government of Romania didn’t even congratulate the winners of the “Golden Bear” at this year’s Berlinale? Or director Silviu Purcărete for receiving the “Herald Angel” award?
Pawel Potoroczin told me they did a serious research and discovered there are around 14 million Poles living outside Poland. You have some 300,000 Polish students only in US universities. And they reached the conclusion they need to invest in all these people I order to preserve their national, cultural and linguistic identity… In 2015, I was invited to become an associate of the Kantor anniversary. Of course they will invest money and it is important to associate with the winners. It’s thanks to them that I can bring Jan Klata, one of Europe’s greatest directors and playwrights, with his show “A Play about Mother and Fatherland”, by Bozena Keff, staged by the “Polski” Theatre of din Wroclaw. It treats the issues of ideal and reality. The text’s structure is based on three important figures: the Polish Mother, the Archetypal Mother, and History, Polish history. It is the story of women who suffer in parallel with the history of men who fight. The “Karbido” troupe comes with the show “The Sound Table”, which will take us on an electrifying trip around the world. “Song of Lear”, the show by Grzegorz Bral on the music of Jean-Claude Acquaviva and Maciej Rychly, received three prestigious prizes at Edinburgh. Music is a character, and each song represents a starting point for the next theatrical poem. Let’s not forget the workshops with Malgorzata Sikorska, who will present the stages of the “Think Opposite” thinking method. All these sources are coming as a result of my work for the past 20 years.
Focus on Japan
A Japanese Story. Photo: Maria Ştefănescu
Japan is once again one of the Festival’s privileged partners. The new Ambassador of Japan, present at the press conference, was enthusiastic about coming to Sibiu, especially since you had extraordinary success with “Lulu” in Tokyo, this February.
We have an extraordinary relationship with Japan. For this edition, we have six shows from Japan. On the stage of “Radu Stanca” Theatre we already have the show “A Japanese Story”, after Chikamatsu Monzaemon, adapted by Yasuda Masahiro, who is also the play’s director. The Romanian audience will also be able to see “The Bee” by Yasutaka Tsutsui, directed by Hideki Noda from Tokyo Metropolitan Theatre in association with NODA MAP. In the citadel of Cisnădioara we’ll have a screening of “Dojoji”, directed by Masahiro Yasuda, a play performed in two traditional Japanese theatre styles, “noh” and “kabuki”. Yamanote Jijosha brings a collection of texts of kabuki theatre, as well as “Dojoji” or “Kiyo hime” by Torahiko Kaoori, a playwright from the past century.
I do not want to forget mentioning here that I created the most important system of volunteering, with people coming for this very reason even from as far as Japan. Next year, Hideki Noda wants to take [our show] “Faust” to Japan. And we’ll have many Japanese guests for this edition, and they come with a specific language of the value, of the respect for quality.
A Play about Mother and Fatherland by Polski Theatre of Wroclaw
You also have a “Focus on Spain”.
We present flamenco companies, such as “Paco Pena”. I also bring the winner of last year’s Cervantes Prize for Flamenco, Rocio Molina. This will be a celebration of being. We bring great companies from Israel, such as “Kolben Dance” and “Yosi Berg & Oded Graf Dance Theater”, multinational companies with dancers from Georgia, France, USA, UK… Without modesty, I think I know how to make good choices in advance because I always go and see the shows. The British company “Cheek by Jowl” is recognised by “Time Out” magazine as one of the most influential theatre companies in the world. The show they’ll present in Sibiu is a staging in French after Alfred Jarry’s “Ubu Rex”. The show is directed by Declan Donnellan, former artistic director of the Royal National Theatre in London. I would also recommend “As You Like It” after Shakespeare, brought by Kotemarjanishvili company of Georgia, which was also presented at the “Globe” in London. In this Georgian-language version, the theatre is transformed into a forest, time stands still and nothing will matter except Shakespeare’s seductive story.
The perfection of dance
The riders from the French company Les Goulus
I am sure appreciated dance acts will not lack from the programme. What other troupes will perform, besides Sasha Waltz?
We have an event-show, “Old Gold” by “Rocio Molina Company” of Spain, winner of numerous international prizes. Also, the newest show of “A Compás!” company, which wants to transmit to the audience the overwhelming nature of a varied range of rhythms of Flamenco de la alboreá, an almost tribal style that adds a trance effect to the sharp complexity of the bulería. In other words, the artists have to make the audience enter the rhythm, to make them feel what “a compás” means. The show is fascinating, directed by the appreciated Paco Peña. The cast presents: Paco Peña, Paco Arriaga, Rafael Montilla (guitars), Angel Muñoz, Charo Espino, Jose Manuel Ramos (dancers), Jose Angel Carmona, Cristina Pareja (singers), Nacho López (percussions)
“Self-Portrait” is an introspective work that makes us reflect on our daily lives and how busy we all are, and “Dance with Tetsu”, a real-life composition with double-bass player Saitoh Tetsu, a dance show based on improvisation. Both shows are brought by “Nam Jeong-Ho Dance” company from Korea. From the Czech Republic, we have Andrea Miltnerová, with “the Dance of the Magnetic Ballerina”, which evolves in an apparently minimalist space, which is in fact multidimensional, created in order to extend the perception and experience of dance. “She barely moved from the spot and yet the posture she evoked offers a transcendental experience because of the perfection of her movements… instead of raising questions, her body emanates firmly the freeing reply about beauty”, said Karolína Jermářová, in “Fresh Fl’esh”. There will also be Dekkadancers with “Even losers can shine”, with a choreography by Tom Rychetsky, Viktor Konvalinka, Tomas Cervinka of Cehia. This is a geyser of wonderful ideas, poetical art, humour, humanity, the extraordinary and intelligent use of synchronisation, music and original choreography. As you know, ballet dancers from Israel are well-loved on Sibiu’s stages. You will have the chance to admire “Kolben Dance Company” with the show “Kmehin”, meaning “truffle” in Hebrew. In the same time, the word evokes another expression, “kmi’ha”, which is translated as “lust” or “desire”. “Kmehin” brings hedonistic, grotesque or sublime pleasures through the desire for, and rejection of, a kind of dish that increases or cuts the appetite. Another exciting production, this time Israeli-Danish, is “Black Fairytale”, by Oded Graf & Yossi Berg. “Black Fairytale” is a fantastic work for seven dancers who explore through text, music and dance, the concept of utopia. Following the international success if previous productions such as “4 Men” and “Animal Lost”, the choreographers Yossi and Oded continue the artistic research in their unique style, unveiling a new political play about human condition. It is a mad race between moments swinging from agony to ecstasy, war and peace, reality and illusions. The world they describe is seductive, grotesque, dynamic, dramatic and musical.
Fascinating street shows
Here come the Cupids!
When you started the festival, 20 years ago, you tried also to attract audiences which are not very elevated through street shows, so that people would increasingly start to love theatre.
It is only though this that you can gain the certitude that the souls of the people who come in the market square will start to understand theatre. These are people who see a miracle to which they were not accustomed when they were uprooted from villages deserted during the years ‘68-‘70. Their children still live under the mark of this inheritance. That was why I thought it would be good to bring great street shows, and so the public might be able to become more attuned to theatre.
The March on Stilts and the Royal Fanfare of Merchtem
Let us not forget that, because of the Festival, Sibiu is invaded by tourists from all over the world. The street shows are already a reason of joy for an entire city, old and young spectators coming all the time, up to the late hours of night, to laugh and applaud.
I said this before: culture is a determining factor that may generate very important solutions on the level of tourism in order to help Romanian society. Street shows mean for us an important investment, offering the larger audience an extraordinary chance to spend their free time together with their friends and family. The French troupe “Divine Quincaillerie” will invade the streets with “The Bohemians”. The characters are inoffensive, timid, sometimes weird, but always well-meaning and with a mind to get integrated [in the city]. During their walk through the town, there is this strange, absurdist and fluctuating communication made between the audience and these puppet-characters. Every meeting is an occasion to learn sounds, words, objects and gestures that would form the troupe’s vocabulary at the end of the stroll. Katerina Kubickova established “Gracja Majorettes Group” in 2000. The group worked with many fanfares and takes part in cheerleading competitions. In 2012 they won the senior baton competition, and even took part in the finals of the TV show “Poland has Talent”. They can do choreography on fanfare music. The leaders of the group are European champions in the baton category, which is what they will demonstrate in the show “The Fanfare and the graceful Polish Cheerleaders”. There will definitely be applause for the “March on Stilts and the royal fanfare of Merchtem”, a show from “The Royal Stiltwalkers” of Belgium. Tattoos, fights on stilts, carnivals, flower parades, giants’ parades etc. In front of the stiltwalkers will parade the flag-bearers, the walkers on wooden soles, and the fanfare with its vibrating music. From Austria, we have the “Raving Loonies”. Wherever these crazy figures pop up, dressed in tailcoats and up on stilts, the audience livens up. The characters don’t talk, but this does not mean they do not communicate. Everything is new for them and all their reactions are surprising. They are stilts artists and have the souls of poets. All these companies have been drawing the attention of politicians and financing bodies for good years now, reminding them this event needs to be supported because, besides cultural prestige, the festival brings an added economic, social and touristic value…
The Bohemians, a show by the Divine QuIncaillerie troupe
As in previous years, the Festival proposes an adventure that explores the limits of the human body in a series of shows that combine the circus arts with contemporary dance, music, poetry and gymnastics. So what is new in this area?
The four productions in this year’s circus section offer to the city of Sibiu, as a premiere, the chance to discover a magical universe of the imaginary, a place where movement becomes the common language of a numerous group of artists from Australia, Canada, Finland, New Zealand and Spain. The first circus show in our programme will take place on Saturday 8 June. Considered a model of beauty at international level, the “CIRCA” company promises to bring a refined and extremely sensitive show which explores the architecture of the human body. This year’s edition marks the return of “Les Parfaits Inconnus” to Romania’s stage. The Canadian company shares the artistic vision of artists from different fields of activity, such as rock music, acrobatics and juggling. The show “Le Retour” is full of humour, and it was created on the festive rhythm of live music. The company “Kallo Collective” presents an eccentric clown trio that gives life to a Frankenstein-clown brought to the operating table. “Members of Our Limbs” is a provocative show that focuses on the interaction with the audience, and it reminds us, through the physical and synchronisation abilities of the artists, of Mr Bean and even Charlie Chaplin. Saturday 8 June, and Sunday 9 June, the public of all ages will be able to enjoy two outdoor circus shows offered by the “Fadunito” company.
I would like to ask you not to forget to mention the Romanian directors bringing shows on Sibiu’s stages?
Silviu Purcărete, Alexandru Dabija, Victor Ioan Frunză, Andrei Şerban, Felix Alexa. In the same time, I also organise a dialogue between all the [theatre] schools in Romania and abroad.
“Periods of crisis are battles with yourself”
Discover the magic of circus shows
How did you find the courage, for this edition, to create a festival of such breadth during an acute period of crisis, at a moment when, as far as I am aware, other European festivals have important sums of money?
Periods of crisis are always battles with yourself. During periods of prosperity, you have an inflation of events upon which the political factor puts a pretty large imprint. Also, in these periods everyone wants to develop a festival for something – starting from garlic to onion, and from cucumber to I don’t know what kind of philosophical idea. When there is money around, it’s normal to encourage as many initiatives as possible. I tried to impose, at the level of this country, a formula which would be as decent as it can be, so that any event that will be built up would be credible. You can’t go to a financing body, no matter if we’re talking about the State, Government, the Romanian Cultural Institute or the Ministry of Culture, a city hall, county council or private sponsor, and ask from them to cover your expenses 100%. This is what happens with almost all festivals in Romania, both independent, and under the aegis of a State structure. Unfortunately, we have just a few independent ones. It would be good to have the certainty of at least 40% of the necessary sum, besides the 40% brought by the organiser, and not to find yourself in the situation we had last year, when, 10 days before the launch, we had a change of government, the Governmental Order [for the funds] was no longer issued and the new government said they didn’t care about what had been discussed previously.
Shut up and play with The Original Tempo company of Japan
The credibility of a country is built by developing institutions, and keeping your word.
In order to build the festival, I needed to do a lot of research, diplomacy, and create stable relationships which cannot be built over night. At this particular moment, we have five or six important structures. I planned the programmes until 2017. I need to obtain financing, to find the formulas through which everything I bring here would have partnerships in other countries, so that I may divide all these costs in order for Romania to pay the smallest amount possible. Whenever I have the certitude of the smallest source of financing, I can put my resources to work well in advance and get much cheaper tickets for plane travel, or to find partners in the areas of sound installations, lights, promotion – and thus to be able to drive costs down. Unfortunately, things happen differently in Romania. You will need to fight for financing the last hundred yards, instead of finding intelligent formulas to develop your festival and to promote it. My partners hold press conferences in London, Paris, Brussels, New York, and even Tokyo because it is important to have a presence in all the “hot places”. The Festival is important because I connected it to all the structures developed on the basis of the principle of communicating vessels. When, this February, I was invited by “Tokyo Metropolitan” with “Lulu”, and our Japanese partners paid over a million Euros, this was due to the great quality demonstrated by the shows of “Radu Stanca” National Theatre. This was also a case of envisaging the partnership sunder the sign of quality, because they want a coproduction in which the Theatre and the Festival will be involved alongside “Tokyo Metropolitan”, and then to have Silviu Purcărete on board, a guarantee of quality. At the same time, Mr Hideki Noda, one of the greatest artists of all times in Japan, wanted to have this partnership. I used that moment in such a manner as to be able to promote this year’s edition of the Festival. I did the same thing in Poland, when we were there touring with “Gulliver’s Travels”. But I can’t go on forever with this ingenious work that is partly like brigandage, because all the other festivals in the world are developing in other fashions. When I go to a festival such Edinburgh, I notice that alongside the festival director you have the promotion director, on the other side there is the finance director, as well as the artistic and technical directors. I am going there alone. Of course it is much cheaper for us, of course, that I, having the budgets in my head, can master the entire vision of the festival, and this is why I am the first to propose projects. But, at some point in the future, Chiriac will disappear. This is why I am preoccupied with the promotion of a structure that would last in time, which would have an artistic director, a finance director, a director on the managerial side, another person on the technical side – and all to take over all duties. I don’t think we can take this fabulous phenomenon which is the Sibiu Festival to the bitter end without having serious infrastructure. That is why I developed the “Theatre School” of Sibiu, the “Show Market”, the “Centre of Theatrical Research”, the “School of Cultural Management” – this one also the only one of its kind in Romania. I wished for all these students to perceive, first of all, the practical dimension, and to meet all the great names in this field. Students have so many possibilities nowadays to take part in international festivals, and work with great names of theatre such as Silviu Purcărete, Yuriy Kordonskiy, Alexandru Dabija, Felix Alexa. The great battle of theatre itself and of the festival was to create a new audience. At this particular moment, the European Commission imposes on all programmes for 2014-2020, as a principal dimension, the idea of “building the new audience”. Well, Sibiu has already done this.
The flamenco dancer Rocio Molina
In Edinburgh, where “Radu Stanca” Theatre had extraordinary success with “Faust”, but also with “Gulliver’s Travels”, competitiveness is on home ground. How do they manage to put together a festival of such breadth, every time?
In Edinburgh, they manage the performance of organising 10 festivals that all run in the same time, for one month. But it’s two of them that are important: the “International Festival”, in which you have some 30 shows of highest quality theatre, music, and dance. For the rest, the great financial, commercial and touristic force is the “Fringe”, for which there are some 300 play areas. You go there and you pay for everything, from theatre rental to renting equipment, and you pay for the promotion in the catalogue, which is several hundred pages thick. A couple of lines in the catalogue mean some hundreds of pounds, with a full page getting to 3,000 pounds. But, if you are not in the catalogue, you don’t exist. The only gain comes from the tickets. And if you go there with quality and manage to convince the audience, you also get the money. In order to get the audience even more convinced, there are some 60 prestigious theatre critics there, and they see all the shows. In two important publications, “The Guardian” and “The Scotsman”, there are over 60 pages dedicated to the festival, where you find the star rating for all shows. You have one star, you get your bags and go home, no matter how much you paid up to that point. You have two stars, maybe there will be some other two or three spectators to come. With three stars, you already are interesting. With four stars you begin to receive offers for tours, and tickets are getting sold. With five stars, it’s a triumph. When we went there with “Faust”, we were the most privileged people there, having been invited in the “Official” section, in the rarefied atmosphere of the chosen ones, where the Festival pays for everything. “Faust” meant over two million pounds [in costs]. This is what I’m calling cultural diplomacy, and did so for a long time now: building success on the foundation of successes. “Faust” gave birth to the “Gulliver” project, which was the first time that the Edinburgh festival commissioned a show without having seen it first. The premiere took place in the Sibiu Festival, but it had already been announced in the official programme in Edinburgh. We played in the greatest theatre there, “King’s Theatre”, where they have 1,700 seats. The cost of the show was smaller than the box office takings this time, because all tickets had been sold due to the success we’ve had with “Faust”. We had another phenomenal surprise, as the exhibition area for animals close to the airport had been transformed because of the success of the “Faust” project – which sanctified the place –into a space for performing arts. There were three halls there, where Ariane Mnouchkine, Marthaler and Grzegorz Jarzyna performed. The Festival’s director, Jonathan Mills, called me especially to go there when they had TV reporters, telling them “this is the person with whom I’ve built this success”. Silviu Purcărete received the “Herald Angel” prize for the best show and director. We immediately received the offer to come next year in the official selection of Edinburgh without even announcing the title of the show. Many of the shows in the “Fringe” are mediocre. And I thought it would be good if I did something different [in Sibiu]. This is why I make the selection for everything in the programme. It is a huge labour to bring here, as I mentioned earlier, 350 shows which I select out of the several thousand which I saw, or of which I heard they were good during meetings with my friends. My friends form a network that circles the world, and we build partnerships.
The Wedding, directed by Vladimir Pankov
You have the ability to build across time. What are the great projects which you will run next?
It is not by chance that “Radu Stanca” Theatre is the only theatre in Romania which is in the Champions League of European theatres, alongside “Odeon” of Paris, the National Theatre of Brussels, “Young Vic” of Londo, “Volksbühne” of Berlin, “Abadia” of Madrid, “Teatro Stabile Mercadante” of Napoli, Lars Noren’s theatre of Sweden. Having great credibility because we work on 5 year periods, we managed to put together 3 million Euros and to receive from Europe 3 million Euros. It is through this project that I manage to bring all these giants to Sibiu. “Radu Stanca” Theatre finds itself in this privileged position. Due to this fact, the organisers of the Avignon Festival said, “We want to be partners of this structure”. I am now organising a show promoting a young director, Gianina Cărbunariu, called “Solitaritate” (Solitariness). She signs both the text and the direction of the play, an absolute premiere within the Festival, which will also be presented next year in the official section at Avignon. Romania hasn’t taken part in this section since Silviu Purcărete’s “Danaides”. It is important to take part in the official sections of both Edinburgh and Avignon in the same year. In 2015, we shall take “Faust” to “Chekhov Festival” in Moscow. And I wish I could take the next president of Romania to meet Vladimir Putin in this prestigious festival.
“Do you know how hard it is to convince a Sir to come to Sibiu?!”
Divina Commedia directed by the genous Nekrosius
With the help of the arts, you create a space dedicated to excellence.
Yes. We want to personalise excellence, to get copyrights on it, to demonstrate that in a country which is neither France, nor Germany or England, you can build a street of celebrities, the way Hollywood imposed the “Walk of Fame” in the film industry. We shall have seven great names: Ariane Mnouchkine, Eugenio Barba, Sasha Waltz, George Banu, Declan Donnellan, Silviu Purcărete and Kanzaburo Nakamura XVI, the leader of the most important kabuki company in Japan. The place we chose is blessed. Sibiul was a citadel that was never conquered. It will be conquered for the first time by artists. In between the first and second defence walls there is a pedestrian alleyway which connects the first theatre purpose-built on the territory of Romania in 1788, nowadays “Sala Thalia”, with “Cazarma 90”, where the new theatre will be built. This Alley of Celebrities will be born in order to occupy the space between the past and the future, and each year more important names from the worlds of theatre, dance and performing arts will be added to it. There is extraordinary interest from important international TV stations to record this event. I know that, next year, on this alley we shall have Peter Brook, Eugenio Barba...
The Losers, a show by Dekka Dancers company
During the Festival, in Sibiu was created a true Sorbonne university, because every morning there are discussions and conferences about the previous evening’s shows, all taking place in the presence of illustrious personalities.
We manage the performance to print books with these conferences. George Banu will be celebrated through a volume translated from the French, after he was celebrated by Sorbonne and by “Alternatives Théâtrales”. You should also add the book by Ariane Mnouchkine which will be launched simultaneously in France and Sibiu. I am sorry that the Romanians don’t strive to be the contemporaries of the great events in the world, that they are busier with second hand events. This edition will also welcome Dan Hăulică, Jonathan Mills, and Sir Nelson Fernandez, former leader of “Visiting Arts”, the man that thawed the relations of the UK by organising the first great seasons with artists coming from India, China, Pakistan, or Iran. Do you know how hard it is to convince a Sir to come to Sibiu?! Let us not forget that Sibiu is the only town in Romania with a fantastic cultural agenda. Look, these days we have an international jazz festival. This is the only Romanian location with three Michelin stars. And everything is also due to the help so lovingly offered by the Mayor of Sibiu, Klaus Johannis. I am convinced that every city in the country needs such a personality. Sibiu was the only European Capital of Culture which, after the end of the programme, suffered no setbacks from the point of view of cultural events, or the number of tourists.
Ofelia Popii and Marius Turdeanu in the recent premiere of Master and Margareta
You are a true globetrotter. As you said, you visited 145 countries where you saw various shows. What exactly impressed you the most recently?
In Poland there are almost 30 centres of theatre research. As president of the jury, I chose Wroclaw as European Capital of Culture for 2016. I saw a very coherent state policy there. They created solutions of infrastructure, of economic policy, of education research, and all were driven by a cultural engine. Since 2007, Poland has reimbursed the European Commission more than Romania did for all its projects. I think this vision is an example that needs to be applied in a concrete fashion. Romania now has the obligation to be run a competition for the next European Capital of Culture which will involve all cities. The Poles ran an evaluation of what exactly specificity means, and all projects, besides Wroclaw, were valid.
“I am building success in such a manner that it will endure”
Scene from Faust
What are you dreaming of?
I dream of inaugurating the new theatre, together with the Congress Centre and the Research Centre. George Banu was granted the title of Doctor Honoris Causa of almost all important universities in the world, he was around all sacred personalities of the stage, and he wrote books about them and with them. What is why we thought together of a formula for doctorates of excellence.
What is the key to your success?
Faith and will. It’s important to take advantage of the wave, as in surfing, and then not to fall off it. It’s important to have the ability to maintain yourself at height, because success means you should know how to hold on to the crest of the wave. I am building success in such a manner that it will endure. You don’t know how much the regular person means to me. I work a lot at nights, after finishing the shows. And it happened that when I got on a taxi home, I had the joy to have the taxi driver tell me with tears in his eyes: “No, don’t pay for the drive, I make money because of your theatre festival”. I never complained, although I feel overwhelmed by troubles at times, and white hairs sprout on my head. The moment I will start to complain instead of fighting, I will retire.
Why do you think we don’t know how to respect our values?
Because we no longer have models, we have no education, we have no elites. I remember that, even during my lyceum years, we had to achieve performances. If we are not going to have a scale of values and elites, we are not going to be able to evolve. Look at the models promoted at media level! I was the witness of a splendid event in my life. I was in Tokyo, and the leader of kabuki theatre, Kanzaburo Nakamura, stepped onto the stage, and the richest men in Japan were all there. I heard a murmur whose intensity increased – his name said by those present, then everybody placed their hands at their foreheads like in a prayer, and knelt. Japan is still a country that knows how to respect its values. I said to myself then: this country will never disappear, no matter how many earthquakes they might have. And look at the economic boom after that disastrous earthquake, whereas any other country would have collapsed.
Theatre is a stage, but theatre is also a story. What is your story?
My story is woven with that of the Festival, which is probably the most beautiful child you can conceive. A child that needs love, and people of faith who have the capacity to go anytime and anywhere in the world to stand proud in front of any partner. I think I am like my mother, she could not sleep if she didn’t finish a job. In the dialogue with the audience, any great actor is like a myth: he reveals and hides himself in equal measure. We all need beauty, even if for a matter of seconds. Nowadays, the globalisation of hope is a relative of the deceitful passing of time. Tomorrow cannot exclude the uniqueness of a love declaration, or an uncontrolled outburst of pain. I shall continue to believe the world needs dialogue, words, stories, and love.