#Discover Interviews. Vlad Drăgulescu, Craiova National Theater: "Shakespeare 2022 will make people feel that the festival is for them and that it is theirs"
2022 means, among other things, a new edition of the International Shakespeare Festival, which will take place in Craiova. Since 1994, the Shakespeare Festival in Craiova has been a breath of fresh air for culture, but also a reputation for our city, given that this event brings plays, actors and directors from many countries who, in turn, they bring to Craiova tourists passionate about theater. The artistic director of the “Marin Sorescu” National Theater, Vlad Drăgulescu, told us what this year's edition has in store for us, but also how the actors have adapted to the pandemic.
First of all, Happy New Year and good luck in the new year! We would like to make, for the beginning, a retrospective of the past year, regarding the National Theater from Craiova, and to tell me how you managed to succeed during this pandemic period.
Happy New Year and the same to you! We were quite lucky during the pandemic, in the sense that in 2020, on March 13, there was a lockdown, and on March 14 we started the program "Online e fain". It was like that, something that came overnight and we realized that it's not something that will last two days, but one that will last for a longer time. Somehow, our strategy changed and we said we had to go really hard online - the first phase was about actors - and we started doing all kinds of projects on Facebook, where we had access. Fortunately, now it's very easy to do a live broadcast, everyone was at home, we connected to other servers and broadcast on Facebook. The Shakespeare Festival was coming, which we had prepared in its entirety. We had to cancel everything and eveything fell apart until we got into the lockdown we all know. After that, we decided to do the festival, though, and we did it online. We showed about 28 shows then, of which 3 for the first time, foreign shows - they had never been seen online by anyone - and another 50 actors who recited sonnets in 24 languages. This happened in the first part of 2020. After that, we did our first live theater performance. Upstairs, from our theater, we gave an overview of a wilderness, with George Albert Costea, in which he talked about how he went through the lockdown and what were the feelings he went through, what happened and what he lived, portraying an empty city and an empty theater. Putting things together, we managed to make a platform, Videofonia, where we started to broadcast live shows, to produce especially for it. Our people, and the actors, and the technicians, have gone through a kind of professional retraining.
This is what I was talking about with the managers of other institutions, who said that the employees had to adapt and learn to work differently.
I think everyone has tried to see what they can do, because obviously the earth is spinning no matter what, time is running out and you can't just sit and wait. Especially since we were staying at home and we didn't see when we would meet our audience again. We didn't see any point in that moment, compared to others who could work from home. It would have been very difficult for the actors, they would have lost their training especially from not meeting the spectators. They’re like an athlete who goes to the Olympics and doesn't train. Obviously, when it comes to the Olympics, the results are disastrous. So with the actors, they have to keep their minds busy, their bodies busy. Doing all these shows, we managed, in 2020, to create the premises for an extraordinary 2021 to be loaded, with more premieres than in an ordinary year...
With Hektomeron, which we started working on at the end of November 2020 and which lasted almost six months, until June 21, 2021, when we made Hektomeron Day, probably the longest show in the world, one of 25 hours and 43 minutes. From the beginning, we started with Hektomeron from the whole experience of the pandemic, from what we had thought before; it was born of the natural of the pandemic. Certainly, Hektomeron would not have existed without the pandemic. It forced us to go in that direction. We chose the Decameron because it was obviously a work written by Boccaccio during a pandemic, not of this level, with an action that treated some people who tell stories in quarantine. We started looking for the reasons why people tell stories, and one of the factors that makes people tell stories is fear. Many times, in order to clear your mind of your anxieties, you start talking. This happened to me personally, and I realized that storytelling is a great weapon to relax your mind. Those people lived the same way. Being a complex work, we said that we should go with 100 stories and 100 directors, and if we are still in a pandemic where there is no place that has not been messed up by it, we said there should be 100 countries. Next, we saw what happened. From January 5th to April 24th, 2021, we broadcast, live, an episode each day from the Hektomeron studio (the small theater hall) and we were very lucky. It was a great luck for us, everything worked for us, because there was always the danger that in these 100 days something would happen and we would not be able to enter live. There were "n" risk factors: a power outage could occur, an actor or the technicians or the director could get sick with COVID. It was a plant that had its epicenter here and with branches in the 100 countries where it happened. Two directors worked with COVID, being isolated at home. One of them even went to intensive care and tried to work with us right from the hospital, but he didn't have the strength. But he was with us... All this showed that when people come together, things can't go wrong. It was about unity, the fact that people have decided to do something together, whether they know each other or not.
We are in the year of grace 2022, a new edition of the Shakespeare Festival awaits us this year, the number 13, and we would like to talk a little about it.
Clearly, there is a part we will talk about when I know for sure that this will happen. How is the 13th edition different from all the others? It focuses, in large part, on the city, on the fact that this festival is hosted and paid, for the most part, by the citizens of this city. Then we decided to give back as much as possible to the community. Our theater is born here, directors, actors from all over the world, international stars come, but it is a manifestation of this community, beyond the international community in which, we can say that, for 10 days or two weeks, a nucleus is created that it no longer belongs to Craiova, but to the world. Beyond that, the core is based on the infrastructure that our city provides us. Then, we have a lot of events planned that will take place in parks, in neighborhoods, in squares, on the streets of the city; we will block streets, we will go on unblocked streets with all kinds of gears. Between May 19 and 29, much of the festival will take place on the street and make people feel that the festival is for them and that it is theirs.
Let's hope that the sanitary situation will allow their development ...
Previous experiences show that it is very possible that we will be in the middle of a pandemic. That's how it looks now, we'll see the reality then. We are optimistic, we are prepared, anyway, for the situations in which we will not have a green scenario. There will continue to be an online functionality, just to try to give back to the world the atmosphere in the city. Beyond the fact that, online, we will broadcast certain shows, we will also broadcast the life of the city, we will use this opportunity and the attention we have on ourselves to show who the people of Craiova are, how they live, how they have fun, how they cry and so on. Furthermore, when you talk to someone who is a tourist, one of the first things he discusses is the man: how are the people there? The cultural institutions brought a lot of people who felt very good here, in Craiova. As a result, Declan Donnellan, one of the most important directors in the world, will come to Craiova, in March, to start working in our theater, for the first time in Romania, on a show, "Oedipus the King", an extraordinary title from dramaturgy, but at the same time, in an extraordinary way for our theater. The spectators will walk after the actors, in an itinerant play, and everything will happen in our stage, which is 42 meters and 16 meters wide. People will have the opportunity to see our theater in a completely different way, how well it was done and designed by Iotzu, who I think had a moment of genius when he thought about this space. Although it is more than 40 years old, almost 50, it is very modern and we still find new uses for it.
The National Theater from Craiova is an ambassador of the city, of the county and even of the country. How do you see this relationship from a human point of view? I think it's a lot of pressure on your shoulders to always keep this standard high.
The standard was raised by Mr. Boroghină in the 1990s, it was very, very high, so high that it is extremely difficult to stay there. Of course, there is a lot of pressure on our shoulders. But when you do things with love and desire not necessarily to overcome what has been done, but to respect what has been done, then things happen easier; you reach more smoothly to the peaks that those before you have reached. This is what I think we must always keep in mind: the love for what has been done and not to be afraid of the bar that is very high, but to see it as a grandfather to whom we aspire. At some point, we will all be grandparents, and then we must have the love and patience to get there and, of course, perseverance. It is very important to build a future through the people who come and continue to become the ones who, in turn, will build a present. When you are in a position where you have a little more responsibility, always look back and look to work for the ones to come. Leave them something to climb on and not put them down; let’s build steps, not walls.