Cluj-Napoca National Theatre reprises today, March 10th, at the Euphorion Studio, the performance The Aureliu Manea Trilogy, director Gábor Tompa, which premiered four years ago. As this spring, on March 13th, we are commemorating three years since the "visionary" Aureliu Manea left this world, we believe it's fitting to remember the time this extraordinary director worked at our theatre together with Roxana Croitoru, our artistic consultant, and the beloved actor Anton Tauf.
Roxana Croitoru, for which productions did you assist Aureliu Manea?
No, I don't think "assist" is the correct word. It was during my first years at the National Theatre and I had the opportunity - the play of chance - to be there for rehearsals of some of Manea's productions: The Mistress of the Inn by Carlo Goldoni (1979), The Second Consciousness by Barbu Ștefănescu Delavrancea (1984), The Execution is repeated by Mircea Vaida (1984), Under the Moonlight by Teodor Mazilu (1986).
Do you have any special memories from these rehearsals?
The first production I was there for was The Mistress from the Inn. In those years, directors didn't waste too much time on table readings anymore. I remember the first two encounters with the director. Before allowing the actors to read their parts he spoke to us about the future production. It was captivating and fascinating at the same time, he talked about the cultural context of the author and of the play, making unusual associations, revealing hidden meanings. In his productions, the transcended coexisted with reality. A brief example: in The Mistress from the Inn the knights and the courtesans wore wings, representing that something we are all striving to achieve.
How did he work with the actors, how did he familiarize them with the space created by the set designer?
Aureliu Manea was refined and delicate, with a candor that only great artists have. He was beyond sensitive, able to know you from just one glance. But these qualities were also the reasons for his sadness. He used to feel that actors were not following his lead, that they betray him. When moving from the table readings to the stage he would work restlessly. The production would come to life rapidly, piece by piece, with clear explanations, without a need to reprise every tableau or scene. He saw the production in its entirety and, of course, the reality didn't match the imagination. Because he used to skip this step of the rehearsals: all actors - then or now - need time to connect the text with their movements. Today, I would say that this genius director could have used an assistant to write down every movement and, in his absence, to rehearse with the actors, allowing them to assimilate the stage directions.
Your relationship with Aureliu Manea was a special one. Care to share something personal with us?
I greatly admired and respected this very talented and special director, special also because of his deep humanity. In a trying moment for me, he showed compassion and gentleness. But these are personal memories I don't feel like sharing. I will say however, that, at the beginning of the 90s, we had a chance meeting on the street. He had withdrawn from the theatre and from the big city. He was in Cluj for a dentist appointment. I was surprised that he had recognized me and stopped me on the street; we had not seen each other in a long time. We chatted for a while and I asked him why he had stopped coming to the theatre, why he had stopped directing. I could tell from his answer that he was feeling vulnerable. I regret, as I am sure many of those who knew him do, that the theatre world was unable to protect such a valuable talent...
Anton Tauf, who played in Twelfth Night by Shakespeare, directed by Aureliu Manea (premiere: 14 January 1975) remembers: "I played in Twelfth Night under his direction. We were rehearsing. One day he was waiting for me at the entrance and, nervously, took me to see the set design recently placed on stage. I went to the stage and I was immediately disappointed. His friend, the set designer Paul Saltzberger, had made a large wooden construction with stairs. I didn't like it at all. I thought it was horrible. All I could think of was that nothing we had worked on up to that point resembled this bulky set design. And then I heard him saying: «Estera [Biró], play the music». At that time, Estera was a sound designer. And what do you think the song was? Maria Tănase's famous lullaby. All of the sudden, the enormous contraption on stage - painted British red - began to levitate. As if the wind was blowing it away. His mind was full of unexpected things. Extraordinary."
Written by Eugenia Sarvari