The newest actor from the company of the National Theatre from Cluj, Mihai-Florian Nițu graduated the National University of Theatre and Film from Bucharest in 2013, in Professor Adrian Titieni's class. He played in Shakespeare's As You Like It („Tony Bulandra" Theatre from Târgoviște), Mariana Hartasanchez's A banjo and two Dead Men („Nottara" Theatre), Lia Bugnar's The Wall („Metropolis" Theatre), Sorina Creangă's La Bohème musical (Mignon Theatre), Ioan Petru Culianu's Oreste The King of Sounds („Tudor Vianu" Theatre from Giurgiu), Maitreyi after Mircea Eliade („Bulandra" Theatre), Line Knutzon's First you get born, Molière's Tartuffe, Histrion after Sartre and Shakespeare („Andrei Mureșanu" Theatre from Sfântu Gheorghe), Matei Vișniec's Requiem (The National Theatre from Bucharest), Dybbuk after S. Ansky (The State Jewish Theatre). While in faculty, he played in Kean after J.P. Sartre with inserts from Shakespeare, under the supervision of his class professor, Adrian Titieni. Starting from high-school, he was included in a theatre company that performed in the country and abroad. He received awards and nominations for the roles he played and took part in several theatre projects, education theatre projects, seminars, conferences, festivals and workshops.
At the National Theatre from Cluj-Napoca he played in C.C. Buricea-Mlinarcic's Playlist, Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange, and, most recently, in The Trial after Kafka.
Kean after J.P. Sartre with inserts from William Shakespeare is an older project the actor has resumed in several stages, until the present one.
Where do you come from, Mihai-Florian Nițu?
From Bucharest. I was born there, my family leads back to three generations. But I didn't quite fit in with the city, which is terribly agitated. You can make more money than art in the area of Bucharest theatre, and I thought at the beginning of your career is better to settle down and work thoroughly. That's why I came to Cluj, knowing it is perhaps the best Romanian theatre company from the country.
When did you graduate university?
I graduated in 2013, in Adrian Titieni's class, at the National University of Theatre and Film. After that, I started attending Mr. Colceag's Masters Studies, but i stopped because I didn't find there what I had in mind for my work.
After Kean's premiere, I would like to attend a Masters in Directing, here, in Cluj, then something in the domain of theatre pedagogy, because I discovered I have a certain penchant for that.
Did you find a calling for theatre pedagogy?
I did. Unfortunately, I didn't express it enough. I started playing theatre from the 9th grade already, when I was included in a semiprofessional company, which gathered graduate actors and young high-schoolers. The company was under Marcel Iureș' honorary patronage. Cristian Dumitrescu, who played theatre with us, assisted at Mihai Măniuțiu's productions with Marcel Iureș, even here in Cluj: Murder in the Cathedral, Caligula, Richard the IIIrd, Richard the IInd. We were working in theatre-dance, with all that it involved. I grew in this environment from high-school: with Măniuțiu's plays, with The Golden Circle, with Grotowski. In high-school, I played in about two hundred forty performances, both in the country and abroad. I spent the last years working on European projects. I worked nine years at the Sigma Art Foundation and I am one of the five theatre trainers in education, with a Bruxelles diploma.
This explains, then, your pedagogy calling...
I was working on Viola Spolin and Michael Cehov's methods.
Honestly, I was very shy. I could barely buy a bread, so ashamed was I to speak to a stranger. Then all of a sudden I felt the need to get rid of this helplessness and I applied to the National University of Theatre and Film. I was admitted in professor Doru Ana's class in the year when an experiment was initiated. It included one hundred students from a year. The ones who fell under the admission grade could still participate if they paid a tax of more than 100 million. Some did. Doru Ana brought us together and told us: „I can't make you actors, but I can turn you into informed viewers". Those words fell like a hammer, after all, you went to that university because you saw Rebengiuc and wanted to be like him, not because you wanted to become an informed viewer... This led to some sort of conflict. I was playing a lot in the country and abroad, I had a lot of mobilities and projects, and now I found myself doing practically nothing at the university. It was normal, since we were so many. Besides this inner conflict of mine, there was another block and I got fired. I was in the second year. I worked in an antiquarian bookshop, I saved some money, I paid for my second year in professor Adrian Titieni's class and finally I graduated with a maximum degree. I got my bachelor's degree with Kean, supervised by my professor. I resumed the performance after that because I thought that was a show that could prove people who I am and what I want from this profession.
That was actually my next question, how did you stumble upon this play?
I watched a TV documentary about Anthony Hopkins. There was a scene of him playing Othello, while the subtitled explanation read Kean by J.P. Sartre. I looked in the library and I found the text. There was indeed a scene there between Othello and Desdemona. He was supposed to play jealous, but meanwhile his beloved countess was flirting with the prince from her theatre box. He then can no longer play jealous on the stage, because he has become jealous in reality. A short-circuit occurs, the performance is halted and he starts to address the public. Which did happen in reality.
I read a lot about Kean. I thus found out he was the first actor who took the liberty to address the noblemen, to somehow call them down, pointing out he is the king on the stage. And nobody could forbid him to do so.
Edmund Kean was a great Shakespearean actor, who lived forty six years, between 1787-1833. Several anecdotes circulate about him. In 1836 Alexandre Dumas wrote the play for the actor Frédérick Lemaître. Sartre adapted Dumas' play, turning its conflict towards existentialism and drawing a parallel between him and Kean. He is thus using the theme of the bastard, in the sense of the renegade who, despite being rejected by society, still manages to succeed, but remains very isolated. Kean was very short and for this reason he didn't get much to play. He had piercing black eyes and black curly hair. He was totally ill-suited for the heroes he played: Hamlet, Richard the IIIrd, Othello. He was born in a family of artists, his father was a carpenter, but worked in scenographies, while his mother was an actress with a courtesan behavior. She left the little three-year old boy, who was adopted by his uncle, Moses Kean, the lover of Charlotte Tidswell, an actress from the Drury Lane Theatre Company. The actress initiated and supported him in the art of theatre. His merits were finally acknowledged and he became famous. He married Anna Demby and had two children. He was one of the first actors to be touring in America. During one of those tours, he entered a shaman tribe. After getting back to London, he bought a tiger which he used to take for a walk in the city. He pushed his extravagance to the extreme.
Let's leave Kean with his tiger in London and let us hear how did you get at the National Theatre from Cluj?
I played quite a lot in Bucharest. I had performances at Bulandra, Odeon, the Jewish State Theatre, at the Metropolis, in the independent field. But everything was scattered. In Bucharest you don't get the chance to meet directors. Great directors don't rush to come to the capital because they know you can't find time for rehearsals. You don't have people to rehearse with. There are money, but there is a certain discomfort and stress which are counterproductive. I needed to really start working, this is why I came here, where you can find a young, compact company, with a lot of energy, a company who still enjoys playing and who benefits from a coherent repertory. With actual performances. Not improvised shows, based on who-knows what texts.
You know, after I played Kean seventy times in Bucharest, I was promised many things. Generous estimates were made about me. Mrs. Ludmila Patlanjoglu said she hadn't seen anything like that since Ștefan Iordache. So did Octavian Saiu. Marcel Iureș was delighted as well. But all these promises led to nothing. Mr. Boroghină wanted to hire me in Craiova, I went to the exam, but things didn't bind eventually. I then called to the Romanian Theatre Union to ask for theatre directors' emails, I made a trailer with my performances and I sent it, along with my CV, to all of them. Reactions were very positive. It was then when I first spoke to Mr. Mihai Măniuțiu. Then this position came up and I brought at the exam a collage from Hamlet's monologues and a contemporary monologue, taken from a novel. It seems I did very well. I was admitted in this playful and creative company. I realized this direction is taken already. I practise another type of theatre. I have an inner rather than outer mobility, so what I exercise here is very useful to me. And I think I can fulfill it from the other direction of mine.
Then I thought of resuming and somehow ending once and for all my obssession with Kean. To bring it to completion. I had a great communication with Matei (Rotaru) and Alexandra (Tarce), whom I asked to be in the performance. I didn't do that because I needed to prove something. It's not about that, it has to to with a need that comes from the inside.
In other words, you wanted to get rid of the Kean obssession with this performance and especially to work more thoroughly with your new colleagues, to put them, once more, in value. I wish you good luck.
Written by Eugenia Sarvari