We have a new premiere in the Great Hall of the National Theatre of Cluj-Napoca: Master Manole by Lucian Blaga. After the 1930 performance under Ștefan Braborescu's stage direction and Alexa Visarion's 1973 production, we are looking forward to welcoming you to another performance based on Blaga's text. The premiere takes place Saturday, 9 June 2018, from 7.00 p.m. To introduce us into the atmosphere, we spoke with the director of the performance, Andrei Măjeri, and the costume designer, Lucian Broscățean.
Eugenia Sarvari: Andrei Măjeri, you graduated the Faculty of Theatre and Television of the "Babeș-Bloyai" University of Cluj, in 2014. The first performance you directed at the Cluj National was Pandora's Box by Katalin Thuróczy. You also directed here two texts by Rodrigo García, Agamemnon and Death and Reincarnation in a Cowboy in 2015 and 2016. How did you come upon Master Manole in 2018?
Andrei Măjeri: It's for the first time that a text is suggested to me. I was always the one to choose the plays I was going to direct. Master Manole was suggested by Mr. Mihai Măniuțiu, and I gave a lot of thought to this idea, my first instinct being to reject it. I felt I couldn't say anything new about this text. I was wrong. I came back to it and, at the same time, I dug deeper into Blaga's universe with other dramatic, philosophical, but especially poetic texts. I realized it's a legit text, worth revisiting. For actors, it's a great chance to get extraordinary parts. I later thanked Mr. Măniuțiu for having challenged me in this way.
E.S.: Did you think of realistic or other kinds of sets?
A.M.: I never thought of a realistic stage universe. I generally avoid civilian spaces and costumes. The text is definitely indebted to first-generation Expressionism. Together with the two scenographers - Mihai Păcurar and Lucian Broscățean -, we tried to connect Expressionism with the Romanian archaic fund, in a minimalist vision. I think we succeeded. The future performance will be poetic, but also with extreme-contemporary undertones, accompanying the setting of a mythical time-space.
E.S.: Have you ever visited the Argeș Monastery? Were you inspired by something from there?
A.M.: I visited the monastery several times as a child, and once this year also. I confess it gave me the impression of a necropolis. Perhaps because it was restored at the end of the 19th century, when it was demolished and rebuilt from the ground. But there was something lost there. The building did not last beyond centuries. I strongly remember from its architecture a rope surrounding the external part of the building, at about half of its height. Besides that, an inside votive painting inspired me in the construction of a scene.
E.S.: There are nine master-builders in Blaga's text. You drastically cut their number to three...
A.M.: I felt from the very first readings I had to emphasize the degradation of the myth and its situations. I tried to ground my option for only three masters in certain stage solutions. But I kept the spectres of the others as well. I also wanted to enhance the mystery, the ambiguities. I think the numbers I chose - three masters, three women, four priests - make the archetypal structure more coherent.
E.S.: What part did the auxiliary characters play in configuring the performance?
A.M.: I inserted four characters: Manole's Shadow (a mute character who acts as a double of the protagonist almost throughout the entire performance), the Archangel (an absolutely essential character in my opinion, who is at first a protester), the Entertainer (who leads the visit in this myth-performance, and appears in key-moments, uttering lines from Blaga's poems) and the Lady of the King (a character whom the text itself suggests, to complete the picture of the king court).
E.S.: When should we expect another Blaga?
A.M.: I have no such plan for the time being. I like a lot the play Whirling Waters, but I would have no idea how to stage it right now.
E.S.: Lucian Broscățean, you have an impressive CV. You are a lecturer at the University of Art and Design from Cluj, you graduated the Costume Design department of the same university, you have a Master degree and a Phd in Plastic and Decorative Arts in 2014. From 2011 you are a Creative Director within the Irina Schrotter brand. You participated in numerous personal exhibitions in the country and abroad, in symposiums, conferences, workshops. You received several national and international awards. You created products for your own brand and for the Irina Schrotter brand, and your fashion shows were reviewed in prestigious journals.
In other words, you are an extremely successful clothes designer, now at his first collaboration with the National Theatre of Cluj as creator of costumes for the performance Master Manole. What other theatres did you also collaborate with?
Lucian Broscățean: I was honored by director Andrei Măjeri's invitation to join the extraordinary team he assembled to conceive and realize this performance based on Lucian Blaga's play.
While I was studying at the University of Art and Design from Cluj / Department of Fashion and Clothes Design - the place where I have also taught for ten years, thanks to Professors Elena Basso Stănescu and Liliana Moraru - I got the opportunity to collaborate with the National Theatre, along with other colleagues of mine, for performances presented in the Great Hall and in the "Euphorion" Studio.
Master Manole is the first production in the Great Hall for which I realize on my own all costumes and styling.
E.S.: What would be the difference between theatre costumes and fashion shows clothing?
L.B.: I have been fascinated by fashion and theatre costumes since I was a little child. When I was 16 and I was studying at the Art College from Sibiu, I got my first validation from a fashion and theatre professional, within the competition "Levintza Presents". Mrs. Doina Levintza encouraged me from the very beginning and told me she hopes the theatricality of my sketches would enable me to realize costumes for theatre performances.
Nothing is haphazard - my first "aesthetic experience", able to shake my conception of art, occurred when I viewed at the National Theatre "Radu Stanca" from Sibiu, The Jewish Trilogy directed by Mr. Mihai Maniuțiu - The Job Experiment, Shoah. The Primo Levi Version and The Ecclesiast helped me see "differently" the relation between corporality / clothing / space poetics / tension among characters. So, in both direct, by being awarded and by talking to Mrs. Levintza, and indirect ways, through the experience produced by The Jewish Trilogy, I was from the very beginning connected to theatre and costumes.
The collections I presented in events like Mercedes-Benz Berlin Fashion Week, London Fashion Week, MQ Vienna Fashion Week or Romanian Fashion Week, as well as the theatre costumes I realized, are based on thorough documentation and an immersion in the given topic.
Up to a point, the trajectory is the same, so the more as when it comes to fashion, I am inspired by the ways in which the body and the clothes relate within modern and postmodern theatre, from Stanislavski to Grotowski and from Mamet to Oida. All the clothes I create are textured with cultural significations. From the way in which I draw the shapes, to the technical difficulties I try to solve, taking into account the ergonomics of clothes, the fact that their elements should point out to a goal, should mean something, should be placed in context, but without overemphasis.
E.S.: You are an admirer of the Japanese technique of kintsugi. What does it consist of? Are you going to use it to create the costumes for this performance?
L.B.: Japanese aesthetics indeed inspires me. The technique of repairing broken pieces of ceramics or china, by inserting cementing mixes with gold, silver or platinum added, is one of the most wonderful visual metaphors. The respect for the entire history of the given object, the preservation of its beauty and the deliberate marking of its "scars" is a technique I tried to "translate" visually in clothes that deconstruct and reconstruct traditional elements. The crevice insertions of other types of materials mark the whole process and hint at the builders' Sisyphus-like effort to erect the church.
E.S.: What were your sources of inspiration for costumes and how did you depart from them?
L.B.: The whole process started in December 2017, when I had my first talks about the project with Andrei Măjeri and Mihai Păcurar. Both are refined intellectuals, with vast cultural references and an inspirational depth.
The thoroughness of Andrei's preparation of documentary material and his constant feedback helped me a lot and made me understand what he wants to convey by his performance. Blaga's philosophical texts, The Song of Songs from The Old Testament, the Orthodox aesthetics shaped by Tarkovski in Andrei Rubliov, the story of the Armenian poet Sayat Nova from The Color of Pomegranates by Parajanov, images and texts from Jung's Red Book, stylized medieval tunics, court costumes from the Romanian Kingdoms, frocks and fur caps - Domnica Trop and Dakha Brakha were my starting points - hybridized aprons with peasant skirts, Byzantine inlays turned into pixels, references to Barbara Kruger and Cindy Sherman's feminist artistic projects, all these elements were analyzed, then processed in products relevant for the 21st century and for the director's readings. Every character of the performance is provided with versatile clothes, the costumes and the sets shapeshift. The actors are so talented and intuitive that they forged their own way to interact with the versatile costume. They helped me a lot. They have unbelievable energy!
I maintained some sort of conceptual minimalism in all I did, many meanings being "sewn" inside the costume. We didnt't want to fall into sterile intellectualization. The text was the main costumes generator and costumes were the trigger for new stories...
The aesthetics thus shaped combines elements of visual language I drafted 7-8 years ago, for collections presented at Berlin Fashion Week or London Fashion Week.
The digital prints were made at Young and I am grateful to Paul Pitea for his professionalism. The footwear was realized by Mihaela Glăvan, Liana Martin was the creative consultant, while Carmen Cherecheș and Genoveva Hossu also had a significant contribution. Adelina Surdu's creped paper lilies complete the picture I created with Andrei Măjeri and Mihai Păcurar.
E.S.: How is the metaphysical part of Blaga's text going to reflect in the characters' costumes?
L.B.: The Yves Klein blue, the golden, the "shedding" and the "walling" by / through clothes, inspired by The Colour of Pomegranates, the signs and symbols hidden in the dark aesthetics, the ambiguity of characters who are simultaneously angelic and demoniac, I worked on all these aspects with the whole team, at every take, in every rehearsal. Working on this performance filled me with a sort of energy I have never felt before. But I've always kept in mind the fact that the performance is made for the public, so I am eagerly and anxiously waiting for competent reactions.
E.S.: What's the essential part of the relation between the director and the costumes designer and how you meditated upon it before achieving these results?
L.B.: Andrei Măjeri's entire creative universe is complex and the many talks we had revealed me a visionary man, strong and sensitive at the same time, with a lot of humour, with innovative ideas and a fresh and consistent approach in Romanian theatre. I gave a lot of attention to his demands and his feedback and I tried to find solutions without seeming to strive "too much".
Master Manole is a relevant performance, especially in a year of #metoo and #womensmarch hashtags, but also a year of ideological battles surrounding the church.
The "deconstruction" of the myth, as Andrei called it from the very beginning, keeps it alive and "destabilizes" it. Reading through Blaga's lines helps you open up new worlds.
Material realized by Eugenia Sarvari