Romanian Theater For Children On Tour

The echo of the rich activity of Romanian theater for children on four continents has surpassed even that of theater for adults. This was possible because, in 1965, eleven countries, including Romania, founded in Paris, ASSITEJ – the International Association of Theater for Children and Young People. In order to understand the significance of this event, suffice it to say that, today, almost 100 national centers worldwide have become active members. In Spain and Canada, for example, 31 and 25 state theaters respectively were created in five years, and in France the yearly catalog of the center is announcing 300-400 new productions in over 250 theaters. Tens of festivals contribute to the huge success of the genre. The Romanian center was at some point so successful that in the 1970s, Mr. Gossman, Director of the Nuremberg theater, would say that, whenever the Romanians were announced for a festival, his theater wouldn't participate, because they knew the Romanians would take all the laurels. The explanation may be the following: In 1968, Ion Creangă Theater participated in a festival in Sofia, Bulgaria, and won everyone's admiration with the show Pacala. Soon after the theater was invited to Serbia and Macedonia. This success also brought about an invitation to the 1970 Venice Biennial, which opened new perspectives. The theater presented two performances: The Stag King by Carlo Gozzi and The Disobedient Cockerel by Ion Lucian. After The Stag King, the press wrote: "Thanks to the Romanians, we have regained one of our classics, which we had all but forgotten," and "Ion Lucian, in Pantaloon, took the pain to learn the role in old Venetian." Romanian actors have almost always played in the language of the organizing country, hence the direct impact on the audience. During the Venice Biennial, the United States delegation invited the Romanian representatives, Ion Lucian and Ion Cojar, to an official dinner, during which they launched an invitation to the 1972 joint festival of Albany, NY and Montreal. This is how Tales with Masks was born: we took the mask plays, with a 16-centuries-old tradition in Romania, as a framework, summoned a national hero, Pacala, an embodiment of the popular spirit, brought him face to face with human vices, and celebrated his triumphs with customs and songs from all the regions of Romania. Ion Cojar's stage direction coalesced these elements into a tremendous hit. We were invited to repeat performances in New York, then to Japan, while Ion Lucian directed the show for a French troupe in Caen (Normandy). The show had a pan-European itinerary between 1970-1977, when the invitation to Japan arrived. It was a magnificent event: a three-month tour taking in 50 cities. Taking the show over from Ion Creangă Theater, Ploiesti Municipal Theater raised the number of Japanese spectators from the expected 50,000 to an astonishing 80,000. The princely conditions in which the shows were performed were largely due to the fact that the actors played in Japanese. 80,000 Japanese children learned about Romanian traditions and customs, and we were seen off at the airport to the sound of a Romanian song. As a proof of admiration, the Romanian theater for children (this time Ion Creangă) was again invited to Japan, in 1986 with Tales with Masks, on a five-and-a-half-month tour, and in 1987 with Cinderella, on a four-month tour. Thus, the Romanian theater for children delighted Japanese children from 120 cities and towns. To this we must add the 360 performances of The Disobedient Cockerel, played by an Osaka company directed by Ion Lucian. All the specialized theaters in Romania (Ion Creangă, Luceafarul of Jassy, Fantasio of Constantza, the theaters of Bacau, Ploiesti and Timisoara, and others) won international awards around the world. The youngest of them, Excelsior, had its first curtain up in 1990 at Mante-la-Jolie, in France, at the Festival of the French-speaking Theater for Young People, with a play by Eugen Ionescu. It was followed by tours in France, Belgium and Switzerland. The secret of all these theaters' success is in the effort of outstanding professionals who regard their jobs as a wonderful mission.  Ion LUCIAN (b. 1924) is an internationally acknowledged stage director (invited to Brussels, Paris, Montreal, Rome, Osaka, Tel Aviv, Caen) and actor, whose career, started in 1942, includes dozens of roles. He has taught university theater and film students, founded and managed theatres (Ion Creangă, Excelsior), written and translated plays, and received numerous awards and honors.

by Ion Lucian (b. 1924)