- The Reality of FictionGianina Cărbunariu in conversation with Bonnie Marranca
In the last decade, the playwright and director Gianina Cărbunariu has become one of the prominent young voices in contemporary European theatre. Mihaela, the Tiger of Our Town, which premiered at the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm, will be performed at the 2016 Avignon festival by Sweden’s Jupither Josephsson Company. Other plays include Stop the Tempo, For Sale, Typographic Letters, Solitarity, Metro is Everywhere, and mady-baby.edu (later titled Kebab). The plays have been translated into more than fifteen languages, and they have been performed in Romanian cities and in theatres across Europe, in Berlin, Munich, Paris, Madrid, Brussels, Vienna, Athens, Warsaw, Budapest, Dublin, and elsewhere in Moscow, Istanbul, Santiago de Chile, New York, and Montreal. Cǎrbunariu has had residencies at the Lark Theatre in New York and London’s Royal Court. Her plays and productions have received numerous awards in Romania and in Canada. She is a founding member of the dramAcum independent theatre group in Bucharest. This interview was taped in New York City on December 19, 2015.
You represent the post-1989 generation of Romanian playwrights in this particular era that extends from the old Communist world to, let’s say, the New Europe. How much does this transitional period still figure in your work?
There was this period before 1989 when a lot of the plays and playwrights had a kind of elusive language, very metaphorical. And then what happened in the nineties is that reality was so interesting for everybody that people left the theatres for about ten years. When they came back in the 2000s, the reality was changed, but the language of the theatre had not changed. In 2000, I started to study directing at the university in Bucharest, and there I really felt that the way things were taught in school, and the plays we were studying, were not really what I was interested in. [End Page 112]
We were a few directors, students, in 2001, and we did this dramAcum project. What we wanted was to connect the very young playwrights to this reality of transition. For me that was a very important moment as a director and as a playwright. “DramAcum” is a play on words. It means drama now—how you write drama now, actually. “Acum” means now. I was very interested to speak about this reality that was around me and my colleagues, a reality that I couldn’t understand very well, because I didn’t have a perspective. I was quite young. In 1989, I was eleven years old. The nineties were very important years because they were connected with what happened before, but as a kid I couldn’t really understand the connections. From 2009, I started to do projects that were very much connected with the recent history of Romania because there were a lot of questions that I had myself, as a person, not just as a theatre person. I did a lot of projects that were connected with what happened before 1989 or what happened in the nineties.
It seems also that you had a particular interest not only in Romanian history, but especially about young people in Romania. I’m thinking of the earlier plays, such as Stop the Tempo, which has to do with the new consumerism or “mady-baby.edu,” which in Europe was retitled Kebab, and addressed the problem of young people leaving the country. Another play, Typographic Capital Letters, features a high school student writing graffiti about social justice on public buildings in his hometown. These plays are very connected to problems of youth while also relating to larger issues in society.
Stop the Tempo and Kebab were the first performances that I did after I finished my studies as a director. They were produced independently because at that time, 2004–2005, Romanian institutional theatres would not produce contemporary drama. Their repertoires were made out of performances that were reinterpreting the classics. I wanted to make performances that would speak about what I was confronted with at that time, about people my age who were quite...