Friday, April 23, 2010

Gala Star - Day 1

As usual I saw remarkable performances and theatrical concepts at Teatrul Bacovia's Gala Star One Man Show Festival and Competition.  I thought that their poster this year was one of the best too!  But before I get into the performances, I'd like to make something perfectly clear.  To my way of thinking there is a big difference between stand-up or storytelling and a solo show.  If you're going to do a show, no matter how many people are in it, you really need to pay attention to costumes, props, set and lighting so it is a complete theatre piece.

Of course if you're traveling around the world to do the show, one must think more on the minimalistic side, which I did when we took Dancing with Desire: A Poetic Fandango with the Erotic and the Bawdy to the Edinburgh Fringe back in 1996.

Perhaps it's my horizontal, "post modern", approach to the performing arts.  I think that acting directing, set, costumes, script, lighting, props are equally important in making a work of art that has a harmony to it.  When I direct if I don't design a piece of art that shows my vision for the piece, I will pick another work by another visual artist.  I ask that all designers look to it as a palette for color schemes and the visual/emotional resonance I would like the work to evoke.  Yeah, call me crazy but it works for me.  Although I have had designers bitch about it

OK, enough of my rant about theatrical aesthetics.  Teatrul Bacovia Artistic Director and Manager of the Festival Gabriel Dutu decided that they would do a little something different this year.  Instead of just someone coming onstage to announce the name of the show, performer, director, etc., he created this improvisational bit where Justin Ciuche - wonderful violinist, composer and sometimes actor for the company -  would improvise some music that would bring the audience into the world of the performance.




He and the actor who did the introductions (I feel horrible because I didn't get his name, sorry) would squabble or play around at who was more important to the production.


Now, down to the details.  I'm really sad that there wasn't a chair left in the small studio space at the theatre so I could see Roman Stefan Marin perform Molloy by Samuel Beckett (directed by Dorin Boca).  Would been  interesting to see how it was cut.

The next performance was on the main stage was Did You Do Your Homework written & performed by Aaron Braxton, an actor from LA directed by (Kathleen Rubin).  This is based on his experiences as a teacher in low-income neighborhoods which brings a message of the value of education (like Bill Cosby did a few years ago) to all communities, not just the African-American ones.

Braxton's performance really dissolved my ideas about Euro and Amer actors.  I really thought that Euro actors were far more physical than their Amer cousins.  He transformed himself both physically and vocally into high school kids, wanna-be gang-bangers, parents and school officials among others.

In speaking with him before the show, he told me that he was a little worried that people would not understand the English script.  I reassured him that most Romanians since their 1989 revolution begin to learn English in the 4th grade.  And while some folks may feel shy about speaking it for fear of misusing grammar and such (I wish native speakers would have such cares!) that he probably would be understood.

As I watched, the laughs were coming in the right places and in some unexpected places, which is also true of humorous material in the US.  Homework is not a comedy however, there is a dark side to the piece and probably one you might see and hear about on the news.  The audience gave him a standing ovation - everyone!  I think they liked it.

I'll have more photos at the Flickr site probably by tomorrow.  Some of these you just don't want to miss - like a wonderful shot of Dutu, his beautiful wife Adriana and their most adorable baby Sara; along with more photos of Braxton's performance.
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