After 19 consecutive days of rehearsal, we finally premiered The Fantasticks last night at Fabrica de Pensule (“Paintbrush Factory”). With only a hundred or so seats, the house filled to capacity with an audience comprised primarily of the actors’ friends and family members along with a handful of UBB professors and several of my Fulbright colleagues. With outside temps in the upper 70s and no air conditioning inside and all the overhead stage lights, the Studio quickly became an oven, but the actors gave it their all in this their first musical and their first English-language production.
Musicals are a novelty here in Romania, and I suspect that for many in the audience, this was their first. They were attentive but rather restrained: some laughter here and there but no clapping at the end of the numbers. At show’s end, we struck the set, so the space could be used the next day by another group and then stood in a big circle as we passed around a bottle of homemade pálinka and made toasts to celebrate what we had accomplished in so little time. Then most of us cabbed back to city center for more libations and toasts.
Just three weeks from beginning to end and a rollercoaster ride throughout, but I’ll remember and cherish this project and these splendid students for the rest of my life. I’ll share here (most of) my post on Facebook later that night:
Tonight’s musical premiere surprised me in so many unexpected and wonderful ways…and others not. Rarely have I ever been so proud of a cast that was so willing to put everything on the line…to perform their very first musical in their second (or third or fourth) language, from memory and after only 18 rehearsals! This takes guts…and skill…and I applaud, respect and love them for it. And, yet… not one of their own mentor professors attending tonight remained afterwards to say yea or nay to them…or me. […] This speaks volumes to my actors and to me…and would put a real damper on my end-of-grant experience, did I not admire and love these students so much. So it goes…this constant battle between process and product…between cultural presumption and personal ego. But, this is not a bad thing, for I will be so happy to return to the U.S. this July to focus on artist education. I will miss these fabulous student actors in ways beyond compare. I love them…there’s no other way to describe it. And, to them, I say, always place your humanity first, if you hope to make memorable and meaningful art. Be all that you are, can be, and must be.