We woke up on Saturday morning and joined the company on a tour bus to Baia Mare, a town in the Maramures region of Romania that used to be a bustling mining city. Since then, according to Miron (who in the company but from Baia Mare), the mines and processing plants have shut down, causing a massive brain drain among the youth.
The theatre company had been invited to perform at a local theatre festival, and Eli and got to tag along. The bus ride took three and a half hours, much of which was along narrow winding mountain roads at a high rate of speed (slower, thankfully, than Amalfi drivers). When we got into the city, E and I took a wander. We found a church being built:
E bought an over-the-counter inhaler for his asthma, and we found a farmers market for lunch. We gorged on schwarma and placinta, which is a sort of stuffed white pizza. Mine had sheeps cheese and dill. E had plain.
While we ate, we wandered the stalls, which overflowed with tomatoes, citrus, garlic, cherries, shallots, and squashes that I had never seen before.
We took a siesta and reconvened for the show. ISLANDS is a folk guitar/hip-hop musical based on the writings of Gellu Naum, a well-known Romanian writer. I may not have understood the language, but I thought the piece was terrific. Great performance, great music... Just terrific!
After the show, we joined the company for a beer and some dinner, then some more drinks.
Towards the end of the night, Catalin decided to buy me some tuica. I drank the first glass, and then a second glass, four times larger, showed up. I gasped, and Catalin assured me that I had to drink the whole thing before I left the table. Silvius helped, and by the time I got up from the table, I was mercifully able to still say my alphabet backwards (thanks to Anca for the challenge).
This morning, we woke, grabbed some breakfast, listened to a Gypsy play the accordion, and got back on the road to Cluj. It's election day today in Romania, and the police were out in force to make sure that there was no voter fraud. Shortly after we left Baia Mare, we got pulled over by the cops, who checked to make sure that we were not engaging in any illegal voter bussing:
Everyone scattered when we got back, and Eli and I took a siesta (checking email, grading, etc.). In the afternoon, we made it down the street to the art museum, which had a beautiful collection of Cuban photographs and an extensive collection of Transylvanian art. Some of it was truly lovely. I particularly liked the contemporary pieces.
In the evening, Eli and I went to one of the local universities to watch their graduating actor class perform a physical theatre workshop (some of the professors are members of the company I'm working with). It was about two hours long and featured clowning, mime, some dance, and a lot of straight ahead physical theatre. It was not all up my alley, but the students were quite strong. They were not afraid of image, metaphor, or physical theatre. Seeing the piece really helped me understand what acting is about in Romania:
After the piece, the professors placed wreaths on each student's head, and the audience cheered for them. We sang 'Gaudeamus Igitur' and watched admiringly as these students who had studied together for so long, received accolades from their professors and cheers from their friends. It was a beautiful close to a long three years of their life, and Eli and I were both grateful that we were invited to take part in it...
...which reminds me that today was graduation day at UCI for the MFA students! Congratulations to Beth Lake and Jeff Polunas, and to all of the other MFA students! I'm proud of all of you and look forward to working with you in the 'real' world soon!