– Interview with the actress Diana Fufezan –

by Oana Cristea Grigorescu –

translated by Sebastian Ispas –

Four questions attempt to reveal in the theatrical quadrant the challenges faced by an actor in the new circumstances imposed by the Digital Stage and the physical absence of the audience, which is now sitting behind the screen. We’ve cherished Diana Fufezan, actress at the “Radu Stanca” National Theatre, from her numerous roles in landmark productions ever since 2001, as a member of the first generation of actors stemming from the Department of Drama and Theatre Studies at Lucian Blaga University (2001), productions such as: Pilafs and Donkey Perfume (2001), Othello!? (2002), Pantagruel’s Sister-in-Law (2004), The House on the Border (2005), Nora (2006), Time to Love, Time to Die (2006), The Ball (2007), Faust (2007), The Last Day of Youth (2011), Oidip (2014), and The Scarlet Princess (2018). Now she returns to the Digital Stage in two leading roles, in plays by the same author, Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt. More than a decade has elapsed between her one-woman show Oscar and the Lady in Pink, which has been on-going since its premiere in 2009, and Partners in Crime, the March 2021 premiere (directed by Mariana Cămărăşan and Amalia Iorgoiu), during which her artistic performance has solidified. In her latest premiere, which I would refer to as a chamber drama, Diana Fufezan and Adrian Matioc unravel a clew of yarn full of fear and silence, attrition and regret, in the fight for mutual understanding and for keeping the love alive in a marriage. This year, Diana Fufezan was selected as one of the actors in the 10 for Film programme at TIFF (Transilvania International Film Festival) for her unique qualities: a sensitive and discrete presence, warm and empathetic to her cast members, precise and poignant on every occasion. Our e-mail interview seeks to trace the path of the actor escaping the theatrical quadrant in a time when theatre is being recalibrated for the motion-picture camera.

How did the team work on Partners in Crime and how did you create you character? The text consists of a series of hypotheses turned upside down regarding the crisis of marriage, in order to render the bipolar nature of Lisa, who is revealed to be the main character in this chamber drama.

When I read Partners in Crime, it was love at first sight. I read the original text, in French, in order to get all the nuances right. Excited as I was, I suggested it to Constantin Chiriac, the theatre director, who immediately gave us the green light. I was pleased to find that my excitement was shared by the entire team: Mariana Cămărăşan, Amalia Iorgoiu, Adrian Matioc, Sanda Anastasof and Claudia Domnicar. I had known director Mariana Cămărăşan before I discovered the text, I wanted us to work together, and I was glad things turned out right and that this project was possible in the theatre. The work itself went quite smoothly. Alongside Mariana and Amalia Iorgoiu, co-director, we had table reads and decided upon a final version of the text following our discussions. The entire work process was thrilling, we analysed in detail the depth of the relationship, the light and shadow of each character, we imagined possible scenarios for the inner worlds of the two, both together and apart, and played with our imagination a lot. But I believe the most important ingredient was our mutual trust with which we dove into our search. At the precise moment of creating each scene, everything came up without much of a hassle. In fact, the greater challenge was having the courage to work with one’s own fears and emotional boundaries. The text is like a scalpel slicing through raw flesh. The work atmosphere at the rehearsals was extraordinary, which allowed us to feel safe on the edges of our own vulnerabilities and sensitivities.

The production has the semblance of a film, but it is theatre for the screen. What changes in the performance for the camera as opposed to that on stage, from the actor’s perspective?

There are two variants of the show: one for the stage and the other shot by Alexandru Condurache and Diana Iabraşu for the Digital Stage. They are two different end products. We started rehearsals at the studio hall, then filmed on location, at a house, and then adapted our work from the studio hall to the grand stage. In a way, each step in the work process came naturally and helped us in achieving our goals. Essentially, the inner process is the same, but the means are different. For the shoot there were also some exteriors, which are unattainable in theatre, but are relayed differently through the performance. The actor’s intentions are the same, it’s just that they’re expressed differently for the camera as opposed to the grand stage of the theatre. For instance, if on a shoot a glance towards your partner is sufficient, on stage you might need to also turn your head.

TNRS / Dan Susa

You’ve just returned from Cluj, where you were one of the ten actors in the 10 for Film programme at this year’s TIFF. What went on in Cluj, how will this experience influence your stage work?

Yes, I was selected this year for the 10 for Film programme at TIFF. It was a positive experience, immensely so. Over a few days, I had meetings with people working in cinema – directors, casting directors, actors – with whom we could discuss anything we wanted to know about casting, work methods, preferences, expectations, etc. It was a wonderful atmosphere; I was also reunited with colleagues from other theatre companies. This year, seeing as the health situation was a bit more relaxed than in 2020, there were open air parties, it was a celebration of film. There were a lot of Romanian pictures projected this year at TIFF, an experience truly worth having! I’m not sure to what extent my work on stage will be influenced by my TIFF experience, but I hope and wish for as many experiences in film as possible.

The digital stage came into prominence as a solution for the crisis of the pandemic. Unarguably, the internet will leave its mark on the patterns of cultural consumership in the future. What are some of the difficulties you’ve had to overcome regarding adapting to the virtual stage and the absence of the audience?

The pandemic has forced all of us to get out of our comfort zones, to seek solutions for keeping in touch with the people, with the audience. Firstly, there were the technical challenges – what do you shoot with, and in what circumstances. Then, the “Radu Stanca” National Theatre created the Digital Stage platform. For the texts/productions shot for the Digital Stage, the challenge was to adapt and change one’s means of expression. And for the live shows, held without an audience in the theatre hall, there was the difficulty of that lack of exchange of energy between the audience members and the actors. At a film shoot, you’re with your cast members and the camera, whereas at the theatre, you’re with your cast members and the audience which breathes in conjunction with you. That’s what I missed the most in the time when the restrictions were in place: feeling the breathing in the theatre hall, the silence, the audience waiting in suspense or laughing.

(article published in the special edition of Capital Cultural magazine, No. 27)