Interview with Director Alexander Hausvater (Romania)
“The only way to understand the departure of the man who leaves beyond is that to be saved”
In the 1990s he came to Romania for four weeks. He discovered a country with « a different speed” than the civilized world in which he lived and mounted dramas. After 25 years from the first performance here and success with Fernando Arrabal and « they put the handcuffs on the flowers, » Alexander Hausvater discovers more and more acutely aware of the gap between the natural energy of our Western world and our idleness.
Alexander Hausvater learned in Israel, Ireland and Canada that being a leader means to be the subject of your life and not its object. It’s certain that his performances do not leave you indifferent. The director discovers with every text its ability to sneak under the viewer’s skin, long after the curtain fell.
With a vibrating energy, Alexander Hausvater is revealed as a « Don Quixote guilty, » battling with the contradictions of life.
The latest premiere of his « Shakespeare, much ado about nothing, » mounted at the State Theatre « Ioan Slavici » of Arad.
About risk and mediocrity of those who are tired of Romania…
Journalist: CARMEN NEAMTU
CN: – I would like to start our discussion of an idea that you have said me in a previous interview. I was saying that: « you’ll never succeed either in profession, or in love if you do not abandon yourself and risk. »
AH: – Risk is a necessity of creative process and any cultural evolution is based on the risk of an individual or group of people who have risked their personal freedom, career, finances, and safety in order to improve and to reform. The concept of risk is one of the culture evolution.
I can’t imagine that someone can move forward in creative thinking, if not probably risks losing everything he accumulated in the present for the future. It’s something I’ve realized over the years, by watching at those people who have influenced me. All had this enormous courage to risk in order to change.
CN: – However what do you say to those who would reply to you: Mr. Hausvater, it is easy to you to talk about change, risk, you have a name, financial stability, you do not have young children, and you do not have rates to banks…
AH: – I would say that this is the definition of mediocrity. And the definition of a society that does not want to change. To risk that to change it! In theatre we talk about change. If we complain about the present moment, what do we do to improve it? If we say: it’s not good now, why don’t we risk to lose this it is not well from now for it will be better. It’s in human nature to fight in order to exploit his talents and qualities. The sublime moment in the life of a man in which he was exploiting the infinite possibilities that they have. What is tragic is to see people who cannot use the opportunity to do well. That affect me and saddens me most today.
CN: – For those who don’t know your tumultuous life, cut off a few moments that define you. I’m thinking that we could use them as lessons of courage of life, the less brave than you.
AH: – Indeed, so I would like to say: my life is tumultuous: and the more in zigzag life is, the less you learn and you are less aware of the movements that make you go from one continent to another. To change, to confront with natures, with different cultures, with different traditions. Defining for me are the meetings with people in my life. Father, mother, an entire society that exists around my parents until the age of 7-8 years, when I went to Israel. A world of artists, of sublime people who spoke a superb language, unknown today.
CN: – So a civilized language, you mean…
AH: – Yes, civilized, profound. There were people who loved each other and were suffering because of an odious system. That life affected me without any discussion. I was under the table and listen to conversations what went from Sartre to how to make a chicken stew. Everything was celebrated. Life was celebrated in a group where people admired and loved each other. And loved each other, sometimes over the boundaries of morality.
CN: – Don’t you find all these values today?
AH: – Never. It’s another country, another language, it’s something else.
CN: – And who were the special people who have « attained » you?
AH: – I was on a mountain in Ireland when a shepherd told me that comes Saint Patrick, after a cloud, to speak with him in Celtic. And he made to see him, hear him believe him. Another meeting, in a nature reserve of Indians, with a young woman, and her prophecies were of an extraordinary naturalness. People in my memory are witnesses to history, lived it exemplary, not just read it.
CN: – You see, while we are talking, I think that there are so many Romanians who restore your way in 1990 did. Just that they think to go permanently in the West. What do you say to people who admit: « I’m tired of Romania! »
AH: – When you get tired of Romania is a signal that Romania was not tired of you and will follow you in a negative way wherever you are. People who are leaving to another country are those who do not have how to survive. They go there with their culture, with their destiny, and with love for the country, which gave them a personal history, grandparents and grand grandparents. Those who want to escape from their country are naked people, and who if I would see them in America or Canada, I would cross the street. Because you read them immediately. The only way to understand the departure- it is of a man who leave there to be SAVED himself. The departure of the Romanians, as a phenomenon, it’s among the most odious. In the USA and Canada they had a crucial responsibility towards the country and which they have left it behind. Because of this, the Poles, in USA and Canada, made sure based on their money to translate their writers and poets. The same made the Italians. Mircea Eliade is not translated in English, and what it is translated is not at a high level. The fact that Eminescu is considered a mediocre poet, it is the fault of people who have translated him miserably. The novel « Adam and Eve, » which I adopted for the stage, if it was translated at the time it was written, it would have conquered the world of literature. You see, this supreme selfishness makes me think that most of those who have left the country, there are people with whom, I would want to drink a coffee. How about my returning…
CN: – You came back in Romania in ’90.
AH: – Yes, for four weeks and I stayed … it’s a mystery. My parents would be very upset. My father was in prison twice, in Oradea and Brasov, chased by Security. Country, as it is, game me the opportunity to work in unprofessional conditions.
I am a kind of a police officer…
CN: – You were saying in an interview that you gave me after 1990s that Romania is going after a « different speed. » You were surprised by the terrible slowness in reactions. Haven’t changed anything for so many years? Twenty-five years have passed from the first show that I have mounted in the country.
AH: – It remains the same. It is idleness. It is interesting that I mentioned this word, speed.
CN: – Yes, you told me just like that.
AH: – Today I made an exercise with the actors, they had to react immediately and take control of the situation that appears. The fastest have a slowness of a few seconds. It’s a slowness in reactions, it’s clearly a different speed here.
CN: – Why do you think we’ are afraid to react promptly?
AH: – Because we’re afraid of confrontation. Father always has taken me to the football. The football game is a reflection of a national mentality. Watch a football player. Passes half of the pitch, approaching to the football gate, the objective is to kick the ball into the football gate and … he slows when he arrives near the gate and gives the ball back.
He tires. It is terrorized by advancing. It remained a great gap between the common energy of the Western world, where each assumes the situations that pass through.
CN: – Mr. Hausvater, how do you face up to the daily alert? Are you not exhausted?
AH: – When I came back in the evening, after a day of work, I feel awfully exhausted. I asked myself what you ask me now. I don’t want to look in the mirror and say to me: Hey, you are old! I don’t think it is that. It is the fact that half of a day I use the energy to be sort of a policeman, a teacher, to maintain order, the concentration of those I work with. This would have never happened. And that exhaust me. I think that my energy does not necessarily use a creative effect.
CN: – How appeared this indolence?
AH: – The first accused, before the politics, it is television. I have crossed the world and nowhere have I seen such a level. In an impossible Romanian language, girls half naked talking about the weather … A lack of professionalism led to the destruction of any model of morality, of thought, of aesthetics. I wonder why is it perpetuates this mediocrity.
AH: – And don’t tell me about the “victim”. I do not believe yin the term of “victim”. Because each have the power to decide. If you are in an X situation it is because you chose that situation.
I am looking for the story…
CN: – How do you choose the shows, do you have a programme/project after you work?
AH: – I do not choose the plays they choose me. It’s a bizarre process that happens to me. I read hundreds of plays, I have agents from different countries who send me texts, I am a huge devouring contemporary literature from spaces less explored, Iceland, Burma. When I go to the theatre I always have the same questions: Why this individual has done this show here and now? And I hope the story chosen by you to have an echo.
CN: – Do you think that each text has his time?
AH: – Yes, and each has its form. Because a story fascinated us by its topic and its form in which it is told. The shape can be many times more interesting than the content. Sometimes the content leads to the form. Any meeting of my life, a woman with eyes like yours, anything makes me think of a story, to set it for the scene.
Shakespeare is as well as the race from the Olympic Games
CN: – At “Much Ado about Nothing, » Shakespeare’s plays which you stage now in Arad, how can you got?
AH: – If you do not trust Shakespeare, do not stage Shakespeare. It’s the poet’ dynamism.
CN: – Many critics consider the weakest comedy of Will…
AH: – Yes, I know, because it doesn’t have one or another … Good. It is considered to be his longest play. The Englishman would tell you that it’s a « riddle » (riddle). A mystery. You have to break the mystery and how you break it, Shakespeare encourages you to be the creator. This is my material, he said. What do you do with it, depends on you. Shakespeare is like the stick at the Olympics Games. It’s transmitted by each team at 100 m distance to be go ahead. It’s a process of creation, discovery. What I find intriguing is that you can tell a story using the totality of your thinking. And tragic. And comical. And trick. And non-oral communication. And visual. Imagery. All in the service of the story.
The theatre is not a consummation at the restaurant!
CN: – I read about your performance from Quebec, with « the Brothers Karamazov, » in which you lead the public through the moments of the story, you climb them from the theatre in the carts, and then you go them to the restaurant, to the church and back to the theatre. How much you are willing to shock the audience?
AH: – I’m always thinking with fondness at the public, as at the superior people who make theatre. I hate those who stand up, sleep at the performance and then stand up suddenly. A play is not like a soup, good or bad. It must sneak under your skin.
CN: – To modify you in any way.
AH: – I see the audiences who come at this enchanting comedy and discovers himself. And maybe in life he would do what his main characters of the play do, he would fall in love. Shakespeare is like a field, and he never tells you what to plant on that field. It’s your decision. The field has the potential to receive any plant.
My happiness is to produce happiness in other…
CN: – Mr. Hausvater, I read yesterday that we (in Romania) are the unhappy of the Europeans. You are happy? What make you happy?
AH: – Family, kids. Things when they are going well. When you see that you’ve managed to get a group of people over a period of time who have been transformed. They have become something else, what was in their potential. And even if you have taken out the best in them, temporarily, you have the pleasure to see how a potentially indefinite form until then, now fostered. I am happy when I see actors abandoned completely. When I feel that I have contributed for a second, for a time, at a good moment of someone else. My happiness is to produce happiness in each other. Maybe it is a smile now. Maybe it’s a common thought … I am a man who communicates a thought. However that thought I did not want to change you, I don’t want to repeal your all your personality. I want to get on with a smile. I always defined the smile as primary state of creation.
CN: – So to open the day with a smile…
AH: – So I start the rehearsals, it is a good feeling and you never need an Indian guru to induce you this. We need to find this state in us.
CN: – Do you often smile?
AH: – I am more depressing than happy … and I’m terribly upset on myself when I fall into the thinking, when I closed silently. Because of this profession it is very difficult to communicate after. Think that 8-9 hours I talk and after I want to hear the silence, to feel it. And those close to me believe even that I don’t want to talk to them.
It is much alcohol in relationships that must to be professional…
CN: – It is difficult after playing Hamlet all day to go the rubbish.
AH: – To take aspirin at the pharmacy for children … Because of this, my fellow have wasted their lives in drink or drugs. I have never found happiness in such temptations. It is almost a rule in Romanian theatre after rehearsals, the director and the actors to get drunk. I have always discouraged players into believing that they are friends of the drink. We together we are creative partners. After you finish the performance, we can remain friends. I think that is a lot of vodka, beer, and wine in relationships that must be professional. When I entered yesterday in the rehearsal room, I saw two forgotten texts there. I was very severe with the actors who have left the texts. It means that you have not used them in the evenings and they came the next day to work without any thought. It’s inadmissible.
CN: – Today there are so many temptations cheaper than theatre, less demanding. Think that they are Romanians who don’t know where the cashier of the theatre is, but they know where the mall, the supermarket is. What’s your « frivolous » pleasure?
AH: – It seems to me very important to see life, to observe it. I told to Mr. Radu Beligan that I hate ”manelele”. However I, unlike him, I have listened to them. I have analysed precisely. And I do not like them. Every morning I read about 15 newspapers from the countries in which I have lived or I am still living. I know little details in all sorts of news. They give me the impression of multiple existences. When I go somewhere and I want to buy a newspaper, I want to talk to the lady from that kiosk. And I am obfuscated that she thinks the whole relationship is that I give her the money and she give me the newspaper. It lost the art of the dialogue, of the conversation. Every man is a bearer of many stories. I am a seeker of many stories. I want to show them. Every man is a source of joy. I worked three months in Canada, America, Israel, and when I came back in Romania I smile to the people all the time. However here in Romania, when you smile, people say: ‘ what do you want from me? Women- are you not ashamed … Do you want it. .. and that…
CN: – The smile is a way of reaction…
AH: – Smile is a form to respond that we have seen. Responding can you live in this country. When you pretend that you do not see when, or you do not hear, not only that we do not live, but we add to the chain of negative things today.
If you were to put a title to a scenario which his life is, Alexander Hausvater told me that he would write: A Don Quixote guilty. Who sees his life as a sum of contradictions?
« I am made from contradictions and contrasts, and I always feel misunderstood by me and then by other important people in my life. Because, often, I preferred to live the mystery, the enigma, to live in the shadow of understanding than in the light, in the clarity of the existence.”
Translation from Romanian language: Odeta Belei
Odeta Belei is Assistant Professor PhD at ”Aurel Vlaicu” State University from Arad, Romania.
About CARMEN NEAMTU
Associate professor PhD. CARMEN NEAMŢU (Romania)
Journalism Department, „Aurel Vlaicu” State University from Arad
Carmen Neamţu, Ph.D., is currently holding a chair at the Faculty of Humanistic and Social Sciences – Journalism at „Aurel Vlaicu” State University of Arad, Romania. Ph.D. magna cum laude from 2002.
Co-authored of the Handbook for Journalism, Polirom, 2009 and New Media Structure. Journalism: insider or Outsider, Ankara Universitesi, 2005.
Member of the editorial board of the Professional Association of Writers`s Journal, ARCA. Member in the editorial board of Romanian Journal of Journalism and Communication, Faculty of Journalism and Mass Communication, Bucharest University. Member of Romanian Association of Professional Journalists and of the Association of Training Experts in Journalism and Communication – Romania.
Volumes published in Romanian language:
Limbajul publicitar, Mirador, 2002.
Stilul publicistic, Mirador, 2004.
Limbă şi stil în presa scrisă, Mirador, 2007.
Convorbiri cu vedere la microfon. Arta interviului. Chipuri şi moduri, Mirador, 2009.
Reclame pe limbă. Publicitate şi ubicuitate, Mirador, 2012.