“There is nothing left of a people but culture,” Mircea Eliade said. In our country, culture is not appreciated, but not consumed. Movie theaters are full, and seats in theaters are not as occupied as they should be. We play on the computer, but the reports on how much Romanians read are disappointing. We stay on Netflix, but only have huge queues in museums one night when admission is free. Otherwise, the museums are empty … Being represented today, in Romania, is not easy. The emotional and physical consumption is enormous, the sacrifices are great, and unfortunately their true value is not appreciated. I grew up in the theatre, although I didn’t make a career out of it. My mother, since I was a child, instilled in me a passion for art and beauty, and she took me with her to rehearsals, performances, backstage, to see how actors prepare their roles, to study the creative process of the whole play. From fashion to directing and acting.
Nina Odriscu is one of the actresses of the Constanta State Theater and was born, as if destined, on World Theater Day, March 27. Born for theater and has been serving the Constanta Theater for nearly 40 years. She graduated in 1982 from the theater institute of Târgu Morris, and in her long career she played many great roles that an actress could desire. She made her debut in Baia Marie and came to Constanta in 1985, and her first role in the Tometan scene was Sylvia in “These Sad Angels” by Dr. Popescu, directed by Dominic Dempinski. It was Nina Zarisinaya and Arkadina from Chekhov’s “The Seagull”, Zoe from “The Lost Letter”, Lena from Buchner’s “Lions and Lena”, Lizzie from Sartre’s “Respectable Dog” and Lady Macbeth. She can still be praised on the Constanta State Theater for her roles in “Glass Menagerie,” by Tennessee Williams, “Gene Rummy” by Donald Coburn, “Barefoot in the Park” by Neil Simon, and “Utopia” after Aristophanes.
This isn’t the first time I’ve interviewed my mother, but every time I have more feelings than she did before she entered the stage. I talked to her about what it means to be an actor in Romania, in 2022, about the culture during the communist period, but also about the future of art in our country.
fairyWhere does the passion for acting come from? Tell me a little bit about your career.
Nina: The story of my passion for acting begins with the effort of memory within me. I mean, I had to run away a little bit in my childhood, when I was always on stage, about four years old, to sing, and dance, and recite poems.
It was difficult to do a theater school in the period when I tried. There were two large and spacious theater schools in Romania: Il Caragial and Bucharest and the Theater Academy of Târgu Morey. Number of hundreds of candidates and very few places, very high competition. However, I was able to finish my four years of college in Târgu Mori, the most beautiful years of my existence in fact.
This was then followed by obligatory training at Baia Mare, through governmental distribution, in a communist system. The professional scene gave me immense privileges and satisfaction, being one of the actors who played a lot, and communicating with the greatest theater directors of the period and beyond. Among them, I can include Radu Niculescu, Dominic Dembinski, Andrei Mihalache, Cătălina Buzoianu, Alexa Visarion and Bobi Pricop. She worked with them on classical and contemporary drama, starting with the ancient theater, Shakespeare, Chekhov, Vampilov, Sartre, Karagialy and others.
After the mandatory season in Baia Mare, we made it to the seaside through competition. In Constanta I met an exceptional professional team. She made her debut in the Dramatic Theater of Constanta with “Those Sad Angels”, directed by Dempinski, and was followed by “I’m Not the Eiffel Tower”, directed by Ekaterina Obro, directed by the same master. Then came dozens of roles, no holidays, no vacations. I felt fulfilled, and the sight did not necessarily bring me happiness, but moments of joy, considering that I also had great love from my soul.
fairyThe 1980s were becoming increasingly difficult for culture in Romania due to censorship and ideological control. How did you realize that period? What are the differences between the communist era and representation in the modern era? Has the theater changed in recent years?
Nina: Of course, the 1980s were difficult for Romanian culture in terms of censorship. We actors tried to fight as much as possible with this phenomenon. After months of rehearsing on the stage, in cold, dusty and exhausting conditions, before the public premiere, we met the unskilled theater people who came before us and cut almost all of our work.
I want to mention that those who were very strong and assertive in that period, actors and directors, were able to successfully get through these moments. As in the press, freedom of expression in the theater is very important. That is why, today, compared to what I have tried in the other system, it is incomparable. Today I feel like I’m still on stage, but also in private, I can express myself I think.
fairy: Currently there are a lot of schools where artists and directors graduate. In your opinion, what are the chances of hiring a young actor or director in a theater organization?
Nina: Now, unlike when I was a student, theater colleges are almost everywhere in the country. Given that employment is a problem, the chances are slim after graduation. Perhaps that is the reason for the emergence of more and more independent theaters that can live in order or disappear in time.
Ideally, it would be in order to create more jobs, to hire more young actors leaving college seats. Otherwise, they are forced to remake themselves and stop pursuing their passion. Of course there are solutions, but we must also make efforts in this regard for the sake of these young people.
fairyHow difficult are the actors in the epidemic? How did you adapt?
Honestly, I don’t want to remember that period, but if I had to do it, I do it … I and not only me, as a person, but also as an actor, it affected me, it upset me very much. Everything stopped in its place – privacy, theater, theaters closed. Perhaps this is where the feelings of helplessness and mistrust that overwhelmed us come from.
However, after the theaters closed, we had to start working from home…”home theater”. It seems ironic to say you play online, but that’s exactly what you did. During that unfortunate period, I remember you taught me to use Zoom and repetition with my colleagues. She then repeated a hybrid play, Theater and Television, which recently won the UNITER 2022 Award for Best Television Show. It is called Z DAY and it is a show of the Constanta State Theater. The script was signed by Ionuţ Sociu, directed by Bobi Pricop and designed by Oana Micu. When the restrictions were relaxed, I also began working on stage, with fear and apprehension with my injured colleagues. However, the ending is satisfactory.
fairy: The State Theater in Constanta has been experiencing difficulties lately. Please tell me about his temporary closure and his “rebirth”.
Nina: After the pandemic, which was, as I said, difficult, we still have another difficult situation. The State Theater in Constanta has undergone renovations, as there is no other place for us to play. Unfortunately, for us as a team, all the cultural institutions in Constanta closed their doors when we called for help. Below is the district library and the Jean Constantin Multifunctional Centre, where some performances were played.
Subsequently, the Director of TSC, Erwin Șimșensohn, together with a team of exceptional theater technicians, managed in record time to build a studio hall, where we can continue our activity, until the completion of the renovation work of TSC. Of course, in order to continue our activity in an atmosphere beneficial to both the actors and our audience, I consider that the city of Constanta needs a new theater and perhaps a national theater, because we deserve it.
fairyWhere can the public see you and your colleagues this summer?
NinaOn July 7, the 2022 Summer Performing Arts Season (SEAS) begins, until August 31, when you will be able to watch TSC shows, as well as other theaters in the country. It is an event designed to provide residents of Constanta, as well as tourists who choose the Romanian seaside during the summer, the opportunity to witness a wide range of theater and musical performances on stages throughout the country. The performances will take place at the Soveja Summer Theater and on a specially arranged stage in the Archaeological Park in the city centre.
fairy: Regarding the actor’s wages, how do you manage this profession in Romania in 2022? Can you support yourself from your “board of directors” salary, if you don’t work in the film industry as well?
Nina: You are having difficulty, at present, financially, as an actor, in Romania. This is considering the fact that the internal cost of the actor is also enormous. That’s what I’ve always felt, and that’s how I feel now.
fairy: But the pension after a life on the stage? Can it give you a quiet aging?
Nina: no. Ideally, the retired actor should begin to see the world, because he has not yet had time. It seems that this dream can not be realized in our country, I am still on stage. I am the actor who has known his country and seen other corners of the world through the wonderful tours I have had with the stage. Otherwise, I might not have had a chance to travel. I came to the conclusion that my financial performance was much better until the events of 1989 than I am now. But, with hope finally dying, you may not be a pessimistic man, who knows… Better times will come.
fairy: What do you think is the best thing about acting?
Nina: I decided from the beginning not to forget why I came on stage. The landscape is a magical space in which I find myself, much more than I have ever been in my personal life. The satisfaction of stepping into the shoes of so many characters, identifying with them, and learning from them is unique. Also, the records of theater critics, but also the relationship with the audience and the energy they impart to you during the performance, but also at the end, when they appreciate you with applause, is what makes me happy, delights and still defines me – to stay on stage after a life I play.
fairy: At what stage do you think the culture in Romania at the moment and how do you see it in the future, in what direction is it heading?
Nina: I’m sad from this point of view. I’m referring to the cultural life I found when I came to Constanta, compared to what is happening today: an upside down city, almost non-existent cultural life, except for some people who really want to make art. I look forward to future projects of the Constanta State Theater in which I will participate with all my heart.