Ion Caramitru/ Art in the time of the pandemic

 

Ion Caramitru (born March 9, 1942) is a Romanian stage and film
actor, stage director, as well as a political figure. He was Minister of
Culture between 1996 and 2000. Born to an Aromanian family
in Bucharest, he graduated from the I. L. Caragiale Institute for
Theater and Film Arts in 1964, having debuted on the stage a year
earlier — with the title role in an acclaimed production of William
Shakespeare’s Hamlet for the Bulandra Theater. He continued his
engagement for Bulandra while starring in plays at the National
Theatre Bucharest and various other theaters. For his work in
establishing British-Romanian cultural links, Caramitru was named
an Officer of the Order of the British Empire. In 1997, the French
Ministry of Culture awarded him the title of Chevalier des Arts et des
Lettres. In May 2005, he won the competition for the head office of
the National Theatre of Bucharest. Ion Caramitru is the President of
Academia Balkanica Europeana.

 

We are in 2020. World crisis. Pandemic. Locked-up countries. Thousands of
dead. Hundreds of thousands in hospitals.
Zero hope, terrified people waiting, useless statistics. Locked-up in our
houses, we watch on TV screens the militarisation of our traffic and the
wasteland that are our empty streets.
In the balance of probabilities, a spark of an idea: that it would have been
better not to be born at all, in order to just nurture the hope of surviving.

You stop for a minute to ask yourself to what should you compare this
pandemic (what a sad rhyme to comedic) in view of everything you have ever
experienced. For us, who have never been to war, there is no comparison.
Catastrophic floods? The earthquake in ‘77? No comparison. These seem to
have gone in the blink of an eye and left only sad memories.
The Theatre is closed and the audience have scattered. No one knows for
how long. And we, the actors, cannot even pretend that we are able to do anything more constructive than being on stage, clothed as archetypal characters.
I am trying to clarify my thoughts, in order to write something fundamental
that has to do with the Theatre, now, in its World Day. To be able to express,
clearly and with precision, the hidden secret of this disappearing art. I am
not the first adventurer to have tried. Every year, many times, oh, so many
times, all the important people in the theatrical sphere look for ways in
which to claim the right to say, unequivocally, what is the Theatre and what
is its magic. All this through messages, articles, essays, interviews and many
other means.
To make things clearer, I wish to present two characters who could
contribute to the elucidation of this question. Socrates is one, he who told us
that he knows that he knows nothing, and Shakespeare, who would remind
us that the Theatre is “the mirror of the world”.
With the help of these two arguments, we are able to understand that the
stage is striving to steal your reality, at least for a moment. A long moment,
as long as a life, and which can send you back – in thought – to the street,
the cosmos, to your inner life, to life as a whole and even to death and
nothingness. To take you out of the “ordinary”.
When life will return to whatever the “normal” will be, when we will all be
“fixed”, come back to the Theatre. Come back like children who, literally,
know nothing, or who might just be new-born and, with the conviction that
the “mirror” is back to its true self, watch the show as if it is your own, as
if it belongs to your childhood carried in your schoolbag and keep its
sanctity in the diary of memories of your adolescence.