The ‘Tandarica’ Theater in Bucharest celebrates this year its 70th anniversary.
Set up in 1945 under the name of ‘Tandarica Puppet Theater’, the institution has been led in the past 15 years by Calin Mocanu who is also the president of the UNIMA Romania – International Puppetry Association and of ASSITEJ Romania – the International Association of Theater for Children and Young People. In 2008 the name of the institution was changed into ‘Tandarica Animation Theater’. Many well-known Romanian directors such as Radu Penciulescu, Silviu Purcarete, Catalina Buzoianu, Cristian Pepino, Victor Ioan Frunza and Ion Caramitru have staged plays for children in the country’s oldest puppet theater.
Calin Mocanu, the theater manager, will talk next about Tandarica Theater’s repertory:
“I am the manager of Tandarica Theater, a 70-year old theatre, but we are not talking about old age here. Although old, the theater is keeping pace with the times, it is contemporary with children, teenagers and adults alike. We have shows mainly for children, but they are suitable for teenagers and adults too. We have such shows as “Faust”, “Candid”, “Play Shakespeare” and “The Sveijk Galaxy” that target teenagers and adults. As for the rest of the repertory we have classical stories as well as contemporary stories – we perform plays by Visniec and other contemporary European playwrights. We are now in the process of parting with the old conception of theater for children and we are trying to persuade our public, of all ages, that we are part of the great family of visual theater. We continue to be devoted to animation theater, to visual theater, to puppet dance theater, to puppet-cabaret theater. We have puppet-actors created by a fine artist in a certain manner- each puppet is a work of art, it is manipulated by a great puppeteer, a great actor. A good puppeteer must be a good actor, a good singer, they need skills in artistic movement which is critical in suggesting a certain symbol”.
Tandarica Theater in Bucharest is the oldest puppet theater in Romania. In what way is it different from the other puppet theaters in the country? Here is actor and manager Calin Mocanu with the answer:
“Besides being the oldest in the country, Tandarica Theater has been a model for many theaters of the kind in Romania such as those in Arad and Brasov. In Brasov a special section was created of puppeteers who operated the puppet by their hands placed inside the puppet. In the 1950’s they migrated towards animation, which is very interesting, just imagine actors in the army system or from other theaters, who decided to become puppeteers. What makes us different? Tandarica Theater is an experience of collective creation, thus it becomes a state of mind, it is like a living body. This is how we conceive puppetry, this is our credo that united us and helped us carry on in a very interesting way. Just imagine how many regimes Romania has had in 70 years, how many storms have swept across the country affecting us directly. Puppetry was that strong that at a certain moment it generated a European movement”.
Sometimes seen as the poor relative of classical theater for adults, puppet theater in general and Tandarica theater in particular imposed new ways of expression and created a space of freedom of expression, of artistic resistance against the Communist regime. Calin Mocanu.
“Between the 1950’s and 1970’s puppetry was created by all the Romanian artists, starting with ballet dancers to sculptors, choreographers, actors, puppeteers and playwrights. It was them who created modern puppetry, which was closely linked to the Romanian and European fine art movement. Everyone should understand these things. Cristian Pepino stated very clearly, at one time, that puppetry was moving fine art. And I agree. Puppetry approached daring texts, an extraordinary set design, the puppeteers were very good. Almost all the Romanian actors whom we call the “golden generation” gave their voice to many puppets of the Tandarica Theater. It is here that “The Nocturnes” were born in the 1970s. It was a movement that supported experiments against stick-in-the-mud theater”.
In 1990 director Silviu Purcarete staged here the show “Cinderella” about which we read on the institution’s site that “it is not a rendition of the classical story of Cinderella but a creation by director Silviu Purcarete in the sense of a sentimental and ironic commentary on the classical story”. Here is what Silviu Purcarete recollects about that period:
“It was not a very inspired idea, but at the time, for the sake of efficiency, the shows were recorded. They used tape with words and music recorded on it, like in radio broadcasting. They played the tape and the puppeteers would show up on stage with the puppets without doing any talking. That was the custom at Tandarica Theater, to make things easier. Otherwise it would have been very difficult. At the theater in Constanta the puppeteers also did the talking. But it was different with Tandarica, especially since they were going on tours very often. I remember that for one show I had to record a tape in Romanian, one in English, one in Spanish and another one in German. The show is still in the theater’s repertory. The puppeteers go, but the puppets remain. And the audience is always new. The action is set in a cupboard. It would be nice to go and see the show!”