Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Director's Notes on The Star Without A Name

The Star Without a Name is the first play I ever saw. I was 7, living in Bucuresti, Romania, the only child of artist parents (a writer and a painter/doctor/philosopher), and I couldn't wait until I was finally old enough to go to the theatre. I had been to puppet shows, and children’s shows, of course, but I had a feeling this was going to be different. I had met a few actors, directors, and playwrights – friends of my parents – but seeing them on stage was what I really wanted to do, seeing them in action, and not just hearing their stories at parties at our house.

Ana-Catrina Buchser. She translated, adapted, directed,
and produced this version of The Star Without a Name.  
So when I finally sat in my chair and watched the melancholy story of The Star Without a Name, I immediately connected to the principal female character – The Unknown – and felt the entire play as if it was happening to me. Without knowing it yet, I had found my calling – the theatre.

It wasn’t until 12 years later, in college, that I made the conscious decision to study the art of theatre, and got a degree in Directing. And not surprisingly, when faced with the choice of any play on the face of the planet for my senior project, my heart and mind immediately went to Mihail Sebastian and The Star Without a Name. I obtained permission from the Sebastian family to translate and direct a workshop production of the play at Stanford University’s Prosser Studio. The performances were a great success, and left me wanting more…

I was quite surprised that Mihail Sebastian’s work had not yet been translated into English. I wanted to bring this play to a larger American audience. So little of the vast treasury of Romanian theatre is known in the United States, and I see it as my nationalistic duty to bring it forth and make it available. It became my mission.

As a professional theatre director, and with the help of Dragon Production’s 2nd Stages series, I am now in a position to accomplish that mission. I present to you a glimpse into 1942 Prahova (a mountainous region of Romania), complete with class struggles, unfulfilled dreams, and regional idiosyncrasies. The only thing missing is the war, and that’s on purpose. Although Romania joined WWII in 1941 – so theoretically, most of the men in our play shouldn’t be there – I wanted to tell the story of love found and never held, of passion and sacrifice, of making difficult choices, without having to consider the effects of an outside force, such as the war. I did this as homage to Mihail Sebastian, who wrote this beautiful play in 1942, despite living a life of persecution as a Jew in a very anti-Semitic time and place.

Probably the most exciting part of the project has been introducing this incredibly generous group of actors to everything Romania. They dove head first into learning all the proper names, some more difficult to pronounce than others (how would you pronounce Tekirghiol?), listened to my many stories of what it was like to grow up in Bucuresti, and absorbed all the pictures and music that I introduced to them through this nostalgically rewarding journey. Of course, I wasn’t around in the 40s, but I am lucky enough to have learned many songs of the era from my grandmother, Mioara, and many anecdotes from my mother, Corina, who is a storyteller. I dedicate this show to them.

--Ana-Catrina Buchser

You can read and contribute to her blog, Modicums of Inspiration

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