Saturday, October 11, 2008

This guy got it!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Aliens with Extraordinary Skills

Saviana Stanescu's Aliens with Extraordinary Skills walks a thin tightrope between its lighthearted characters (two clowns from Moldavia, trying to find happiness) and its serious problem (INS agents want to deport them). Tea Alagic's acrobatic direction keeps the action lively, keeping the perspective in the blissful naivety of the circus of life, and the ensemble, often juggling three balls at once, never misses a beat.

Photo/Carol Rosegg

Reviewed by Aaron Riccio

Saviana Stanescu is walking a very narrow tightrope with Aliens with Extraordinary Skills, a play which deals with serious issues in a very lighthearted way. And yet, she's right to forgo a safety net: propelling herself into the void, Stanescu creates a beautiful, vibrant world, centered around two immigrants--clowns--who face deportation. Nadia (the tremendous Natalia Payne) is the naive heroine, who has high-definition dreams of Sex in the City, a wide-eyed wonder of a character who fled her homeland, Moldovia, because the people there were too poor to be made happy. Meanwhile, her friend, Borat (Seth Fisher) is hung up in the small details, finding it hard to crack a smile when others take advantage of him, and even harder to separate his feelings of love from his necessities for a green card.

Nadia ends up living with the attitudinal Lupita (a very fresh Jessica Pimentel), a nightclub's "entertainment professional" who fiercely demands the rights to her own dreams, one Manolo Blahnik at a time. And it's here, in a Washington Heights at least as real as the one in In The Heights, that she meets Bob (Kevin Isola, a real card), a slacker-philosopher who has already made the mistake of turning his back on his dream. Romance ensues, but sweetly so, for Stanescu takes Bob's advice: "When you are forced to pay closer attention to people's words, you actually communicate better." By focusing on language, Stanescu excuses the liberties she takes with some of the more fanciful plot devices, and her deliberately inelegant choices create some truly original and unfettered moments, moments where language grows fuzzy and swoons: "I want to . . . sit on a couch together, drinking vodka, watching TV . . . Making out . . . Making love . . . A LOT. Until we're dizzy-dizzy, but good-dizzy-dizzy. I just want to love you. To spend the rest of my life with you."

Also keeping this big three-ring "Circus called Life" in motion is the highly acrobatic director, Tea Alagic, who brightly maintains Nadia's childish perspective even in the midst of the play's darker elements. Kris Stone's set is minimal--bleak, actually--but colorful lights are often projected onto the stage (in conjunction with Gina Scherr's lighting design), and these keep us locked in the realm of imagination. Jennifer Moeller also helps, juxtaposing elements of both worlds into the costumes, a visualization that Alagic takes a step further by allowing some of the action to take place in the aisles, where the fanciful characters stand in direct contrast to the dull audience. Rounding things out are the real clowns of the show, two jazzical, fast-talking INS agents (Gian Murray Gianino and Shrine Babb) who menace Nadia's nightmares even as they maintain the illusion of Stanescu's storybook world, a world that begins with a balloon-animal's parable.

This constantly shocking sweetness is highly effective and it achieves the most important goal of a play: it shifts our perspective. Whatever your stance on immigration, Stanescu's upbeat mood overwrites it. Borat drives a cab just as well as his alterego, "Steve from Tennessee," and his heart beats just as fiercely as Lupita's. In a craigslist conversation, spoken smiley faces and all, we are all equal, and dressed up like a hamburger or soda, we are meant to be together, for we are all--especially this play--extraordinary.

Aliens with Extraordinary Skills (90 min., no intermission)
Women's Project Theatre (424 West 55th Street)
Tickets (212-239-6200): $15.00 - $42.00
Performances (through 10/26): Mon. & Tues. @ 7 | Thurs. - Sat. @ 8 | Sun. @ 3

Friday, September 5, 2008



Women's Project presents
The World Premiere of
by Saviana Stanescu
directed by Tea Alagic

With Shirine Babb, Seth Fisher, Gian-Murray Gianino, Kevin Isola, Natalia Payne and Jessica Pimentel.

Internationally-acclaimed Romanian playwright, poet, and journalist Saviana Stanescu brings us a dark comedy about a clown from the unhappiest country in the world, Moldova, who pins her hopes on a US work visa by creating balloon animals. Chased by Homeland Security, a deportation letter deflates her enthusiasm, and a pair of spike heels might be all it takes to burst her American Dream. This world premiere production will be directed by award-winning theater artist and Bosnian emigre Tea Alagic.

September 22-October 26, 2008
Mondays & Tuesdays at 7:00p, Thursdays-Saturdays at 8:00p and Sundays at 3:00p.
Added performances: Sunday, October 12th at 7:00p; and Saturday, October 25th at 3:00p.

WP MEMBER TICKETS from $15.00!
Email or
call 212.765.2105.

For Tickets ($42), click or
call 212.239.6200.

Julia Miles Theater
424 West 55th Street, just west of 9th Avenue.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Retreat

Working on the "Barbarian Woman" at the Lark during a one-week writing retreat with some (other:-) great playwrights. The reading sessions have been very inspiring, with warm yet crisp feedback from the fellow writers. While in Romania a new scandal (the pink pony scandal - yes, ridiculous) is swallowing tons of people's creative energy, I feel blessed to be here in NYC, working on my play. All my struggles and problems are nothing compared to the fact that I am allowed to do my best work in a witty, smart, supportive and nurturing environment. I truly wish my fellow Romanians will learn soon to encourage an inclusive climate in which each person's point of view is respected. It's such a shame that a country with so many talented people is still a prisoner of unhealthy fiery self-destructive energy-wasting non-constructive scandals. I was exactly like that back home, enjoying the heat of an us-vs-them passionate war of pamphlets, but year after year, I learned here in New York that the goal-oriented pragmatic Americans always focus on getting their work done while I was diverting my energy in endless self-consuming inner/outer debates. I'm trying to "steal" that from them, to become more self-centered and goal-oriented. It's hard but I'm working on it. I owe something to my talent - to fulfill my artistic potential. I'm almost there. My career and life path have twisted and turned in unexpected ways but it's up to me to make new vibrant things happen. It's up to me. Up. Up. Paraphrasing Beckett: I can't go on. I can't go on. I go on. Up and On :)

PS: The words and feelings above reflect only where I am and what I feel right now. Tomorrow they might change un/fortunately. I might feel the need to engage in a passionate aimless debate:) Anyway, I just wanted to add that I do appreciate and respect honest journalists who are doing their jobs inquiring, commenting, digging for the truth in a civilized manner that's based on facts and constructive criticism. Well, a little passion, spice and wit can't hurt. Or can hurt, so make it crisp and professional.

PSS: On the other hand, bad publicity is still publicity. Nobody will jump to write/talk in the media about a good retreat at the Lark and about people working on a play/novel/short story in a nice, serious, focused way. It's always the scandal that gets attention. So...

PSS: About the germ of the scandal, the pink pony. The artist - Linda Barkasz - is very talented. I like her work. It has an imagery that's vibrant, vital, outstanding. Why a zvastica on the pony though? I guess she wanted to show that sometimes, behind a harmless cute appearance can hide a fascist or an extremist. It was maybe meant to reflect the darkness hidden in cuteness/beauty. Or - the contrary. The irrelevance of a such an evil symbol on a toy. The fact that ideologies can't affect innocent and genuine entities. Or they can, and that's scary.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Infanta. User's Guide.

My old one-woman play (2001) "Infanta. User's Guide" is at Edinburgh Fringe Festival these days starring Erika Blaxland-de Lange. This text about insanity, trauma and tragic women reminds me of too many things from back home in Romania. Down to the memory road. It's not comfortable so I better stay in NYC and focus on my work here: Aliens With Extraordinary Skills.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


The announcement of Women's Project's 08-09 season is hitting the web (see links below)

My play "Aliens with extraordinary skills" is opening the season!

Women's Project presents


by Saviana Stanescu

directed by Tea Alagic

September 22-October 26, 2008

Visit for details!

Saturday, May 31, 2008

WAXING WEST got published!

My "Waxing West" - winner of 2007 New York Innovative Theatre Award for Outstanding Original Full-Length Play got published by United Stages.

The book launch was at Drama Bookshop and it was fun. Lots of peeps. Food. Books. Friends. New York. What else is there?

check out: www.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Vicious Dogs on Premises

with SAVIANA STANESCU and DAN SAFER - here's the link to the podcast:

I got commissioned by Dan Safer's dance-theatre company
Witness Relocation to write a script that interweaves a love story with stuff connected to dogs, the history of torture&interrogation, dictatorship, the republic of Dogmachina, etc... I did some heavy research, as you may imagine (during the Christmas break, exasperating my cousins in Connecticut) and the result is DOG LUV, a script you'll see combined with all sorta wild&imaginative&conceptual movement, if you come to see the show. It opens on May 29 at Richard Foreman's ONTOLOGICAL THEATRE. See info below.


Vicious Dogs on Premises is a new dance/theater piece about deciding between cruelty and love, dog training, having too many choices, torture, following instructions, and shifting loyalties. It may include such events as: Butoh Dancing or Imaginary Alpine Folk Dancing or Gestures an Angry Lawyer Makes in Court. It could include people talking about Threatening Things Said to Children or Efficient Fuel Sources. You might see people decide between Balancing On One Foot or Falling Down Repeatedly. With a script by award winning playwright Saviana Stanescu.

set/ lights JAY RYAN
director/ choreographer DAN SAFER

"super-charged performances that mash modern dance, cabaret, punk rock and experimental theater into one energetic live show that is never quite the same twice." - Austin American Statesman, TX

May 29 - June 14
Tues, Thurs - Sat 8pm
Sunday, June 1 - 8pm
final Fri/Sat - extra shows at 10 pm

tix $17, students $12

for tickets: call the # above (theatermania) or go to or

AND don't forget to check out THE INTERVIEW that MARTIN DENTON did
with SAVIANA STANESCU and DAN SAFER - here's the link to the podcast:

Also check out the episode guide at

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Pen World Voices, KGB Bar and Romanian poets in NYC

OK, Pen World Voices happened in NYC and we (I and a bunch of cool and interesting Romanian poets of various ages and voices/styles: Elena Vladareanu, Constantin Vica, Razvan Tupa, Dan Sociu, Nora Iuga, Eugen Suman, Vasile Leac, Nina Cassian) had poetry readings at KGB BAR and RCINY.
I curated the reading at KGB - yea, I thought it would be fun and ironic to read there with the Romanian poets. What did "curating" mean: got us scheduled/approved there, it's a selective literary venue - it's not like everybody can read there, got my friend Sharon Mesmer on board to co-host cuz I knew the Romanian writers wouldn't be happy just with me, so I also invited Brandon from Calque who's gonna publish an issue with Romanian poetry in translation, meaning: with them, not with me cuz I write in English, but anyway I'm happy that the Romanian poets who came here, very talented people, most of them for the first time in NYC, were excited by the KGB Bar Reading and the responses they got. Razvan Tupa posted short videos with our readings on YouTube, here's the link to my GOOGLE ME! poem and you'll find there links to the other poets too:

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Immigrant Literature and Immigrant I

I just got back from a conference on "Immigrant Literature" in Bruxelles/Brussels. Three intense days in Europe that surprisingly refreshed me and recharged my batteries. Maybe because over there men still court me and desire me and invite me for dinner while here in NYC, after so many waves of feminism and scares of sexual harassment, all you/I get from men is friendship. Which I appreciate immensely of course, it makes me feel safe and focus on my work, but sometimes you/I just need intensity, passion, desire, strong emotions. However, relationship-intensity carried for a long time has been harmful for my career, that's why I get so much done here in NYC... I'm back home, cuz Manhattan is my home now and I love it. Can't live without it. But I can live without intensity and desire. I guess.
So - immigrant literature. Big discussion on that in Europe as countries and nations are not so "pure" and clearly defined anymore. For me, coming from the multi-ethnic NYC, a microcosm of the world, the discussion wasn't so relevant. But they loved me and my poem Google me! seems to be extremely successful everywhere, in Bruxelles too, even in multiple simultaneous translation (yeah, the conference - organized by EUNIC - was in that kinda big round room for UE meetings, with lots of microphones, a button to push when you speak, interpreters in little booths displayed in a circle around the room etc). The participants were immigrant writers who write in a second language and many scholars, most of them German. The other Romanian present was Marius Daniel Popescu, a very interesting guy who lives in Switzerland and won the prestigious Robert Walzer award for his first novel written in French: Wolf's Symphony. The guy struck me as an authentic and genuine writer with lots of talent. For living. I have to read the novel first to speak about his writing but my guts tell me I'll like it. We were put up at Sheraton Hotel in beautiful rooms, so the 'escape' to Europe was really a good idea as I decided to go only to conferences/festivals where I am treated like a writer who matters, I can't take shit anymore.
And for the records I copy below the statement that I wrote for the conference. We had to write a personal statement about the immigrant experience and our work. It's a bit too serious, but hey - bear with me, it was for the EUNIC/UE conference. Here we go:

STATEMENT – Saviana Stanescu

I grew up in the totalitarian system run by the 
dictator Ceausescu. As the other members of my 
generation – the baby-boom generation created by Ceausescu’s prohibition of abortion and 
contraceptives in late 60s – I used to escape from the daily 
poverty, oppression and misery by taking refuge 
in my imagination. Books and theatre were our 
means of survival and joy. 

Fifty years of communism created a particular 
aesthetic in our country: things could not be told directly as they were, so writers and 
actors developed metaphorical and encoded ways of addressing social and political issues we 
were concerned about. 
For instance, we had our own idiosyncratic Hamlets, sunk in 
their subtext, philosophically declaiming that something was rotten in the country…

After the fall of communism in 1989, I enthusiastically started to work as 
a journalist in the “new democracy” Romania. As many of my fellow students in Bucharest, I had huge hopes and confidence in the new world emerging around us, as we HAD to be the ones bringing change. Hence a few more years of my life spent on dramatic living instead of dramatic writing. I published my first book of poetry only in 1994 and wrote my first play four years later, in a workshop led by London’s Royal Court Theatre artists. 

In 1990, Caryl Churchill came to Bucharest for a 
week and she wrote the masterpiece Mad Forrest 
about the Romanian Revolution. It took me more than 10 years to be able to write about the same 
event - the revolution in which I fully participated and in which two of my friends got 
arrested and one killed. 

Waxing West is my play about the Romanian Revolution and generally about collective traumas 
and the ways in which they affect the individual. 
It’s a dramatic but funny meditation on the fact 
that we cannot get rid of our Past, we are 
conditioned by the circumstances of our birth and 
upbringing. Wherever I go or live, I cannot 
actually escape from Romania, Romania is 
imprinted in my DNA, it’s distilled in my blood. 

I was able to write Waxing West – the play that won me the 2007 New York Innovative Award for Outstanding Script - only in the US, in English, after my first year in New York, where I arrived (with a Fulbright grant) early September 2001. It was quite a shock for me to get directly into the 9/11 events. I became aware 
of the Twin Towers only after they disappeared. The present absence….. 

Waxing West parallels Daniela’s story with Romania’s struggling to find itself in the wreckage of freedom it seized through bringing down Communism. Finally, both Daniela who comes to America and Romania back in Europe are lost amid contradictory ideals of progress. However far Daniela and Romania attempt to advance, the play reminds us how the specter of Ceausescu’s regime, personified by the return of the Ceausescus as vampires, haunts the unconscious memory as an indelible phantom of the collective mind.

But keep this in your mind: the play is a comedy! Painful truths are most effective when delivered with a grain of sugar/humor. Yes, the new writing in Romania finally addresses some of those difficult truths and realities. We owe that to ourselves as humans and artists. We can’t avoid it. In literature, theatre and film. (See the multi-awarded movies “4 months, 3 weeks, 2 days” or “The Death of Mr Lazarescu”). We need to exorcise the past and the grim realities in order to move forward. As we do move forward.

Aurolac Blues, my play published by Kraus and Smith, is a sweet story about Elvis and Madona, two Gypsy street kids from Bucharest, addicted to the cheap drug named AUROLAC (a silver paint they huff from a plastic bag). They dream of America as they imagine it through their McDonald’s experience and the “heritage” of their names.

The new play I am working on - For a Barbarian woman - takes my concerns and explorations a step further. It interweaves a present-day love story between a Romanian woman and an American soldier from the NATO base in Constanta (a Romanian city at the Black Sea, built on the ruins of the ancient city TOMIS where the Roman poet Ovid was exiled two millennia ago, in 8 AD) and a fictional relationship between Ovid and a Barbarian woman from Tomis.

The concept for this project sprung out of my collection of poems entitled “Letters from a barbarian woman” that I wrote in response to Ovid’s ancient letters from Tomis (EPISTULAE EX PONTO). The play metaphorically touches on the contradictions of civilization and the primitive, conquered and conqueror, power and poverty, rational and irrational. Ovid’s voluminous correspondence from his exile has been used as source material, as well as recent news from Romania.

My recent collection of poetry GOOGLE ME! aims to capture my creative response to the immigrant experience and the on-going love relationship with the English language. It inhabits that inbetween space between cultures, where one needs to constantly negotiate her values. GOOGLE ME! is a book dedicated to the global gods of internet and migration. And yes, please, take out your laptops and google me! ☺

As you could see, my writing in English – a language that I love for its richness, beauty, subtlety, specificity and, of course, power – is meant to give a larger platform to my stories. To increase the chances of my voice to be heard. My immigration to the US means the immigration into the English language and into a cultural context that allows freedom of expression and endless opportunities for a writer who has something to say and the talent, the drive and the ambition to say it. Again and again and again. Until the world hears it.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

On the roofs

in Williamsburg, with Piotr Redlinski (an amazing professional photographer, look in the New York Times for his photos), Paul Bargetto and Christine Richter. A photo shot session for a book cover.
I never thought it's so hard to be a "model". It was strange not to smile, the automatic reflex when someone takes your picture. But Piotr asked us to be serious and arranged our bodies in sophisticated compositions.
A strange sensation of giving up your control... a very interesting feeling, difficult to capture in a thought-shot.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Don't wear jeans

if you wanna get into classy clubs.
OK, let me explain.
I woke up today really excited about the lunch invitation I had for the Metropolitan Club, an old NYC club on Upper East Side. But as all silver linings must have some clouds :) it was pouring outside! I tried on a few skirts, high heels and all that, but watching the rain outside got me, I couldn't bring myself to wear a skirt or even my elegant black pants, the rain would spoil everything, I thought, so I jumped into my jeans and pulled on a sexy red sweater (as sexy as the sweaters can be...). But I did take a cab, actually a black car service limo, excited about my first lunch in a NYC club. Well, rain brings disaster after disaster, believe me. The club had a dress-code. JEANS ARE NOT ALLOWED. I tried to hide my disappointment and embarrassment as businessmen in business suits were passing by, looking down at me, and I told the doorman I'd go to buy myself a skirt. No, he said, the Professor (the one who invited me) will take you somewhere else. And indeed my Cinderella experience ended in a cozy French restaurant, full of personality and character, with waiters with French accent and French dignity. The Professor assured me that the club won't disappear, it's been there for more than 100 years and still plans to be there so we'll go there on another time. Well, small consolation... I told my Drama students in class after that: Stop wearing jeans if you wanna get into classy clubs! They shrugged: Who cares about classy clubs?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Ashley Alexandra Dupre

She's the new headline so I must give her one in my blog too. Yeah, I can't help but scribble down a few comments on the sex scandal that stirred and troubled and excited the New Yorkers (and the whole world) this week. What's amazing for me in this story is not the fact that the governor Spitzer liked to have sex with prostitutes. He's a sexy guy and well, it's his and his wife's problem, not ours, I hate when we dig like this in other people's lives but media forces us to. What is actually fascinating for me is how a celebrity can be born over the night.

Kristen aka Ashley Alexandra Dupre aka Ashley Youmans was just a girl struggling to make the ends meet, an aspiring singer, a cool babe, a new New Yorker worried about paying her rent in Manhattan where for a tiny studio in a good area you have to pay over $3000. She was all that before her name and photos and bio were revealed in the New York Times and taken further by the TV networks afterwards. In a few days celebrity hit her hard and will put millions in her pocket. There will be covers in adult magazines like Hustler (they already made her a $ offer), interviews, a career in music, a book, a movie, etc, etc, all that jazz. Sorry, all that hip-hop :) Ashley is becoming a commodity, she can now be sold at prices much higher than her $1000 hourly charge as a luxury prostitute. She will wear aka advertise Manolo Blahnik shoes and Victoria’s Secret lingerie and a new TV series will start next year: The VIP Hooker…

Some people would talk here about "negative" publicity/celebrity, but what's negative these days, in this world, when principles and morality are old-fashioned artifacts, a world where money and success reign and for Ashley - who I'm sure is a nice and cool girl indeed - the scandal meant a springboard to a new life of fame and wealth. The "negative" part is unfortunately forced upon Silda, the governor's wife, and their three daughters. They are the casualties of this media/political war and with the risk of sounding cheesy and sentimental, I'm gonna ask: is it fair?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Olga from Volga

Here's the thing: I've been working for a while on "E-DATE - THE MUSICAL", and now I am on a little break from working on it before getting into E-DATING PROJECT at Strasberg Institute - a class that I teach will result in a show directed by Gia Forakis after I develop the text with the students.

yeah, two different E-Date projects (instead of a real e-date :)

So tonight I feel like posting the lyrics for my favorite song: "Olga from Volga" based on a real e-letter that my friend James got from a Russian Olga (not from the Volga, that's my rhyme:). Just to let people know that it existed before the Strasberg project. It's my blog-copyrighting thing...


"Hello! How You today?
I hope that all at you
Is good. I write to You
because I did not receive letters.
Why not write? What is it what happens?
I not do not need understand
You not want more with me
To communicate, friend?
I hope, that the reason that You are
simply borrowed on work. I shall wait
for Your letter. I hope,
that You will write to me soon,
invite me to Cancun,
or Miami Florida
I need nice place to rest and give you love
I am and always be your little dove
I sign below forever yours, Olga
From the Volga
Region in Russia"







Sunday, March 9, 2008

Richard Foreman's new land

Every year, among other top downtown pleasures for edgy and envelope-pushing artists (no, not at their day jobs) is THE NEW RICHARD FOREMAN SHOW. So I pushed myself like an envelope ready to open itself towards a new amazing performance and, well - utter disappointment. This year the guru&mecca of downtown theatre discovered a new medium: film. The lines are now given mostly to the actors on the screen (students from Japan and England where Mr Foreman had some paid residencies) while the expressive live performers are clearly upstaged by the... screen upstage. Mr Foreman's unique "choreography" of objects and images, the frames composed of bodies and stunning visuals that he masterfully creates in space, play only a supporting role this time. The focus is on the screen and it's obvious that Mr Foreman is in the phase of discovering the potent attributes of idiosyncratic frames&shots. However, stuff like that has been done and re-done in film, from "Last Year at Marienbad" to "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" so it's not so special anymore. And the Japanese actors are not "exotic" anymore, etc, etc, hence the images don't work at the level that a signature Foreman frame works in live performance...
This is not a review, just a few notes of a frustrated former Foreman fan who fell in love with his work when she first saw it in Vienna, during Wiener Festwochen, in 2001.
That show - Now that Communism is dead my life feels empty - might have had a political significance for me at that time but the aesthetic oddness and richness were what got me. Well, what can I say, on the positive side, at least my life doesn't feel empty without my admiration for Richard Foreman's work.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

About Attitude and Automatic Quotes

I bet you all know people who have an automatic quote at the end of their email messages. You may agree or not with the quote, but it stays with you for those few seconds. Or longer. Here are the quotes I came across today:

"The first principle of a warrior is not being afraid of who you are." - Anonymous

"The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than success, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break an organization... a school... a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past... we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have. And that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me, and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you...." -Charles Swindoll

I must confess I had no clue who Charles Swindoll was, but the quote made me curious as I still can't accept that attitude is everything and knowledge, education, and other human gifts don't matter on the road to success. What about shy people? Are they doomed to failure because they can't bring themselves to have the right attitude? What about pessimistic people? When did shyness and pessimism become diseases we have to fight against?
So I googled Mr Swindoll to find out more about him and guess what I found: he's an Evangelical Christian, a preacher, a minister, a man speaking the "word of God"! And what does he teach people - that nothing else matters except for a positive attitude. The attitude towards and the obsession with success and money seem to have become our new "religion". Where is that God who was talking about humbleness, generosity and love for other people? Is the "positive attitude" a new path to faith? Hmmm... I go deeper with my google reasearch and I find a commercial website of Mr Swindoll where his "insights for living" are sold. And here I come across another "insight" in bold letters:
"Success or failure depends more upon attitude than upon capacity. Successful men/women act as though they have accomplished or are enjoying something. Soon it becomes a reality. Act, look, feel successful, conduct yourself accordingly, and you will be amazed at the positive results." ~ Dupree Jordan
Again - attitude beats capacity. What can I say? That's how you get people not to respect anymore someone else's knowledge and skills, they know they can beat them with the right attitude. That's how you get students to be more interested in showing attitude rather than learning something. That's how you get to create and nurture a crowd of empty souls concerned with the best way of displaying power and success rather than looking inside them for true values and principles.

Thursday, February 28, 2008


Did this happen to you too? I'm having a hard time putting together my portfolio, I've done too many things, in too many directions, it's hard to organize them... I've had three attempts and all the "portfolio embryos" look awful, unfocused and disorganized - failed attempts to quantify and display my achievements...

This blog turns more and more into a diary and less and less into witty commentary on theatre or socio-political events ... Well, I guess that's it, this is my private-public dialog with myself. I'm gonna indulge in self-reflexivity for as long as I can.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


I've just decided that sooner or later I will have to write my memoirs, tell the whole story: childhood, family, the legend of Manole Master who buried his wife Ana alive in the walls of the monastery he was commissioned to build by the Black King of Walachia (cuz art requires sacrifice, that's what we learned in school, but why the artist had to be male and the sacrificed "material" a woman, his wife? - that we didn't learn, and we didn't ask, and we still didn't answer), and I will have to write about high school and teen problems, and communism, and college in Bucharest, and revolution, and the fall of communism, and the new life as a journalist, and about corruption, and the new life as a wife, and about love and emotional abuse, and about kids and non-kids, and about books and plays and theatre, and a first trip abroad, then a second, then ... about love in another language, and love OF another language, and writing in another language, and moving into another language, this language, English. I'll have to write about all that, and more.

Thursday, February 21, 2008


As tomorrow is my birthday and I usually get depressed and anxious on my birthday - yes, I am one of those people who are in denial of time passing and their getting older - I thought of just posting the title poem from my new book GOOGLE ME! (you can google me and find out where you can buy it :)


I had to move into another language
Mine was too small too poor too lazy
Too beautiful but self-destructive
In an old-fashioned romantic way
The words grew to fight with each other
And die on cyber battle fields
Defeated by the God of Internet
And the American Dream always reborn
Out of the ash of our daily nightmares
Google me! Google me!
Everyone I know googles me now
Google is my proof that I exist
I think therefore I am?
No. I have a website therefore I am.
I actually don’t have a website
That’s why I really needed to move into the
English language.
So people who google me can understand who I am
And what I am doing
On this noisy earth.
I called the movers to help me
No one answered
But I must say that
The voice of the machine answering my call
Was really sweet
She said Thank you for calling Global Movers
You need a passport
You need a visa
You need to wait in line at the American Embassy
In Bucharest
You need to get up early
There are people waiting since last night
Sleeping on the sidewalk across the Embassy
You can’t stay on the same side
There are guards guarding
And you don’t have an American passport
So thank you for calling and try again
During our office hours
Although we don’t actually have office hours
We are an internet company.
Visit our website you can travel
Wherever you want
On our website
We are looking forward to your feedback
Write it down on
So why do I need to move at all?
Why do I need to travel?
There’s a McDonalds on my block in Bucharest
There’s a cinema with Hollywood movies
two blocks away
I’ve got a laptop a DVD player an American
Everything is fine
Global Movers I don’t need you
I’ll just stay here
In my small Romanian apartment.
I’ll google everything and everybody
I’ll live a full life
In English without subtitles
And I’ll never move
I’ll never talk
But I will have a funny screen name
Like Peaches-in-the-sun or Hole-in-the-flag

Monday, February 18, 2008

The off-Broadway "Unspecified Country"

A few case-studies

A few days ago, after seeing "Killing the Boss" by Catherine Filloux at Cherry Lane Theatre (an honest and moving play), I had a revelation: many of the new plays that address foreign issues, written by American dramatists, tend to be set in "unspecified countries". Or the foreign character is from the same - actually not at all the same - "unspecified country".
Of course that implies a country torn by wars and economical problems, dictatorships and other hardships. And the people from those countries are - in most of the cases - the usual stereotypical representations with some touching variations.

In Julia Cho's "The Piano Teacher" we hear about a husband whose dark past and terrible stories are shared with innocent American kids, disturbing them, making them commit crimes (if they were already inclined to violence). In Rhinne Groff's "Inky", it's the young live-in immigrant maid from some Eastern European country, who sleeps with the middle-class husband of the nice middle-class wife, although our girl was supposed/paid to focus on taking care of their well-behaved kids. And of course, her English is very poor. In the imaginative "The Internationalist", Ann Washburn invented a whole language for her "unspecified country" and I must say that she created an original play with parodic accents, making a good use of the stereotypes.

At the other end of the American plays-with-foreigners, we have Sarah Ruhl's "The clean house", where things get more specific with the Brazilian maid telling jokes in Portuguese, adding complexity and spices to this beautiful and poetic play. In J.T. Rodgers's "The Overwhelming" things get overwhelmingly specific. The exploration of the context of the genocide in Rwanda unfolds in a precise manner, with a witty use of the language.
And tonight I saw a truly powerful play: BETRAYED by George Packer, directed by Pippin Parker, at Culture Project. Close to a docudrama, the play is based on an well-researched essay Packer wrote in 2007 for the New Yorker and one can feel that the characters in his play are made of flesh and blood and born out of outrage and care for those Iraqi interpretors working in the Green Zone of a turbulent Baghdad, seen as traitors by their own people and treated with indifference by the American military. Except for one American official, their boss Bill Prescott, an idealist who understands and helps them, risking a nervous breakdown, and ending up outside the system. The relationships are nuanced by Packer with such a tender attention to details and cultural specific differences, that he manages to effortlessly get the audiences immersed in the lives of those people."Betrayed" is really a play worth seeing, go today!

Dramatic Living and Dramatic Writing

One might conclude that's more effective and "fair-trade" to be specific and do intensive research on those countries your characters are from, it gives depth and complexity to the play. Others might argue that the "unspecified country" provides a writer with an easy but meaningful shortcut to universality. Well, maybe. However, at this point, I can't help but insert a plea for the underrepresented writers for whom English is a second language. Broadway and off-Broadway need more plays written by dramatists who lived in those unspecified countries most of their life (and maybe still live there).

Yes, I am subjective in this matter as I am one of those playwrights - shall I specify the country? - who discovered freedom of speech when they were already adults. I wish I could still think of universality, but it stubbornly refuses to seduce me lately. Probably because the history, geography, geometry and architecture of everyday life are too powerful and specific presences. All I want is to have my voice heard here and now, in this life, in this time, in this blog, in this New York. Because what you learn in "those countries" is that tomorrow might not happen for you, so say what you gotta say today.


Thursday, February 14, 2008


All right, I’m spending this Valentine noon with my most devoted “lover” – the laptop – writing a few notes for you, whoever/wherever you are, bloggers around the world, unite and read each other!

OK, I did something even more devilishly non-Valentinish this morning: I read an awesome book that put me in the perfect anti-romantic mood. The mood of thinking about the nature of Evil. Yeah, I know, harsh topic for a day full of pink hearts and chocolate kisses. The book is called The Luciffer Effect – Understanding How Good People turn Evil, by the psychologist Philip Zimbardo whom some of you might know: he’s the author of the 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment, when a bunch of students played the roles of guards while others were the prisoners, and the experiment got out of control as the guys began to either feel empowered to control and dominate the others (the guards) or be depressed and let themselves be abused psychologically and emotionally, if not even physically (the prisoners). Now, Zimbardo adds to his theories on the psychology of imprisonment new facts and insights into the Abu Ghrahib situation, as he was an expert witness for one of the MP prison guards.

Anyway, read the book, I don’t have time now to indulge into a serious analysis, but I’m truly enjoying it, it’s a powerful “anatomy of human psychology” and it definitely brings into your mind questions about the ways in which the circumstances of our upbringing, of our lives in different countries and political-social contexts, affect us. The banality of Evil and its reverse, the banality of heroism; how some people put in a particular set of circumstances can commit unbelievable atrocities while others can choose to rebel, to act against the system, to save a life, or many. There’s so much to say and I've already exceeded my limit of wise&dark thoughts on a pink Valentine day.

Oh, one more thing, reading “Lucifer ….” wasn’t a masochistic way of spending the morning, it’s called research: I’m writing a dramatic text about interrogation&torture for a dance-theatre piece with Dan Safer’s Witness Relocation. Yeah, I even had to spend the Christmas holidays reading the History of Torture ☺

However, in some sorta pervert way, after reading about Evil this morning, I’ve probably exorcised the darker thoughts from hidden corners of my memory and I’m now just ready to eat my boiled jumbo egg (a morning-ritual postponed for the book), finish my coffee, get dressed (choose between black and red for the blouse – red!) and go out, it’s a sunny day, I have to teach at NYU, then party with Voice&Vision, then … well, things can be pinkish if you want, it’s a matter of choosing the right clothes, the right peeps and the right thoughts.


Saturday, February 9, 2008


OK. So... I'm starting a blog... Yeah, enough with the self-absorbed self-conscious self-indulgent self-induced self-read old-fashioned diary! My little pink notebook hidden under the pillow when I was 12, and 13, and 14, and 15, is now a super-yellowish relic, good to be buried in the cemetery of teenage rage and frustration... Oh yeah, of course, I've had a a bunch of e-diaries more recently, files that I email myself from time to time, you know, for backup, but enough with that too, it's becoming boring, tiring and ineffective. Plus it's narcissistic, navel-gazing, and somewhat masturbatory - in an intellectual kinda way of course.
So I say E-NOUGH, it's time to share savvy thoughts, savvy words and savvy-savi with the world. Not that I imagine The World would be particularly interested in me, but hey, you never know.

I used to be a journalist in my home country Romania, I got "reborn" in NYC in 2001 and here I am, another English-language writer with a new American identity, American references, American friends, American grad studies and American dreams biensure, cuz they come with the whole package if they hadn't already got settled into your brain years and years before the palpable reality of your visa and your plane ticket.

So yeah, I guess this is gonna be a sorta immigrant diary, a globalforeigner's diary, a theatre person's diary, a playwright's diary, a critic's diary, a poet's diary, a woman's diary, a Balkan-gal's diary, a ... all right, enough! - it's just a diary shared with (hopefully) thousands of blog voyeurs who get some pleasure in immersing into other people's lives and thoughts.

And yeah, sure, I can take comments, insights, criticism, smart or stupid replies, witty or silly questions, or answers, or thoughts, or ramblings, or rants, whatever. Just no curses please. Although sometimes it's fun to learn curses in different languages, that's how you see the most original dark side of a language, haven't you noticed? And curses might be the most genuine cultural exchange, aren't they what your new foreign friends love to teach you after a couple of beers or cosmos at multi-cultural festivals, gatherings and conferences around the world? (Well, not at the highly intellectual ones, those peeps try to keep sober, decent, smart, politically correct, "effortlessly" maintaining the interactions in the realm of academic politeness spiced up - in some occasions only - by what the Brits call conference-shags... )

Curses are fucking global. They don't necessarily express anger and violence, but a deeply repressed need to be understood by the Other. Don't get me wrong, I hate to be cursed or to curse in real life, but in writing/talking in a language that's not your first, curse words grow to have a certain charm, you feel you have a more intimate connection with that language, you feel accepted "inside". Maybe that's because so many curses involve sexual terms... Anyway, this is not an essay on curses and their role in fostering social and personal change. I'm rambling. But who cares, it's my BLOG, I'm doing here whatever I want. Forget my old doll Lily, my Little Mermaid slides, my red bike Pegas, my lit'pink-journal, times demand a new toy - the blog.
And who am I to say no to the Gods of Internet - with G from Google - to the new times of fast-food, fast-thought and fast-love. I better start fast-blogging. Gee, it's fun!