Studio Theatre based in Gheorgheni is the only Hungarian theatre in
Transylvania which’s founding document contains the word “experimental”.
Between 1984 and 1990 it was an experimental theatre group with the leadership
of László Bocsárdi. It gained institutional form on the 1st of September 1990 under the name of Figura Studio Theatre,
with the approval of the ministry of culture. Figura got it’s name from actress
Gabriella Angi Bocsárdi (1961-2003).
1984 the recently graduated intellectuals of the Politechnic Institute of Timișoara arrive at Gheorgheni, most of whom start working in the town in various chemical engineering jobs. Soon they meet members of the similarly thinking groups of the local younger generations.
So in that same year László Bocsárdi (chemical engineer), Gabriella Angi Bocsárdi (IT), Csaba Fodor (jeweler), Katalin Gergely (librarian), Antal Katyi (electrical engineer), Attila Madaras (engineer), Emília Simon (kindergarten teacher), Zoltán Török (IT), Ilona Varga (chemical engineer) establish Figura Experimental Theatre at Gheorgheni, the town’s third amateur theatre group.
For the team members from Timișoara the university years proved pivotal where the local Thalia student theatre group provided a cultural life in the city for Hungarian students. Their thinking and creative urges were influenced by knowledge of the various alternative, neo-avantgarde, independent theatre productions that were happening in Europe in the sixties and appeared in Hungary in the seventies outside the official theatrical structures. These theatre groups were heavily influenced by Stanislavski, Brook, Grotowski, Eugenio Barba, Tadeusz Kantor and their works. Despite the reduced information flow by the so called communist regime, news of these theatre productions slowly seeped into Romania and Figura too started working within these parameters.
László Bocsárdi remembering the beginning: “We wanted a theatre that is genuine, direct and more eventful than the official theatre productions of those times. I couldn’t stand theatre that begins in the strategy of survival, one that aims to make suffering and heroism acceptable or even shows it up to be banally comical, word-theatre that sends messages from ‘between the lines’. Just like other members of my generation I too yearned for the affirmation of serenity, life, real passion, in other words: transcending the conditions of those days. I believed in the existence of ‘another’ theatre, in which the relations of the actors and spectators (witnesses) is much more direct. This relation is based in its own right on such a communal play in which the formal surprises affirm the victory of life… In those times we simply refused to acknowledge what was happening around us. It seemed absurd to us. We were looking at it from the outside like a child is looking at the stupidity of an adult: the being-Ubu… Commanded by our instincts we left the reality of those days behind us and levitated above it. Figura was the theatre of this levitation.”
Four plays were finished in this period, all of which were directed by László Bocsárdi: Tutyi mutyi móka, Ubu Roi, Blood Wedding and Master Manole. The fifth play, Károly, had but a single staging. The Ur-Figura productions have an undeniable artistic value and their normative value is perhaps even more accentuated. Numerous times it was said or written regarding their productions that Figura brings or should bring fresh air into the circulatory system of the theatre world.
On the 27th of January 1990 László Bocsárdi, in the name of Figura Experimental Theatre, petitions the Ministry of Culture so that the group might receive the semi-professional status and along with this the financial support accorded to these institutions. He received professional recommendation for the petition: Cristian Ioan, director of the Northern Theater of Satu Mare, József Kötő, director of the Hungarian State Theater of Cluj, Tibor Oláh theater historian, translator, essayist, teacher of Szentgyörgyi István Academy of Theatrical Arts, member of the Romanian Writer’s League and director Miklós Parászka.
On the 2nd of September 1990 the minister of culture approved the petition with the condition that financial backing of the institution will be handled by Hargita county and the city council of Gheorgheni. To this day, Figura is a financed by the city council of Gheorgheni.
Four years after the institutionalization in 1994 another substantial change occurs in the history of Figura: László Bocsárdi and six actors with him move their contracts to Sfântu Gheorghe to Tamási Áron Hungarian State Theatre. In these years there are various co-productions between the two institutions: for a time it seemed the two companies would merge. Although for Figura, the departure of its founding members seemed like a loss, the experimental attitude, fanaticism, intensity of the theatre group from Gheorgheni revives the group from Sfântu Gheorghe which in those years was living a period of decline.
A part of the technical and administrative team remains at Figura, although this dramatic change triggers some concern on the part of the city council: “…there are people to follow the route that Figura tread before them. Weeks before Figura left the city, now we have a Figurine. It is a mistake to deem them as such – confutes László Vadas, veteran actor of Figura who aims to prove to both the county and the city that Figura has a legitimate place in Gheorgheni.”
Plays follow that are co-produced by both Figura and the Maszk Company lead by László Vadas that won the approval of both critics and spectators alike.
Despite the administrative problems (long periods without heated rehearsal rooms, financial problems) Figura is already 33 years old, has been through almost 150 premiers (5-6 productions in a season), this number has been achieved with the help of almost 350 artists in residence. This lead to the conclusion: all the Hungarian theatre companies in Romania have artists with a background at Figura. After numerous national and international exposures it can be said: the critical reception of Figura can only be talked about on prestigious levels.
Figura stuck by its founding principles, its existence is a rarity to this day in the sphere of Transylvanian theatre. It aims to satisfy the expectations of the small town in which it resides and its founding experimentalist principle. In the years of its existence this lead to it staging of traditional, experimental and contemporary theatrical works.
This can also be seen in the two festivals organized by Figura. Beginning in 2006 the even years see dance.movement.theatre an international dance and eurhythmics festival and in the odd years beginning with 2001 the Colloquium of Ethnic Minority Theatres brings together various minority theatre groups from all across Romania.
As the only artistic-theatre company of Gheorgheni and surrounding region, Figura accentuates those programs that establish its own viewer base, brings up a generation that understands and loves theatre. In the spirit of this goal was the You theatre program started, which hosts irregular literature classes, public meetings, institution visits, classroom plays and theatrical activities for younger people.
of Figura in chronological order:
director is István Albu.
Szebeni Zsuzsa: A Figura Stúdió Színház, Országos Színháztörténeti Múzeum és Intézet, Hiperborea nyodba, Budapest, 2000.
Gyergyói Kisújság, Péter Csaba: Színházat a színház helyén! (?), 1994.