Fantastic things can be born from a healthy debate! - Interview with Andrea Ivett Lukács / 2019

Zoltán Balázs has commenced in autumn the FIVE GATES era-specific theatrical-methodology concept and the associated complex theatrical and talent care/support program which was created by himself. The concept is basically a professional set of proposals for the renewal of performing arts, in which the independent theater creator relies on its acquired domestic and international theatrical knowledge and pedagogical experience, in a variety of genres. In our series of interviews with the junior members of the Maladype Company, we are now talking with Andrea Ivett Lukács, one of the researchers of the FIVE GATES program.

- How did you get to the University of Arts in Târgu- Mureş, and how did you end up in Budapest, in the Maladype Theater and the FIVE GATES research program? What was this road like?

- I was born in Miskolc, after graduating high school I went to Budapest, to the Nemes Nagy Ágnes Art Vocational School where I’ve learned acting for three years. After finishing school they suggested to me the University of Arts in Târgu-Mureş. We decided with Gáspár Mesés, who was my classmate in Nemes Nagy – and who is also my research partner in the FIVE GATES program – that we would prepare all the necessary papers and we would go and take our chances in Târgu-Mureş. We got up on a train, we applied for admission, and later we were both delighted to hear, that we got in. In our final year of Master’s Degree, our form teacher, Erzsébet Fülöp B., invited Zoltán Balázs to direct a performance for us in our final year. This was the first time we’ve met Zoli. Thanks to the brevity of the rehearsal period (we have put together our August performance in twenty-eight days), to Zoli’s energetic personality and the complexity of his working method, we had very intensive rehearsals. Thinking back, I have no idea how did it happen, but the performance came together pretty soon. After the successful premiere in January, in Târgu-Mureş, we’ve shortly begun our tours, and in June, when we had our performance at the Istropolitana Festival in Bratislava, Zoli had voiced an idea, in which he asked us, if we would like to stay together as a team, and would be willing to explore the theoretical and practical aspects of the FIVE GATES theatrical-methodology concept in the Maladype Theater. It was absolutely clear, that we would say yes to his offer.

- What caught you in Zoli’s different approach? How did you experience the successes you’ve achieved in a small amount of time and the opportunities and possibilities of going to international festivals, where you could introduce yourself?

- As a university student, I noticed, that we barely use our body as a form of expression, that the text-based theater is more dominant. The Hungarian language is beautiful and has lots of potential, but I have often felt, that my verbal manifestations are not in accordance with my movements and body language. I was so concentrated on the written text and how should I portray the words, that I forgot that I have a body which I can use, and by which I can oppose or support the thoughts and intentions I have. Would I be able to work without any text on stage? For some time this started to concern me. This is also the reason why the performance August, based on nonverbal acting tools, is an extraordinary gift. For instance, I do not like dancing, but during the rehearsals and the constant changes in the performances, the constrictions, that I previously had, completely disappeared. The theater festivals are extremely important because by these we have the opportunity to show the international audience and the theatrical scene where our actor training, the practical implementation of our thoughts about the theater and last but not least our individual development stands today. I believe that it is indispensable for us to see foreign acting students performances and to personally experience, by attending various workshops, what are they learning and how are they working as actors.

- In the Maladype Theater Sylvia Huszár who focuses on professional and consulting cooperation of theatre festivals at home and abroad and together with Zoli, they place great emphasis on these international possibilities, opportunities and experiences.

- Yes, Zoli and the Maladype Theatre has great international connections. Thanks to this, as acting students we were able to introduce ourselves in other countries as well, besides Romania. Sylvi is fantastic in her work, she manages to get the Theater to many international festivals as possible. After Budapest, Prague, Bratislava, Sibiu, in autumn we had the opportunity to go with our August performance to Maribor and play at the International Theater Festival.

- Have you had the chance at the festivals to see others performances beside your rehearsals?

- In Slovenia, we were able to see a performance played by acting students and we were very lucky to see at the SIBFEST (Sibiu International Theater Festival) The tree, directed by Eugenio Barba, which was absolutely brilliant! It was a great experience to see the performance of this legendary director and to experience his directness when he welcomed us. Meeting him was significant! Zoli considers that it is very important for us to see other theater companies performances.

- What is, that you also like in Zoli Balázs’s way of thinking?

- I love the way he sees and lets the world be seen. For example, he often says, that a company its worth as much as it travels. Thus, the results of a particular theater workshop will not dissolve in the daily routine of a close-knit community and by the gained experience in different theatrical cultures, the members’ ken becomes wider. I absolutely agree with him, traveling, adventure is important parts of my life. I have worked in Brighton for two summers and I have two brothers who live abroad. The time I have spent with them is deeply embedded in my personality. Also, for Zoli the creative thought is very important; this means, that we have to let our inner perceptions to be born and we have to be able to formulate them substantially, which will automatically reflect on our face.

- Have you been to theater abroad?

- Yes, with one of my brothers we have seen a performance in London, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Usually, musicals are not my cup of tea, but this performance was so enchanting that I forgot all my prejudices. It was incredible how much work was put into it and it had been brought to life amazingly, both in terms of visual technology and acting. In England, the theaters’ structure is entirely different, in many theaters they are having the same performance three times a day.

- You have graduated from the drama pedagogy department. Working with children and the acting camps have been very important parts of your life.

- In my high school years, I have been studying pedagogy, but I’ve always known, that I was more interested in acting. In the same year when I was admitted to Târgu-Mureş, I’ve submitted my application to the Faculty of Teacher Training at the Károli Gáspár University of the Reformed Church. The day I’ve been admitted to the University of Arts in Târgu-Mureş, I’ve been admitted to Károli as well. Certainly, I’ve chosen the University of Arts, where fortunately there was also a Teacher Training Department, so this way I could graduate acting and pedagogy at the same time. At the Teacher Training Department Master’s Degree we had to gain practical experience, therefore me and Gazsi (Gáspár Mesés) contacted Katalin Berekméri actress, who was at that time the leader of a theater group made of volunteers from the National Theater in Târgu-Mureş, called MaNóSzok. At first, we were initially only observers and later we took over the group. I love working with children and young people. They are extremely open-minded and very creative.

- Besides, you are also a leader in summer camps.

- Yes, when I was in primary school, every summer me, my drama teacher, Katalin Sári and my drama school friends attended a drama camp together. This has been a significant period for all of us, and to this day we all manage to find time to go together to Komjáti for a few days. After graduating from high school, Kati asked if I would like to help her in leading the camp. I was happy to accept the offer. At first, I was very nervous about whether I would be able to manage the healthy balance with the children where I am their playmate and their teacher at the same time or not. Not to mention the responsibility this task requires. However, I enjoyed my first time as a teacher in the camp and since then I’ve been going back every year to Tornabarakony, which is a tiny village in Borsod county. Here the children can run freely, there are no cars, only nature.

- What kind of tasks do you have for a particular week? What is the structure of the camp?

- We select a play that we are going to perform in from of the parents of the children at the end of the camp. Usually, we make the groups based on the campers age range. The youngest get fairy tales, the older ones, who are already in high school, can choose themselves the play they want to work with. The members of the middle school can choose between fairy tales and plays, but the most important thing is to find joy in the chosen piece. With the youngest we learn the text together, in the morning we have drama activities, after that, they have some free time, and in the afternoon we have rehearsals. They are incredibly talented. Children sincerity and playfulness fill me with joy and energy. For me, the greatest success was when during the drama games the reserved children became more open. But it also made me very happy, when I’ve seen that a 14-year-old girl started to read Szívdesszert by Varró Dani and they forgot to stay on their phones.

- Let’s get back to the FIVE GATES program. Beside the three-year contract with the Maladype Theatre, what made you accept to take part in this research program? What can you acquire and use later from this program in the drama pedagogy field?

- The most appealing to me was that I can improve and also that they are working with us individually. It also meant a lot that I can still be part of this great team which, since university, can work very well together, in which we love one another. The experimental approach that Zoli represents is rare, unique and in my opinion much needed in today’s theater. I am sure that after the acqusition of the method I will be able to use a lot of it in drama pedagogy as well. My pedagogical background will surely help me in the practical presentation of the fundamental values of the FIVE GATES concept.

- How is it going with the acquisition of the FIVE GATES processes?

- There are a lot of things happening in our lives thanks to the FIVE GATES program. We are touching upon many areas, which connections we do not yet see, but we feel that with patience and hard work we will be able to get closer to the ability to focus on intrinsic theater values. Every instructor inspires us a lot and we’ve been greatly enriched by experiences.

Soon you will be having an open day where you will provide insight into the results, accomplishments of the FIVE GATES program, you will delineate your experiences and insights so far.

Knowing Zoli, we can expect many surprises on this day... apart from presenting the specific tasks of the past five months, everything is possible.

- If you could highlight a part, that improves you the best, what would it be?

- Actually all of them. But working with the TaoMamik is one of the most exciting parts. This special course that combines elocution and Thai Chi has an effect on our concentration, manner of speaking, motion and last but not least it is a perfect self-awareness training. As a result, I see myself and my environment from a completely different perspective.

- What kind of effect do you expect from this program?

- Returning to the essence of the theater, creating links between old and new knowledge, finding effective creative solutions and making them available to the audience is no small task. Time must be allowed to the creation and to study its nature. I am sure of its positive impact, and I hope that in three years, more theater workshops will use the methodological factors of the FIVE GATES.

- We should allow time, energy and space?

- I often feel that some of the creators get stuck on the most obvious ideas. This is to the detriment of the discovery of deeper layers. As an actor, I believe it is very important that if I am working on a piece, then I am aware of all the impulses associated with it. It is also important to me to have an opinion about it, individual thoughts and understandings, and there is no problem if these do not correspond immediately with the directors’ thoughts. The main thing is to be able to confront them with awareness and genuineness for the common cause. Fantastic things can be born from a healthy debate! In my view this is an essential part of the creative process.

Hanna Szegő, Színhá, 2019

Translation by Brigitta Erőss