MAD FOREST at the Center for Performance Experiment
Caryl Churchill's powerful drama about the 1989 Romanian Revolution appears at the Center for Performance Experiment February 21-27.
The UofSC Dept. of Theatre and Dance
A Play From Romania
by Caryl Churchill
Directed by Eric Bultman
February 21-27, 2016
Center for Performance Experiment
718 Devine St.
(near the Colonial Life Arena)
February 21-25: 8pm
February 26: 7pm & 10pm
February 27: 8pm
$5, available only at the door
Award-winning playwright Caryl Churchill’s affecting drama shines a light on the lives of two families living through the 1989 Romanian Revolution, an uprising which resulted in the toppling of the country’s oppressive Communist regime. Based on research conducted in Romania just months after the revolution, Churchill’s powerful script explores the reactions of ordinary people to the revolt’s confused events, revealing the dreadful damage done to people’s lives by repression and the painful difficulties of lasting change. “[Mad Forest] seems to seep beyond its specific events and setting to illuminate a broader nightmare of social collapse.” — The New York Times. “An act of moral commitment as well as theatrical virtuosity.” — London Sunday Times.
Director Eric Bultman says that even before he’d read it, he appreciated the play because of its origin as a collaborative research piece between Churchill and students from the Central School of Speech and Drama in London. Churchill and the ten students travelled to Romania in March, 1990 to conduct interviews with people who witnessed the revolution firsthand; the finished play premiered in London in June of that same year. “I like any project that encourages the development of a play through collaboration between students and established artists,” says Bultman, an alum of the University’s MFA in Acting program. “And pieces built around an actual event are especially interesting.”
That spirit of research has spilled over into this production, as well, as the director and student actors have immersed themselves in learning the history of the revolution. “We don’t play the revolution itself,” he explains, “but while Churchill gives us a lot of information to build the characters, their given circumstances are quite rich. The play really challenges us to research the event.”
“What’s interesting is that I know quite a few Romanians here in Sumter,” says Bultman, who serves as the Executive Director of the Sumter Little Theatre. “I know quite a few people who were there in December, 1989. I worked for several years with a Romanian actor, Cristian Badiu, at Sumter Little Theatre. He was 14 years old in 1989 and, while he was living north of Bucharest in Transylvania at the time, he has very clear memories of the event. We had a ‘FaceTime’ session with him…[and] all had the chance to ask questions. That's been a big help.” Bultman says that University theatre professor Nic Ularu, another Romanian native, has also been of great assistance, helping the cast learn the necessary bits of Romanian language present in the play.
Appearing in the production are second-year graduate acting students Nicole Dietze, Josh Jeffers, Rachel Kuhnle and Candace Thomas, and undergraduates Megh Ahire, Jack Borden, Sam Edelson, Ely Graham, Sofia Pavone, John Romanski and Haley Sprankle. Costume design for the production is by Vera Katherine Dubose, an alumna of the MFA Costume Design program.
“The Ceausescus' cult of personality was shocking,” says Bultman of Romania’s deposed Communist leader, Nicolae Ceausescu, and his wife, Elena. “They were evil people. I can’t be kind about it.” Churchill’s dramatization of the tumultuous time, Bultman says, gives audiences a chance to “learn about the effect that the regime had on normal people: husbands, wives, fathers, mothers and children. People who fall in love, and sometimes have to face the consequences. People with wants and needs and people who made choices that had repercussions. It tells a brief story of the humanity of the Romanian people.”
For more information about Mad Forest or the theatre program at the University of South Carolina, contact Kevin Bush by phone at 803-777-9353 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.