Posts Tagged With: Sibiu

The 20th Sibiu International Theatre Festival: The World Takes Center Stage

Our European correspondent Mari-An C. Santos immerses herself in world culture at one of Europe’s top performing arts festivals.

In 2007, Sibiu, Romania was named a European Capital of Culture. This meant that the city in the middle of the region of Transylvania came into the spotlight and under the radar of tourists. But in practical terms, it meant an influx of capital in order to improve systems and structures in anticipation of increased tourism.

These firedancers are thousands of miles away from tropical beaches but are just as intense

These firedancers are thousands of miles away from tropical beaches but are just as intense!

FITS (Festivalul International de Teatru de la Sibiu) or the Sibiu International Theatre Festival is ten days of various performances not limited to the four walls of the theater, a convergence of acrobats, brass bands, street performers, mimes, comedy-musical groups, and improv artists. Its 20th edition was held from June 7 to 16, 2013. FITS is the first festival to be held annually among the top three performing arts festivals in Europe and ranked third after Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Scotland and Festival d’Avignon in France.

It's easy to guess where these bagpipers are from

It’s easy to guess where these bagpipers are from

This year, participating groups came from several continents: Argentina, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Georgia, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Serbia, UK, and USA. The streets, concert halls, churches, parks, cafes and fortresses came alive in a vibrant, pulsating series of performances. Aside from the multilingual theater, dance, music, circus, and street shows, there were also complementary activities like art exhibits, film screenings, conferences, seminars, workshops, book launches, and fora.

“The Tragedian,” a three-part four-hour one-man show about British thespian Edmund Kean, one of the most talented Shakesperean actors of all time, may look scary on paper, but the concept and execution itself were engaging. With a big box and dressed in a coat, the solitary actor walked into the dark hall singing…and as his face was revealed by the spotlight, we were all sucked into this story tracing Kean’s life from childhood til death. The actor not only used different accents to differentiate each character but used his entire body to bring to life each distinct person. Between acts, I would be surprised as I checked my watch to find that an hour had already flown by.

All you really need is one man and a trunk of props

All you really need is one man and a trunk of props

“Hot Dog,” a German modern dance tribute to Andy Warhol is also a condemnation of our market-driven, commercialized society. However, more telling is how it makes one think and rethink just how pervasive is advertising and consumerism in our daily lives.

The multi-awarded Romanian production of “Faust” sent shivers up my spine. With a large cast, it was an inspired version of the classic struggle of man between good and evil and, ultimately, free will. The actors as well as the stage design and direction were astounding. It was like being transported to hell!

The truly ingenious “A Streetcar Named Popescu” was also a Romanian production but performed in Romanian, English, German, and French—all at the same time, and inside a running tram. It dramatized the life of poet Cristian Popescu with limited space, an ensemble of expressive actors, and beautiful verses.

The very strong and serious Polish examination of history and how it weighs down on present society was portrayed in “A Piece on Mother and the Fatherland.” In it, the bruised Polish psyche was revealed through references to modern movies and verses.

The hilarious British puppet improv “The Table” employed one cardboard-box-and-cloth puppet and three puppeteers. And a very big table. I wonder, is the Philippines ready to welcome improv that does not involve embarrassing or humiliating people in the audience or public figures?

A Caribbean parade is always colorful

A Caribbean parade is always full of color

From classics by Chekhov and Shakespeare to contemporary tributes to Andy Warhol and adaptation of Antoine de St. Exupery’s classic novel…From Renaissance music to contemporary chorale… From Scottish bagpipe bands and Belgian performers on stilts to Caribbean ethnic performances that reminded me of our very own Ati-Atihan…the Sibiu International Theatre Festival made the performing arts more accessible to the public—not only to Romanians, but to a multitude of tourists.

As if this hubbub of activity was not enough, there were also the Sibiu Book Festival that gathered voracious readers, talented writers, and enthusiastic publishers as well as the Sibiu Performing Arts Open Market that was an accessible venue for performance arts groups to market their latest works to interested members of the public.

Catching some summer sun in one of the outdoor performances

Catching some summer sun in one of the outdoor performances

How was all of this achieved, you ask? With a lot of logistics and many volunteers, plus the concerted effort of private organizations, businesses, and the government. All of the performances were in the native language of the performing group, all of them used Romanian supertitles (think film subtitles, but flashed above the stage instead) and quite a number of them were translated into English. However, the beauty of art is that it transcends languages…and this was proven well during this festival. Maybe next year, a Philippine group will be a part of it.

Curious about Sibiu? Read more about the cultural heritage and attractions of this Romanian City here.  

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Sibiu: A Cultured City

Take a trip back in time

Take a trip back in time at the Transylvanian Fortresses Medieval Festival

Journey to Sibiu, Romania, with our correspondent Mari-An C. Santos, and soak in the culture of her second hometown in Transylvania – with Count Dracula safely out of sight.

Sibiu was declared European Capital of Culture in 2007. Every year, since 1985, the European Union awards this distinction to one or more cities to highlight its cultural and historical significance. Consequently, these cities have experienced economic gains from increased tourism. A former German enclave founded in the 12th century and named Hermannstadt, Sibiu is in the middle of the region of Transylvania and at the heart of Romania. A small city at 121 sq kms, it pulsates with life throughout the year. On any given week, in fact, you can enjoy at least one cultural performance. It never gets boring, as long as you know where to look!

Recreation Destinations

In such a small area, there are several museums. The best among them is the Brukenthal Museum, housed in the former Palace of Samuel von Brukenthal, former governor of Hermannstadt during the reign of the Habsburgs. The oldest museum in Romania, it houses a rich collection of Romanian and European art from the 16th to the 18th century, including Jan van Eyck’s Man in a Blue Cap.

The History Museum has an admirable Transylvanian gothic architecture as it used to be the Old City Hall. It has an extensive collection of stone pieces dating back all the way to the Neolithic age that were excavated from all over the region. The Saxon Ethnographic Museum has a collection of material culture that helps people understand better the beginnings and life of Transylvanian Saxons. There are also museums of natural history, pharmacy, steam engine, and hunting weapons.

Traditional building at the ASTRA Museum

Traditional building at the ASTRA Museum of Traditional Folk Civilization

The 250-acre ASTRA Museum of Traditional Folk Civilization showcases houses and windmills, wine and fruit presses, and other such mechanisms as well as wooden churches throughout history from different parts of the country. Here, you can visualize village life. There is also a lake where boats may be rented and a stage on its banks where shows are sometimes held. It is the second biggest open-air museum in the world.

Sala Thalia is home to the State Philharmonic that performs every Thursday night. During special events and festivals, there are more performances. The Radu Stanca National Theatre hosts several plays monthly throughout the year, some in Romanian and some in German. The Sibiu Ballet Theatre Company, composed of ballerinas from America, Europe, and Asia, stages many different classic and contemporary performances throughout the ballet season. Gong Theatre stages innovative puppet and mime performances geared toward children but still very enjoyable for adults—or children at heart. They stage these in Romanian, German, and sometimes, English.

Places like the Habitus Bookshop, ASTRA Film Center, and Casa de Cultura Sindicatelor host film screenings every week. I was even surprised when I saw Poziția Copilului (Child’s Pose), Romania’s Golden Bear winner there, because after the screening, the film’s lead characters came into the venue for a Q&A!

All the world's a stage when festival season comes to Sibiu

All the world’s a stage when festival season comes to Sibiu

Festival Seasons

Aside from these regular or semi-regular entertainment options, there are many annual festivals that make the city come alive! Respiră. Teatru. is an innovation as, for 25 hours in March, there are non-stop performances in different venues. This is in celebration of World Theatre Day. The Sibiu Jazz Festival gathers musicians from various European countries and is held every May.

Huet Square, the oldest settlement in Sibiu, is transported back to the old market days with the Huet.Urban festival. Different vendors and organizations display their wares or their crafts. It is also turned into a green space with beautiful landscaping. The Sibiu International Theatre Festival invades not only theatres but cafes, streets, churches, and parks of Sibiu for 10 days in June. This year, there were groups not only from Europe but also the Carribean, Mexico, Argentina, Japan, and South Korea.

Get ready for cultural experiences beyond the ordinary!

Get ready for cultural experiences beyond the ordinary!

The TIFF (Transylvania International Film Festival) that makes the rounds of the region, is held here in mid-June. The Romanian-American Music Days culminate on the 4th of July. The ARTmania International Rock Festival attracts music fans in August.

Knights and ladies walk the cobbled streets for the entire month of August during the Transylvanian Fortresses Medieval Festival. Here, you’ll hear the traditional music and watch accompanying dances, as well as see jousts and different laborers showcase their work.

The ASTRA Film Festival International Festival of Documentary Film and Visual Anthropology in October is a week-long feast of thoughts and ideas from all over the world. Of course, the unmistakable and iconic Main Square is transformed by the Christmas Fair and market that happens for the entire month of December. Highlights are the big Christmas tree and the mid-sized ice skating rink.

Over and above are summer and winter sports events, different market showcases, bike tours, fairs, and innumerable activities. Not to mention, its proximity to other tourist attractions like Medias, Biertan, Cisnadie, Cisnadioara, Paltinis, Transfagarasan Highway, and Transalpina Road. This is why Sibiu is a good, strategic place to have as a home base.

Read more about Mari-An’s life in Sibiu here.

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