On writing, The Ivy Door
Maria Manolescu Borsa describes her approach to writing the play.
“It`s hard to write about real people, and it`s even harder when you don`t have the chance to discuss with them the result, when they are not alive anymore and when they were very special people. Gellu Nam was such a sensitive man, he worked so much to protect his very simple and pure existence, and he was such a cultivated and gifted man, that I decided to consider myself his very humble disciple. This was my approach: more than a play, I tried to wrote a spiritual exercise through which I hoped to understand Gellu Naum and to try to practice, at least for a bit, his way of understanding the reality and especially the surreality.”
What inspired her about the Gella Naum?
“His fascinating, deep and pure life-long love for his wife. A spiritual love which fuelled his art as well as his views of this world and the other one. There aren`t many people, especially artists, who can inspire us in such way that complete love is possible, that love can be happy, can fulfil even the deepest desires of our souls and can last for a lifetime. I think we need this message and it`s worth spreading.”
How was she inspired by the poet’s house?
“My husband, who joined me when I visited the house, had a very beautiful and intense dream in which we were trying to buy a house very similar with Naum`s. But this was my husband`s dream. I had to work a little bit harder than him, and write a play, so I hope that`s where you`ll find the complete answer to this question.”
Maria Manolescu, playwright and fiction writer was born in Brasov, Romania, 14th October 1980. She has a Masters in Playwriting from U.N.A.T.C. (National University of Theatre and Film, Bucharest, Romania) and works in advertising. She is the mother of a gorgeous 2 year old boy.
Maria’s publishing debut was: The Weightlifter from Vitan a novel published by Polirom in 2006. Her second novel was published in 2010 – Like Drops of Blood on the Elevator Floor, by Curtea Veche.
She has won the dramAcum prize (the Romanian award for best new playwright) in 2007 with the plays With a little help from my friends (directed by Radu Apostol at the National Theatre of Iasi, Romania, 2007) and Sado-Maso Blues Bar (directed by Gianina Carbunariu at The Very Small Theatre, Bucharest, 2007).
In 2007, Maria attended the International Residency for Emerging Playwrights at the Royal Court Theatre, where she developed the play I’m Not Jesus Christ. (produced by Papercut Theatre, directed by Melissa Dunne, Theatre N16, London, 2016). Other plays include: Re:Re:Re:Hamlet (inspired by two Romanian blogs, a participating production at the Blog the Theatre Festival in Graz, Austria, 2008) and Love Thyself, a play about the homeless people of Bucharest (The Very Small Theatre, Bucharest, 2010). She took part of the site specific project Green Hours! created by Andreea Valean and Peca Stefan (2013).
Maria’s latest play, Slaves, talks about modern slavery and the (often hypocritical) role of the artist in dealing with hot social issues.
Some of her plays have been translated and presented in public readings in Turkish, Serbian, English and French.
Gellu Naum, was a Romanian poet, novelist and children’s writer. He is also known as the founder of the Romanian Surrealist group. His most well known novel, Zenobia, 1985, was written with his wife, Lyggia Naum as the main inspiration and lead character.
Born in Bucharest, as a young adult he left for Paris to study, taking his PhD diploma at the University of Paris and writing his thesis on the philosopher Pierre Abelard. In 1936, he met Victor Brauner who introduced him to Andre Breton and the Surrealist circle in Paris. In 1941, Naum went on to help create a group known as the Bucharest group of surrealists, with Gherasim Luca, Paul Paun, Dolfi Trost, among others.
As WWII broke out, Naum was drafted into the Romanian army and the Surrealists group was overcome by the fall out of the Soviet take over of Romania in 1947. As Socialist Realism became official cultural policy in Romania, Naum could only publish children’s books, but he never stopped writing Surrealist poems, such as the 1958 poem composed of several parts Heraclitus (published in the 1968 volume Athanor) or the esoteric manuscript The Way of the Snake, written in 1948–1949 and published after his death, in 2002. In later life he worked as a translator for Samuel Beckett amongst others, and resumed his literary career in 1968.
Gellu Naum, recognised as one of the foremost Romanian Surrealists, moved to the village of Comana, spending most of his final years in a charming summer house there. Comana is situated in a commune of the same name, approximately 20 miles south of Bucharest. The area also boasts the delightful Comana Nature Park.
The house is now a memorial to Naum and has been left exactly as it was when he resided there. Apple trees are scattered across the yard, and the entrance is guarded by carved cats heads; Inside this unique house, the rooms are filled with traditional woven rugs and wooden furniture. Many cultural events have been held there, including talks by Tanti Marioara, who shared some personal memories and stories about the celebrated poet’s life.
Gellu enjoyed retreating to the summer house, into a ‘universe of his own creation’, isolating himself from the external social and political context of the period. He is known not only for his links with the Surrealist movement, but also as a prominent poet, dramatist, novelist, children’s writer and a translator. Although Socialist Realism had become Romania’s official cultural policy, he never stopped writing Surrealist poems, many of which were published years after he composed them.
The house at the Comana becomes the scene of a new play by Maria Manolescu, ‘The Ivy Door’. The play has been adapted for performance by GoodDog Theatre Company.
As communism takes hold in Bucharest, the Romanian Surrealist movement – spearheaded by Gellu Naum, scatters across the continent. Rather than leave his country, Naum retreats to a village near the capital; and then to Denmark, where he gives birth to a penguin called Apolodor (at least in this new mini-play by Maria Manolescu!).
Maria’s play is inspired by Naum’s most famous children’s character – Apolodor the penguin – and explores the personal contexts that may have led to his creation. It is a story of the extraordinary commitment of a national poet who was banned from writing for adults for more than two decades under the rules of the Soviet State.
Where else could you expect to see a play featuring a penguin, a man in lace and a story about love in the times of the Cold War?
Come along to King’s Place (London) on September 19th to see the first ever production of ‘Poetry House Live’ (curated by the Rimbaud and Verlaine Foundation; directed, adapted and performed by GoodDog Theatre Company).