Silviu Scrob Electric Castle New Media 2019

Silviu Scrob’s Stories: From the Pope’s Visit to Theater and Jazz Festivals, Eurovision, and the Golden Stag

razvan

November 18, 2020

[Article published on IQads]

How did you get into this field? What were the stages that brought you here? 

The interest in the field of technical production in the performing arts developed over time. The first contacts with this environment, that of stage technology, occurred in primary school. Starting from the first grade, I took guitar lessons and participated in various shows and celebrations. Hobbies and activities during adolescence revolved around music. I had a group of friends with whom we “studied” different instruments and played music. For a broader understanding of the context, it’s worth mentioning that we’re talking about Cisnădia in the years ’96 – 2000, where Borco still the Rock DJ at the Rockoteca, where factories and businesses in collapse put an entire generation of parents out of work, where young people sought to leave the country (mostly to Germany), where there was a palpable atmosphere of paradise in decay, and where a few teenagers, united by a passion for rock, formed bands, a rehearsal space in a basement under the City House of Culture, a few songs, and some performances. That’s how I came into contact with the universe of technical production – mixers, speakers, instrument amplifiers, microphones, cables etc. During high school, which I attended in Vâlcea (Silviu – Silviculture – Transylvania … clear enough, right?), I dedicated my time to artistic nuclei that I couldn’t keep up with otherwise. I think that was the period when I began to pay more attention to equipment and technical aspects. I had certainly become interested. In 2001, I found myself volunteering at the Sibiu International Theater Festival (FITS) for the shows played in the Fortress of Cisnădioara. All the experiences during the ten days of the festival reaffirmed my interest, and perhaps a bit more, in the field of the performing arts.

After the festival, I met a man who, I believe, changed my destiny. Udo Schlüter was a cameraman who came from Germany to film the Sibiu Theater Festival. It was a coincidence that we met after the festival, and a quality of his was that he saw something in me. That something prompted him to offer me the opportunity to study technical production as part of programs implemented by various German companies. At the end of 2001, I was in Germany studying technical production for the first time. After this experience, which changed my professional course, it became increasingly clear to me that this is what I wanted to pursue. In the following years, I continued to volunteer for FITS and participate in similar production studies programs in Germany. In 2003, after FITS ended, I went to Ireland at the invitation and under the care of John Fairleigh (director of the Irish-Romanian Cultural Foundation, president of the Stewart Parker Trust). In the three months spent there, with the support of John and his friends, I was involved in the cultural life of Ireland. I fondly recall a three-week tour of Ireland and Northern Ireland with the play ‘Rum and Raisin,’ together with director Alice Barry and scenographer Steve Neale, volunteering and working for the Dublin Fringe Festival under the guidance of Vallejo Gantner, having the chance to see a performance (‘The Far Side of the Moon’) by one of the prominent figures in technical innovation in the performing arts – Robert Lepage. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pk9psJJrG2c&ab_channel=ChrisBraden). One of my tasks during the Dublin Fringe Festival was to take care of international guests, including Constantin Chiriac (director of the National Theater ‘Radu Stanca’ in Sibiu and the Sibiu International Theater Festival). This gave us the opportunity to spend more time together, learn about each other, and lay the foundations for a long collaboration. Back home, I started collaborating with the National Theater in Sibiu and FITS. Initially, I was involved in both the technical production of the theater’s shows and the festival.

As the festival grew and the requirements of invited shows became more complex, my involvement in the theater’s show production diminished, eventually focusing exclusively on FITS production. That’s how I started working in this field.

What were the first projects, do you remember? Where was the first job?

The first projects I was involved in took place in Germany. The company hosting the school programme practically engaged us for 3-4 days a week. There were concerts, conferences, installations and setups within the booths where various companies presented themselves at fairs, fixed installations for offices and conference rooms, etc. But my first job in this field was at the National Theater ‘Radu Stanca’ in Sibiu and the Sibiu International Theater Festival. This was followed by Sibiu 2007 European Capital of Culture where I was Technical Director. After that, I started my own company, and around 2012, I began collaborating with Set Up, a technical production company in Sibiu. Since then, we’ve maintained this ongoing collaboration, and sometimes, when time allows, I get involved in other projects.

How and where do you learn in this field? What have been the most important lessons so far in your work? What were the challenges? 

Starting in 2004, I attended the courses at Lucian Blaga University in Sibiu, Faculty of Letters and Arts, where I obtained my bachelor’s degree in Theater Studies – Cultural Management. I also earned a master’s degree in the Theory and Practice of Management in Cultural Institutions and Events, and now I am about to defend my doctoral thesis in the field of Theater and Performing Arts, with a focus on Technical Production Management in the Performing Arts. Throughout this time, I have learned new things about this field. So, I could say that a good place for learning is within institutionalized education. Of course, it would be nice and healthy to have a more comprehensive and diversified institutionalized study program in this field. I believe our field would look different if it received more substantial support from the education system. Ultimately, I think the purpose of technical production is to support performances in reaching their maximum potential, which, in the end, will reflect in the quality of the cultural act. The field of technical production in the performing arts is vast, and knowledge accumulates over time. Understanding the fundamental concepts and principles underlying the creation and presentation of performances, fundamental principles governing the operation of the means and resources involved in technical productions, specialized terminology, equipment, means, and resources on which technical productions rely, new technologies, relevant practices in the field, legislation and regulations in the field, creative enterprises, organizers, suppliers of goods and services, independent workers operating in the performing arts – all these constitute the minimum knowledge base that individuals working in technical production in the performing arts must acquire and continuously improve. Some of this knowledge comes from professional experiences. In addition to these, I believe that technical production is a field where theoretical learning is very important. You continuously acquire and refresh this knowledge through studies, readings, courses, seminars, training sessions, and other methods of theoretical learning. For those working in technical production, it is essential to have a broad and in-depth knowledge of the field in which they operate. As in other fields, if you feel that this is your calling, if you have found your vocation, learning is a natural and continuous process.

Involvement in theater productions has helped me learn and become familiar with the specialized concepts and terminology in this field. Being part of the creation process of a show is an experience in itself. It is important to realize that at the core of the cultural act, around which our field revolves, is creation. Technical production plays the role of supporting creation through its resources and means. It establishes itself as the environment of creation, facilitating the realization and providing the necessary framework for the unfolding of performances. All activities and challenges during the creation process invite you to learn and generate knowledge. I believe it is essential for those working in this field to go through experiences in the creation of shows. There, you encounter fundamental themes and questions.

Professional development has put me in a position to interact with international companies and their requirements. It revealed a new universe, one that unveiled the technical dimension of other shows and challenged me to find and ensure the resources needed to host them. The technical riders received from foreign companies daily challenged me to readings aimed at clarifying various specialized concepts and terms that had different meanings and uses depending on the country and language. I remember that one of the first books that helped me decipher the specific requirements encountered in the hundreds of technical riders received for the festival was a dictionary of terms called ‘New Theatre Words’ (https://theatrewords.com/). The internet was still scarce at that time, and the first books in the field I ordered with the help of friends with addresses in Bucharest (Amazon had started delivering to Romania, but only to addresses in Bucharest). In addition to the specific shortcomings of a young person at the beginning of the road in this field and the lack of solid and extensively tested experience, the challenges I faced were also systemic in nature. I was confronted with a lack of cultural infrastructure capable of meeting the requirements of invited companies. I remember the frustrations experienced when the demand (from invited companies) did not meet the supply (local possibilities). It was dreadful to watch wonderful shows only to realize that we lacked the necessary cultural infrastructure to host them. We tried to compensate for this lack by finding and transforming unconventional spaces into theaters—equipping them with stage technology and seating for the audience.

I’ll digress a bit to share that I found amusement and sadness alike while reading about the history of the stage space in a recently acquired book (Macgowan Kenneth & Melnitz William: The Living Stage. A History of the World Theatre), where a few excuses for France’s theatrical delay in the early Renaissance were listed. The first excuse cited was the wars, and the second was the monopoly of monarchs and municipalities over companies with the right to conduct theatrical activities. Only at the end of the 16th century did an edict legalize theatrical performances, initially at fairs and later in other circumstances, including covered tennis courts. In these considerable-sized covered spaces, a stage was set up at one end, and the rest of the space was used for the audience. Such spaces were used by various touring companies, and some were transformed into permanent venues for some of France’s earliest theater companies (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Th%C3%A9%C3%A2tre_du_Marais). Reading these pages, I couldn’t help but be amused at the thought that the experiences I’ve been through are somewhat similar to those contexts, even though we are at the beginning of the 21st century, four centuries apart. The local context reveals that the Gong Theater in Sibiu operates in a former sports hall built in the interwar period for the Evangelical Gymnasium; the National Theater “Radu Stanca” Sibiu is housed in the former building of the Apollo cinema, inaugurated in 1937, and the first theater on the current territory of Romania is in a space that was part of the city’s defense fortifications – Turnul Gros (built in the 16th century), the current Thalia Hall. This space was taken over by Martin Hochmeister, who between 1787 and 1788 transformed the interior of Turnul Gros and set up a municipal theater there. Perhaps the biggest challenge was compensating for the lack of cultural infrastructure. It was an enormous work and energy investment to discover and transform spaces so that we could create and host shows and events, ultimately bringing the status of a cultural city to Sibiu. Looking at my personal archive, I find that in 2003, at the beginning of my cultural life in the city through FITS, 14 spaces were used to host performances. By 2007, we managed to transform and use 34 spaces just for hosting FITS performances and as many for events in the cultural capital program.

All of these have been challenges and experiences that have produced knowledge, and from which we have learned many things. We still face continuous challenges regarding the cultural infrastructure throughout the country.

What were the most interesting projects you worked on? How was the experience? What stories are you left with?

Among the most interesting projects I have worked on are:

Sibiu International Theatre Festival (FITS): I started and grew alongside this festival. In terms of complexity and intrinsic artistic value, it was the most significant project at that time. 

Sibiu European Capital of Culture 2007: It was the most extensive project I have been involved in, holding positions such as technical director, production manager, and technical coordinator. I still have a summary that includes 2042 events in that year, and I’m not sure if those were all.

ArtMania Festival (since 2006): A festival whose journey I followed from the first edition. It was an opportunity for professional growth and maturation in the field of music festivals.

Summer Well Festival (since 2016): I started collaborating with the edition featuring Chemical Brothers, establishing a solid relationship and good chemistry with the organizing team.

Electric Castle (since 2017): I was involved in laying the foundations for what became New Media Castle, a distinct section of the festival that includes installations and artistic products based on new technologies, providing participants with a unique experience.

Pope Francis’s Visit to Blaj: A special experience due to the scale and importance of the event, with Pope Francis officiating the Holy Mass in front of over 100,000 people on the Liberty Field in Blaj.

Over the years, I have been involved in various projects, shows, festivals, and events, either in the field of technical production or project management: Eurovision, Golden Stag, Media Music Awards, MTV DJ Awards, EU Summit in Sibiu, Sibiu 100 – Centenary of Greater Romania, TIFF, Gopo Awards Gala, UNITER Awards Gala, Huet. Urban, VAMA – Better show, Awake Festival, Focus in the Park, etc.

Mozaic Jazz Festival is my passion project that I initiated and organized starting in 2014. Unfortunately, the festival has been on hiatus since 2018. In 2015, two weeks after the Colectiv tragedy, I was on stage during soundcheck with the Ambrose Akinmusire Quartet when representatives of the Sibiu Emergency Situations Inspectorate (ISU Sibiu) evacuated us from the venue and sealed the House of Trade Unions in Sibiu with a lead seal. It’s worth noting that ISU Sibiu’s reaction was exaggerated, as they suddenly found themselves with a power they didn’t know how to handle, so they applied it arbitrarily. This venue was the only one closed, despite other spaces in Sibiu operating without fire safety approval. The venue was reopened only in 2018. I’ll digress here to mention that it was an excessive reaction on the part of ISU Sibiu, who, overnight, found themselves with a power they didn’t know how to handle. So, they applied it arbitrarily. Testimony to this fact is that, of all the spaces in Sibiu operating without fire safety approval, this was the only one closed. The space had to be evacuated within an hour, and we had about two trucks of technical equipment and a grand piano. There was no cargo lift, and we were only a handful of people. I had never been in such a situation before. I stepped outside for a moment to clear my thoughts and try to come up with a rescue plan. Everything had to be disassembled quickly, and the hall had to be evacuated. Meanwhile, I had to find another space to move the concerts to. I had to reassemble a minimum of technical equipment to present the concerts in good conditions and inform the audience. I assigned a few colleagues to disassemble and evacuate the space while obtaining the support of Adrian Tibu and his team, who managed to free up the ground floor hall of the Gong Theatre. We had managed to move everything in time, retune the piano, and do soundchecks with both bands from the program. During this time, we were looking for a larger hall for the concerts the next day. I was to have Jagga Jazzist and Tigran Hamasian Trio on stage, and the stage and hall of the Gong Theatre were inadequate, too small. In the end, we obtained the agreement of the Thalia Hall and managed to enjoy the concerts of that evening as well. I got home after midnight and flopped on the couch to distract my neurons with some TV zapping. As I was zapping through programs I saw a news about terrorist attacks in France (Bataclan and Stade de France). It didn’t take long for me to connect it with the fact that the next morning, Tigran Hamasian was supposed to fly from Paris to Sibiu. It was late at night, and I was talking on the phone with Tigran’s manager. That night, the French state declared a state of emergency, the president announced the complete closure of borders, the airport in Paris was militarized, and Tigran couldn’t make it to Mozaic Jazz Festival the next morning. Here’s a story that stayed with me. It was at least a challenging day, but one that I managed to get through with involvement and self-imposed calm. I noted in my memory never to try to bring artists on the day of the show in Romania. It’s too much of a risk.

How has this field evolved in Romania? What are the positive aspects, and what is lacking?

The cultural industry in Romania has undergone significant development in the last 10-15 years, and I have actively witnessed this evolution. Recently, there have been studies, analyses, and research conducted by the National Institute for Cultural Research and Training (INCFC) – https://www.culturadata.ro/publicatii/. With the growth of cultural and creative sectors, the field of technical production in the performing arts has also expanded. When I first encountered this field in Romania in 2003, there were only a few technical production companies, but currently, almost every city has at least one such firm, and there are several large companies nationwide. These companies continue to grow alongside the cultural sector.

Reflecting on the past, for the opening show of the European Capital of Culture in Sibiu 2007, the French company Groupe F requested two Lancelot follow-spot (HTI lamp, 4000 W). It didn’t take long to find out that this didn’t exist in Romania. At that time, I thought the very existence of such a piece of equipment in Romania could be an indicator of the development of the technical production domain. Who would invest in a €20,000 follow-spot without having demands justifying the investment? I believe we still don’t have such a follow-spot in Romania, or maybe there is, and I’m not aware of it.

In terms of equipment and services, we are trying to keep up with the development of the cultural sector. Still, when it comes to cultural infrastructure, we seem to have fallen behind. I don’t know of any significant cultural infrastructure projects implemented after the revolution. These infrastructure projects are very challenging due to their complexity, both in architectural structure and equipment, utilities, and functions. I’m not sure if it’s the complexity of these aspects that scares authorities, or if it’s the lack of funds or the capacity to manage such projects, but it’s certain that we haven’t seen any such projects materialized yet.

I have to say that in Sibiu, there is a serious initiative by the Municipality of Sibiu to build a cultural complex. This project is currently in the pre-feasibility stage, under the care of an internationally renowned firm for designing and developing cultural infrastructure projects – ARUP. https://www.arup.com/expertise/industry/arts-and-culture. The aim is for this space to have a functional built area of about 15,000 square meters, incorporating both the halls and spaces that will become the new headquarters of the National Theatre of Sibiu, as well as a series of independent halls and spaces for hosting performances, exhibitions, conferences, and other events. It’s encouraging to see this initiative, and I am closely following the project’s realization. I have also participated in several consultative working sessions and look forward to seeing the vision document for the space.

I believe we also lack a bit more involvement and support from the institutionalized education sector. We cannot keep up with the cultural development and artistic expression means without supporting the training of technicians involved in finding and implementing the technical solutions needed for the performing arts.

How did a typical workday look like before the pandemic?

A typical workday involved desk work, emails, phone calls, technical specifications analysis, budgeting, planning, sketches, meetings, discussions, travels, event implementations, etc. I was frequently away from home.

How has it been lately? What are the signs of recovery? What pandemic stories have you heard around you?

It’s somewhat coincidental that at the beginning of the year, I retreated home to complete my doctoral thesis. I did that from the start of the year until October. This year, I only worked on the Gopo Awards Gala in Bucharest and the Uniter Awards in Craiova. Otherwise, I read extensively and finished writing my doctoral thesis.

As for signs of recovery, I am yet to see them. Unfortunately, I think we still have to wait to witness real signs of recovery. A positive development during the pandemic is that we finally managed to establish what is called A.L.I.S – the Association of Workers in the Performing Arts Industry. It’s something we’ve wanted for a long time, but we never had the time.

How did you financially support yourself in recent months, and how will you do so in the coming months?

I had some financial reserves, which are now running out. After completing my doctoral studies, I will likely look for work. In the current situation, I am not sure if I’ll find something in my field of expertise, so I don’t exclude the possibility of a temporary or even a permanent change in my profession. It’s still early to estimate when we will resume our activities and what our industry will look like at the end of the pandemic. I am optimistic, and I believe we will recover at some point. Let’s see what we’ll do until then.

What are your expectations for 2021?

I would like to see a comeback in the cultural industry in 2021, but given the behavior of this virus, I am rather reserved in my optimism. A saying comes to mind, although I’m not sure whose it is, that if you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans for the future. So, my expectations for 2021 are more oriented towards the desire to be able to adapt to whatever comes.

 

Citeşte şi

Sibiu and Cultural Infrastructure: A Destiny Being Written Now

Sibiu and Cultural Infrastructure: A Destiny Being Written Now

From June 18 to 20, 2020, the third edition of the "Therme Forum: Theatre and Architecture" event took place as part of the Sibiu International Theatre Festival (FITS), in partnership with ARUP and Therme Group. This year's edition, held under the theme "The Power to...

No Results Found

The page you requested could not be found. Try refining your search, or use the navigation above to locate the post.

Follow

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *