I got sown in the right ground, the seedhas sprouted - interview with Brigitta Erőss

Zoltán Balázs has commenced in autumn of 2018 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 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 members of the Maladype Company, we are now talking with Brigitta Erőss, one of the researchers of the FIVE GATES program.

You have been working with Zoltán Balázs for almost two years. As a graduate actor at the University of Arts from Târgu-Mureș, how was working with him different from being an actual member of the Maladype Theatre’s Company?

I’ve first met Zoli in the second year of master’s degrees, when he directed for us the non-verbal performance, August, based on the short stories of Bruno Schulz, which has since had its national and international success. Meeting Zoli was special, I’ve identified myself in his inexhaustible energy and attention, and thus, my abilities which were barely used or acknowledged before could finally show up. Working with him was as intense as if several university years had been condensed into a single month. I’ve learned a lot from him and I became aware of how many things are not in my possession, how many things I don’t know. Everything he told or brought to our attention at that time –not knowing that we would all be members of this company in less than a year- it made sense now. Zoli is still determined and patient, the work with him is still intense, each rehearsal and performance is a fantastic adventure, but I feel the real change in me. I have always imagined my talent as a seed which if it falls into poor soil, won’t grow. Now I feel that two years ago I got sown in the right ground, the seed has sprouted and maybe at the right moment, it will grow and bloom.

After the local and international success of August, the theater’s latest performance, Yvonne’s similarly positive feedback seems to justify the collective work and investing. What do you think, have all these human and professional investments paid off for you?

Absolutely. Zoli has repeatedly told us that we need to invest in ourselves because that is the only way for the professional profit in the long run. Our performance Yvonne is the best example of this. I am sure that the success of the premiere required the grounding of the theatrical awareness that we have been continuously doing as researchers in the FIVE GATES theatrical-methodology program for the last two years.

Due to the director’s concept, you inaugurate a new partner as Yvonne every evening. You, the actors representing the royal court, have to take into consideration a lot of unexpected and risky impulses from performance to performance. What extra challenges does this kind of presence have for an actor?

“Initiating” Yvonne is not an ordinary task. I have never been part of an adventure like this before. This is like a blind date that lasts from 7 pm till 9 pm, without prejudices or expectations. Our playfulness is driven by the recognition of unexpected situations and curiosity towards each other. Yvonne’s personality is as much a surprise to us as we are to her. Our meeting can be fortunate, risky, or dangerous, and it can all turn for the better or the worse. This waywardness is very exciting. As an actor, we have to follow the pattern precisely, but our attention during the performance extends not only to our concentration but also to stay mentally fresh, open, and flexible throughout. This game is extremely risky but full of unexpected impulses, which have been rarely seen in other performances. It is important for us not to frighten the “chosen one” but to integrate her unnoticed into Gombrowicz’s story.

In Gombrowicz’s play, there is no character under the name Kamarill (Chamberlain). More precisely not in this form: it can be found in the form of two different men and with different names. How was this mercurial-bodied, punk-minded “fusion female figure” born?

Zoli wanted us to make our cast based on the characters from the original play, but he also gave us the freedom to leave out or merge certain characters. Listening to our ideas, he also outlined his version, which revealed that Simon, the friend of the Prince, and the Chamberlain, the confidant of the King, would be embodied by one person. My idea was the same as Zoli’s. I thought that it would be an exciting challenge for me to have a dual-task based on my hidden abilities. He believed in me and with the help of his direction I managed to show my humor as Kamarill (Chamberlain), I could make good use of my movement culture and I could apply my way of thinking in this “fusion female figure”. The relaxed attention, with which I can shape the events and influence Yvonne’s manifestations every evening, gives me great pleasure. Controlling things directly or indirectly is like a roller coaster, which is also supported by my constant wavy movement. I enjoy the role of the villain/schemer, these spicy and snappy expressions of Chamberlain.

In the description of the performance, it is said that you and your fiancé, Simon Jáger besides being actors in the performance, are also movement sculptors. What does this mean?

We are both very grateful that we had been given this extra opportunity. Zoli initially outlined his concept referring to Bob Fosse’s choreography, but we introduced him to the special Vogue dance style, which imitates the catwalk on runway shows and the poses of the models on the covers of fashion magazines. He entrusted us with a full exploration of this genre. We summed up our existing knowledge in dancing and we have thrown ourselves in the task of integrating the Vogue style in a theatrical context. This is how this special fusion of voguing, jazz elements was born, which we seasoned with a little jump-style and drum & bass. Thank God our colleagues mastered the voguing quickly. The term “movement sculptors” originates from Zoli. I and Simon, during the rehearsal, stopped our colleagues in the middle of the movements to adjust their body parts with the sculptor’s precision. This is how this term was born.

How does Maladype’s latest premiere applies the essence of the FIVE GATE era-specific theatrical-methodology concept developed by Zoli Balázs, in which you, the actors, are also research partners?

Yvonne’s rehearsal was also extremely effective because as an actor I was able to apply the previous suggestions, thematic conversations, and regular agreements induced by Zoli into the everyday practice. I could also incorporate into my acting many professional tricks and techniques, which have already been formulated in advance as part of our common dictionary. The path to understanding is through realization, so this process cannot manifest itself sooner than we can make it happen in a given situation. This requires patience, awareness, and constant exploration of connections. The program stimulates the abilities that are part of us but we are reluctant to discover them. The FIVE GATES program helps us to overcome our shyness and face our mannerisms counterpointed by our shortcomings. In Yvonne’s rehearsal process, to become productive for all of us, we had to be prepared for these factors. We have gradually reached a level where, as a “five-gate actor” we can decide in every situation, and we won’t fall into despair if something does not happen in the performance as we have previously planned. The openness and the adaptability of the actors, the constantly renewing interest, and the form of playfulness that sincerely encourages the ability to reconsider and change are essential to the success of the Yvonne performances.

You come from Brașov, where thanks to your supportive parents, you have acquired a wide range of knowledge. I am thinking here of dancing, languages, and writing. How can you take advantage of all of these in the Maladype Theatre?

I owe a lot to my parents. They have been encouraging and supporting me since I was a child. They’ve put a lot of energy and effort into my development, they have opened gates for me which have had a major effect on my life. Thanks to them I graduated from a ballet and modern dance school. My father’s excellent sense of languages and my bilingual studies allowed me to improve my English to a high level, which has benefits on our worldwide tours. I inherited my writing skills from my mother, which helps me a lot in organizing my thoughts in the form of work and personal diary. I am planning to make everything - I have so far experienced and formulated on paper - available to others as well over time. The FIVE GATES program also provided an opportunity for this. Anyway, I can use almost all my basic knowledge in the Maladype. During the two and a half years of work, I have found out in what I need to change, in what it is worth to put even more energy, and what is it worth dealing with at a higher level.

It means a lot to be a member of a recognized independent theater, like the Maladype, but how do you see your future as an actress and a woman in a theater workshop under a constant financial uncertainty? Where do you think your path will lead you?

Starting a family, having a child are both very important to me, but at this age, I feel I need to focus on my career. Financial insecurity is a huge problem, but for my professional development, it is worth considering this period. I would like to enhance my actors’ toolbox, to have a variety of opportunities to practice my knowledge and to be able to show my talent to other parts of the world as well. Fortunately, Maladype’s international reputation provides us all of this. For now, I am motivated in doing my tasks in a way and quality that Zoli, my colleagues, and the audience expects from me. I don’t know where my path is leading me, but I know where I am now and in what direction I want to go. If the world around me changes, I adapt and I try to get the most out of the new situation. As Chamberlain would say: “For the moment, everything with caution and tact.”

Although the coronavirus pandemic is forcing the company to shut down, do you know anything about the next period and the professional challenges you are facing?

I hope that this period will end soon and that we are going to be able to have our performances many times and in many places again. Yvonne has been invited to Poland to the Gombrowicz Festival in Radom, and it would be great if we didn’t miss it. We would have started working with choreographer Ferenc Fehér in March, but because of the sudden quarantine, we had to postpone the date for this work. Until the rehearsals of the Metropolis based on Fritz Lang’s screenplay, we will work from home following Zoli’s instructions. I would like it if the forthcoming resumption brought changes in our financial uncertainty, which still determines our current situation, and that the achievements in our work would be recognized here as well. Maladype will reach the age of majority this year and it would be a wonderful gift if our company finally stopped fighting for everyday survival.