Aliens with Extraordinary Skills have landed @ Odeon Theater in Bucharest

The newest premiere of Odeon Theater in Bucharest has a lot to do with Fulbright Programs in Romania: Saviana Stanescu – the playwright – has completed an MA in Performance Studies at New York University with a Fulbright Grant (2001/2002) and the director, Alexandru Mihail completed an MA at Yale School of Drama through another Fulbright Grant (2009 / 2010).

The play that premiered on Saturday evening at Odeon Theater is one of Saviana Stanescu’s most acclaimed pieces. Aliens with Extraordinary Skills was produced for the first time at Julia Miles Theater in New York in 2008 and has received enthusiastic reviews in the American Press, The New Your Times stating: ”Saviana Stanescu’s Aliens With Extraordinary Skills is an enchanting piece of theater, a paean to New York”.
For those less familiar with the terminology, Aliens with Extraordinary Skills is a classification of non-immigrant temporary worker visa granted by the United States to an alien "who possesses extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, or who has a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry and has been recognized nationally or internationally for those achievements."

Saviana Stanescu was a recipient of such a visa and wrote the play during the validity of it because she was fascinated by the terminology. In Romanian, the title was translated as “Viza de Clown” and is the closest to the meaningful and rich title, as contained in English language.

The inspiration for the play came from a real situation that was reported by Florida Observer and that informed about a case that has occurred in September 2006, when INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) arrested two men (a Romanian and an Ukrainian) involved in what was described as "a complex international visa fraud and alien smuggling scheme." The pair had supplied nearly 900 immigrants with fake visas that declared them "aliens with extraordinary ability" in the circus arts.

Saviana Stanescu is a  recipient of Innovative Theater Award (2007) and also a 2000 UNITER Prize for best play of the year. Her collaboration with Odeon Theater started in early 2000s, when she was involved in Programs of cultural exchanges between US and Romania, for which Odeon was a generous host institution. Significant American playwrights came to Odeon and had readings of their new plays, some of them being staged afterwards and became part of Odeon’s regular repertoire (as Doug Wright’s I am my Own Wife).

Mrs. Dorina Lazar, the active manager of Odeon, was very happy with the results of this production that has 100 % Odeon cast: Nicoleta Lefter, Marius Damian, Alexandru Papadopol, Meda Victor, Ionuţ Kivu, Relu Poalelungi. Odeon Theater started for some years now to support new Romanian playwriting, investing in new productions, workshops and cultural exchanges. Saviana Stanescu’s play is the latest and most important such project. It was executed in record time  - one month from the first reading to the opening - but with outcomes that elevate the meaning of Romanian Theater to levels that rivals new drama anywhere in the world.

Viza de Clown tells the story of two “aliens”, a young woman from Republic of Moldova and a young man from Russia, who ran from Florida to New York in order to escape deportation. They try to survive in the city that never sleeps and their journeys take each from innocence to sin, from tragedy to comedy, from hope to hopelessness. And above all this, there is love that conquers all, including deportation. What makes this play special is this particular immigrant experience that has never been fully exploited on Romanian theater stages, even though Romanians have started to emigrate by millions while Romania became a favorite first leg in a journey of others from Asia, Middle East and Africa to Western Europe.

It’s a very witty text, with a lot of layers to absorb that explores all angles of living in-between two cultures, the negotiating between cultures, the effort trying to achieve the American Dream that turns into an American nightmare for some. The actors are really extraordinary and I think it’s the best roles for young actors Nicoleta Lefter and Marius Damian who play the main characters of Nadia and Borat.

Alexandru Mihail, the director of the production, is working in US since last year and this is very visible in his stage reading that develops a very visual atmosphere. Having at this side the young stage designer Vladimir Turturica (a 2010 graduate of UNATC – National University of Theater and Cinematographic Arts in Bucharest), the staging has clear “American” style and makes the audience member really feel like finding oneself in a true New York Theater somewhere in Manhattan and not at all on Calea Victoriei.

The premiere was followed by an discussion with the entire cast, director, playwright and two of her guest, her fellow American playwrights Rajiv Joseph și Jose Rivera. Joseph is a 2010 Pulitzer Prize nominee and Rivera is an Oscar nominee and an Obie Award recipient, as well as a Fulbright Arts Fellowship recipient.  

Viza de Clown will also have an autumn premiere on September, 14.

Do not miss this amazing production that is a true contestant for the National UNITER Prizes for Theater this year.

Article by Ioana Moldovan
Theater critic @ Revista 22
Fulbright Ambassador

My fulbright experience

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
  • 11
  • 12
  • 13
  • 14
  • 15
  • 16
  • 17

Students at the advising center

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7

Romanian-U.S. Fulbright Commission

Adress: 2 Ing. Nicolae Costinescu Street, sector 1, Bucharest, Romania
Phone: 021.230.77.19
Fax: 021.230.77.38
E-mail: office@fulbright.ro

Privacy Policy

Fulbright Educational Advising Center

Phone: 021.231.90.15
E-mail: feac@fulbright.ro

 Public hours

Tuesday: 1:00 PM - 7:00 PM
 Wednesday: 1:00 PM - 5:00 PM
 Thursday: 1:00 PM - 5:00 PM