The intergalactic-online "boss" of all things beautiful brought to you by Daily Magazine.
They are beautiful, ambitious, talented and constantly developing personally and professionally.
Both are currently enjoying new projects in their acting universe. Cristina Juncu has made a majestic comeback, after the current crisis, on the indoor stage of the Nottara Theatre in Eugene Ionesco's disturbing absurdist play The Lesson; Elena Manu is preparing, together with Sabina Lisievici - screenwriter - for a super premiere, a super love story inspired by both of their lives, "Love on tangerine peels".
Today we put them face 2 face in a new exclusive interview conducted by Daily Magazine, this time about the pure essence of theatre.
If I had to go back in time, I would still choose acting because .....
Cristina Juncu – In fact, I'm not really sure I would choose acting, but if I did, I would because it's still something that animates me and makes me a social animal. I've discovered in the last year what a huge inclination I have towards self-isolation, towards wildness. I love working alone, bathing myself in the soup of my own creativity - that's what has led me to music composition lately. Now acting would definitely not be my first choice, but it would be the only possible, the only rational one, because it's the only thing that keeps me from shutting myself in my bubble and becoming a little caveman, a sort of little Diogenes of the modern world. I don't love this job as much as I used to, but that doesn't (I think) make me any less of a performer when I'm on stage, because in those few dozen minutes I miraculously forget everything I don't like about it..
Elena Manu – I think acting chose me, and if I had to start from the beginning, that's what I would do. For me acting is a lifestyle
3 strengths/ 3 weaknesses, personally analyzing myself, as an actress, I am...
Elena Manu – Strengths: I'm disciplined, I empathize quite easily, I'm ambitious. Weaknesses: Fear of rejection, sometimes I get too lost in the details and it creates chaos in my head, self-criticism..
Cristina Juncu – I'm extremely rational and try to find logical justifications for everything I do on stage, I'm a good monkey, which means I pick up things I'm shown or told very easily through mimesis and I'm damn stubborn when I feel I've found the key to the game. I'd say these three things can be both strengths and weaknesses, depending on the situation.
The best personal example of survival in times of crisis that I can give to my fellow actors is....
Cristina Juncu – Don't stay. Do stuff. I literally didn't have to survive, so I wouldn't even think of giving advice to my colleagues who didn't have anything to live on during this time, because I can't even imagine what it's like to go through such a terrible situation. But if we're talking about "surviving" the psyche, the solution is to stay active. Creativity knows no bounds in times of crisis. You just have to get on with doing something and maybe even stick to it. It may or may not work wonders, but either way you have a reason to get up in the morning. Oh, and one more thing, speaking of survival. During this crisis, wear a mask. It's saved my skin three times already..
Elena Manu – I've been having this discussion with friends, colleagues, since the beginning of the pandemic until now. It's going to sound strange, but I never got bored in 2020. When we were isolated I moved in with my family, we did all sorts of activities together, we did sports, we read more, we danced in the house, we wrote. I consider it a period of soul healing and introspection for me. Until then I had never spent so much time alone, being a very sociable nature. After the state of emergency passed, still having no activity in theatre, I found new hobbies, such as Scuba Diving. That's not to say I didn't and don't miss the stage and the energy that audiences give me. I guess the point is not to be overthinking, not to somehow sink into the negative thoughts and energy around us, because they exist anyway. I think it's important to find hobbies, talk to loved ones, problems can be solved, relationships can be rekindled, anything is possible if the energy is at a high level and we know how to use it.
My dearest project/show so far....
Elena Manu – Hahahaha, YES! All the projects have been dear to me, but the dearest is a project that has recently come to life. I recently finished writing a play with Sabina Lisievici. For me it's the dearest project, because it's like my first child. We wrote it, we are going to stage it and I was very happy with the feedback from people who read it. I'm sure it will be a success. It's called Love on Tangerine Peels, it's already registered with ORDA. No spoilers at the moment, you'll find out when the time comes. I predict we'll play it soon, somewhere around April, May. We'll keep you posted and look forward to seeing you at the show!
Cristina Juncu – I would have a long list, with various motivations, for each choice. This summer, however, a small miracle happened. When the authorities allowed theatres to play outdoors, a group of actors who had just come out of quarantine, starved of acting and playing, got together around an idea - let's do a light, summer concert-show that suits the situation and play!!!!!!!! There was no production money, so we decided to make a musical script based on Caragiale's sketches. There was no money to pay for the musical rights, so I decided to write the whole soundtrack and all the lyrics myself. Sever Bârzan and Iulian Sfircea, those beat angels, helped me, pro bono, with the cool musical arrangements. Because it was summer, because it was hot, and because we were bringing people back from holidays, I wanted to have at least a nice atmosphere at the rehearsals, so I preferred to cast friends, not taking too much into account their musical qualities. Three of them had never performed on stage before, so it's understandable why it's amazing that Black Mirror was completed in 3 weeks of rehearsals. I would also like to thank my colleagues Vlad Bălan, Rareș Andrici, Mihaela Subțirică and Crenguța Hariton for the crazy trust they gave me, for the fact that they "ate their summer" together with me and for the wonderful atmosphere of general monkey business we manage to maintain every time we perform - by the way, we are waiting for you on February 21st for another round of this, at Nottara!
3 lessons learned from the directors I've worked with so far...
Cristina Juncu – Don't lie, don't kill, don't get your face chipped off...I'm kidding...but not for good. That chipped face thing is for real. I've learned that just when you expect a director to be great, you screw up as an actor. Because you unwittingly invest the director with the ability to do your job as an actor too, so you lose yourself in admiration for him and forget yourself. So I've learned that no director is a god, although he might act like one. I've also learned that often, no one cares what route you've taken and what documentation you've done for the role, as long as it shows you have something behind it. Sure, it's nice to have someone to talk to about your thoughts in relation to a role, but it's not necessarily necessary if you manage, even without communication, to be coherent. But the most beautiful thing I learned from a director is something a director I never worked with as an actress, my father, Cristi Juncu, said: the best shows are the ones that actors play with pleasure. That always resonates with me. That the show will never be good if I don't somehow manage to enjoy what I'm doing in it. Which makes me terribly responsible for each role
Elena Manu – I had the honour of working with Mick Davis, the director of Modigliani, from whom I learned more than 3 things, if I had to list a few, they would be: 1. Rigour, 2. I learned that being flexible is an asset when you are an actor. I also worked with Alex Nagy, a theatre director, from whom I learned the importance of detail, he is a perfectionist. Thanks to both of them and I hope to have the opportunity to work with them again.
To be a good scene partner you need to....
Elena Manu – You put the other one in the light. Something I learned from Nicoleta Petcu, acting coach, during the 4 years she trained me at Let it Go Acting Studio and who, by the way, gave me the basis of my acting profession. And I thank her for that!
Cristina Juncu – You really watch and listen to your partners, take care of them, take into account their state of mind, try to get to know them as well as possible, so that you know how to relate to them according to what you get from them. A theatre show has as many variations as it has performances. That's the magic of a theatre performance - it's always moving, always vibrating differently, depending on the people on stage, but that's only if the actors keep themselves alive and open to change. In short, I think that's what defines a good partner - it's alive and responsive to what it's given, ready to adapt.
3 big challenges I faced in acting as a business and how I dealt with them
Cristina Juncu – One hard thing is accepting that things aren't exactly as you imagined when you chose to go down this road. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. I think I had a huge chance to get a competition in a theatre before I finished my MA. I have a steady job, I have a steady income, I have projects almost non-stop. Everything seems to be going according to plan. But as time goes by, there are some disappointments that are part of the "natural order" of things: good shows that you love to play don't sell out and nip in the bud because of marketing problems or the theatre's target audience, while weaker but more palatable shows are played for years just because they are "laughed at"; you realise, during a crisis situation like this, how dispensable your job is in the perception of the common man; you understand, with time, that the collegiality you learn in college has a limit and that it is represented, in theatre, more by age than by professional value.... There's a lot to say, but this is not the place or the time to talk about disappointments. Every time I fall into the pit of despair, I remind myself how privileged I am to have a stable job in this profession. For problems like the above, there are no immediate solutions. It's a work in progress, the public needs to be educated gradually, hard noses heal bit by bit, nothing is solved overnight. So I occasionally sit down in a corner of the mountain with problems, discreetly sweeping.
Elena Manu – Acting is part of show business, and each actor is his own entrepreneur. By choosing to continually improve myself, I believe that I have overcome the obstacles or restrictions that other colleagues may have experienced.
3 elements I find challenging in bringing a text to life
Elena Manu – When I can't find any common ground with the character. I think that would be the only element I would call challenging. And when I'm in that situation, I'm trying to defend the character, to find a story for them, to understand why they do what they do, why they are and behave the way they do.
Cristina Juncu – It's so easy to turn an interesting text into a totally boring theatrical performance. I wouldn't want to be a director. I wouldn't know where to start. But I can speak for myself. As an actor, what's challenging is, first of all, to find the problem behind the text (plan two, as we call it). What I find more challenging is to be able to piece together a logical inner journey from the character's words - what exactly happens to him that makes him say what he says and do what he does. The third super-important thing, which I mentioned above, is to remain open to change, not to chain the path made up of the words spoken, because sometimes surprising elements can intervene along the way that change, if not everything, a considerable part of the performance anyway. I'll give you an example that I mentioned once before in an interview. A few years ago, it happened that my partner in a show fell on her head just before starting time. Immediately after the fall, she started laughing, making jokes, she was relaxed, she seemed to be fine. In the show, she forgot most of her lines. How could we ignore the awkwardness of having a tough, bullying character who stutters and doesn't know what's coming out of his mouth? Ridiculous, right? The only way the show could go on was to adapt to the situation, to play up its absurdity. The irony is that that performance remained one of the best of that show, because we were all "resurrected", forced to pay more attention to each other than ever before.
I find joy when I'm not doing theatre/film in....
Cristina Juncu -...van. It makes me happy when I see that I am making others happy, that what I do has meaning. I have discovered this about myself, that I am very dependent on the happiness of the people I act upon. I love to cook, also because it's a meditative action, but mostly because I love to see Andrei's face when he eats and enjoys it. If it doesn't turn out good, it's a shame. I have more than once cried like a fool because I burned a dish, but my problem wasn't with the food itself, it was that the man it was intended for won't eat it and say "Mmm, that's good". That's kind of the same with theater. If I feel that the role I'm playing is pointless, that it doesn't bring anything new, that it can't change anyone, and that it's not even entertaining, I just want to stop acting. But acting, what should I do? I have no choice, that's my job. But I am terribly happy when I see in people's faces (or, since these masks, in their eyes) or in their laughter that they are happy, that they understand, that it changes them.
Elena Manu – In dance, ballet, going out with friends, travelling the world and endless talks with my mother, who is my best friend.
3 targets set for 2021
Elena Manu – To complete the projects I have started and to do as much as I can, to develop myself on the spiritual side and to get out of my comfort zone as much as possible.
Cristina Juncu – 2021 is going to be a very special year for me, because I'll be working on a super fun and unexpected role: that of mummy. It's a role with no script and no set action, the only fixed thing is that I'm supposed to deliver a baby around August - otherwise, it's improv. I hope we can manage with a script this loose. Then there would be the fact that I'd like to stay, as much as possible, active for as long as possible. I'm still writing music, until April May I can perform, then the shows will go through the "belly size" sieve. Goal number three would be that I'd like to welcome the newcomer to a new home. So we would aim to introduce a new character and a new setting, but without changing the plot entirely. That's the plan. We remain open to all surprises.
If I had to pick one actress to play my life so far in a movie, it would be...
Cristina Juncu – If I had to pick one actress to play my life so far in a movie, it would be...Cătălina Mihai. It would certainly make my life seem more interesting and fun.
Elena Manu - If I had been asked this question 2 months ago I probably would have said Lily James. Today I think my friend Sabina Lisievici is perfect for the role 😊)) We complement each other so well that people say we are sisters.
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