Serban Excoriates Lackluster Stagings Of Classic Plays

"Any form of powerful theater is political," Rumanian director Andrei Serban told an audience of about 150 at the Loeb Drama Center yesterday. "Theater should wake us up in many ways, and in my understanding that is a political action."

Serban, associate director of the Yale Repertory Theatre, limited his talk to answering questions from an onstage panel consisting of George Hamlin, producing director of the Loeb, and Laura Shiels, teaching fellow in English.

Serban said a director should have a specific reason for presenting a classic drama beyond the mere desire to do a classic. "A classic is dead, like a gold mine. It must be taken, explored, and made alive again," he said.

Serban attacked "those great classics in very boring productions, where we fall asleep as fast as we can, and then applaud and say, 'What great Shakespeare!"

"A classic should make us vibrate as if it were the first page of The New York Times," he added.

"The human voice carries secret possibilities of transmitting vibrations, energies," Serban said. He cited the original language of Greek tragedies as "reverberating in us, and carrying within those sounds the universal human emotions which go beyond cultural or geographical differences."

Serban added he works carefully with actors to help them develop highly expressive sounds. When asked how he did this, he replied, "It's a secret."

Serban's Yale Repertory production of Scagnarelle: An Evening of Moliere Farces, will play at the Loeb from May 25 through May 29.