I approached him after the show, I told him about People of Transylvania and I offered to write his story. He accepted gladly. So this is Bob’s story, as we heard it on a beautiful summer day.
Bob, what does it mean for you to be an artist and how did you decide to become an actor?
I wanted to be an actor before knowing the meaning of this word. I was an outgoing and sociable child. Ever since I was a kid I liked to be the one who tells stories and the adults who heard me talking used to tell my parents: “Well, look at him, he is a real actor!” or “Oh my, please let him become an actor!”
“I decided to be an actor. And I said it so many times until it came true”.
For me the actor is the storyteller, the minstrel who gathers people around him since the beginning of time. So I decided to be an actor. And I said it so many times until it came true. It did not happen when I wanted it, because that’s how life is – it lets you do something only when you’re ready.
I went to the School of Arts and after high school I applied for admission to the faculty of theater. Generally speaking, the admission process to vocational institutions is relative and subjective: because you can have a good day or not, you can be in a generation that suits you or not, you can have the kind of talent that teachers are looking for or not etc.
Well, at the age of 19 I tried to enter the faculty of theater and failed. So I went to the Faculty of Finance and Banking instead and a few years later I graduated successfully.
So you are an actor good at finances? You can’t see that very often. How does acting get along with numbers?
They get along just fine. Let me explain. Generally, when you say you are an actor, people think you are that type of bohemian artist, the kind who drinks wine all night on Somes river bank, sleeps until noon and then goes to theater for rehearsals.
I have always been a pragmatic artist. In high school I liked economics; I even participated at the Olympics. Due to the fact that I understood the figures well, I went to study Finance, Accounting and Banking and I enjoyed it very much.
Later on, while studying acting, I was the one who handled the financial matters of the class and took care of the administrative part. Most of my colleagues at the theater faculty were talented and wonderful but not very practical persons.
“Each of us has a child inside. But we are stupid: we take rules of life too seriously and let the inner child grow old. And that’s a pity”.
Another interesting fact about university: when I was in the 1st year, agencies that offered Work and Travel programs started to appear in Cluj. Going to the USA to work during the summer at the age of 20 was a dream, especially in the context Romania was in at that time. It happened in 1999. So after the first year of studies I flew to Idaho to a winter sports resort.
I liked very much. And the people over there liked me as well, so I worked during the summer in the same resort for the next few years. I did everything: dishwashing, cleaning, cooking, I was a cashier, but most of all I enjoyed working at the day camp – a center where I did different activities with the kids while the parents were busy.
I’ve always gotten along well with children, probably because we think pretty much the same. By the way, I believe that each of us has a child inside. But we are stupid: we take rules of life too seriously and let the inner child grow old. And that’s a pity.
You graduated from the Faculty of Theater after all. How was it?
In 2004 I returned home from the US. I remember very well: summer, end of June – beginning of July, a beautiful and warm night I spent with a group of friends, and my girlfriend at the time told me out of the blue: I would love to see you someday on stage and applaud you from the audience.
“For me the Faculty of Theater was a school of life”.
There was a click in my head. Early in the morning, I was in front of the faculty, trying to find the information about admissions only to find out that I had 1 day left to apply. I ran all over town to do all the paperwork. I applied and I was accepted.
I had the chance to be in the class of Miklós Bács who is an actor at the Hungarian Theater in Cluj-Napoca and, according to many people, the most valued acting teacher in Romania. He is an incredible person with an extraordinary pedagogical method.
There were 17 of us in the group and for 4 years we were like a family. We spent most of the time together – learning, repeating, and experimenting. During those 4 years, I did not have a life outside the theater, because the theater occupied all my time. It was intense study, a lot of work, but a very beautiful experience.
“Always be in shape, don’t neglect yourself, be complex, learn new things and, above all, study all the time! This is what I learned as a student”.
For me the Faculty of Theater was also a school of life. The professor used to say that each artist has an instrument to look out for: the violinists take care of the violin and their fingers, the singer looks after his voice etc. The same goes for the theater, with the mention that the actor’s instrument is his body.
That’s when I found out how important it is to take care of my body, to cherish it and put it to study on a daily basis: always be in shape, don’t neglect yourself, be complex, learn new things and, above all, study all the time! This is what I learned as a student, this is also a very healthy life rule that I recommend to anyone.
I saw that you have a beautiful family. Please tell us more about it
I know my wife since kindergarten, we were colleagues in school. We did homework together, we waited for the tram together, but we’ve always been just buddies. We met at an event to celebrate 10 years since we finished the gymnasium. We sat at the table and pick up from where we left off 10 years before.
Well, something happened that evening because we started to see each other more and more often, and after a few years we got married. It happened after I graduated from the theater faculty, in that period of economic crisis when there was no money and no work to be found.
“Imagine a band of 40 artists from different countries who perform, dance, sing and stage plays in churches, shrubs and barns. That’s what I did for 4 years”.
This is when I was given the opportunity to be part of a European cultural project whose purpose was to bring the theater to the countryside in Europe. Imagine a band of 40 artists from different countries who perform, dance, sing and stage plays in churches, shrubs and barns. That’s what I did for 4 years, travelling with the theater all over Europe.
How did you get on TV? Don’t tell me you also studied journalism.
No, I did not. 2 faculties were enough for me. One day someone from a local television saw me in a show and asked me if I wanted to become a reporter. I interviewed a drunk who slept under a fence in Union Square. I talked to him about life, politics, philosophy, economy.
The interview was very funny, so the television people offered me the opportunity to make a show similar to the Late Night Show. I accepted and I started to look for a team. I did not know Tibi Codorean at the time, but I read his blog. So I called him and offered to join the team. That happened on a Monday evening. Wednesday morning he was in Cluj-Napoca with his luggage. We started the show together.
Adrian Cucu and Dragoş Stan were doing the morning show. We became friends and decided to make a show together, all 4 of us. This is how Cenzurat (Censored) show appeared on Look TV, a show we did for about two years. We caught the attention of the people from Prima TV. They called us to Bucharest where the Epic Show was born. By 2014 Epic Show was broadcasted on television, after that we switched to internet only.
When did you start to be an event moderator? And why do you get involved in charity events?
While in college, many people started to ask me to moderate their events. This is when I learned that one can earn a living as a master of ceremony. So I started moderating events in parallel with my acting career.
The social part started in 2009 when I worked as a socio-educational animator for Clujul are Suflet (Cluj has a Soul) – a day center for children from vulnerable families. I worked with them, listened to them, told them tales, we played games together. I had the previous experience from USA at the Day Camp and I really enjoyed interacting with the kids.
“Giving someone a chance, some attention, saying a good word – at the right time things like this can change a man’s life. That’s why I get involved in charity events”.
This is where I met some wonderful children who gave me real life lessons. And I’ll give you an example. There was a 16-year-old boy in my group with the risk of dropping out of school. He approached me once and asked me to offer him some work in order to continue to go to school.
I was building my house at the time so I asked him to help me. I paid him; I spent time with him and helped him do a cooking course. A few years later I was on a terrace in Cluj-Napoca when I received a special dessert as a gift from the chef of the place. I did not believe it – it was the boy whom I had helped a few years before.
Then I realized how important it is for someone to give you a chance at the right time. Giving someone a chance, some attention, saying a good word – at the right time things like this can change a man’s life. That’s why I get involved in charity events.
I saw you in an impro show. What’s the story of Just Push Play?
In 2008 I went to a student theater festival in Iasi where we had a workshop with a guy from Bucharest who specialized in improvising acting. I learned that improvisation is not just an exercise like I thought, but a kind of theater.
The name of the guy was Dragoş Muscalu who has a PhD in improvisation techniques. We got along so well that after the festival he offered to make a band together. We’ve been doing improvisation shows once a month ever since. We keep our mind sharp. In 2018 Just Push Play will turn 10 years old.
“This is the big secret of acting: how to throw yourself in emotions and into the character without thinking too much”.
People like Improvisation Theater, because here the audience is part of the show, the audience is active and involved, and the actors must be spontaneous and play without having a director or a script. There is no time to think things over in an improvisation show. When a spectator asks for an emotional state, you have to do it without thinking too much.
Reason is meant to keep us in a comfort zone. When you shut down reason and let emotions loose, this is when you get out of the comfort zone and you get to experience new things. This is the big secret of acting: how to throw yourself in emotions and into the character without thinking too much.