When theatre conquers the mall

Oana Vasiliu | 18/04/2017 | 14:52

WonderTheatre is the first Romanian theatre company specialised in family theatre, with performances that are currently taking place on scenes where usually are screened movies: cinemas. Family theatre usually encourages family participation, both kids and adults, in a way that other community theatre groups do not. BR talked with the founder of the project, Alexandru Tomulescu, and found out what’s behind the curtains of this new concept. 

What is a family theatre?

More than family theatre we want to do family entertainment. We started with Loredana’s concert which we produced in the past five years at Sala Palatului, where we introduced a series of elements for kids, in an attempt to gather families. We did everything family friendly, being convinced that nowadays everyone works hard and have little time, so that in weekends, the kids should also be part of the family entertainment, not being left home. Family entertainment means you can come with the whole family, kids included, to a concert, a theatre play or a performance, to enjoy and to have fun without the fear of vulgarity, obscenity, nudity or other elements which can affect you or your loved ones.

How did you come up with this idea for Bucharest’s public?

I love theatre since high school. I always wanted to try something in this respect but never felt ready for it or had the opportunity until 2015. To be honest, the idea came from Baneasa Shopping City and their Alternative Content Division. They were already promoting theatre with other producers and that was the start. Why not? Let’s try. We always thought we can do it better. Now we know for sure.

Are we talking about anticipating new audiences for this type of theatre?

We are thinking about anticipating trends more than about anticipating audiences. We already had the families spending time at the mall, enjoying the Disney or Pixar blockbusters in a multiplex, but why not have them come for a theatre play?  The audience was already here (and when I say here, I am thinking about the Mall, our first “stage” in Bucharest), eager to consume quality entertainment. Let’s produce quality comedies, with well known Romanian actors for them, let them live new experience, different than the standard movies they were used to.

Which are the main challenges for such a business?

The challenges that we face at this moment are mainly about promoting the plays outside the Mall and touring them around the country.  Also, very important steps in developing the company are finding new ‘stages’ in Bucharest and to diversify the portfolio with new titles. WonderTheatre wants to transform having fun together with your family and friends into a lifestyle. We are all about comedies and entertainment and we plan to find places as many places for this in Bucharest as possible.

Which is the most used misconception when it comes to family theatre?

Hard to say. Maybe that it’s easy theatre, boulevard theatre or lower quality than the state-owned theatre. We are trying to fight this by staging very successful plays, award winning projects in important markets like France, for example. Also, we bring important, clean and experienced actors that is also a guarantee of the quality we try to offer. Mihai Calin, for instance, plays in Prenumele / Surname (after Le Prenom, a wildly successful play in France), won the Uniter Best Actor award in 2015 while Claudiu Bleont is a well known actor  of the National Theatre of Bucharest. Misconceptions are not so present when we stage the plays outside Bucharest. We’ve recently had the surprise to sold out in Onesti (Bacau county) in only one day with Prenumele and the feedback was great.

Are the plays to both adult and child alike?

What we have staged so far are plays for adult and child alike. We are currently preparing the first children project but our main purpose is to do comedies and make people laugh, so this works for all ages. Children will laugh as well and have fun, and that’s the most important for us. One of our biggest achievements is that some of the kids see theatre for the first time at our plays, or that many parents come for the first time with their kids at our shows.

Which are the upcoming performances? Any premieres?

We just premiered two performances this spring: Cina de Adio (Farewell Dinner) – a theatre play with Mihai Calin, Gheorghe Ifrim and Ecaterina Ladin in February and Multifunctionalii (Multifunctionals)- a sketch comedy show by Tony Grecu and Serviciul Roman de Comedie team (Cosmin Natanticu, Catalin Neamtu, Catalina Grama Jojo and Claudiu Maier). We are now preparing the Autumn premieres.

Upcoming performances  are Prenumele (with Mihai Calin, Claudiu Bleont, Ecaterina Ladin, Alina Chivulescu and Leonid Doni) on April 27 at CinemaPro and Cina de Adio at Grand Entertainment/Baneasa Shopping City on May 6.

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