A Romanian Writer’s Take on the Immigrant Life in NYC

Saviana Stanescu next to a poster for her play “New York with an Accent” showing in 2014 at the International Theatre Festival in Sibiu, Romania. (Photo courtesy of Saviana Stanescu)

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Romanian revolution and the toppling of Nicolae Ceaușescu, and Romanian-born playwright Saviana Stanescu brings her updated work “New York with an Accent” to the stage on May 19 at Between the Seas: Mediterranean Performing Arts. It’s not, she stresses, a piece of theater, but rather “an autobiographical performative lecture,” with a PowerPoint presentation featuring a ripped Romanian flag, dozens of photos of U.S. flags, a reading of monologues and poems and an imaginary dinner with Karl Marx. In the piece, which she first developed in 2009, Stanescu explores being an immigrant artist in New York City.

Living and working in a changing America, Stanescu found that she has had to update the personal work to reflect “new political problems and new types of dictatorships.” She arrived in New York just two weeks shy of 9/11 in 2001, and since then, she says, has immersed herself in racial and class struggles. What she has to say about these things, she says, is much more current and relevant today than five years ago, when she last presented the “lecture” at various venues around the world.

She tries to make sure she adopts a “colloquial vibe” as she reads monologues to accompany, for instance, a photo of a Mexican immigrant selling T-shirts emblazoned with the American flag. “It’s not just me,” she said, “but what people told me.” The work, which runs for about 50 minutes, is, Stanescu said, “serious, political, personal and also a little funny.” By the end of the piece she has “reconciled with Marx – though not fully.”

Stanescu teaches playwriting and contemporary theater at Ithaca College. On May 30, her 2007 work “Aliens with Extraordinary Skills” will be part of the International Voices Project at the Instituto Cervantes in Chicago, and in August the playwright heads to Romania where she will be working on a new play about the Romanian revolution, to be produced first in Romania and later in the U.S.

Also at Between the Seas, running May 16-19, will be “Sardegna Teatro: Giovanna Detta Anche Primavera,” a flamenco performance, political satire from Kosovo and a Lebanese documentary theater performance on a sex trafficking scandal. The various performances are running at Theaterlab at 357 West 36th St.

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