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The Colgate Maroon-News

The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

The Giurgeas Bring Love and Passion to Colgate’s Theater Department

For Colgate University Senior Lecturer in the University Theater Simona Giurgea and Professor of Theater Adrian Giurgea, theater is intertwined through many aspects of their lives. The two are both originally from Romania, where their passions for theater first sparked. 

Simona Giurgea explained that she has always been interested in teaching; she originally wanted to become a math teacher. A chance experience during her childhood caused her passion for teaching theater to emerge, in which she took a risk and stepped in for a traditionally male role. She went on to win a national prize for the role and it was from there that acting and directing became important to her. 

Her passion for teaching was ultimately about learning and growth, and theater provided her with a uniquely profound avenue through which she could pursue teaching.

“I was fascinated by theater,” Simona Giurgea said. “Teaching this kind of discipline is, on one hand, very rigorous and, at the same time, it is the most ethereal thing that exists.”

It is the rigorous and difficult yet profoundly rewarding and otherworldly nature of this profession that has characterized both Giurgeas’ experience with the discipline. 

Adrian Giurgea explained that he was always drawn to theater in the forms of acting and directing, specifically. He discussed that he knew from an early age that theater was his love and passion, and teaching was the way he pursued it in order to make it his career.

While his early career began in Romania, he ended up moving to the United States where he pursued his PhD at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). It was upon returning to Romania that he and Simona Giurgea first met.

“[We] met in Romania when he came to work at the theater I was working at,” Simona Giurgea said. “He was directing their play and he also taught [a] class at the Academy of Theater and Film where I was teaching, so all of a sudden he was everywhere I was.” 

About a year after teaching, acting and directing together in Romania, Adrian Giurgea returned to the United States and Simona Giurgea moved with him. 

“Moving to the United States was interesting — it was exciting,” Simona Giurgea said. “Nothing was familiar; everything was fascinating. It was a fantastic life experience to start from scratch, and also a very risky one because I gave up everything.”

In an effort to begin to learn English, Simona Giurgea decided to learn and perform an English philosophical essay as a one-woman show.

Eventually, acting jobs began to fall into place and, before she knew it, theater became central to her life in the United States. Simona Giurgea has performed her one-woman show, an adaption of Simone Weil’s essay, “The Iliad or the Poem of Force,” for many different audiences, including at Colgate.

She and Adrian Giurgea have taught, directed and performed at many esteemed institutions over the years, including the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, Calif., as well as Pomona College, UCLA and multiple others. For the past 19 years, they have been married and working at Colgate together.

When the couple was first hired at Colgate, they made it their mission to build the theater department essentially from the ground up and spread their love for the performing arts. Since their arrival in 2005 at Colgate, the theater department has grown extensively. 

Originally, theater at Colgate University was not a singular academic department, and theater classes were considered part of the English department. There were few theater classes and productions, and there were only adjunct positions available for theater professors.

“My mission was to create an independent theater department here,” Adrian Giurgea said. “Theaters are places of meeting and theater is a palace for our souls.”

“Theres something effervescent about starting things from scratch and imagining things and making them happen,” Simona Giurgea said. “It was a hopeful, fantastically vibrant, and hard time.”

Simona Giurgea also discussed the experience of working so closely with her husband.

“It’s difficult, but at the same time enjoyable,” Simona Giurgea said. “We have different personalities and we trust each other professionally, but being so many years together, we’ve learned how to handle it.” 

The Giurgeas emphasized the value of a liberal arts education that allows students to take classes in departments like theater. 

“It should make you a better citizen [and] a more well-rounded person,” Adrian Giurgea said. “The pursuit of beauty and art is essential to this.” 

Simona Giurgea directed “Victor, or Power to the Children” at Colgate this past fall, adapting and translating the original 1928 play to be performed by Colgate students. The play is surrealist and philosophical and is a representation of the Giurgeas’ goals in terms of bringing theater to life. 

“I saw the play with a couple [of] friends and we ended up talking about it for days,” first-year Ashley Shanahan said. “It was very surreal and evocative, and we were left confused in a way that made us think.”

Adrian Giurgea is currently directing “The Good John Proctor,” which is a modern-day adaptation of “The Crucible.” The play will be performed this Spring.

The Giurgeas hope to help students create art that is relevant to their lives, which is why they tend to put on contemporary American performances.  Their love for theater shines through their work, as they continue to impact many students at Colgate. 

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