Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
- This is an article about the early 20th century stage performer. This is not an article about the present-day Romanian reporter of the same name .
Born into a working-class family living in a peasant house in Vaslui, Romania. An adequate but unexceptional student (although he did apparently learn good German), his first exposure to the stage was by attending plays at "Pîrjoala" garden, where he saw popular theater , including actors such as Zaharia Burienescu and I.D. Ionescu . This inspired him to start an amateur theater group among his friends; they worked up scenes from the plays Meşterul Manole, Capitanul Valter Mărăcineanu and Constantin Brâncoveanu; their closest thing to a stage was a barn.
His first professional experience as an actor was in the Yiddish-language theater troupe of Mordechai Segalescu : they were short an actor for a performance in Vaslui and drafted the youthful Tănase. In 1896 he completed gymnasium and, despite wishing to become an actor, at his parents behest he enrolled in the Military Liceu at Iaşi, but his rebellious behavior there quickly got him booted out. He headed to Brăila, where he briefly attended the Liceu "Nicolae Bălcescu", but after a few weeks he dropped out for lack of funds.
In Brăila he met schoolteacher and writer Ion Adam, who suggested that the 18-year-old Tănase take over his teaching post in Curseşti , Rahova , since Adam was headed to take some courses in Belgium. He didn't do badly at the job, but hit it off badly with the headmaster and some of the other teachers; with Adam's support he got another teaching job at Hârşoveni , Poeneşti , where poet Alexandru Vlahuţă also taught. Tănase promptly developed his own style of teaching, bringing music and gymnastics to a central role, which drew new students to the school. He also involved his students' parents, through field trips which he used to teach history and geography. He soon became a generally beloved local figure, but apparently the local notary and certain lawyers disapproved of him and his methods and managed to get him fired.
Out of work he headed for Bucharest on October 14, 1899, where he volunteered to join a military regiment, Regimentul 1 Geniu Bucureşti. After his military service he worked in theater, and in 1917, he married Virginia Niculescu.
In Bucharest in 1919, he founded the theater troupe "Cărăbuş" (meaning cockchafer): over the course of 20 years he would establish a tradition of humorous cabaret/revue theater that still continues in Romania today, most notably at the "Constantin Tănase" Revue Theatre, the former home of "Cărăbuş" at 33-35 Calea Victoriei in the heart of Bucharest.
"Cărăbuş" frequently toured Romania and on at least one occasion toured Turkey; Tănase himself also performed in Paris. According to at least one source, he also founded 3 schools for children and a church. 
At "Cărăbuş", Tănase launched the careers of numerous performers, notably Maria Tănase and Horia Serbanescu .
IMDB states that Tănase died in Berlin in 1945 and that it is rumored that he was killed by the invading Red Army. However, another website gives a circumstantial account of his death that has the ring of truth.
According to this account, Tănase was still performing in Bucharest a year after the arrival of the Russians, and was killed for satirizing the Red Army soldiers' habit of "requisitioning" all personal property in sight, in particular of taking people's watches, demanding them by saying, "Davai ceas" (pidgin Romanian for "Give me your watch"). Tănase made up a verse:
- Rău era cu "der, die, das"
- Da-i mai rău cu "davai ceas"
- De la Nistru pân' la Don
- Davai ceas, davai palton
- Davai ceas, davai moşie
- Haraşo, tovărăşie
- It was bad with "der, die, das" 1
- But it's worse with "davai ceas"
- From the Dniestr to the Don
- Give me your watch, give me your overcoat
- Give me your watch, give me your land
- Khorosho, tovarisch 2
After several performances he was arrested, threatened with death, and told not to do the piece again. However, Tănase was not a man to be intimidated. At the next performance, he came on stage in a giant overcoat, with his arms festooned in watches. The audience applauded wildly as he simply stood there. Then he opened the overcoat, revealing a pendulum clock. Pointing to it, he said "El tic, eu tac, el tic, eu tac" (punning on tic-tac, the Romanian equivalent of "tick-tock", but also meaning "It ticks, I am silent, it ticks, I am silent"). Two days later he was dead. 
Tănase's theater was often political and avant garde. Simona Pop quotes some lines from a song or his as typical: [Pop, 2001]
- În ţara asta, ţara pâinii
- Să aibă pâine până şi câinii
- Guvernul nostru ne obligă
- S-avem o zi de mămăligă
- Lor ce le pasă cum e trăiul
- Scumpiră trenul şi tramvaiul
- Scumpiră tot, la cataramă
- Până şi pâinea şi tutunul
- Şi când înjuri pe şleau de mamă
- Ei, cică, eu fac pe nebunul.
- In this land, the land of bread
- Even the dogs should eat bread
- Our government obliges us
- To have a day of mămăligă 3
- That which passes for life
- Expensive trains and trams
- Expensive everything, to the limit 4
- Even bread and tobacco
- And when I swear openly on my mother
- They say I'm taking them for a fool.
- Teoria mea-i uşoară
- Toată viaţa e o scară
- Care, pe rând, ca şi la moară
- Toţi o urca şi-o coboară".
- My theory is easy
- All life is a staircase
- Which, by turns, just like at a mill
- Everyone climbs and descends
1der, die, das: masculine, feminine, and neuter German articles.
2Khorosho, tovarisch (хороший, товарищ): "Good, comrade" in Russian.
3 mămăligă: polenta, a Romanian staple, but generally thought of as poor people's food.
4 la cataramă: literally "at the belt-buckle".
"Ideals are like stars: you can't actually reach them, but you can orient yourself by them."
- Peripiţiile călătoriei lui Rigadin de la Paris la Bucureşti (1924, silent, The Adventures of Rigadin During His Travel from Paris to Bucharest
- Visul lui Tănase (1932, Tănase's Dream)
- Răbdare Tănase! (1943, Have patience, Tănase!)
From the time Tănase moved to Bucharest, his only visit to Vaslui and to his parents was on a tour by his theater troupe. Nonetheless, Vaslui has named one of its two Casas de Cultură ("Houses of Culture") after him, his personal archives and many of his possessions now reside in the Vaslui county museum, and since 1970 Vaslui has memorialized him with a theater festival under the leadership of another native son of Vaslui, Valentin Silvestru , which at least since 1980 has drawn comedians from all over Romania. The festival is now also an international festival of caricature.
- Simona Pop, "Constantin Tănase şi hazul de necaz", Evenimentul , July 7, 2001. (In Romanian)
- "Constantin Tănase" Revue Theatre, Official site in Romanian
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