A Croatian actress who acts in English, directs plays and teaches in Budapest, looking at cultural differences as a sociologist and believes that Hungarian language is like music. Čarna Kršul lives in Hungary for 17 years.
(This a translation, the original interview is in Hungarian)
What brought you to Budapest?
I fell in love with a Hungarian man and I decided to leave everything behind and move here with him. It was my second year at the university in Zagreb where I studied Croatology and Sociology and I was about to go to the University of Theater. Everyone tried to convince me to change my mind but at such times I never listen to anyone.
What was the most difficult at the beginning?
I love talking and I didn’t have too many people around to speak to. My husband worked all day and our neighbor only spoke German which I didn’t understand so we communicated with our hands and legs.
Did you speak any Hungarian?
When I came here, I could only say Szia. I have talent for languages but Hungarian is unique. I really love it, it is like singing, due to its special characters it has a rhythm. I really tried from the first moment, it was never embarrassing for me to have a dictionary with me all the time. For me it was an adventure.
You don’t have any accent at all.
I can learn theatrical texts without accent, but in everyday speaking I don’t pay attention that much. Where I was raised, the local dialect has soft consonants such as ‘ty’ or ‘gy’ in Hungarian. We don’t have them in Croatian, so it helped a lot.
What was the biggest challenge for you in Hungarian?
Those strange vowels like o with points (ö) and u with the line (ú) At the beginning I didn’t hear the difference for example between ölni (to kill) and ülni (to sit) and if you say something even a little bit different, Hungarians don’t understand you.
Which language do you speak at home?
We spoke English with my husband for 5 years, then we switched to Hungarian. With my children I speak Croatian. I don’t feel language barriers in the theater, but I cannot imagine otherwise with them, it is natural like this.
Is there anything you can’t get used to in Hungary?
There are many formalities, learnt behaviors which I tend to skip therefor Hungarians might consider me rude. In Croatian for example we rarely use formal speaking. I learnt it by now, but sometimes I still have the feeling that I am scary. When I find someone interesting, I immediately approach and people are frightened by me now and then. As a sociologist I love observing these differences and I can realize from a twinkle when I need to step back. I accepted that we are different, coming from different cultures. None of them is better or worse than the other, just simply different.
You live in Hungary for 17 years. Where do you feel at home?
Where my family is, wherever we are. Now I feel that I’m at the right place, I love Budapest and fortunately Croatia is close, because of course I miss it. Especially the sea. I am surrounded by different cultures since birth, I was born in former Yugoslavia, now Bosnia, I was raised at the sea, then I studied in Zagreb and now I am here. I can adapt easily, I always try to focus on positive things and it makes my life easier. I feel like at home everywhere and sometimes nowhere.
You planned to go to the University of Theater when you moved from Zagreb. How did acting come back to your life?
When I moved here, I didn’t have time to think about acting, I had so many other things to do with finishing the University and then the family. But later these feelings came back. When I was in theater, I watched the actors on stage and felt that I should be there with them. If I had stayed at home, I might have had a more serious career, but my experience is that good things are more difficult to achieve. When something comes easy, it is always suspicious for me.
How did you start your career?
When finally my Hungarian was good enough, I attended the Gór Nagy Mária’s drama course for 3 years. My first English play was directed by a Greek director, then a Macedon director discovered me and we cooperated for several years, again in English. I played some roles in Hungarian as well, but these were not really my kind of theater and for me it is very important to be able to believe in what I do. This year I finally started my project. I have felt for a while that I wanted and most importantly that I could create something alone. So I stepped out of my comfort zone and I started it!
Your first play was introduced in Spring. You didn’t only play the main character but also directed it.
I compiled the play, House of Asterion based on the short story of Jorge Luis Borges. It puts the Minotaur into a totally different perspective and it turns out that it is not a monster, only different than others. In today’s world uniformity is so typical, we hardly speak to each other or we communicate in a standardized way and at the end of the day the individuality remains alone. It is a sort of social criticism, a critic once wrote about the story that the mankind built the walls of the labyrinth and then got lost in it. A very special part of the play is that I used my father’s poems in it. I translated it into English and it feels amazing that they still make an impact. I would like to play it as mush as possible. As it is in English, we will go to international festivals with it.
As an actress, language must be a very important tool. Is it different to act in English, Hungarian or even in your mother tongue?
It is more significant how you say it than what you say. I attended many international workshops where everyone spoke their own languages and still it worked perfectly. I love when different cultures meet, it is very unique to experience how the energies accumulate. In House of Asterion a Croatian, a Spanish and a Hungarian actress stand on the stage. There are no language barriers for me, I don’t want to limit myself by one language. Beside acting I lead drama courses as well where I teach acting to Hungarian kids. I treat all of them as individuals and I give tasks which develops their personalities as well. I teach them to be brave and not to be afraid of mistakes. And the best is that they learn English without recognizing it. One of them appears in House of Asterion, too.
Do you plan the next play already?
Yes, I have the next project in mind which I will create both in English and Hungarian. I have the play chosen already, it will be first shown in Hungary by us, so I don’t want to tell too much about it yet. This is not a typical love story, just as in House of Asterion, we will see a global picture where it is easier to understand the mistake in the system and there is a paralel personal story. This role is very challenging. I plan to start rehearsals in September.