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Ovidiu Mihaita - The theater is closing | Poeple of Justice 2022 Timișoara

Author: Ovidiu Mihăiță

 Disney, Harley Davidson, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and many others had their starts in a garage, just like Auăleu. A recipe for success. They, with their performances, we, with our own. In 2005, I was dreaming about eternal freedom. We were still students and we wanted to do theatre freely, in a 19 square meter garage. We had money only for one cigarette, we were deluding ourselves and we were dreaming that our garage will conquer the entire world. We were dreaming of being free at least during our lifetime and, then, we understood that freedom requires independence and that the lack thereof means cruel obedience. Our first show was in a yard, somewhere near the stadium, with 200 people who were seated on stumps. It was a show without a written text, based on a screenplay written by us.

Then, in 2015, together with the public, that has supported us all this time, we created the Museum of the Communist Consumer, without financial aid or employees, in a modest space. Now, it's the most visited museum in the city. In 17 years of work, we went through everything: hunger, cold, we played on the street, in squares, parks, pubs, villages, festivals, we played in prisons, schools, but, most of all, we played at home, in the smallest theatre in Romania, with only 50 seats. It was still sold out even in the context of the pandemic, when theatre consumption fell by 30%. Better to have a small hall that's full than a big one that's half empty. During all these years, we played shows for which the police busted us or we got absurd fines.

This year, the Romanian Police fined us for disturbing public peace around 21:30 for a show during which we played Stormy Night by Caragiale. Zița was arguing with Rică. We were recorded using a sound level meter and we were fined because we exceeded 50 decibels. We were at 51,50 decibels. That means, if you're not aware, the sound of rain or the volume of a regular conversation between two people. Because of us, Caragiale was indirectly fined. We hold a record for 40 inspections in 21 days, from the Forest Service to the Criminal Police. At 10 in the evening... I repeat: at 10 in the evening, 10 police vehicles came to check an operating permit. Then, we were sued, in order to prove that we were functioning legally. Because of this, the theatre and the museum risk being closed. That means that we can't laugh legally anymore. We can only cry muffledly. And it seems that this isn't happening only to us.

In Iași, the police asked the characters to show their ID for a dialogue addressed to state institutions. We believe that all of this has been orchestrated by a single person, an ex-cultural ambassador of the city, shortly before the year 2023, when Timișoara will be the European capital of culture.

Our last piece, Grand Hostel Timișoara, has a crude language about the city, with all the good and the bad in the delicate year of 2023. Even though I never imagined that the public is interested in social issues, it looks like homo politicus, ticket in hand, comes to the theatre for a bit of truth. We know that our art bothers some people. While some laugh, others grind their teeth. The mayor laughs in a certain manner, the County Council laughs where the mayor is silent and the public, like a homogenous unique entity, a community that shares similar values and fights for the same ideals, laughs wholeheartedly, as always. We think that the inconveniences we've been subjected to present a greater risk than the closure of our theatre. Today, it's us and the issue is the noise.

Tomorrow, there will be others and the issue will be what I am saying right now. Let's not forget that justice is delivered by power and that art was always against the power. The power finances art. With few exceptions, the Romanian theatre depends on funding from the state and a culture that is under control can't bring about anything else than a controlled and submissive nation. Even if they're inspired by reality, the characters in theatre are fictional and the freedom to create is guaranteed by the Constitution.

Theoretically, characters can say anything we can't. It's like when a computer asks you to click on something to prove that you're not a robot. Usually, independent artists are of no importance to politicians, because the state doesn't want independent artists, it already has its official artists in its institutions. Independent artists are like citizens who live outside of the fortress. Theoretically, you can do without them. The artist in the state theatre is employed, has a salary, and has a target. The independent artist who rebels, who is angry, definitely has something to complain, to signal, to shout or to comment about. The intrinsic value and, at the same time, the strength of independence in art is freedom. An essentially free theatre can fully use the Shakespearean dictum: Theatre is a mirror of the times. That's what our theatre is about. Our shows are weapons, utensils, and tools, which won't kill anyone, but they will hurt egos, which will bandage, and with which we'll try to rebuild.

 I will never forget that I went to the Revolution with my father and my sister. I can't forget the eighth point of the Timișoara proclamation, which was going to become the law of lustration: no former member of the nomenklatura of the Communist Party or the Securitate should have the right to hold a public office for a period of 10 years.

I can't forget all my friends who have exiled themselves. In most cases, they left because of the living conditions. Those who remained fight for a better world. Our public is part of them. I can't forget where I live.

This country and this city keep me in a permanent state of vigilance, a defensive state. Here, you don't live together. Here, you survive. You get lots of sideways looks, there's a lot of whispering and gossiping. Despite this, my city is my home and we won't let anyone throw us out. It's our home and we fought for it. Thank you!



The People of Justice 2022 shows were produced alongside Decât o Revistă, a team of journalists who believe in the transformational power of stories.

Together with over 1,000 viewers, we imagined what a more just Romania could look like through vulnerability, empathy and the power of example. In each city we brought on stage lawyers, journalists, civic activists and artists whose true stories about justice: how we achieve it, what it means for justice, education, the healthcare system or our cities.



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