AP PHOTOS: theater festival shines the spotlight on Romanian detainees

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Detainees perform in the State of Siege, by French author Albert Camus, a play describing the arrival of the plague in Spain which brings to power a totalitarian regime, at the Nottara theater in Bucharest, Romania, on Wednesday 24 November 2021 (AP Photo / Andrée Alexandru)

Detainees perform in the State of Siege, by French author Albert Camus, a play describing the arrival of the plague in Spain which brings to power a totalitarian regime, at the Nottara theater in Bucharest, Romania, on Wednesday 24 November 2021 (AP Photo / Andrée Alexandru)

PA

Performing on the main stage of the Nottara Theater in downtown Bucharest is the dream of every aspiring artist in Romania, where hundreds of inmates have had the chance.

A theater festival organized by the National Prison Administration of Romania gives detainees the opportunity to perform in theatrical productions supervised by professional directors. The Multiart festival was organized to fight against stereotypes about people imprisoned in the penal system and to offer them a path to reintegration.

While participation does not guarantee a shorter sentence or other privileges, it can be a step in that direction. Inmates selected for performances earn bonus points, which they can apply to additional visitors or faster access to parole.

The festival, which takes place under the slogan ‘Liberation Through Culture’, debuted in 2009 and has taken place every year except 2020, when it was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the years, more than 700 inmates have performed in more than 70 plays, both professional works and plays written by inmates.

“We all have prejudices, more than we are ready to accept. I have to convince society that these people exist here, they don’t live on the moon. For them, the theater is a form of freedom. Dana Cenusa, the spokesperson for the National Prison Administration that created Multiart, told Romanian media in 2010. Cenusa died in 2015.

Preparation for performances usually takes up to six months and begins with the selection of inmates as actors. Trial races are held in prisons or in smaller towns. The productions selected for the festival program are presented at the Nottara Theater in the fall.

“We are all going through very difficult times in our lives now because of the pandemic. Acting in the play gave us a change, ”said Marin Florin, an inmate at Jilava prison on the outskirts of Bucharest who appeared in“ Anyone Can Make Mistakes ”by Romanian author Mircea Rotaru.

The other play staged this year was an adaptation of “State of Siege” by French writer Albert Camus, which depicts the arrival of a plague that brings a totalitarian regime to power in Spain. Repeats have been reduced to around four weeks this year due to pandemic restrictions.

During a final dress rehearsal at the Nottara, the actors became visibly excited at the sight of a cell phone or a pen on a chair, items prohibited in prison. Parents, officials and other spectators made up the audience for the free shows.

“Transformation is a gradual process; inmates will realize in five to six months that this exercise they have been doing during this time will change them, “said Iulian Glita, a festival veteran who conducted Camus’ play.” The aim is to prevent them from happening. to go back to their old ways. This, however, is entirely up to them.

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