Dozens of Bucharest-based independent artists protested on 26 March, a day before World Theatre Day, by leaving objects related to their work they no longer use on the steps of Romania’s Ministry of Culture.
Self-labeled the Day of Survival, the demonstration involved actors, theatre makers, and puppeteers who denounced the lack of support the authorities have offered to non-affiliated creators since restrictions to curb the Covid-19 pandemic were put in place. The artists brought objects that were once key in their jobs but that have since become useless — such as donation jars, t-shirts, puppets used in shows, posters, red clown noses, director chairs, etc. “I am wearing this t-shirt but I am not essential,” one black t-shirt left on the stairs of the state institution said.
“It’s very important that the ministry finances national theatres, national institutions, that city halls fund theatres. It’s extraordinary. But it’s not enough,” playwright Mihaela Michailov told Romanian newspaper Libertatea. “We need to find ways and structures to fund the independent sector, too.”
“I came in solidarity with independent actors and spaces that lack support,” actor Mihai Călin told Romanian arts and culture magazine Scena9. “All independent art means a lot, and is more innovative than the dusty mainstream institutions that we have gotten used to. We, state employees, are privileged.”
While state institutions have carried consultations with creatives on ways they could support them over the past year, independent artists without NGO affiliations have been unable to access state help.
The protest took place after cultural institutions, along with other venues in the capital city of Bucharest, were forced to close down following a rise in the number of infections, and a third wave of restrictions. More than 940,000 Romanians have been infected with Covid-19, resulting in more than 23,000 deaths. So far, the country has vaccinated 2.9 million people out of a population of 20 million.