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Alina Turcanu and the Centre of Theatre from Moldova

“The young generation must be prepared to do things in a new way,” says Alina Turcanu, director of the Centre of Theatre from Moldova (CTM), and architect of the theatre’s ‘Democracy through theatre: a reflection of integrity through the mirror of the stage’, project. “Without education, we can’t do anything. We need to teach people to behave in new ways,” she says.

Moldova has long struggled with poverty and corruption, with oligarchs and politicians treating the state apparatus as ‘a source of profit’ and behind high-level embezzlement and money laundering scandals, including the 2014 US$1 billion bank fraud of 2014, when one eighth of Moldova’s GDP disappeared from three of its largest banks.

Public opinion polls in Moldova constantly identify corruption as one of the top issues faced by the country. Yet, corruption permeates all levels of society, from state structures to private business, and is deeply engrained in everyday social conduct.
In July 2021, the party founded by Moldova’s president, Maia Sandu, won parliamentary elections by a landslide. The party’s top priority was to fight corruption through judicial reforms.

Theatre as a vehicle for change

Many efforts to fight corruption focus on a top-down approach, with a focus on legislative changes, institutional regulatory changes, training of state officials, and reports by think tanks and NGOs. It is difficult for these messages of change to trickle down to the wider population. Alina believes that cultural projects can help engage this wider society and especially young people in debates about corruption and anti-corruption.

The CTM was founded in 2001 as an NGO to promote the interests of actors, however it has long had an interest in promoting societal change through an artistic and theatrical lens.

Previous projects include ‘Home Alone’ (2021), designed to help the children of emigrants, who often live with grandparents with little contact with their parents, to socially integrate through the medium of film and theatre. The theatre also previously staged an anti-corruption show in collaboration with the Anticorruption Centre of Moldova.

“Theatre and film are an effective way of communicating concepts such as anti-corruption to young people. I am a producer by profession. I have produced short films, shows and theatre productions throughout my career, and I understand how these can influence people’s mentalities and help change their opinions,” says Alina.

‘Democracy through theatre’

As part of the ‘Democracy through theatre’ project, organised with the Anticorruption Centre of Moldova, and the National Theatre Mihai Eminescu, CTM put out a call for young people from Moldova and Romania to write comedy and dramatic plays, as well as films on the theme of anti-corruption. An EED grant helped cover the cost of the playwright competition.

The response was far greater than Alina and her colleagues expected, reflecting the interest in this theme among young people. “We thought we’d have 15 plays at most; we had 50 entries. We also had 23 short film entries from young people from across the country.”

The winning play entry was announced in mid-November, and the play will be staged for the first time in the National Theatre Mihai Eminescu in Chisinau at the end of February. It will then be performed in five regional cities around the country, before a filmed version is posted on YouTube later in the year.

A metaphor for Moldova

Speaking to EED the morning after the prize giving ceremony, Alina explains that the winning production by Romanian actor and playwright Cosmin-Stefan Stanila ‘Mr Macabet’s Choice’ tells the story of a man elected as director of his building association thanks to his wife’s efforts, despite not wanting the role, and of his fights against corruption. Alexandru Cozub, director of the production, has noted that the building should be seen as a metaphor for Moldova.

“Our objective is to change mentalities,” says Alina. “A play makes people laugh and cry, and be experiencing emotions, they are more likely to remember the play’s content. If our play helps one person out of ten change their opinions, we can start new conversations. Our hope is that this play will prompt discussion within families and communities, and that way it can lead to change.”

She believes that this ‘Democracy through theatre’ project benefits Moldovan society in many ways. “When we encourage people to write plays and develop films about corruption, we are already raising awareness about the issue. Theatrical performances then provide a great springboard for discussion on these topics. This contest also provides important support to the cultural sector in Moldova, with the production of new plays that can be staged in our national theatres. We are also providing additional educational materials for the national anticorruption community,” she says.

This article reflects the views of the grantee featured and does not necessarily represent the official opinion of the European Endowment for Democracy, the European Commission or any other European State or other contributors to EED.