Theatre Underground. The Jiu Valley after 1989 is a a project focused on every-day life observation and the critical analysis of the existence of workers’ communities decisively hit by the political changes in the 1990s. The project aims to document the economic situation, the life and work of miners during the post-socialist regime. Theatre Underground proposes a performative reconstruction of the documentary stories that structure the history of Jiu Valley communities, on the edge between survival, migration, extinction and possible reconstruction.
Underground is a performative archive of testimonies from disappearing communities. The show aims to revalue the stories, problems and culture of a social category often ignored in post-socialist Romanian theatre – the workers’ communities.
The Underground theatre performance is based on research in the Jiu Valley area conducted by Mihaela Michailov (playwright), Vlad Petri (photographer) and David Schwartz (director). The research focused on several directions – workshops, discussions and interviews with miners, miners’ wives, pensioners, mine security guards, union leaders, coal thieves, children etc.
The theatre documentary play Underground (with: Alice Monica Marinescu, Katia Pascariu, Alex Potocean, Andrei Șerban) toured in several mining and former industrial towns and cities (including Aninoasa, Baru Mare, Lupeni, Petrila, Petroșani, Vulcan, Uricani, Brad, Deva, Hațeg, Baia-Mare, Baia Sprie, Cavnic, Tăuții-Măgherăuș). All the performances were followed by discussions with the audience on their opinions, stories and experiences regarding the privatization and closure of the factories and mines. In what follows, you can read fragments of the post-performance comments and discussions:
Farmaceutics worker (Brad) : The gentleman that performed, you, your voice resembled very well the voice of my grandfather. And your gestures, too. Both the gestures and the husky voice. We recognized our grandparents, we recognized our uncles, we recognized perhaps… our widows, because we, too, have enough widows here, being a mining area. We have the same problems, so we were a little „shaken” by the show.
Miner pensioner (Aninoasa): This area is very good for cattle and for sheep! There used to be here 10.000 sheep, only in Aninoasa. There were 7 herds. So I think the best solution would be to go back to animal farming.
Miner – electrician (Petrila): I noticed that everybody accepts very easily this concept of „survival” instead of the terms of growing and sustainability. I think we have to ask ourselves this question: when and why is „survival” really the solution? and for whom? I would like to hear the opinion of the directors, actors, everybody here. Because I think instead of living a decent life we are now forced to think only in terms of survival. (…) I think the problem is this one: jobs should be thought of as public goods! Jobs should be considered public goods and become a national priority!
Waitress (Hațeg): In Communist times we were going out of town, every week-end we used to go for a barbeque, or go to the river, somewhere. Now you wait for 2 or 3 weeks or a month to go somewhere. And you think a million times if you afford to go or not. If you have a kid or two, forget about it! You are not even sure that you can have bread on the table. And what for? To be humiliated everywhere you work? And no matter how good you are? Because there are very few jobs available, so the owners think you are always disposable. There are 100 people waiting in line to get your job. When I started my current job I knew I would be bad. But I just did not know how bad. Being humiliated, being insulted, being called a bum, a punk, a thief, a filth… That’s the way it’s going… (…) Before 1989, at least some basic rights of the worker were respected. You were not allowed to speak freely, but at least you had a decent life!
School guard (Hațeg): I am qualified for 12 jobs. Twelve. But there are no working places. I am qualified to work in food industry, as I used to work at the cans factory. It is useless now. I am qualified as a mechanic, no job for mechanics. I am qualified as a smith, no job for smiths. I worked as a fireman for 20 years, now they only hire young firemen. I have worked in constructions, but my health doesn’t allow it anymore, I have problems with my back. So, at over 50 years old, I went through professional reconversion and attended a course for guards. I worked at a private company as guard and they didn’t pay me for 4 months. So I left. People say I should sue them. But I can hardly make a living, how can I get the money to sue them?
Pensioner (Tăuții Măgherăuș): This is the greatest truth that has been said here since 1989!
Student, 12 years old (Brad): Regarding survival… I, for example, am a student today. But in 10 years I will need a place to work in order to survive. Where will that be? Because the mines are gone. The factories are gone. Even the marmalade factory has been privatized and closed. So what can we do with our future?