Interview with David Schwartz
Independent Moldova. Erratum
By: Ion Borș, David Schwartz, Dumitru Stegărescu, Doriana Talmazan, Irina Vacarciuc
Production: Teatrul-Spălătorie in Kishinev, Moldova
The performance constructs a subjective history of the Republic of Moldova which functions as an addendum and a correction of official history. It is the unwritten, untaught history of the perspectives of ordinary people on the political and economic changes. The performance combines the anti-heroic representation of the main public events with the voices of those who never make it into the history textbooks except as statistics. In a context where political leaders, agents of capital and public intellectuals join forces against the citizens, the performance suggests several necessary errata to the official history, which is unsurprisingly written by the powerful and used as an instrument of power.
David, let’s start by talking about the aspects of Moldovan history which made you approach the topics in this way.
The topic is very vast. We aimed for a subjective, truncated approach. This was the idea: to have a contrast between the perspective of the average person and the mainstream one, from the time of the independence of Moldova, in 1991, until the present day. When the team from Teatru-Spălătorie invited me to work on a performance, the idea was to pitch several research topics and I insisted on coming to Kishinev before the actual rehearsal period in order to find a topic of local interest to work on together. To do this, I needed time for research, especially since Moldovan reality is very different from the Romanian one, even more so from the one in Bucharest. We are talking about a country with a different history and a different culture, even if we speak a similar language and we understand each other.
How do you feel about this kind of intervention from the outside by a person tackling the history of another country?
This was one of the main things I discussed with the actors, the actresses, Nicoleta [Esinencu] and Dora [Dorogan]. I told them I wouldn’t like this to be my perspective on the history of Moldova. For them, an outside perspective was very interesting, but at the same time, to me it seemed ethically problematic to come from the West and tell them how things stood in their country. I wanted to find out about things and understand as much as I can from the local situation, and at the same time I wanted to challenge the actors and actresses to get involved in research, including thinking about their own lives; to look at their families, at their personal history and see what their views were, not mine. This becomes clear when you realize we ended up talking about a different topic than the one we initially discussed. When we started researching, we were concerned with the issue of Moldovan identity, what it means to be Moldovan versus Romanian, versus Russians, or Romanian speakers versus Russian speakers etc., but during the research, while talking to them, it became clear to me that this issue of identity is more a concern for the elites, one which has little bearing on the issues of ordinary people and on the ways in which they experienced history. And then, asking questions like “Why is Moldova the poorest country in Europe?” or “What was it like during the Soviet period?”, we inevitably ended up doing a performance about Moldova’s recent history, where the identity issue is only touched upon. It is not the main issue.[…]
How do you see things in a wider cultural context in Moldova? Are there other examples from the theatre or from literature where you can see this type of history revisited?
These topics are just as delicate here as they are in Romania. We don’t have a theatre performance on the post-socialist transition period in Romania. The transition from state capitalism, according to a so-called “socialist” model, to market capitalism after 1990, was extremely brutal. It was an ordeal for many. I’ve seen two sociological studies, done by the British, which concluded that this period (the1990s) has experienced the highest number of avoidable, peacetime deaths in European history. Deaths caused by depression, alcoholism, people losing their homes, their jobs and so on. In Moldova, the situation was even harder, because the 1980s were relatively prosperous there, whereas in Romania, the 80s were the harshest. The rupture for them was more severe. Nobody talks about these things in either Moldova or Romania. […]
What I find really relevant is that it isn’t just about formally implementing new working methods or about a part the actors play, but about the fact that they themselves learned things which they might not have known about their families and they learned that they were a part of Moldovan history after 1991, as well, as far as migration or loss of social status is concerned…
It’s not that they didn’t know about these things, it’s more about trying to gain confidence in the fact that these things are part of the history of the country just as much as Mircea Snegur (former President of Moldova) is. Ant that the war in Transnistria is not fought only at the point of “Oh, God, they stole our land”, but also at the point of the soldiers’ trauma, the soldiers who are often their own parents, not just some abstract soldiers. This is the real gain for me. History does not belong to the elites and is not the history of conquests or of heads of state. This was one of the main stakes of the performance, to depict a history different from that of the textbooks filled with feudal lords, kings, and presidents, one which concerns social dynamics, the lives of ordinary folks, the organization of family affairs, of labor and of economic relations. […]
Interview conducted by Ionuț Sociu and Marius Bogdan Tudor