Romania is the place where young actors play in bar basements, musicians work as bartenders while having a show and visual artists exhibit in coffee places. And all that seemed all right, adequate even, until a bar that used to live a double life – providing drinks on day time and hosting actors plays at night, woke up one day and said: “Hey, but that’s not fucking fair!”. They are now working their asses off to build a performing art space where actors, alongside other contemporary artists with nowhere to perform, can do their work at ease.
I remember being a student in Romania, a guy lost in Iasi, a big city where although people pay a lot of attention to arts and culture in general, the places where these two can properly develop are few to nonexistent. There are so many contemporary artists here, so many creative minds, that it’s fucking difficult to identify the individuals, to track them down, to get connected with what they’re doing.
And that’s mostly because they don’t have access to real places where to expose themselves to the world – young actors without a scene, young visual artists without supporting galleries. Needless to say, municipality doesn’t give a shit. These people, unlike other civilized countries, made a habit out of using nightlife spots as places to express and promote themselves. Independent actors perform in the bars’ basements, right? There’s a big chance you’re going to see some guitarist playing in and an hour later he’s serving you beer as a waiter. Visual artists are exhibiting in coffee shops.
And yes, you could say stuff like “but that’s awesome, it’s beautiful, that’s the free bohemian spirit working its magic!”. And you could even say that’s part of the deal. It’s a mess, but it’s ok, ‘cause, you know, you studied Arts so what did you expect? That’s exactly why nothing changes – people are in shit, but they convinced themselves it’s normal the way it is. That’s okay, when it’s so not okay.
Few years ago, one night I went to one of this places – Teatru Fix (Theatre Fix), an independent, the only independent theatre in the city at the time, but basically a bar with a big basement used as a scene for plays. A friend of mine, an independent actor, was playing that night. I loved all of it, obviously – the Parisian vibe, the hidden atmosphere, the limited access, the shady Eyes Wide Shut-like feeling.
Young actors trying to do their thing so close to the audience I could see my friend’s tear in the corner of his eyes – true story. The piece was over, people applauding, leaving, and showing their support on the way out by throwing few coins in a hat. An actual actor was holding this hat. I asked my friend what was that wet eye thing all about. “I don’t know what you’re onto”, he replied. “It must’ve been the light”. And I didn’t question him any further.
“Enough! It no longer does it to act in bars!”
In 5 years of activity, this bar-theatre produced 13 plays on its own and hosted tens of other independent productions and concerts, it participated to national and international festivals. For what initially looked like a place where people came to have a drink, Fix did paid its dues, taking under its wings artists otherwise outcast by the big brothers.
Romania’s Biggest Independent Theatre
The founders of Fix started to acknowledge the need of a bigger space. In other words they’ve had it with the tight, miserable place where actors were performing in. They moved to a bigger place, a soon-to-be professional one, strictly assigned to supporting not only independent actors, but artists of all categories – Hala Fix (Fix Hall).
“After five years of being the only independent theatre in Iasi, Teatru FiX wants to go further and lays the foundation of a contemporary art venue, located on the premises of a former industrial center in Iasi. Our aim is to create an independent platform that supports young artists in all stages of their artistic development. What we bring forward is a project for the entire community that cannot exist without dialogue and cooperation”, they say.
Mihai Pintilei, founding member: “Since we don’t exist for the national public administration, these generations have to make it on their own. Enough! It no longer does it to act in bars, we must act in professional spaces that work by the speed of light of the world we live in – the independent theatre”.
The chosen location is an abandoned furniture factory in the industrial area of the city – a 1.6 km2 black hole that needs a shitload of improvement and reconstruction. All that translated into time and money. So far, they invested about 70 000 dollars on partitioning the building: new walls, fireproof access doors and much more. They need another 80 000, that hopefully will become reality through their Indiegogo campaign currently running.
Hala Fix hosted its first events already. Two months ago, this place gathered around 50 graffers, musicians, architects and visual artists at the 3rd edition of The Gather:ng. The event changed the face of the place, aiming to give a soul, some kind of blessing to the building.
The venue will be unique by its size and purpose, it will bring independent international productions and artists in, creating this way a network with other independent structures across the world, and it will finally be able to support local independent artists community, as Fix always wanted to. If there’s a place that needs urgently to come to life now in Romania, it is Hala Fix.
All photos credits: Hala Fix