R: Over the last two decades, culture was bemoaned the Cinderella of the national budget. Is this still true ?
I.C: To be honest, sometimes it was true, sometimes it wasn’t. I cannot complain.
While I was a minister of culture, we had a satisfactory budget.
It is true that I submitted my resignation twice for this reason but that helped to get back the budget they had cut off.
I think some people made an obsession with this topic, saying there was no money for culture and if money was needed in some other field it would be taken from culture. I could demonstrate the opposite.
The budget I had in the first year as a Minister for the restoration of monuments was 36 times higher than that of my predecessor.
The monuments restoration national program I set up is still functional; of course it depends on the government policies and priorities. I am no longer up to date with this issue. Over the last years, the funds for culture have been much reduced.
A programme for cutting expenditures and staff came into force.
I am afraid that all these might affect the restoration process of the National Theatre in Bucharest (NTB).
On the other hand, it is sad that the alternative budgets – so to call them for the important cultural events were reduced to almost zero. The sponsors disappeared because the law does not allow them to donate more than 5% of their gross revenue and this only if they are profitable. generally speaking,
The companies report profit to almost zero. Therefore, finding sponsors is a very hard thing to do.
Moreover, some cynical voices say that, with or without money, culture still goes ahead. This is totally wrong.
Culture represents the ornamental effigy of a country. Culture resides in all the positive things of the society. Culture does not mean only art; it means research, inventions, genius.
This is the wall I’m facing in my attempt of understanding.
I have compared yearly – over the last 20 years – what happened in Romania before the Revolution in 1989.
The governments at the time were run by less donnish ministers, with little exceptions. The Culture Council was run by all kinds of – so called people of culture.
I can understand that they were afraid of culture then, perhaps they felt it as a threat. Now, governments are made up of important intellectual people: professors, lawyers, doctors and the field that suffers is precisely culture.
It is a paradox. so,
R: So, do culture need support from the State Budget ?
I.C.: It is compulsory! Or maybe the system should be reinvented.
For example, we could adopt the American system.
There isn’t a ministry of Culture there, but important funding covers all the cultural needs of a large state as America.
R: Romanian Theaters, at least those in Bucharest play most of the plays sell-out. How do you explain this ?
I.C: We lowered the prices as much as possible; we could not have raised the prices in the middle of a crisis. People do not come to the theatre for luxury or for entertainment but because they find a benchmark here. The great number of viewers that we have raised even by 180%, in its glorious moments. All these together led to a satisfactory budget to the theatre. I hope I am not exaggerating when I say that the total tickets income represented a kind of national record, between 18 and 20% of the total expenditures.
The National Theatre is the cultural institution with the highest expenditures. Taking into consideration the costs of the heating, the lighting and of all the maintenance services provided by private companies, because we don’t have enough personnel, we come to the only conclusion that can be drawn, namely that without money from the state budget, the National Theatre dies. It cannot survive only with the money brought by the tickets we sell. With no help from the state, no theatre can survive at the moment. A reform is required, everything should be changed. The Hungarians, for example, made a radical gesture and cancelled all unlimited term contracts. The National Theatre used to have 500 employees – now there are only 400. 100 of them were actors and 400 people represented the services. Therefore, the actors represent about 25%.
R: When you was rewarded with a star in the Time Square you stated: ”We are in the first rows of the world theater. Everywhere the Romanian theater goes it leaves deep traces and Romanian artists are recognized as such.” What does this recognition mean for the Romanian theater ? What does it mean for the young actors ?
I.C.: It means a lot. This represents an important expectation horizon.
The National Theatre, the Bulandra Theatre and all the other theatres carry out tours to many countries and artists can be seen in exceptional plays. There is no greater joy for an artist. Thus, the value of the Romanian theatre is acknowledged abroad.
R: Is it important for the young actors too ? Do they have the same chance as you had ?
I.C.: Of course they have it, if they are cast in the plays that are played abroad. And we can remember director Purcărete’s shows, with plenty of young people involved. They went on tours all over the Military houseworld.
It also depends on the festival that invites you.
Young actors have another problem.
The budgetary schemes are closed. No one gets employed anymore.
R: Returning to the National Theater in Bucharest, the reconstruction project is one of the most important projects in Romania and part of the funds come from the Council of Europe Development Bank. How difficult was it for you to obtain this money ?
Let’s remember how this money came to Romania. Mr. Tăriceanu’s government made a specific loan for culture from this bank and disseminated the money towards different objectives.
There were two significant objectives at the time – important institutions running inside historical monuments and public buildings: the National Library and the National Theatre.
But not all the money comes from this bank – part of it comes from the Romanian government. Almost half of the funds were granted by the government.
Once the reconstruction of such buildings started, the government has begun to understand the necessity of continuing this process and things are going well.
R: How will the National Theater look like when the project is over ?
I.C. : If you access our webpage ( www.tnb.ro), you will see virtual images, both from inside and from outside the building. It will look amazingly beautiful. There will be an en plein air theatre on the roof. We are rearranging Lăptăria lui Enache (Enache’s Dairy) pub. There will be coffee shops, flower shops, three new halls – two are ready and the third one was to be finished by July 1st, The last one being the former setting painting room.
R: Will the social-cultural role of the biggest theater in the country change or rise ?
I.C.: It will rise significantly because we have a serious project. We will
develop the National Theatre for children. The small hall will be offered to young
actors who do not have a place to run their plays, nor to practice.
We are ready to provide them with everything that the theatre can: three weeks of rehearsals and one week of shows, every evening. If the show is good, we shall
keep it in the programme for the entire season.
R: How do you see the future of culture in Romania ?
I.C. : I see it well. I cannot say I have doubts. (he smiles , e.n.). If culture did not die in the communist period, it will not die in the democratic regime, either. Culture does not die, it adjusts itself. So, to use the same expression, theatre does not die, it just adjusts itself.