|© UNICEF video|
|Young Moldovan actors from the Social Theatre Initiative perform a scene about social pressure to take illegal drugs.|
By Tatiana Tibuleac
CHISINAU, Moldova, 21 November 2006 – A group of strangers watches silently as a 15-year-old girl is pressured into drinking vodka and doing drugs. Suddenly, a burst of applause spreads through the crowd. Another successful play has been staged by the youth volunteers of the Balti Child Rights Information Centre.
Without any formal training, these young actors manage to move audiences to tears at performances they create and present free of charge. “All the characters and ideas for the plays are real,” said volunteer actress Aliona Smirnova. “Unfortunately, the realities of Moldova give us so many case studies that we do not have to invent them.”
The play is part of the UNICEF-organized Social Theatre Initiative – an innovative approach to theatre performance that encourages audience participation and discussion. Indeed, for many members of the audience, it seems as if the scenes could have been taken from their own lives.
A trusted voice
The majority of spectators are adolescents who have had problems in the past and who need help to avoid making the same mistakes again.
“I went through such an experience,” a 16-year-old girl said after the play. “I started drinking under the influence of some older friends. I found it very difficult to give up that lifestyle.”
Her boyfriend was also impressed with the show. “I regret that I did not see a play like this five years ago when I was a drug addict,” he said. “I think it might have helped me. As it was, I had to struggle to overcome my addiction by myself.”
|© UNICEF video|
|Youths at a UNICEF-supported drop-in centre in Moldova.|
Outreach activities like the Social Theatre Initiative are successful because young people trust their peers more than adult specialists. Although many adolescents are aware of the risk of HIV/AIDS infection, few of them believe they could ever become victims. They need a trusted voice to convince them that they are also vulnerable.
“Young people under the age of 29 represent 70 per cent of the cases of HIV/AIDS infection in Moldova, and the figures are getting worse each day,” noted UNICEF Project Officer for HIV/AIDS Silviu Domente. “Social Theatre has proved to be a successful youth information tool.”
Making the right decisions
The Balti Child Rights Information Centre has already created plays on themes such as HIV/AIDS, drug abuse, human trafficking and sexually transmitted diseases. The themes are regularly updated in order to address the most current issues facing young people.
“All these issues are extremely important, especially in our region, where the situation is much more serious than in the rest of the country,” says the Centre’s Director, Oxana Buzovici.
After a short break, the actors return to the stage for the second part of the play. This time, however, the audience members stop the action each time they think the characters should make better choices. In the new version, the 15-year-old girl will not take drugs and she will not get infected with HIV. With the help of her peers, she will finally be able to make the right decisions.
UNICEF’s Vladimir Lozinski reports on the UNICEF-supported Social Theatre Initiative in Chisinau, Moldova.
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