Performing on the main stage of the Nottara Theatre in downtown Bucharest is a dream of every aspiring artist in Romania, where hundreds of prison inmates have gotten that lucky break.
A drama festival organized by the National Penitentiary Administration of Romania gives prisoners the opportunity to appear in theater productions overseen by professional directors. The Multiart festival was organized to combat stereotypes about people serving time in the penal system and to offer them a route to reintegration.
While participation doesn’t guarantee a shorter sentence or other privileges, it can be a step in that direction. Inmates selected for the performances earn bonus points, which they can apply toward extra visitors or faster access to parole.
The festival, which runs under the motto “Liberation Through Culture,” debuted in 2009 and has taken place every year except 2020, when it was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the years, more than 700 inmates have...