The theater plays an important role in highlighting the struggles and experiences of people affected by energy prices and transitions. This is the view of David Schwartz, an anthropological theater director, lecturer, and activist. David holds a PhD and has produced plays that focus on the impact of energy prices and the closure of coal mines in Romania. His productions highlight the plight of people unable to afford the bare essentials of modern living and the transition from Communism to capitalism.

David’s work reflects the real-life experiences of people and the personal and local struggles they face. As a radical instigator of performative art, he brings to the stage the real experiences of people who struggle with energy poverty. David’s work highlights the need for greater assistance and a focus on humanity in the energy transition.

In the interview with Michael LaBelle, host of the My Energy 2050 podcast, David explains how he began in the field of arts. He was dissatisfied with the theater scene in Romania and felt that the state-funded productions were not relevant or connected to contemporary realities. This led him and his colleagues to start a different kind of theater, one that was politically engaged and aimed to discuss the problems and struggles in society.

David describes a play he created based on interviews with people in the mining towns in Romania in the 1990s. The play focuses on the impact of the closing of the mines, which resulted in the loss of jobs and a restructuring of the society. The interviews were turned into monologues that were performed by actors, and the play had a successful reaction in Bucharest, despite being a shock to the audience. The play highlights the social conflicts that arose from the closing of the mines and how the miners struggled to adapt to the changes.

David’s work demonstrates the important role that theater can play in capturing social phenomena and bringing awareness to issues that people often only read about. He is a passionate advocate for the use of theater to bring attention to the human impact of the energy transition.

(Written by ChatGTP)

Podcast introduction

David Schwartz is a theatre director, lecturer, and activist. He holds a PhD, wrote and produced plays focused on the impact of energy prices and the shuttering of coal mines in Romania.

This week we have a special guest with David Schwartz. How does the theater fit within the energy transition? As policymakers are discovering society matters. Unfortunately, this is more true in some countries than others. David’s focus on Romania deals with economic transitions experienced by the people. His productions highlight the plight of people unable to afford the bare essentials to exist in modern society.

From my experience when I think about the policy making and promises that come from national politicians and even at the EU level, I often think about what is the real impact on the ground for people on the economic margins. David has created plays reflecting these personal and local struggles.

On one hand, David comes across as a radical instigator of performative art. But as you’ll hear in part of our conversation, he takes the real experiences of people and presents it through theatrical performances. And what is more true than the real experiences of people or a fictional representation drawn from real experiences?

I think as an academic I often get caught up in the policy or technology aspects of the energy transition, and I don’t know or don’t see those that suffer in energy poverty.

When we hear about big policies and money to assist vulnerable groups, like that in the EU’s Social Climate Fund, which is planned to contain €87 billion, I have my serious doubts about how this money will be distributed. From my conversation with David, you’ll also get an impression he likewise holds limited faith in governments to assist citizens.

When I said you’ll hear part of our conversation, I have to admit I had a bit of technical difficulty. So I wasn’t able to record some of the most essential parts of our conversation. So I both David an apology and you, as a listener for this failure.

But I can certainly attest to David’s in-depth knowledge and research skills at collecting and understanding how people experience and suffer from energy bills. The fact that he brings this to the stage demonstrates his skills in capturing social phenomena that we often only read about, and is hard to experience. My profound respects go out to David those working with him to raise this issues in a more engaging format that is usually emotionally detached from reality.

Before we begin, I want to thank Roxana Bucata for putting me in touch with David and all her work in organizing the interviews I did in Romania in November 2022.

A final note, this interview was done for my 2022 role as an Open Society University Network, Senior Fellow at Chatham House, The Royal Institute of International Affairs. Funding was generously provided to produce the podcasts for the episodes recorded in 2022. And now it is 2023 but I still have a few more in my back pocket.

Summary keywords

people, energy, romania, theater, miners, society, bucharest, art, interview, david, performance, david schwartz, research, perspective, online, prices, plays, transition, state, regime

Transcipt AI link with audio

pdf version


Intro to the show.


How did you get into theatre directing?


The beginning of political theater in Romania.


How did you become interested in energy prices?


Why is the closing of the theater so bad?


How did the miners react to communism?


Performing for the first time in the zoo valley.


The research process behind the production.


Public control of the energy domain.


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Dr. Michael LaBelle is an associate professor at Central European University in the Department of Environmental Sciences. He produces the My Energy 2050 podcast to change how we communicate and improve the energy transition.