The PASSAGE 23°E Project

The project PASSAGE 23°E is a joint research project of institutions, universities, archives and artists focusing on theatre and forms of theatrical expression in the national and regional cultural areas of Central, Central Eastern and South Eastern Europe over the last 25 years.

The project Passage 23°E's main target is the collective development and long-term implementation of a common information and documentation system with regards to a European culture in its historical, current and future dimensions.

Within this project it is intended to enhance the intellectual, artistic, journalistic as well as general approach to knowledge and experience regarding theatre and theatricality of these regions. To visualize these knowledge structures and to give access to them is thus expressed as one of the most relevant outcomes of this project.


Project Outline
PASSAGE 23°E: Theatre and theatricality from the Baltic to the Aegean


The societal changes that were introduced by the events of 1989 throughout the world and above all in Europe have altered the substance of an entire continent. They founded a “new Europe” that was – and will be – geopolitically and economically restructured; the geo-cultural consequences have, however, hardly been considered for the long-term.

Considering this the project that is described below is developed on a three-part foundation: 1) a history and culture of the continent as a decisive basis for a new grounding of European identity and identities; 2) the establishment of a European-oriented and differentiated cultural memory; and 3) a view onto long-term European processes of the creation and development of this memory.

The PASSAGE 23°E project’s objective is to develop a European-oriented information and knowledge platform as well as a vibrant exchange of knowledge in order to generate information about current processes of cultural development in the field of theater and theatricality as well as its national and international contingency and historic roots – and to present this to a cultural public. The project will be shaped by a close, equal cooperation between the main applicant – the German International Theatre Institute, Mariannenplatz 2, 10997 Berlin – and the partners from various states in Central, Central Eastern and South Eastern Europe; it will take place on a shared level with the double structure of universities and theater institutes and be oriented towards the idea of a comprehensive democratic access to sources of art and culture.

The programmatic title PASSAGE 23°E  is meant to direct attention to a part of Europe that is demarcated by the 23° longitude between Helsinki and Athens. Here, Europe reaches its longest North-South extension and includes spaces with an enormous cultural diversity that is described by terms such as Eastern Europe, Central Eastern Europe or South Eastern Europe. The geo-cultural dimensions of these areas’ developmental processes have hardly been the focus of attention or observation. Above all, developments in theatre and theatricality are little known beyond regional and national borders.

The PASSAGE 23°E  project examines all of these sources of cultural wealth, their diversity, their historical individuality and unique character; in doing so, it intends to create the prerequisites and possibilities needed to discover this “other” Europe and to inscribe it into a common memory in the interests of a multifaceted European identity.


A structure with three work fields is planned for the project:

A.  A continual audio-visual theater documentation in the partner countries, combined with researching, collecting and generating material that offers context

B. The construction of an information and knowledge platform on theatre and theatricality in the Central Eastern and South Eastern European countries

C. Both work contexts will be combined by a level of discourse in which the theoretical, cultural-historical, cultural-political as well as aesthetic and technological subjects and questions that are connected to or arise from the project can be discussed, intensified and published


A phenomenon such as theatre, whose existential essence is found in the moment and transience, is a special focus of attention due to its natural imperilment through the act of forgetting. The theoretical and practical development of theatre documentation under conditions dictated by a digital society of information will be given special consideration in this project.

An overview of current artistic and societal issues and thus also a basic foundation for the common information and knowledge platform for Central Eastern and South Eastern European theatre will be created by collecting and creating an audio-visual theatre documentation process of contemporary forms of theatre in the partner countries. It should meet the demands of a digital information society and also guarantee the storage and visibility of an intangible cultural heritage. The audio-visual material not only includes the documentation of theatre performances, but also interviews, theater and cultural reports, among other things, in order to ensure that one has the opportunity to find out about developments in theatre from as many perspectives as possible.

In this information and knowledge platform the documents named above will be introduced on an equal level next to data and material from the national institutes of documentation and information. By researching the relevant issues, the historical and cultural contexts for the documents and knowledge resources will be made tangible. This online portal, which is aligned along the idea of a democratic access to the sources of art and culture, is intended as a connection to the major cultural heritage portals such as DDB and Europeana; it will also consider the wealth of languages in the partner countries by making multilingual access possible.

By gaining access to the knowledge of Central Eastern and South Eastern European theatre in the partner countries, a lively exchange of ideas and discourse will be established that will be realized in meetings within the context of common workshops, conferences and training formats in the participating scientific and cultural-political institutions as well as in thematic seminars and qualification training. By including present and future researchers and practitioners and ensuring their cooperation, a sustainable architecture of knowledge of Central Eastern and South Eastern theatre with a perspective on its central theoretical and historical contexts will be developed. Within these diverse formats, impulses for dealing with the concepts of “Europe” and “European culture” will be created and thus make a previously “unknown” Europe recognizable as an “other” Europe.


In the long-term, this project can be considered a pilot project from which a common information and documentation center for an essential part of Central Eastern and South Eastern culture in a current and historical dimension could emerge. This center would be a location for permanent interaction and debate among practitioners, researchers, cultural politicians, journalists and also other parts of an interested public. At the same time, important objects and processes of Europe’s cultural heritage would be stored in this center over time.

This project intends to create the prerequisites for the identification of and dialogue among European identity – and identities – from an unusual perspective: that of an “other” Europe. Opening up the access to practical and theoretical stores of knowledge of theatre and theatricality in Central Eastern and South Eastern Europe not only allows for the possibility of investigating the perception of Europe in history and in the present; it can also – given the selected shift in perspectives – contribute to the discussion about considering what a future Europe could be.

In consideration of the issues and the objectives listed above, we understand this project to be a challenge in the EU framework programme Horizon 2020. The aim of the project initiators is to create a substantiated and well structured application supporting the ideas and needs of all partners of the project equally. Thanks to the Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung we receive an initial funding to consolidate partnerships within the project. We plan to hand in an application in the EU framework programme Horizon 2020 by 2017.

More about the project