When it comes to theatre, festivals can serve as a barometer for current developments in politics, culture and society. Festivals confront the audience with intense programmes, but are nevertheless subject to market principles.
What do those festivals for theatre and the performing arts have to say about the state of the European idea?
Especially in Eastern Europe, theatre Festivals contribute to vibrant theatre scenes, but what perspectives do Eastern European theatre festivals offer for the developments of theatre and its role in society?
And what is their perception in the West?
Selma Spahić, artistic director of the MESS festival in Bosnia and Hercegovina; Katrin Hrusanova, executive director of the ACT festival in Bulgaria and Tomáš Froyda, former artistic director of the DIVADLO festival in the Czech Republic, discussed their experiences in curating their festivals, applying for funding inside their countries and internationally and organising the overall structure of their festival surroundings.
Dorte Lena Eilers, editor for Theater der Zeit in Germany guided through the discussion of artistic, dramaturgic as well as political fields of interest, evincing the interweaving of all these components for the development of the festival programme.
All speakers emphasized the importance of exchange between theatre festivals especially of neighboring countries, having similar subjects of interest historically and culturally. This exchange is often already developed on a vivid and fruitful level in some of the Eastern European countries.
All of them further pointed out a growing interest in the festival culture in their countries whereas the locating of funding becomes more and more difficult, especially since the financial crisis of 2008 and its aftermath. Here it is more than important to use existing cooperation structures and established forms of collaboration, that have been developed over the years.
Festivals were identified as being much more than places of exchange for theatre professionals. Their influence on the perception of theatre developments beyond the national level but for the locals has been made evident by all the speakers and reassured by the audience of this evening.
More than 50 people came to hear and see the three festival directors. They discussed with them the changing perception and influence of theatre festivals in the region of Central and Eastern Europe. The International Theatre Institute in Germany will continue its research on theatre developments within this cultural areas in the frame of the project PASSAGE 23°E.
(f.l.t.r.): Dorte Lena Eilers, Tomáš Froyda, Katrin Hrusanova, Selma Spahić (picture by: Ernst Strich)
This event is part of the PASSAGE 23°E project coordinated by the International Theatre Institute Germany.
The project is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.