25 years of networking public theatres across Europe is certainly a reason to celebrate.
The European Theatre Convention, or ETC, is now the largest pan-european organisation promoting the work of public European theatres.
To celebrate the anniversary, the ETC has organised a spring tour across eight cities in seven European countries starting at the State Theatre in the German city of Stuttgart.
Each city chose a theme illustrating the problems and challenges of today’s public theatre institutions.
In Stuttgart it was about its social role, and particularly how to attract a young audience.
“Enthusing young people about the theatre is as difficult today as it was 100 years ago.” says Artistic Director Hasko Weber. “Maybe times were different but it was never taken for granted that young people wanted to sit in a closed room or space to watch a story told on a stage. This collective and democratic form of experience you always have to redefine and reinvent.”
On board for the tour are theatre professionals, journalists and artists who are involved in the theatre business to discuss and exchange their experiences.
In the Belgian city of Liege the acting school “Ecole Supérieur d’Acteurs Conservatiore” explained new concepts about actor training and work with actors in a theatre ensemble.
Today the European Theatre Convention represents 40 member theatres in more than 20 countries with the aim of increasing the impact of public theatres in European cultural policy discourses and to promote contemporary theatre creations.
In the south western German city of Karlsruhe the theme was about the artistic approaches and strategies for children and youth theatres.
Todays its important to educate children that theatre is more than just entertainment is also a platform for social-political contention.
Jan Linders, the director of drama at the theatre explains: “Today’s theatre is still able and always will be capable of a collective perception of socially-relevant questions – not necessarily to answer them but to highlight those questions. Theatre is also able to integrate any new media, that is what is wonderful about it – I don’t think theatre will die out somehow just because of new media.”
Next stop was the Swiss city of Zürich to see “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” by Tennessee Williams – an example of how to integrate new media like video on stage.
In most public theatres the majority of the audience is Third generation. A new and younger audience needs to be attracted.
Dubravka Vrgo, the President of the European Theatre Convention, thinks it boils down to money.
“Because of the financial cutbacks, there is no place for young artists, for young actors, for the young directors in Europe and I think this is one of the biggest roles of the European Theatre Convention to care about the young artists, about the young theatre directors to make a Europe possible for them.With them we will find a new audience.”
The tour also crossed the Alps to Prato in Italy for the play “The Belle Vue” (Mit schöner Aussicht) by the Austrian-Hungarian writer Ödön von Horvart.
Ödön von Horvat, who died 1938, warned of the upcoming fascism and racism in Germany. The stop in Prato was dedicated to the theme “Theatre and the decadence of Europe”.
Italian stage director Paolo Magelli has already worked all over the world. “I deeply believe that theatre is the place for dreams,” he said, “a free space, a place of freedom where utopia is possible, we must show people that the mind should be free.”
“To travel across Europe and discuss with professionals about today’s theatre, attend plays in seven different countries – this theatre spring tour is the dream of every theatre lover” said correspondent Wolfgang Spindler from Prato in Italy on his way to Zagreb for euronews.