Theatre today and tomorrow: directors from more than 40 countries have been taking part in the International Theatre Conference in Baku to discuss the new challenges they face.
While TV and cinema have been around for a while, there is now growing competition from the internet and social media to capture the audience’s attention.
Among the key speakers invited to the conference was Polish film, theatre and opera director Krzyszof Zanussi.
“For a real world, the room is shrinking, we are more and more dependent on the virtual world and the virtual world has another notion of time. That’s what happens here and now, it happens only in theatre,” he told our reporter.
Mikhail Safronov is a Russian theatre director: “First of all, the challenge of theatre is to find a common language with the audience. We also show our plays online, but when a person looks into your eyes from the stage – that’s priceless,” he said.
The eternal question of the duty of theatre towards its audience was on the menu, along with questions about multi-culturism in a multi-cultural society. Yvette Hardie is President of the International Association of Theaters For Children And Young People: “I think there are some worrying tendencies in the world right now. We are seeing a real swing to a right-wing kind of thinking, we are seeing a lot of xenophobia, and so it’s really vital that children and young people are exposed to a variety of cultures, that they are exposed to the diversity of experience that is in the world,” she said.
And how about theater in Azerbaidjan? Participants were treated to some Azeri productions, including a drama by young director Azer Pasha Nematov and the popular opera ‘Leyli and Majnun’, an Azeri version of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and a favourite in the national repertoire. But is there such a thing as an independent or underground theater in Azerbaijan, where controversial themes can be addressed?
“Underground theatre cannot finance itself because people are not interested in independent theatre so it can’t survive, and has to close down,” said theatre critic Aydin Talibzada.
But Krzyszof Zanussi didn’t agree with this point of view: “Because everything depends on the power,” he said. “The state is distributing money and subsidizing theatres that they like. But the theatres must be in tune with the policies of the government.”
But for some of those who make it, theatre is much more than entertainment. Transcending political correctness, they seek to elicit dialogue on social and political issues.
Veera Marjamaa is a young Estonian playwright: “Well, all the stories have been told already, as we all know,” she said. “But I’m looking for the stories inside the community I’m writing for. I go to the people and talk to them and then I twist them and the result is pure fiction. And I’m trying to find the themes that people don’t want to talk about.”
In times of economic crisis, the cultural sector is often one of the first to suffer from budget cuts.
“And that’s why it’s such a good idea to hold this congress because we can also encourage each other and exchange ideas about what theater will be at the end of the 21st and start of the 22nd century,” said German director Peter P. Pachl.