Contemporary Greek Τheatre
Contemporary dramatists—some of them having their work performed in Greece for the first time—enjoy a prominent place in this year’s programme. Amidst the chaos and irrationality of our times, we choose to invest in the spoken and written word, in coherence and in the meaningful. Greek companies will also make their presence felt with works informed by the tenets of open dramaturgy, devised theatre and lecture performances. Of course, classic works are not absent from the programme, with Shakespeare in particular revisited in the work of young artists and internationally acclaimed directors.
One strand running through the programme is the theatrical renegotiation of contemporary history, both in purely poetic terms and with a starting point in documentary theatre. Another is the presence of new staged narratives on the Greek crisis which engage the audience through their own experience and invite us to rethink our reality and to recognize the roots and causes of the crisis. We have spotlighted works which shed light on the human paradox that leads to crisis, war, civil strife, betrayal; productions which set out to explore the contradiction between culture and being, the absurdity of power, the limits of gendered identities, and the fault lines that run through consciousness in a globalized, capitalist society. We have also favoured works that revel in the magic of reconstruction, and which engage both the brain and the emotions. Productions in which the personal is conveyed through the collective without losing its momentum in realistic depictions or accusations. And works in which the darkness of the human soul is transformed into light through the magic of poetry.
Our emphasis is on new Greek theatre as it emerges dynamic, versatile, open to interaction with the international scene, and in no way focused on Greekness or traditional values. We are interested in the Greek to the extent that it can be extrapolated to the universal; we are interested in “Greek particularity” to the extent that it can be used as a key to unlock our dramatic present. Ultimately, we are interested in placing theatre at the heart of public space —not in ‘political theatre’, as it is traditionally meant, but theatre which acknowledges the political power of the written word; a theatre that engages with its era.
Co-curator for Contemporary Greek Theatre
The 2016 selection of international artists for the Athens and Epidaurus Festival is a start.
A first attempt to connect the local to the international and the artistic to the political. The programme tries to pay tribute to the festival, it’s tradition, it’s past programme on the one hand and to the political reality in Europe and the current state of artistic production in the international performing arts scene on the other hand.
There are artists that have been performing on the big international stages over the last decade(s) as well as new voices, some have been in the festival before, some are new to Greece. There was no rule to only show the newest available work, there is no attempt represent the world, no theme or content or form that connects the chosen works. But there are some approaches that many of the invited artists share. Practically all of them challenge theatrical forms and conventions, producing performing art that is very aware of its means and mechanisms. These leads to very powerful and diverse aesthetics, ranging from documentary formats to epic narrations, from lectures to operas. Most of this year’s artists and companies develop their material themselves or devise it from existing texts, many of them do so in some kind of collective working process. This is less a sign of distrust in dramatic texts than a consequence of the immediate necessity to address the current reality in which we live. All invited artist have a strong sense of their/our social and political really and try to find ways to express that. They have found very different forms of theatre to do so, several of them quite radical. If there is one word to summarize it: it is a political choice.
We decided to take risks. Several shows were not ready when we decided to programme them. We did this trusting artists we know and also as a sign: we think that in times of
internationally shrinking cultural budgets it is important that cultural institutions, also we as a big international festival, keep taking risks to support the work of international artists and give art a voice in globalised world that is dominated by economic thinking.”
Matthias von Hartz
Co-curator for International Productions
The underlying philosophy of the dance programming for this year’s festival—in tandem with the whole performance programming of the festival—is that a Festival has to breathe new life into existing conditions while simultaneously to create conditions and challenges that give rise to new perspectives and broadened horizons for the future.
The dance programme sets out to bring together Greek and international dance artists with a particular focus on younger artists, both up-coming and already established. This artistic conversation is the upshot of choices guided by the notion of contemporary choreography as expanded practice, one which does not relate choreography to dance composition in the narrow sense, but sees it as a structure of thinking and a strategy for praxis that extends beyond dance and the stage. Consequently, our dance programming perceives the selected choreographies as a series of questions posed in public sphere not to be answered but to remind us that the idea of quest as a conscious position, presupposes risk, hope and faith in that fragile dimension of human condition that craves adventure and self-knowledge.
Dance, generally perceived as an ephemeral art, is actually a meditation on time—experiential as well as historic time, personal and collective time, past and present as discontinuous waves in which cause and effect are not visibly aligned.
The works selected function in the space between what we see on stage and what we can perceive through our rational thinking, our emotions and memory. Representing a range of aesthetic approaches, the selected artists explore the world as animate and inanimate universe, as inner and outer space, as a sum of subjects and objects whose definition is under negotiation—a conscious negotiation aimed at decision-making, narrative and action. Choreography is an intervention of the dancing body in space and time (or rhythm), an intertwining and an interdependence of all three elements that build the context, the conditions in which the audience is present to play its own role. That is, to participate in an experience of works (in the sense of the ancient Greek έργον), meaning the attempt, the effort, the action.
Co-curator for Dance
Staying in step with the international artistic community and the wishes of Festival audiences, we are committed to drawing up an integrated three-year programme of educational activities which will contextualize and complement the Festival’s other activities as well as creating new fixtures within the institution.
The educational activities will be developed along three axes:
- educating young artists in the arts at both the national and international level
- providing an aesthetic education and expanding the dialogue on the performing arts
- creating a broad community of Athens residents through personal participation, and renegotiating issues relating to public space.
This year, the parallel educational programme will focus on the Festival’s theatre and dance productions at Peiraios 260 and the Athens School of Fine Arts. Its activities are aimed both at the general public and at artists, whose experience and understanding of the works they seek to enhance while encouraging critical thinking about the performance being viewed.
Within this framework, a series of discussions on crucial subjects are being scheduled with the participation of important researchers and academics from Greece and abroad. There will also be a programme of parallel events framing the scheduled productions, including a colloquium on Jean Genet’s The Screens, which is to receive its Greek première 55 years after it was written, and the playwriting masterclass led by Alexandra Badéa (Grand Prix de la littérature dramatique, French national Theatre Centre, 2013) to accompany the production of her play Extrêmophile.
We are also arranging a workshop (with Danae Theodoridou, Evfrosyni Protopapa and Konstantina Georgelou) focused on dramaturgy in the performing arts with an emphasis on the unique relationship developed between theatre and dance since the late Eighties, and an acrobatics workshop with Lorenzo Crivellari, Edoardo Demontis and Victor Garmendia Torija.
Co-curator for Educational Programmes