The New Europe: Theatrical Adventures in Belgium, Italy, Germany, France and Norway

By Gener, Randy | American Theatre, May-June 2006 | Go to article overview

The New Europe: Theatrical Adventures in Belgium, Italy, Germany, France and Norway


Gener, Randy, American Theatre


I WISH HE WOULD PICK ME, BUT HE INVITES SOMEONE ELSE ON STAGE. TONIGHT DANIELE FINZI PASCA selects a shy French girl from the Limoges audience to play his new roommate/friend occupying the other hospital bed. The ideal audience for Icaro, the fanciful play that the Italian-Swiss director and circus artist wrote while briefly imprisoned for refusing the Swiss draft, is not this crowd of people in the dark--it is the lone spectator beside him, improvising responses to his questions and remarks, who, at the performance's end, walks into the bright light in a silly headdress and feathered jacket.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Pasca, a founder in 1983 of the Swiss troupe Teatro Sunil, is emblematic of the new breed of European theatremakers gathered in this special section focusing on "The New Europe." These artists take winged flight in the shared belief that "in the theatre," as Pasca avers, "in a moment of communion, we play with reality." Just as the euro promotes an ideal of openness and harmony between the member nations of the European Union, so does the European stage propose itself as a currency of cooperation, creativity, intensive exploration and hybrid innovation distinct from that of other continents. Walls erected in the political realm are chipped, lowered or torn down. Crossing boundaries, even geographic borders, is key. Improvising, not holding on to tradition, becomes the active structural mode. Such principles drive Jan Lauwers's integrated shows in Flanders, the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium; the transatlantic endeavors of German Theatre Abroad; the medieval-drama peregrinations of La Compagnia de' Colombari in Italy; Eirik Stubo's radical assaults on Ibsen conservatism in Norway's Nationaltheatret; and postcolonial Francophone theatre's dare to blur the boundaries and to question France's nationalist spirit and gallicized identity.

In the vision of a New Europe, horizons are not fixed and unchangeable. Sometimes the dream takes the form of a come-dressed-as-the-wacky-soul-of-Europe party, like the Fellini-inspired Carnevale that Pasca staged for the closing ceremonies of 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy. At other times, New Europe's impact is felt directly on North American shores in a parade as full of strain, sweat and sentiment as Corteo, Pasca's reinvention of Cirque du Soleil's new-age spectacles.

Personally, I think taking the voyage out is the ideal way to experience new Europe's changing states. That way, you are right there when an outstretched hand, like Pasca's in Icaro, invites you to commune with the live-ness of the art form.--Randy Gener

BELGIUM

against populism

Some observations about art, politics and the pointlessness of being defined based on nationalism

THERE IS ONLY ONE WAY TO SURVIVE AS AN ARTIST, and that is to make the best possible art. This requires a lot of practice, making lots of rubbish, destroying a lot and never flinching. Constantly questioning, spitting in the face of your own works and tearing their heart out. Experimenting every day. Questioning your aims every day. Knowing every day that you will fail. Art is difficult--it has been said often enough, but it is the only truth.

What is the significance of theatre in the whole body of artistic thought?

In fact, the last thing one thinks of when talking about art is theatre. And yet it is my opinion that theatre is a very good art form. It is actually the result of just a few frivolous factors that theatre is treated so poorly: the vanity of actors, the false authority of directors, the tragedy of applause. There is no applause in art. Art is a serious matter.

Theatre is, furthermore, not economically advantageous as an artistic medium. Because it does not bend to the laws of the capitalist system, one cannot get rich in the theatre. The chances of getting rich in the plastic arts are very small. The chances of getting rich as a theatremaker are nonexistent.

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