Magazine article American Theatre

Europe's Wild Wild East

Magazine article American Theatre

Europe's Wild Wild East

Article excerpt

How wild is it? Let's start with the messy and never-ending disputes about where the real borders of Central, East-Central, Southeastern and other similar "Europes" are. As this issue's five-part dossier on post-Communist European theatre will show, those issues are inescapable, especially when the subject at hand is the surge of new and fresh theatrical voices and visions from the former Soviet bloc countries. How dramatic have the changes been in this region? "We asked for freedom and you gave us the market," the Czech novelist Ivan Klima wryly said. On this, the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, many of the essayists and correspondents in this special section echo Klima's cry over spilt milk. While the expectation was that freedom would appear in all its manifestations, it turns out that democratic pieties could not be reconciled with new theatrical realities in the aftermath of an exploded empire. The theatre became just one more commodity in the market, and the dictates of both popular taste and globalization are as ruthless as the dictates of the Party.

What exactly is going on in this unfamiliar region? Liberalization did not produce the hoped-for results. In Bulgaria, as that country's leading theatre critic Kalina Stefanova reports, it's better to depend on the national theatre--which one might suppose to be a bastion of the conservative repertoire--to function ahead of the curve in an economically challenged market. That local situation parallels the one in Latvia, where, as American Theatre's Eliza Bent observes, there has been a paucity of new writers, too, in a director-centered environment. …

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