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Prato 25-28/2012

European Theatre Convention – General Assembly , Prato & Florence 25-28 Oct 2012
Questioning ‘Theatre as the Last Resort of Freedom?’ and asserting continuing strength of ETC

Close to 80 theatre professionals from over 25 European countries attended the ETC’s General Assembly in Tuscany, Italy, from 25 – 28 October 2012, which was hosted by the Teatro Metastasio di Prato - Stabile della Toscana. The topic of debate was ‘theatre as a last resort of freedom’ and on the first day of the conference a series of panel debates in the Auditorium Sant’Apollonia, Florence, saw ETC members discussing their specific national situation in the context of the current problems that theatre and art are facing in Europe.  A number of thought-provoking questions were posed around what actual freedoms were available and challenged in the current crisis in Europe, while further provocative queries were made around whether better art and interest in theatre was cultivated in bad times rather than ‘boom times’.  

Over 12 current and future collaborative projects were presented and discussed in panels and working sessions over the three intensive days of the assembly.  Details of The ETC Spring Theatre Tour 2013, a major new initiative aimed at celebrating the organisation’s 25th anniversary through the promotion of the quality and diversity of work being created by ETC member theatres across Europe, were also agreed upon. This initiative will involve a tour bus travelling with key media, artists and other political stakeholders to ETC venues across Europe so that they can experience first-hand the work produced within the context of each theatre’s unique civic, social, linguistic and cultural environment.  Each ‘bus stop’ on the tour will promote a specific theme relevant to the work of the ETC, which will be suggested by the host venue and will involve a side programme of artistic contributions from other ETC member theatres. A further programme of artistic events presented by ETC theatres and artists will be programmed on the bus itself.

Plans for two other important ETC projects were also furthered during the General Assembly - the festival for ETC’s flagship project, Young Europe 2: Multilingual Creation and Education in Theatre, which will be held in May 2013 at Theater an der Parkaue, Berlin, and The Art of Ageing, which involves 9 ETC member theatres and is a unique, cross-cultural initiative examining the process, challenges and demographic shifts of ageing and the effects that it has on contemporary European society.

One of the highlights of the weekend was the Italian launch of renowned theatre scholar and cultural commentator of Dragan Klaic’s last book, published posthumously in September 2012, and entitled Resetting the Stage: Public Theatre between the Market and Democracy. The book was launched by theatre academic and long-time colleague of Klaic’s, Dutch-born Rudolf Engelander, and was one of several launches taking place at this time throughout Europe.

The ETC also welcomed Kunstfestspiele Herrenhausen, Hannover (Germany) as its newest associate member while a further session for Tuscan theatre companies  to introduce their work to ETC members was organized by the host theatre and gave members a chance to hear first hand how theatre operates culturally, politically and financially in Northern Italy.

Conference participants were also able to enjoy a number of performances including a delightful children’s play, Corbezzoli, presented by TPO and written by the artistic director of the host theatre, Paolo Magelli.

In her closing words at the conference, Dubravka Vrgoč, President of the ETC, noted, « The topic of our general assembly is a question that leads to more questions. We need to ask ourselves what kind of ‘freedom’ are we talking about ? Is it the creative freedom, the freedom from other national and economic pressures, the freedom to reach out and work with other artists and cultures that we want or what kind of freedom does theatre offer us when Europe is in crisis and we must feel the consequences of recession ? This is why asking these questions as we have done this weekend is so important. The ETC, as the strongest network of European public theatres will continue to promote the value of theatre to Europe’s recovery and to promote the vital necessity of the transnational development of artistic/creative works which continue to reach out to new audiences. »