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History

 

The Europe Theatre Prize (60,000 Euros), a pilot project launched by the European Commission - under Jacques Delors, whose first Commissioner of Culture was Carlo Ripa di Meana - was inaugurated in 1986 under the auspices and the support of the European Community, as a prize to be awarded to personalities or theatrical companies that “have contributed to the realisation of cultural events that promote understanding and the exchange of knowledge between peoples.” The Europe Theatre Prize is recognised by the European Parliament and the European Council as a “European cultural interest organisation”. In keeping with these criteria, the first artist to whom an international jury, led by Irene Papas, awarded the Europe Theatre Prize in 1987 was Ariane Mnouchkine for her work with the Théâtre du Soleil. The presentation of the award to Mme Mnouchkine proved to be a “thrilling and visionary coup de théâtre”: at the prize-giving, broadcast via Eurovision from the Greek Amphitheatre in Taormina, the director said she hoped the barriers that still divided Europe into two separate blocs would be eliminated, and that she intended to dedicate her prize to artists in the “other” Europe, then under Communist rule. At a time when it was becoming increasingly difficult to produce committed theatre also in the West, the prize allowed the Théâtre du Soleil to continue to pursue its activities and research. That same year, the then European Commissioner of Culture Carlo Ripa di Meana decided to award a special prize to the Greek actress Melina Mercouri, patroness of the first edition of the Prize, who had been appointed as her country’s Minister of Culture, for having succeeded in combining her love of politics and her profound cultural awareness in her public and artistic activities. The next edition of the Europe Theatre Prize focused more intensely and directly on the chosen artist and his way of working. The prize was given to Peter Brook that year, introducing a new section that has since become one of the most characteristic and appreciated features of the Europe Prize: an analysis and study of the work of the prize-winning artist, which that year took the form of three unforgettable days of meetings, consisting of a memorable improvised dialogue between Peter Brook and Grotowski, a wealth of personal accounts and testimonies, video screenings, and demonstrations, open to the public, given by the eminent director and some of his favourite actors. The stimulating activities of those three days are documented in the book entitled Gli anni di Peter Brook. Since the second edition, the Europe Theatre Prize has been under the patronage of the European Community and has collaborated with the International Association of Theatre Critics. The third edition saw the prize go to Giorgio Strehler for his important contribution to the creation of a Europe of theatre and culture. It was also in the third edition that collaboration with the Union des Théâtres de l’Europe began – as Strehler had pushed for - and the Europe Prize New Theatrical Realities (20,000 Euros) was founded and awarded to Anatoli Vassiliev. The Russian director created a remarkably intense workshop-production for the occasion. The conference dedicated to Strehler was complemented by a reading of scenes from Jouvet’s Elvira and a Passion for the Theatre by Strehler and Giulia Lazzarini, who also commented on the work.  The poet and dramatist Heiner Müller received the award at the fourth edition. The Europe Prize New Theatrical Realities went to Giorgio Barberio Corsetti for new scenic techniques, to Els Comediants for street theatre, and to Eimuntas Nekrosius for his work as a theatre director. The various juries gradually shaped the programme of events at each edition: the fourth Europe Theatre Prize, therefore, featured days of intense research and analysis, combined with many creative happenings and performances, in which a considerable number of internationally-famous theatre people and directors participated. The productions included Prometheus, with its ingenious interplay of words and music, by Heiner Müller, directed by Heiner Goebbels; Faust by Giorgio Barberio Corsetti; Mozart and Salieri and a European preview of scenes from The Three Sisters, directed by Eimuntas Nekrosius, which was instrumental in making the Lithuanian director’s work known in the rest of Europe. The Returns section welcomed back Anatoli Vassiliev who presented the European preview of Molière’s Amphitryon. The fifth edition went outside Europe, for the first time, to pay tribute to Robert Wilson and the planetary dimension of his theatre: Wilson presented Persephone and the conference dedicated to him was greatly enlivened by his remarkable warmth and vivacity. The Europe Prize New Theatrical Realities was shared by Théâtre de Complicité, one of the most interesting English companies to emerge in recent times, and the great revelation Carte Blanche-Compagnia della Fortezza that for years had been developing the idea of theatre as a way of reclaiming freedom and human dignity, working with inmates of the prison in Volterra (Italy). The Returns section featured a production by Vassiliev, The Lamentations of Jeremiah, inspired by spirituality, music and Orthodox rites, and presented a world preview of excerpts from Hamlet by Nekrosius.  The jury of the sixth edition, led by Jack Lang, awarded the Europe Prize to Luca Ronconi and the fourth Europe Prize New Theatrical Realities to Christoph Marthaler. The programme was filled with performances and events, and culminated in the presentation of the awards. It featured two international conferences: “Spettacolo dal vivo: informazione, critica, istituzione” (“Live Performance: Information, Criticism, Institutions”) followed by “Metodo Ronconi” (“Ronconi’s Method”). Ronconi staged an episode from The Brothers Karamazov and conducted a rehearsal, open to the public, of Questa sera si recita a soggetto by Pirandello, during which he revealed some of the secrets of his “method”. The meeting with Christoph Marthaler revealed his pungent irony and brilliant creative mind, and offered great insight into the theatrical approach of a personality who is considered a genius by all who have worked with him. The Returns section was dedicated to Robert Wilson, who celebrated the centenary of Bertolt Brecht’s birth by presenting with the Berliner Ensemble Der Ozeanflug, based on texts by Brecht, Heiner Müller and Fyodor Dostoyevsky.  Pina Bausch’s dance theatre and her charismatic personality gave a new slant to the seventh edition of the Europe Theatre Prize. The dancers and collaborators who spoke about the German artist’s work at the international conference, “Sulle tracce di Pina” (“In Pina’s Footsteps”), hailed from places as far apart as Europe and India, Japan and the United States, Palermo and Australia. It was a journey filled with emotion, memories and performances, which ended magnificently with Small Collection, an anthology presented by Pina Bausch and her famous Tanztheater of Wuppertal, with films, videos and a photographic exhibition to complete the picture. The fifth Europe Prize New Theatrical Realities was awarded to the Royal Court Theatre for showcasing and defending new, controversial playwrights like Sarah Kane, Mark Ravenhill, Jez Butterworth, Conor McPherson and Martin McDonagh. The Royal Court Theatre’s activities were spotlighted at the meeting “Di scena il Royal Court”, during which actors from the Royal Court gave readings and work demonstrations, based on the most recent British plays. Ian Rickson directed the first Italian performance of The Weir by Conor McPherson. In the Returns section, Christoph Marthaler and his remarkable ensemble presented Die Spezialisten with enormous success. The parallel initiatives included two important meetings: Scrivere/rappresentare” (“Writing/Performing”): new European drama presented by the Europe Prize jury, followed by a mise en espace staged by the Théâtre Ouvert and “L’Arte dell’attore, sviluppi e cambiamenti negli ultimi quindici anni” (“The Actor’s Art, Developments and Changes in the Last Fifteen Years”), a debate organised by the Union des Théâtres de l’Europe, in which Erland Josephson, among others, participated. The Convention Théâtrale Européenne had been associated with and supported the Europe Theatre Prize since this seventh edition.  By awarding the Prize to Lev Dodin, the eighth edition not only honoured one of Stanislavsky’s most brilliant students, but also opened a window on the non-stop activities undertaken by the Siberian director and the Maly Teatr of Saint Petersburg, where, despite institutional and economic instability, the theatre scene is more creative and lively than anywhere else in Europe. It was possible to appreciate Dodin’s work, and the context in which he generally works, at a conference with a host of speakers and testimonies, and in two productions: The House by Fyodor Abramov – which Dodin expressly wanted to bring to Taormina – and the world preview of Molly Sweeney by Brian Friel. The sixth Europe Prize New Theatrical Realities went to the Dutch Theatergroep Hollandia; to the German director Thomas Ostermeier and to the Italian Societas Raffaello Sanzio. The prize-winners presented four productions: Voices by Pasolini and Ongebluste Kulk (Hollandia), Crave by Sarah Kane (Thomas Ostermeier), Amleto, la veemente esteriorità della morte di un mollusco (Societas Raffaello Sanzio). A special prize was awarded to the BITEF (Belgrade International Theatre Festival), and a special mention went to Ibrahim Spahic for the role his theatre played in the desperate days of the war in Sarajevo. The “return” of Peter Brook (2nd Europe Theatre Prize) with Le Costume, by South African dramatist Can Themba, which the Europe Theatre Prize co-produced, was a tribute to one of the greatest living directors and his rigorous, multifaceted approach to theatre.  Drama expanded, surpassed itself and reasserted its importance at the 9th edition of the Prize, interweaving with cinema, dance and music to encompass the various trends animating the contemporary scene. The prize awarded to Michel Piccoli was intended as a tribute to a great, exquisitely European artist and an approach to the profession of acting that passes through the sectors of stage and screen to find its essential rationale beyond them in a style inseparable from the man himself and his social commitment. Aided and abetted by Klaus Michael Grüber, Michel Piccoli used the Massimo Bellini Theatre in Catania for a production that paid homage not only to Sicily but also to myth, to theatre, and to its key places: Piccoli- Pirandello, à partir des Géants de la montagne. Piccoli was the subject of a symposium entitled “Michel Piccoli or the Two-Way Journey in Film and Theatre” and a selection of the most important movies made by this great French actor was shown. Heiner Goebbels, winner of the 7th Europe Prize New Theatrical Realities, presented two productions of exceptionally high level: Max Black, a compendium of epistemology, art, music and philosophy in the form of a musical, visual, verbal, gestural and “fiery” score interpreted by the voice and body of André Wilms, and The Left Hand of Glenn Gould, a performance developed in the course of a workshop held in Germany by Goebbels at the Justus Liebig Universität in Giessen with the participation of grant holders from the multimedia workshop Fabrica in Treviso. The awarding of the New Theatrical Realities prize to Alain Platel recognized the untiring efforts of a dancer, choreographer and director who has succeeded in breaking down the barriers between different disciplines (dance, drama, music and circus) and the commitment of an artist capable, together with his collective company Les Ballets C. de la B., of devising and staging productions of the utmost rigour, working also with non-professionals, disadvantaged people or children. Alain Platel presented Iets op Bach with an ensemble of nine musicians and nine dancers from his company. The dancers of Les Ballets C. de la B., who come from all over the world, won great public acclaim by giving a stark and poetic account of themselves and their lives to music by Bach. Two symposiums were devoted to the drama of Goebbels and Platel.  The 10th edition of the Europe Theatre Prize, awarded to Harold Pinter and to Josef Nadj and Oskaras Korsunovas for New Realities, was held in 2006 in Turin. Hosted by the Turin Teatro Stabile, it formed part of the special cultural programme organized to mark the Winter Olympics.  The award of the Europe Theatre Prize to Harold Pinter not only celebrated one of the greatest living authors, but also aimed to indicate a path that has increasing relevance at this particular moment, for the theatre and for society, in many parts of the world. As the reasons for the award stated, “although Pinter is a true theatrical poet, his work and life are filled with a moral rage against injustice. He is a political writer, not in the sense of endorsing a party ideology but in his assault on the abuse of human dignity and the misuse of language by those in power.” In this sense, the interview with Pinter by Michael Billington, the Guardian theatre critic and Pinter’s official biographer, was particularly memorable. Introduced by Ján Figel’, European Commissioner for Education and Culture, the meeting was preceded by the conference “Pinter: Passion, Poetry and Politics”. The homage to Pinter was completed by the performance of The New World Order, a selection of pieces by Pinter directed by Roger Planchon, and by Pinter Plays, Poetry & Prose by the Gate Theatre of Dublin, performed by Charles Dance, Michael Gambon, Jeremy Irons, and Penelope Wilton. Josef Nadj, the winner of the New Realities Prize, was the subject of the meeting “Josef Nadj, un théâtre en chair et en ombre”; the meeting was followed by Duo, a performance of Nadj’s work taken from Canard Pékinois. Oskaras Korsunovas presented two powerful productions: Playing the Victim by Oleg and Vladimir Presnyakov, and Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. Lev Dodin was the subject of the meeting held for the presentation of the bilingual volume Lev Dodin, Le creuset d’un théâtre nécessaire/The Melting Pot of an Essential Theatre, published by the Europe Prize, containing the proceedings of the 8th edition of the Prize. The Returns section, devoted to Luca Ronconi, included a meeting with the director and performances of the three of the five plays produced in Turin on the occasion of the Winter Olympics: William Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida, Il Silenzio dei Comunisti, by Vittorio Foa, Miriam Mafai and Alfredo Reichlin, and Biblioetica, dizionario per l’uso, by Gilberto Corbellini, Pino Donghi and Armando Massarenti. The 10th edition hosted the 22nd Congress and the General Assembly of the International Association of Theatre Critics, held in Italy after a gap of twenty years. The association explored the subject of the role of the critic in the present-day world in a meeting with the title “The End of Criticism?” In 2006 the Europe Theatre Prize also held some of its initiatives in Poland: in October and November, as part of the Teatralnych Spotkania festival, the city of Warsaw presented a wide programme from the Returns section of the Prize. The 11th edition of Europe Theatre Prize was held in Thessaloniki, organized by the National Theatre of Northern Greece with support from the Greek Ministry of Culture. The international jury had met previously in Turin in 2006, awarding the 11th Europe Theatre Prize ex-aequo to Robert Lepage and Peter Zadek and the 9th Europe Prize New Theatre Realities to Biljana Srbljanović and Alvis Hermanis. To celebrate Robert Lepage, one of the most interesting and creative directors on the scene today, a conference was held on Lepage’s work involving critics and scholars from various countries. Next came performances of scenes from a number of Lepage’s plays, often acted by the author/director himself, making it possible to appreciate the poetic vision of Lepage’s productions and providing a rare opportunity to gain an overview of his work. A performance of Ibsen’s Peer Gynt directed by the other prize-winner Peter Zadek and featuring the Berliner Ensemble, served to stunningly represent this German director’s theatrical approach, which has evolved over the course of his long career. Events to honour Biljana Srbljanović, Serbian playwright, included an encounter and conference followed by a reading of her work and concluding with a performance of Locusts. Alvis Hermanis, actor, playwright, and stage designer from Latvia, presented two plays that confirmed the intensity of his technique, which propels actors well beyond mere representation into the raw existential condition of the “characters”. The two plays exemplifying this line of work, both written and directed by Hermanis, were Long Life and Fathers. A demonstration of his latest work-in-progress, The Sound of Silence, was also held, as well as an encounter and conference on his work.  Also featured among the 11th Prize festival events was a colloquium of the International Association of Theatre Critics entitled “Prizes: Who Needs Them?”. Then, as every year, the events concluded with the official award ceremony.  The 12th Europe Theatre Prize was awarded to French director Patrice Chéreau while the 10th Europe Prize New Theatrical Realities went to the Swiss-German collective directed by Rimini Protokoll, German dancer/choreographer Sasha Waltz and Polish director Krzysztof Warlikowski. Also as part of Europe Prize New Theatrical Realities, the international jury awarded a Special Mention to Belarusian collective Belarus Free Theatre. As the previous year, the 12th edition of the Europe Theatre Prize was held in Thessaloniki, organized by the National Theatre of Northern Greece with support from the Greek Ministry of Culture. The homage to Patrice Chéreau featured a symposium on the French director's ceaseless, ever-changing activity as well as two theatrical “readings” by Chéreau of works prepared especially for the Europe Theatre Prize: La douleur, from the diary by Marguerite Duras and later, at the end of the award ceremony, Coma, based on the book by Pierre Guyotat. Events in his honour also included a screening of the film of Chéreau's production of the opera by Janáček, De la Maison des Morts. The conference and meeting with Rimini Protokoll, winners of the 10th Europe Prize New Theatre Realities, analysed the work of the three directors. Their performance Mnemopark tells a story of today's Switzerland, homeland to watches and lovely miniature trains travelling through alpine landscapes, accompanied by documentary-like interviews. The film Wahl Kampf Wallenstein, directed by Helgard Haug and Daniel Wetzel of Rimini Protokoll, focuses on the personal interpretation of Schiller’s masterpiece by some non-professional actors. Other events included a screening of the film Garden of Earthly Delights – the choreographer Sasha Waltz directed by Brigitte Kramer. The film focused on the personality and work of the German dancer and choreographer Sasha Waltz.  The homage to Krzysztof Warlikowski began with a conference and meeting devoted to the Polish director and continued with his production of Cleansed, by Sarah Kane, which successfully conveyed the deep sense of claustrophobia and hopeless uneasiness of Kane’s play.  During the meeting with Belarus Free Theatre, the group of White Russian artists talked about the three plays they presented at the Prize. On the panel with them was Alexander Milinkevich, leader of the Belarusian political opposition. All three works - the world premiere of Zone of Silence, created especially for the Europe Theatre Prize, Generation Jeans and Being Harold Pinter - denounce any and all limitation on freedom of expression. The Returns section featured a staging of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, a work-in-progress directed by Oskaras Korsunovas, winner of the 8th Europe Prize New Theatrical Realities. The piece was a preview of the world premiere held later at Stavanger, European Capital of Culture 2008, co-produced with Vilnius, Europe Capital of Culture 2009 and the Europe Theatre Prize. In the Greek Perspectives section of the 12th Edition of the Europe Theatre Prize, the National Theatre of Northern Greece presented Euripides' Bacchae. Additionally, a colloquium was held on the broad topic of cultural diversity, organized by the Greek Union of Drama and Music Critics in collaboration with the International Association of Theatre Critics and the National Theatre of Northern Greece. The keynote speaker was Richard Schechner. There was also a presentation of the book Giorgio Strehler ou la passion théâtrale/Giorgio Strehler or a passion for theatre, a bilingual version of the book in Italian Giorgio Strehler o la passione teatrale, published by Ubulibri and dedicated to Strehler, winner of the 3rd Europe Theatre Prize in 1990. Expanded with additional material, the new book in French and English was published for the tenth anniversary of the death of the great Italian director and founder of Piccolo Teatro in Milan. As every year, the Prize events concluded with the official award ceremony. The 13th edition of the Europe Theatre Prize and the 11th edition of the Europe Prize New Theatre Realities were held in Wroclaw, Poland on the occasion of the celebrations in honour of Grotowski, under the auspices and with the support of the Polish Ministry of Culture and the City and Mayor of Wroclaw. The organization of the event in Poland was realized by the Grotowski Institute. The 13th Europe Theatre Prize went to Krystian Lupa, a master of theatre art with a major influence on the contemporary international scene. Events in his honour began with a symposium featuring critics, theatre scholars and collaborators of the Polish director, followed by three performances. The first, Factory 2, revolves around Andy Warhol and the characters from his “Silver Factory”, who together gave the scene its legendary status. The Presidents, based on a novel by Werner Schwab, portrays the life of three working-class women whose lives are defined by religious bigotry, humiliating work and television, the only distraction from their bleak, unchanging existence. The third play was the world premiere of Persona: Marilyn, the first part of a trilogy inspired by Marilyn Monroe, Simone Weil and Gurdjieff. Finally, there was a screening of Kalkwerk, a film of one of Lupa's most acclaimed productions. As regards the Europe Prize New Theatre Realities, the Jury noted that the names of a number of candidates have occurred frequently, with a significant number of votes, from previous editions of the Prize in the time span 1996-2001, all of them of an extremely high level of quality across different artistic characteristics. Therefore they decided to award the 11th Europe Prize New Theatrical Realities to the five candidates, among the already established and confirmed directors and theatre entities on the international theatre scene, who gained the most votes among the nominees for this edition: Guy Cassiers (Belgium), Pippo Delbono (Italy), Rodrigo Garcia (Spain/Argentina), Arpad Schilling (Hungary), François Tanguy and the Théâtre du Radeau (France). This choice was made in accordance with the Prize Regulations, which foresee the EPNTR as “an opportunity for meeting and confrontation between the different modes of expression of new European theatre.At the same time it is hoped in subsequent editions to open a new phase of the EPNTR to a generation of emerging artists and groups that may be as yet little known at the international level, while also giving space and visibility to nominees from smaller countries. As recommended by the Jury and Prize promoters, as of this edition the Europe Prize New Theatrical Realities has increased from €20,000 to €30,000. The five winners of the 11th Europe Prize New Theatrical Realities offered the public a rich and varied programme that included performances of their most representative pieces and of others created especially for the Europe Theatre Prize, symposiums on their work to date and meetings with the press and public to discuss their respective approaches to theatre and future projects. Guy Cassiers staged Rouge Décanté, a monologue based on a novel by Jeroen Brouwers, an elegy in which the protagonist recalls his mother with whom he had shared the experience of being interned in a Japanese prison camp during the Second World War. In addition, the installation Phalanx, created by Cassiers in collaboration with video artist Kurt d'Haeseleer, was open to the public during the day. Inspired by Cassiers' trilogy of plays Le Tryptique du pouvoir, the installation deals with the power of politics and the media versus the power/impotence of art.  Pippo Delbono staged three productions. Il tempo degli assassini is an “on the road”, semi-autobiographical voyage revealing the lives of Delbono and Pepe Robledo, who perform on stage together. Questo buio feroce is a performance based on the diary of the American writer Harold Broadkey which begins as a reflection on disease, pain and death and ends as a hymn to life. After the meeting dedicated to Delbono, the Italian director presented Storia di un viaggio teatrale nei luoghi sconosciuti tra rabbia e amore, solitudine ed incontro, costrizione e libertà, created especially for the Europe Theatre Prize and featuring actress Marisa Berenson, among others. Rodrigo García also presented three pieces. Accidens. Matar para comer deals with the last moments of life, trying to represent the agony of animals. In Arrojad mis cenizas sobre Mickey, García uses the stage as a means to provoke the audience to reflect on controversial yet timely issues. At the end of the meeting dedicated to him, the Argentinian presented a piece created especially for the Europe Theatre Prize, El Perro, with the participation of a group of young Polish actors.  Árpád Schilling, at the conclusion of his meeting, presented his latest work Elogio dell'Escapologista, with live commentary by the versatile Hungarian director.  François Tanguy with Théâtre du Radeau presented a classic from their repertoire, Ricercar. Within the framework of the events connected with the Prize, a section was devoted to the host country. “An Eye on Polandfeatured a number of important activities, including Apocalypsis cum Figuris, a photography exhibition on Grotowski by Maurizio Buscarino, a colloquium entitled “Acting Before and After Grotowski” (in collaboration with the International Association of Theatre Critics) and the presentation of a book of photographs documenting Krystian Lupa's work, Lupa/Teatr. Still other events included a marionette performance entitled Mozart Writes Letters and Lincz by Yukio Mishima.  Finally, there was a presentation of Theatre and Humanism in a World of Violence, a book by Herbert and Kalina Stefanova containing the proceedings of the 24th World Congress of the International Association of Theatre Critics. As usual, the Prize events ended with the official award ceremony, which on this occasion was broadcast live on Polish television.