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XII Edition Europe Theatre Prize

I’m sure it is a true pleasure for all of us in Europe who follow or work for the Europe Theatre Prize to find ourselves here in Salonica for this XII edition and as guests for the second time of the National Theatre of Northern Greece, with financial support from the Greek Ministry of Culture.

These days promise to be very intense and interesting for all the participants in whatever capacity. The programme this year is particularly rich and stimulating, thanks to the artistic quality of the work, its civil and political implications, and its stylistic evolution – all recalling the profound reasons for practicing and loving this type of performance.

The prize for Patrice Chéreau in itself gives a sense of the breadth and meaning of a European theatrical career, that has involved France, Germany, Austria and Italy as he moved between plays, operas, music, cinema and a delight in literary readings: the “pleasure of the text”.

Chéreau’s method and performances are the focus of a symposium that will feature memories and presentations of his collaborators who have followed the artistic progression through theatre, opera and cinema of this talented French director and actor.

As is typical of the Prize ceremonies, the winner’s presence and personal contribution will be central to the Prize events: indeed, Chéreau will act in Coma by Pierre Guyotat, directed by Thierry Niang and created specially for this year’s Europe Theatre Prize, and also in La douleur by Marguerite Duras, along with Dominique Blanc.

The preview of the film La Maison des Morts by Stéphane Metge will conclude the homage to the versatile French director.

Ever since the establishment of the Europe Prize for New Theatre Realities, an investigation of all the various forms of new theatre has informed the work of the Jury, who work with candidates recommended by a Council who are particularly careful to nominate emerging artists from all over Europe. All this - which managed to take place in the years when the Continent still had political barriers and “walls” – has often highlighted and provided space on an international level for alternative realities, even prior to or in the absence of any specific recognition. This is true of artists such as the group Rimini Protokoll, Krzysztof Warlikowski and Sasha Waltz, the last two of whom were nominated for the Prize in 1999. These artists, who have successfully established themselves on the international scene, will be awarded this year for the quality and innovative elements of their work.

The collective Rimini Protokoll will present Mnemopark by Stefan Kaegi and the film preview of Wahl Kampf Wallenstein, directed by Helgard Haug and Daniel Wetzel, while Krzysztof Warlikowski will present Cleansed by Sarah Kane.

There will be a series of meetings and discussions with the prize winners to provide a deeper understanding of their approach to the stage and to the very concept of “representation”.

This year it was decided to grant a Special Mention Prize in the Europe Prize for New Theatre Realities category to Belarus Free Theatre of Minsk in Bielorussia for their resistance to the oppression of the Bielorussian government, with references to Vaclav Havel, Harold Pinter and Sir Tom Stoppard.

This prize is unquestionably justified by the value of the group and the “urgency” of their work in the difficult social context. At the same time, they invite European culture to take up the role of denouncing all obstacles to freedom of expression in Europe, though it may well be objectionable to local establishments intolerant of any cultural or artistic non-alignment.

The Belarus Free Theatre will present Generation Jeans, directed by Nikolai Khalezin, Being Harold Pinter, directed by Vladimir Scherban, and a preview of Zone of Silence, directed by Vladimir Scherban and created specially for the Europe Theatre Prize. A discussion and a conference will be held to complete this homage to the work and commitment of the Belarus Free Theatre.

The Returns section features William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, a work-in-progress directed by Oskaras Korsunovas (winner of the Europe Prize for New Theatre Realities VIII edition), presented here for the first time and co-produced by the European Culture Capitals of Stavanger, Norway (2008) and Vilnius (2009). Support from the Lithuanian Ministry of Culture helped make it possible for the OKT Company to participate in the Europe Prize in Salonica.

Finally, the Prize events also include the presentation of the book Giorgio Strehler ou la passion théâtrale/Giorgio Strehler or a passion for theatre, published by the Europe Theatre Prize on the tenth anniversary of the great director’s death.

Nor does this year’s programme fail to give recognition to the role and appeal of its host city, with its dynamic life and its deep roots.

Thus Greek Perspectives welcomes a number of significant contributions to the XII edition. Among the parallel activities, we should mention the Colloquium organized by the Greek Union of Theatre and Music Critics, in collaboration with the International Association of Theatre and Music Critics and the National Theatre of Northern Greece. The Presentation Ceremony will be designed by set designer Yanni Metzikof and an adaptation of The Bacchae directed by Tasos Ratzos, will be presented. This play, Euripides’ last tragedy staged posthumously right here in Macedonia, serves to remind us of the meaning and function of art, which, in the Western world, has engaged in self-reflection since its very origins.

Furthermore, there are also a number of parallel events organized by organisms associated with the Prize, including the General Assembly of the Union of European Theatres and meetings of the Convention Théâtrale Européenne, of the Association Internationale des Critiques de Théâtre, and of the Instituto Internacional del Teatro del Mediterraneo.

Europe Theatre Prize’s Greek experience began in 2004 with Elie Malka, Iphigeneia Taxopoulou and a meeting at the Greek Ministry of Culture in Athens and was finalized in 2006 with an agreement for the two-year period 2007/2008 as supported by the Ministry. From the start, the Europe Prize was enthusiastically welcomed by the National Theatre of Northern Greece in Salonica, whose Artistic Director Nikitas Tsakiroglou, together with his staff, set in motion the material organizational planning within Greece of the Europe Theatre Prize events. The collaboration between the National Theatre of Northern Greece and the Europe Theatre Prize has proceeded with an ever-present spirit of reciprocal understanding as well as the kindness and warmth shown by the two institutions stemming from their shared Mediterranean cultural identity, the very basis of European culture.

We believe the words of Giorgio Strehler delivered during the III Edition of the Europe Prize, which was dedicated to him, still hold true today: “This Prize contributes to the birth of a Europe of beautiful things, of human things, of things concerning theatre like any activity of the human spirit... So, in the context of our activities, we want to participate in the Europe Theatre Prize. This is why we are trying to join together to give greater power to the ideas we share. I hope that this union and this purpose will be supported in the coming years by other forces wanting to work together with us...”.

Such was the inspiring wish and work guidelines as expressed by the founder of the Union des Théâtres de l’Europe. We continue to cultivate this perspective of collaboration and exchange, which we hope to see grow over time, despite the fact that European theatre today seems to be threatened from within by some separatist forces. Thus we wish to thank the organisms associated with and supporting the Europe Prize, with the certainty that our common efforts will become increasingly strong and well-established, and that together we will discover new prospects and initiate new, fertile collaborations. In this regard, after the participation of the UNESCO International Theatre Institute in 2006, this year still another new organism joins the Theatre Prize – the Association Européenne des Festivals.

A special thanks goes to the Greek Minister of Culture, Michalis Liapis, for his support for this year’s Prize. We would also like to thank the Secretary-General of the Greek Ministry of Culture, Theodoris Dravillas, for the interest he has demonstrated in the Europe Prize.

And finally, we thank the Artistic Director of the National Theatre of Northern Greece, Nikitas Tsakiroglou, Amalia Kondoyanni, and the entire Theatre staff for the welcome they have offered and for the crucial contribution they have given to the organization of the events in Greece over the past two years, and to our own staff for their deep commitment and enthusiasm.

XII Edition

Alessandro Martinez

Secretary-General Europe Theatre Prize