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XI Edition - premio
This eleventh edition of the Europe Theatre Prize is taking place in Greece.
That we meet again and find ourselves in Thessaloniki, while awakening
inevitable thoughts of a country so linked to the origins of theatre, also
brings to mind the beginnings of the Europe Prize itself, and the function of
cultural bridge between Northern and Southern Europe that was prescribed for it
from its very beginning.
In the first, 1987 Edition, broadcast by Eurovision from the Greek Theatre in
Taormina and honouring Ariane Mnouchkine, it was no accident that the President
of the Jury was Irene Papas; furthermore, on the same occasion, Carlo Ripa di
Meana, European Culture Commissioner and President of the Prize, presented a
special prize to Melina Mercouri.
We come to Greece following the hosting of the tenth edition by the
municipality and theatre of Turin, a city which has played its part in European
history as the gateway from the Alps to the Mediterranean. As we gathered in
Turin to honour Harold Pinter, our days of work and theatregoing were deeply
enriched by the presence of the English playwright himself, who appeared in
public there after some months’ absence. A truly special tribute was given by
the Gate Theatre, Dublin, with Jeremy Irons, Penelope Wilton, Charles Dance and
Michael Gambon, and a production specially mounted for us by Roger Planchon.
The two winners of the Europe Prize for New Theatre Realities were the subject
of conferences and productions, and the ‘Returns’ section was concentrated on
three productions by Luca Ronconi devised for the Turin Winter Olympics. In
addition the Prize Jury met during the celebrations and unanimously decided to
offer the XI Europe Theatre Prize, shared for the first time, to Robert Lepage
and Peter Zadek.

The Quebec director Robert Lepage, although not from Europe, continues to exert
a considerable influence on the theatre of the Old World, renewing its means of
expression and working very often with European actors and with a repertoire,
sensibilities and viewpoint which can be seen as European. The choice of
Lepage, like that of America’s Robert Wilson in his time, has to be seen
primarily in the context of a cultural policy which, as provided for in the
rules of the Prize laid down in 1986 in agreement with the European Commission,
has as its objective the presentation of prizes to ‘a theatre personality or
institution that has contributed by the creation of cultural events of
significance to mutual understanding and knowledge among nations.’
In giving the award at the same time to Peter Zadek, we wanted to salute the
work of an artist who, in a long career beginning in England and continuing for
more than forty years in Germany, has reinvented the art of the theatre
director by working at the same time both directly on the text with his chosen
actors, and in pursuit of a ‘conceptual’ method of directing. Thus he has
found, and continues to find, his personal vision and create with it a lively
impact in each production, while retaining the principles of his ‘guiding
spirits’, Shakespeare, Ibsen and Chekhov.
We shall be devoting a colloquium and an interview to Robert Lepage, and these
will be followed by some extracts from his productions. The theatre work of
Peter Zadek will also be the subject of a colloquium and an interview, to be
followed by Zadek’s Berliner Ensemble production of Henrik Ibsen’s Peer Gynt,
with the actress who has come to symbolise German theatre, Angela Winkler.

The IX Europe Prize for New Theatre Realities has been awarded to Alvis
Hermanis and Biljana Srbljanovic.
Alvis Hermanis, actor, writer and often designer of his own shows, is a leading
figure in Latvian theatre. His productions are seldom based on existing texts,
being inspired more by daily life, and have been for a number of years in high
demand at major European festivals. The public and the prize participants will
be able to get to know the work of Hermanis through an interview, a colloquium,
open rehearsals for a new production and two performances : Long Life, played
by Latvia’s New Riga Theatre, and Fathers, his latest work, from the Zurich
The apparent irony and pessimism of Biljana Srbljanovic are actually the
vehicle for a provocative and precise engagement that confirms, from a Serbian
perspective, the values that are important for tomorrow’s Europe : freedom,
democracy and respect for diversity. We shall meet and get to know this young
Serb dramatist by means of an interview, a colloquium, some readings from her
work and a production of her latest play, Locusts, by the Yugoslav Drama
Theatre of Belgrade.

This year’s activities are rounded out by the General Assemblies of the Union
of European Theatres and the European Theatre Convention, a meeting of the
Executive Committee of the International Association of Theatre Critics, a
meeting of the Instituto Internacional del Teatro del Mediterraneo and an
extraordinary meeting of the Union of Greek Theatre and Music Critics.

In spite of the considerable effort involved in organising all this, and the
very short time available to put this year’s programme together, we are at the
same time working on an even more ambitious programme for next year’s event,
which will also be in Thessaloniki. We already know its dates and have started
to make contracts accordingly. The jury will also have time and opportunity to
work more thoroughly on the New Theatre Realities Prize, which opens up very
intersting perspectives on new European theatre for future editions.
This possibility of continuity is a good omen for our attempts to reach a
number of important objectives which form part of the original blueprint for
the Europe Prize drawn up with the European Commission in 1986. First, a prize
for the New Realities winners which would include co-production, offered by the
principal European festivals and by, among others, the theatres belonging to
our associated organisations, which will give them a greater possibility of
touring throughout Europe. Then there is the interesting and useful possibility
of a retrospective of New Realities winners’ work, which could be presented at
a different time and in a different place from the main Prize activities. There
is also the idea of a competition for young European artists to create a
sculpture which could become the symbol of the Europe Theatre Prize.

The fact of our working here in Thessaloniki, a city which has been throughout
history a bridge between the different cultures at its crucial moments, adds a
particular significance to all these activities based on mutual discovery and
exchange between cultures and between theatres. The additional fact that we
find ourselves near to both Mount Olympus and Mount Athos is an invitation to
reflect on these two profound influences on the soul of Europe : on the one
hand, the myths, transmitted from generation to generation, which have
accompanied the birth and evolution of western civilisation from oral
recitation to theatrical presentation and thence to philosophical speculation ;
on the other the spirituality, in many respects oriental, which today, showing
a commitment which is often also present in the work of the theatre, reminds us
of the value of silence and time, prayer and meditation : a vision, that is,
which is capable not only of deep inner profundity but also of flight beyond
the clouds.
The rediscovery and renewal of these two influences – the ability to transmit
myth and bring it to life anew, coupled with the ability to recover time and
space for deep and extensive meditation - this seems a need which contemporary
theatre has recognised, as evidenced in the work of so many twentieth century

It must also be said, somewhat more prosaically, that the field of European
drama in which we are all toilers has yet to achieve the harvest, in terms of
its organisms and organisation, that could be wished. If the cinema of the old
world has been able to get itself together under community programmes that give
support to its activities, the same does not yet apply, even today, to its
theatre. In particular, the synergy between theatre organisations, that was at
the heart of the concept of the Europe Theatre Prize and other such initiatives
that came to birth during the same period under the protection of the Union,
needs to be strengthened. Basically, it is a matter of setting up a major
network of production, exchange and collaboration that would really bring
together the best and brightest theatre efforts being created in all four
corners of the continent.

Here, the words of Giorgio Strehler when he was the recipient of the III Europe
Theatre Prize are still relevant today : ‘I hope that in the years to come this
unity and this goodwill may also be supported by other forces willing to work
with us.’ That wish and working direction inspired the founder of the Union of
European Theatres. Looking at this perspective of collaboration and exchange
that we would like to see developed in the course of time, we have to thank the
Europe Prize’s associate and supporting bodies ; with the certainty that our
shared work can be improved, consolidated and strengthened, finding other
outlets and opening itself to new and fertile collaborations.

We give heartfelt thanks to the Greek Minister of Culture, Mr Ghiorgos
Voulgarakis, for his support for this event, and the Cultural Secretary, Mr
Zachopoulos, for the tenacity which which, even before the Olympic Games, he
has pursued its taking place in Greece, offering guarantees which have led us
to put Thessaloniki ahead of the other European cities which offered themselves
as candidates to host the Europe Prize. Finally, we thank Mr Nikitas
Tsakiroglou, Artistic Director of the National Theatre of Northern Greece, and
his team, for hosting this edition of the Prize and for their great
contribution to its organisation.

Alessandro Martinez
Europe Theatre Prize General Secretary