After years of expansion and deepening of the European Union the Brexit marks the first time a member of the European Union decided to exit the club. A step that left the remaining Union puzzled. It comes to no surprise that the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, started the debate on the future of the European Union in March 2017, the same month article 50 of the Treaty on the European Union has been evoked by the United Kingdom. Moreover, 2017 marked the 60th anniversary of the treaty of Rome, one of the cornerstones of what lead to the creation of the European Union. Arguably the future of Europe has to be defined now.
This political situation inspired not solely the European institutions or national and regional politicians to debate the future of the European Union. In Stuttgart, more than 500 kilometers from Brussels, Schauspiel Stuttgart started a project, whose artistic approaches to this question can be discussed by the visitors of the international theater festival “the future of Europe” from the 6th till the 10th of June 2018 in Stuttgart. In order to make this idea come alive, one of the most established networks of Baden-Württemberg, the Four Motors for Europe, helped to find partners and likeminded artists. Other theaters joined the project later on, but let director, Armin Petras, explain the naissance of the festival in his own words:
Why do you organize a festival? Because it’s a lot of work? Because it’s over so quickly? You start to plan two years in advance; you think about it, call around, talk about it. Then there’s the warm-up phase: meet people; write to people; travel back and forth; common workshops; mails in different languages… also the first crises; partners who jump ship; financial issues; other priorities. And at some point the pace picks up: flyers; a festival center; volunteers; interviews– and then the guests arrive.
It was quickly clear to us that we wanted to do something with others again. “With others” – that means: with friends among theater professionals from other European countries. Why Europe? Because we are in Stuttgart. In a big provincial city in Germany, a rich city, a city that is quite open to the world, a city inhabited by many people who come from other cultures, in which these cultures’ fruits and specialties are sometimes hidden and singular.
Actually, an international festival is primarily a big opportunity. It shows us the – sometimes foreign – view of other artists onto our world. It creates the chance to bundle those standpoints, layer them and discover a completely new image in this blueprint that might be quite distant from our own on occasion. This is why we are especially happy that all theater professionals will stay in Stuttgart during the entire festival: to visit other performances; to discuss; to celebrate; to exchange ideas.
What role can theater play today to promote vibrant exchange in and about an open society?
This question is more relevant than ever. In many European countries, fundamental values of open societies are subject to direct debate – and with them, open discourse and freedom for playful experiments that make political theater work possible in the first place. As an active part of an open society, cultural institutions are being urged to create space for discussion and to place the values and norms that characterize (or should characterize) our society in the center of artistic focus.
At Schauspiel Stuttgart, this is happening in a local context and in the exchange with partner theaters from throughout Europe. A number of these partnerships are new; many others have been established over the course of many years. In addition to the Schauspiel Stuttgart, the partner theaters include: Célestins – Théâtre de Lyon; Experimental Stage, National Theatre of Greece (Athens); National Theatre of Northern Greece (Thessaloniki); Kherson Music Drama Theater named after Mykola Kulish; Piccolo Teatro di Milano – Teatro d’Europa; Teatre National de Catalunya (Barcelona); Teatr.doc (Moscow) and Vígszínház – Comedy Theatre of Budapest.
From November 2017 to June 2018, all partners addressed the issue of Europe in the context of two coproductions. This period of eight months included a phase of conception with 3 meetings followed by a phase of research including 2 workshops. After separate and united rehearsals two very special plays were formed; “Europe Speaks out!!´” and “6×20 – A Trip Through Europe” whose goal it is to place Europe as an open society at the center of attention – and to defend it. The debut performances will be on June 6 and June 8 in the Schauspielhaus.
More information in German on the festival can be found under: https://www.schauspiel-stuttgart.de/download/51632/the_future_of_europe_deutsch.pdf