Compiled by Nicole Estvanik in the April 2014 issue of American Theatre magazine. (View Archives)
Rotterdam, The Netherlands
San Jose, Costa Rica
Vértice Brasil: The Magdalena Project, a network devoted to women in contemporary theatre, has a number of what it calls “satellite” organizations around the globe. But so far only one country—Brazil—boasts two Magdalena spinoffs. One, Solos Férteis, has organized a pair of festivals so far in the capital city of Brasília. The other, Vértice Brasil, is set to launch its next event this month nearly a thousand miles to the south, in the city of Florianópolis, which straddles the mainland and a beach-studded island replete with trendy oceanfront bars. In 2009 the New York Times declared Florianópolis its “party destination of the year”—and in 2008 Vértice Brasil made it a hub for international female artists, organizing the first of what would become a biennial gathering.
This year Vértice’s organizers have opted for a more intimate scale and an emphasis on three workshops from which the group of attendees (capped at 60) may choose. Sweden’s Clara Lee Lundberg will lead an exploration of “gender hacking” in the theatre (utilizing such “devices” as radical contact improvisation, feminist pornography, cross-dressing and boxing). A trio from LUME Teatro, based in the Brazilian city of Campinas, will conduct sessions grounded in concepts of home (participants are invited to bring evocative objects such as photos, keys and fabric). And French actor/director Linda Wise teaches a vocal workshop. Unlike in past years, the convening won’t comprise an international theatre festival, but the public can attend performances by LUME’s Ana Cristina Colla and Raquel Scotti Hirson, and Florianópolis-based artists Gláucia Grigolo and Barbara Biscaro. (April 6–13;www.verticebrasil.net)
Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Motel Mozaique Festival: Traveling for a performing arts fest usually requires extensive legwork: booking hotels, researching local landmarks, etc. In the case of Motel Mozaique, an event founded during Rotterdam’s 2001 stint as a Cultural Capital of Europe, that’s all taken care of for you. The festival provides tours of the city, and artists have converted unexpected spaces—churches, shop windows, even the roof of a monument—into pop-up bed-and-breakfasts.
With those details settled, you can immerse yourself in the quirky programming. One production that’s been toying with assumptions since 2012 is the “life-sized board game” Stranger, created by Dutch artist Emke Idema. The piece calls on six players to make snap judgments (e.g., “who is the most trustworthy?”) about photographs of faces mounted on metal poles, and eventually about their fellow audience members. (The busy Idema also tours to the Dutch city of Almere this month with her second “performative game,” Rule, about hospitality and borders, and next month she’ll take Stranger to England’s Ageas Salisbury International Arts Festival.) Festivalgoers open to participation with a dash of titillation can opt for Ivo Dimchev’s P Project: The Bulgarian performance artist hires audience members on the spot to write poetry onstage (which he instantly sets to music), and then—as the fees and challenges escalate—to dance, to make out topless with a stranger, and even to play a nude sex scene. (April 4–5; www.motelmozaique.nl)
Lover: It is not, perhaps, an obvious creative marriage: on one side, a Grammy-winning German choir dating back to 1925; on the other, a Zen-based dance-theatre commune headquartered on the side of a Taiwanese mountain. Yet these companies have much in common, including an active commitment to community involvement (Rundfunkchor Berlin conducts sing-along concerts and education programs; U-Theatre of Taiwan teaches its regimen of drumming and meditation in schools and prisons). So perhaps it’s not so strange for the two to unite on the latest installment of Rundfunkchor Berlin’s adventurous interdisciplinary initiative “Broadening the Scope of Choral Music.” This month, at a former power plant in Berlin, the companies debut their collaboration Lover, staged by U-Theatre founder Ruo-Yu Liu and costumed by Taipei avant-garde fashion designer Johan Ku. German composer Christian Jost has drawn on the rhythms of tai chi and the interplay of Eastern percussion and Western vocals to construct a dialogue between the love poetry of ancient China and E.E. Cummings. (April 2–5; www.rundfunkchor-berlin.de)
San José, Costa Rica
Festival Internacional de las Artes: More than a thousand artists converge this month on San José with their music, dance, circus and magic acts, “urban interventions” and drama. Nearly 30 works of theatre are promised for the 2014 program (about a third of which star puppets). One guest of honor is Obraztsov Puppet Theatre of Russia, part of a special Russian segment that also includes the Chekhov Moscow Art Theatre’s adaptation of the Gogol short story “The Old-World Landowners.” The Finnish theatre company WHS will also be at FIA 2014 with its dreamlike Lähtö/Départ, before taking it to Colombia’s sprawling Ibero-American Theater Festival of Bogotá (also happening this month, April 4–20). In Lähto, the tricks of cinema and 19th-century stage magic, and the fluid movements of bodies and fabric, are used in place of words to depict the strained relationship of a couple played by choreographers Kalle Nio and Vera Selene Tegelman. (April 4–13; festivaldelasartes.go.cr)
Bushfire: The vibrant performance venue and gallery House on Fire was created in 2000 by Jiggs Thorne in his native Swaziland, on farmland his family has converted into a center of tourism (the complex, Malandela, also contains a B&B, restaurant, botanical garden and handicraft business). House on Fire has attracted headline musical talent and become a haven for local sculptors and artisans, as well as a destination for public school groups that lack a formal arts curriculum. In 2007 Thorne inaugurated House on Fire’s Bushfire Festival. The venue already boasted an amphitheatre seating several hundred and a lawn that can host concerts for thousands. In 2012 Thorne added the Barn, an intimate space for performance art, exhibitions, speakers, and roundtable discussions.
Sponsored by telecommunications company MTN, the Bushfire Festival now maxes out its capacity at 20,000 visitors over the course of three days. An estimated 65 percent of that audience is Swazi, but 2013 festival surveys indicate visitors came from some 30 countries. And the momentum continues: Bushfire reached out last year to form Firefest, a southern African festival circuit, with four partners: Harare International Festival of Arts in Zimbabwe, the Azgo Festival in Mozambique, the BlackMajor Festival in South Africa and the Sakifo Musik Festival on the island of Réunion. All five events have been coordinated to take place during May and June, which encourages artists from Africa and abroad to tour the entire route (and enables the venues to share presenting costs).
Music is Bushfire’s driving force, but theatre has its place too. Three of seven editions so far have featured Gcina Mhlophe—a South African activist, poet and storyteller who performs in English, Afrikaans, Zulu and Xhosa—and last year the South African father-and-daughter duo Ellis and Céire Pearson performed a play about drought titled Catch the Rain. At press time, Thorne was in the process of securing one or more theatrical performances for 2014. He says he looks for broad appeal across generations and cultures and “an emphasis on relevant sociopolitical and environmental-based topics.” In that same vein of social responsibility, Bushfire divides its profits between a Swazi NGO for orphans called Young Heroes, and a nonprofit called Gone Rural boMake that runs water, health and education programs for female artisans. (May 30–June 1; www.bush-fire.com)