World Theatre Day 2016 Message
World Theatre Day Message 2016 by Anatoli Vassiliev
Do we need theatre?
That is the question thousands of professionals disappointed in theatre and millions of people who are tired of it are asking themselves.
What do we need it for?
In those years when the scene is so insignificant in comparison with the city squares and state lands, where the authentic tragedies of real life are being played.
What is it to us?
Gold-plated galleries and balconies in the theatre halls, velvet armchairs, dirty stage wings, well-polished actors' voices; or vice versa, something that might look apparently different: black boxes, stained with mud and blood, with a bunch of rabid naked bodies inside.
What is it able to tell us?
Theatre can tell us everything.
How the gods dwell in heaven, and how prisoners languish in forgotten caves underground, and how passion can elevate us, and how love can ruin, and how noone needs a good person in this world, and how deception reigns, and how people live in apartments, while children wither in refugee camps, and how they all have to return back to the desert, and how day after day we are forced to part with our beloveds, - theatre can tell everything.
The theatre has always been and it will remain forever.
. / .
And now, in those last fifty or seventy years, it is particularly necessary. Because if you take a look at all the public arts, you can immediately see that only theatre is giving us—a word from mouth to mouth, a glance from eye to eye, a gesture from hand to hand, and from body to body. It does not need any intermediary to work among human beings—it constitutes the most transparent side of light, it does not belong to either south, or north, or east, or west—oh no, it is the essence of light itself, shining from all four corners of the world, immediately recognizable by any person, whether hostile or friendly towards it.
And we need theatre that always remains different, we need theatre of many different kinds.
Still, I think that among all possible forms and shapes of theatre its archaic forms will now prove to be mostly in demand. Theatre of ritual forms should not be artificially opposed to that of “civilized” nations. Secular culture is now being more and more emasculated, so-called "cultural information" gradually replaces and pushes out simple entities, as well as our hope of eventually meeting them one day.
But I can see it clearly now: theatre is opening its doors widely. Free admission for all and everybody.
To hell with gadgets and computers—just go to the theatre, occupy whole rows in the stalls and in the galleries, listen to the word and look at living images! I t is theatre in front of you, do not neglect it and do not miss a chance to participate in it—perhaps the most precious chance we share in our vain and hurried lives.
We need every kind of theatre.
There is only one theatre which is surely not needed by anyone—I mean a theatre of political games, a theatre of a political "mousetraps", a theatre of politicians, a futile theatre of politics. What we certainly do not need is a theatre of daily terror—whether individual or collective, what we do not need is the theatre of corpses and blood on the streets and squares, in the capitals or in the provinces, a phony theatre of clashes between religions or ethnic groups...
Translation from Russian original: Natalia Isaeva
Anatoli Vassiliev is an internationally acclaimed theatre director and professor of Russian Theatre. He is the founder of the Moscow Theatre School of Dramatic Arts, a laboratory for experimentation on the voice and body of the actor. Vassiliev is known for his work with non-theatrical texts, music, and the materiality of sound. His notable productions include: Lermontov's Masquerade; Pirandello's Each in His Own Way; Lamentations of Jeremiah (recipient of Russia's national Golden Mask prize for best performance and best scenography); Pushkin’s Don Juan or the Stone Guest in the Cartoucherie; Dostoyevsky’s Uncle's Dream; Ostrovsky's Coupables Innocents; Heiner Muller's Medea Material; From the Voyage of Oniegin, adapted from Pushkin and Tchaikovsky; and Marguerite Duras' La Musica Deuxième. He is assisted by his long-time collaborator Natalia Issaeva, translator and theatre researcher, and by Boaz Trinker, a specialist in actors' training.
U.S. World Theatre Day Message 2016 by Ping Chong
Many years ago I was at a retreat for artists and scholars in Italy. Almost every day, my collaborator and I would leave the luxurious confines of the estate to experience the town below. The scholars preferred to stay in, scribbling away in their rooms until dinner, mystified as to why we wanted to leave paradise. What they didn’t realize was that artists, and theatre artists most of all, need to engage, to connect with the world around them.
When I scan the world around me now, the word that comes to mind is “displacement." Our century and the last have seen the displacement of peoples and cultures on an unprecedented scale and with often tragic consequences. The root causes are well known: war, racism, poverty, environmental degradation, the desire for personal freedom, the dream of a better life. My own family history includes elements of these. But this mixing of world cultures—amplified today the rapacious communications revolution—has also yielded some interesting, cultural hybrids. I have come to see my life and art as a testament to both the challenges and opportunities inherent in these often unplanned global exchanges. And I have come to believe in the power of theatre to enrich lives, heal communities and to build bridges where none existed before.
My family is from the Cantonese opera. In the old days, Chinese opera companies would travel on “Red Boats” to bring theatre to riverfront villages. They would leave their homes and brave the occasional pirate attack in order to bring theatre to otherwise isolated communities. Later my own family expanded their touring range and came to the United States to perform for homesick Chinese immigrants. They tried to build a cultural bridge across the Pacific but were expelled by immigration laws that explicitly targeted the Chinese, much as some in the United States and Europe are now proposing that Syrians or Muslims or Mexicans should be excluded. My family went to Canada, where they struggled and where I was born. When the immigration laws were finally loosened we came back to settle in New York’s Chinatown, then a Cantonese village within the global metropolis. I have called New York home ever since. I never saw my parents perform. They gave up the theatre to open coffee shops in Chinatown, to make a better life for their family. But when the opera troupes came to town, we would go. I didn’t see a Western play until I was in high school. When I discovered the wider world of global culture, I was a sponge, an ambassador, an evangelist for cross-pollination, cultural collision and connection. These have been the recurring themes in my work, and life.
My work has sought, always, to engage the world: in ideas, in collaborative creation, and in the shared performance experience. My aesthetic influences, beyond my family legacy and the specific American moment (the 60s) that I came of age in, include Japanese, Italian, and Hollywood film, Asian puppetry, the avant-garde—the whole world, really. For me, it is about honoring lives lived, cultural traditions and finding the most expressive form to convey the subject at hand. As the scientists tell us, all islands connect underwater.
In my 44 years as a theatre practitioner, and no less, a curious human being, I have had the good fortune and privilege to have created and toured work throughout the world. In the East West Quartet, Blindness, and Collidescope I have sought to reckon with the history of cultural collisions that have brought us to the world we live in now. Through the Undesirable Elements series, my collaborators and I have introduced dozens of communities to their least heard members—and often shared those stories with the world beyond.
The very act of theatre-making is a fundamentally utopian act. Creating ensemble is creating community in the rehearsal room; performance is creating community in public. Artists and audiences share collective human experience, contact, curiosity, and today perhaps more urgently than ever, connection. In this time of profound discord and disconnection, of grave injustice around the world (and the resistance to same) and of economic and ecological imbalance, how do we in the theatre, we foot soldiers of conscience, help to shepherd in a new century of hope, compassion, and reconnection? By doing what we do best. By turning our investigative lens on the issues of our time, by using our art to create safe spaces to discuss and resolve conflict and by providing the saving grace of humor, empathy, and understanding in the face of all obstacles. What we do, what we can do, is more urgently needed than ever before.
Ping Chong is an internationally acclaimed artist and pioneer in the use of media in the theatre. His theatrical works bring his unique artistic vision to bear on major historical issues of our times, and focus on bringing unheard voices and under-represented stories to the stage. Encompassing puppetry, dance, documentary theater, and other experimental theater forms, his works have explored a wide variety of subjects from a hidden genocide in Africa to class struggles in America to modernization in China to the experiences of Muslim youth in post -9/11 America. Throughout, the common thread has been a unifying commitment to artistic innovation and social responsibility. Since 1972, Chong has created over 100 productions which have been presented at major festivals and theatres including the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Lincoln Center Festival, La MaMa, the RomaEuropa Festival, the Singapore Festival, the Tokyo International Festival and many others. In 1992, he created the first Undesirable Elements production, a series of community-based oral history projects, working with real people to explore issues of culture and identity. The Undesirable Elements program now includes a youth programs in NY Public Schools and a training institute for artists and activists. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a USA Artist Fellowship, two BESSIE awards, two OBIE awards, a Doris Duke Performing Artist Award and a 2014 National Medal of Arts.