Theatre at the End of the Tunnel
Under normal circumstances, this year's festival entitled Horizons would focus on the social, cultural, and economic perspectives of the world in the middle of the 21st century, since almost as many years have passed since the turn of the century and that of the Millenium as have since the fall of communism. At the same time, what also took place a hundred years ago was the traumatic redrawing of the map of Europe, with numerous consequences, including World War II, the ensuing Cold War, and the division of the continent into two blocs: the communist countries and the capitalist system then called the "Free World".
At the same time, we would be curious to find out the direction in which theatre is heading, what the new trends are, how do these relate to tradition, how do they rewrite Europe's cultural heritage, if they are connected to it at all.
A lot of things are happening simultaneously in the world right now, so we can hardly say that we are currently living in normal times. There is the coronavirus pandemic that has been going on for almost a year, and then there are the political events happening on the eve of various elections, culminating, as it were, with the US presidential election on November 3. These events are thoroughly upsetting the still waters of the entire continent and the entire globe, making our existence as uncertain as this year's Interferences Festival, which at the time of writing this text is still surrounded by countless unresolved issues, a phenomenon that has come to characterize our everyday lives.
It is entirely possible that this text will be included in the festival catalogue, while circumstances might evolve in such a way that it will make impossible to hold a live, in-theatre festival, and we will once again be forced to follow the event behind the screens of our computers and phones, a practice that we have slowly become accustomed to, but also frustrated as well.
Other worrying events are taking place in parallel with the schedule dictated by the coronavirus. Various instances of social and political unrest, demonstrations, activist movements of a destructive nature, the pulling down of statues, the so-called "cancel culture", which seeks to completely rewrite history and pull the veil of oblivion over centuries of cultural memory, creating a type of anarchy and chaos in which humanity completely loses its direction, and is in fact getting lost in the confusing maze of these ideologically-driven discourses or monologues.
In the light of the above, our festival's theme - Horizons - is redefined: we are looking for answers to whether we can continue our daily lives in some way, either in the already established manner or in a radically different way; regarding the further development of culture; the renewal of theatre; what message will theatre convey; and is there light at the end of the tunnel at all? It seems that all those who are eagerly waiting to present their works and meet the Cluj and Transylvanian audiences, as well as the guests gathering here, are all trying to express the fact that while we are currently experiencing struggles and we are going through difficult times, the theatre is in fact there at the end of the tunnel.
That is why at this festival we would like to convey words of encouragement and strength to both those working in the theatres and to audiences, regardless in whichever form we are holding the event, in a year in which we mark several anniversaries: in addition to the hundred years that have passed since 1920, the European Theatre Union (UTE), as well as the The Romanian Association of Theatre Artists (UNITER) are both celebrating their 30thanniversary; also, three decades have elapsed since the fall of communism in Romania.
The European Theatre Union (UTE) was founded in 1990 in a context where the European Union had not yet existed, therefore, it preceded this structure as an organization, calling for a genuine European dialogue, and has included among its members theatres from countries that are still not members of the European Union, such as Russia or Serbia; at the time of its inception Romania or Hungary were not part of the EU either, the UTE havingamong its founding members a theatre company belonging to a minority culture too - the Lliure Theatre from Barcelona. Giorgio Strehler and Jack Lang proposed a model that maintained a continuous dialogue through the highest levels of artistic achievement, continually reaffirming and renewing the distinct, powerful, and unwavering identity of European culture. It is crucially important not to forget that this form of Western culture and theatre as such, this tradition is connected to Europe, and is rooted in Europe. As Georges Banu said in one of his outstanding essays, ‘the theatre is a European invention' and we need to become aware of that - not be ashamed of it, we need to support it - not abolish it, we need to renew it - not deny it.
It is this event to which I would like to invite you all - theatre creators and audience members alike!
Artistic and Managing Director of the Hungarian Theatre of Cluj
President of the European Theatre Union