FESTIVAL THEATERFORMEN 2020
Special edition: “A Sea of Islands”, 2-12 July in Braunschweig and online
On the occasion of its 30th anniversary, the Festival Theaterformen will be presented in an alternative, pandemic-appropriate form: under the title “A Sea of Islands“, it will bring together artistic formats connected with islands throughout the world. The international theatre makers who were originally invited to participate in the festival will present a combination of brand new and existing works: letters and publications for home, artistic videos on the festival website, and pieces with attributes of installation art that visitors can view at local sites in Braunschweig, under strict hygiene restrictions. The artworks will be accompanied by an online discussion series, The One Thing That Helped, which will provide context. And as usual, each day on the sea of islands will finish with music.
A Sea of Islands
The Faroe Islands, the Comoros and the Caribbean, Nauru, Timor und Sri Lanka: for eleven days, the Festival Theaterformen will put islands in the spotlight – each of them with their own political peculiarities, geostrategic problems and projection screens for a better life.
The artistic director Martine Dennewald says:
“With A Sea of Islands, we are shifting the focus to areas that are considered to be peripheral. This means nothing less than taking a different perspective on the world.” Many of the difficulties faced by the islands are relevant to the whole world, from the climate crisis and the exhaustion of natural resources to how to deal with migration. Not infrequently, it is precisely this spatial isolation that reveals the effects of global geopolitical or ecological entanglements. “Islands can teach us something”, emphasises Dennewald, “about the interplay between isolation and global contexts.”
In the context of the coronavirus crisis, the focus on the assumed periphery, on spatially isolated but nonetheless globally connected places, has taken on an unforeseen timeliness. “As an international festival, our role is to look beyond our own back garden, to facilitate cross-border exchange. It is more important than ever not to forget that even in isolation, even in a state of withdrawal, we are part of a whole”, stresses Martine Dennewald. “A Sea of Islands” will be Dennewald’s final festival as artistic director.
Before the pandemic broke out, the Festival Theaterformen had planned to present 18 international productions connected with the same number of different islands right across the world. This special edition of the festival will remain true to the artists who were originally invited, and to the island theme.
PROJECTS FOR HOME AND AT LOCAL SITES IN BRAUNSCHWEIG
Postal Festival Greetings
Rimini Protokoll, whose play Granma. Trombones from Havana) would have opened the festival, will be asking their Cuban ensemble to share with the audience their experiences as inhabitants of a state that was in isolation for many years – by sending audience members a letter by post. Silke Huysmans and Hannes Dereere have created a documentary play, Pleasant Island, about the Pacific island of Nauru, and they too will send a document specially created for the festival to the homes of the audience.
Installations in Braunschweig
The vast installation Thirst by Voldemārs Johansons, which invites viewers to experience a hurricane on the Faroe Islands, is undoubtedly a work that crosses the border between contemporary theatre and visual art – it can be seen in the Großes Haus of the Staatstheater Braunschweig. In the Kleines Haus, the choreographer Marlene Monteiro Freitas, who grew up on the Cape Verde Islands, will present her installation, Cattivo; it consists of hundreds of music stands forming dramatic scenes, evocative snapshots and group portraits.
With her work Los Sobrevidentes, the Cuban Laura Liz Gil Echenique will present a participative project with attributes of installation art, in which she envisages the future with a group of senior citizens from Braunschweig, as well as with the audience. Laila Soliman, whose debut My Body Belongs to Me was performed at the festival in Hanover last year, will present her latest work with, and about, Abir Omer and Yodit Akbalat, who fled from the Sudan to northern Germany a few years ago. In Wanaset Yodit, which will take place partly as an installation at the Villa Haeckel in the Theaterpark and partly as a piece of correspondence online, Omer and Akbalat share their stories with the audience. And finally, the New York directorial duo 600 HIGHWAYMEN invite viewers to participate in a hygienically safe encounter with a perfect stranger in their latest work A Thousand Ways, which will take place at the LOT-Theater.
“Even though nothing can replace the communal theatre experience, I am really looking forward to the artworks we will be presenting as installations in Braunschweig’s theatres in compliance with the hygiene restrictions and as newly created video pieces on our website”, says Martine Dennewald of her programme, over half of which will take place online:
The theatre maker and storyteller Ogutu Muraya is producing a video about the Comoros, which he visited as part of his research for his play The Ocean is Always Trying To Pull You In. The star choreographer Eko Supriyanto from Indonesia will present not one, but two video pieces. The five dancers from Supriyanto’s choreographic piece Ibuibu Belu will report in a video on the traces left behind by the COVID-19 virus in Belu Regency. And the Japanese director Yudai Kamisato will focus on the Okinawa Islands; in his new audio play Khao Khao Club, he ventures a more tipsy rearrangement of East Asian geography.
Zwoisy Mears-Clarke and Venuri Perera will hold a cross-continental discussion on white cultural heritage in the bodies of people of colour, and Ira Brand, who was actually planning to do battle with her audience in Ways to Submit, will offer both an audio play and a manual for local wrestling matches. Lígia Soares, whose work Cuore would have taken place on the forecourt of the Staatstheater, will hold an online discussion with Jesse James – the director of the Walk & Talk Festival on the Azores Islands, where the debut performance of Cuore took place two years ago – about the Atlantic archipelago, a community characterised by transience, isolation and unity. There are also darker island stories on the programme, such as the transatlantic slave trade, which will be discussed by the theatre maker Selina Thompsons and the US-American author Saidiya Hartman.
Live discussions with almost all artists will take place after the “performances” as part of the digital offering.
The band sessions will kick off with Fehler Kuti live on the Oker raft on 2 June. Further concerts with Ilgen-Nur, Tellavision, Anne Müller, Die Wilde Jagd and Madar Band will take place online at www.theaterformen.de
Photo: Thirst / Voldemars Johansons, Foto: M. Kolly