By Heidi Wiley

The new season is the second year of TRANSFORMATIONS, ETC’s international programme covering 35 initiatives for European theatres. It launched in 2021 and has been marked by a year of extreme contradictions. On the one hand, we’ve been able to meet face to face again, travelling to theatres and festivals around Europe to be challenged by brilliant new theatre from Malta, France, the Czech Republic, Sweden… On the other hand, we’ve watched in horror as colleagues in Ukraine were locked down again in harrowing circumstances, following the Russian invasion in February 2022. It remains a challenge to see the contradictions that face all of us across Europe, which of course also extends to the contradictions facing artists inside and outside of Europe. It is this context that informs and shapes this ETC Journal for the season 2022/2023, which has an explicit focus on new international artistic collaborations, new drama and new theatre productions. A spirit of challenging authority, challenging dominant social structures, and dreaming of a better, more inclusive and sustainable future.

NEW THEATRE. NEW EUROPE. begins with interviews with playwrights involved in Young Europe IV, ETC’s flagship international artistic project. Their new classroom plays focus on the non-dominant, forgotten voices in society, paving the way for embracing diversity and inclusion in European theatre. Then the 5 authors in ETC’s Pipelines project assess the corruption and broken economic system powering the biggest challenge of our time: the climate crisis, reflecting on how their newly written texts can inspire society to take action into their own hands.

I am particularly pleased that we can present two exclusive extracts from new plays by rising European playwrights, translated into English for the first time. These were chosen by ETC’s Drama Committee and are ALASKA, by Greek writer and director Evangelos Kosmidis, in partnership with Dakh Theatre in Kyiv, Ukraine. The play shares real testimony from children who faced war for eight years in Mariupol, Ukraine – a city whose theatre, sheltering children, got bombed by Russian forces in March 2022. We humbly try to pay tribute to them in choosing our cover page (main image, above) representing the children of the production ALASKA. The second play is Everything OK, by Slovenian playwright Simona Hamer, which turns a characteristically sharp eye towards issues including (un) employment, (im)migration, discrimination and racism.

I also invite you to visit the ETC Plays Directory, which will soon include access to over 1000+ contemporary theatre plays from ETC’s well known and now digitised publication European Theatre Today, covering selections from all over Europe, starting in the late ‘90s. The accompanying ETC Online Library is also the home for resources and publications we create, such as the practical assessment grid on gender equality and diversity, for theatres to track their impact on key topics.

In the Journal, you can also read about major international theatre projects and collaborations that ETC has joined as a partner. These include ACuTe, which launched during the ArsElectronica festival in Linz in 2022, which will link theatres and academics through the innovative testbed or ‘design thinking’ creation process. Participating theatres will create nine new experimental performances that use technology including robotics, drones and AI. The second is STAGES, the ambitious sustainable theatre project that tours new productions by artists Katie Mitchell and Jérôme Bel without moving any people or items, around Europe and as far afield as Taiwan. To lay the grounds for new forms of transatlantic collaborations, an ETC delegation will visit CINARS, Montreal, one of the largest performing arts festivals in North America, pushing to discover and circulate contemporary drama works between Canada and Europe.

Last season saw ETC cement its position as the largest theatre network in Europe, connecting 53 theatres from 30 countries. We feel a responsibility and desire to both ask and answer questions with art. To not only challenge audiences, but also authority, with powerful and thoughtful theatre which has the power to provoke, inspire, and heal. We create NEW THEATRE, for a NEW EUROPE facing and being part of the contradictions and challenges. To do so, I am grateful for the financial support and accompanying partnership offered by the European Commission to put theatre on the cultural policy map. Join us for more discussion about how and where the theatre should support society at the ETC International Theatre Conferences, in Lisbon, Portugal from 3–6 November 2022, which has the essential focus on CARE, and from 11–14 May in Opole, Poland.

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