Personal and Professional

Director Natasha Syvanenko on how travelling to work at Schauspielhaus Graz changed her understanding of the future

Natasha Syvanenko started working in Ukrainian theatres in 2014, combining directing with theatre management. In 2015, when she was at Kyiv National Academic Molodyy Theatre, ETC reached out and organised a three-day showcase of Ukrainian plays for a professional international audience, complemented by workshops and discussions on international cooperation. “We had absolutely no experience with international productions before,” she recalls. This cooperation resulted in the theatre becoming a member of ETC, which it remains to this day.

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Natasha left the country and travelled to Poland. The ETC team contacted her. “They simply asked: how are you? how can we help you?”, she says. A few days later she was gathering videos from other Ukrainian colleagues that were disseminated through the ETC channels “to share the real situation and feelings of Ukrainian artists at that moment.”

It is amazing that someone from the state theatre is helping young artists to realise themselves in different theatres and countries

While volunteering in a hostel for refugees in Poland she was also contacted by the Schauspielhaus Graz team. “I just received three emails. The first one was ‘Hello, we are Schauspielhaus Graz and we would be happy to invite you to work with us, tell us what you need’; the second one had many numbers – not common for us in Ukraine – dates and an address, details on the amount of money and the kind of support I could get, and I said of course I am coming. With the third email I just received my train tickets.” Arriving in Graz was not easy. Natasha doesn’t speak German and she sometimes struggles, but has found a supportive community of fellow artists in residence hosted by Schauspielhaus Graz. Among them was Magrit Coulon, the ETC Artist Residency Scholar in Graz for 2022. “We became friends, we understood that on the cultural and emotional level we were very close to each other. We had a ritual of spending some time every evening together in the residence’s beautiful garden to explore the events of the day. We spoke a lot about theatre, and I also had the possibility to talk about the situation in my country.” In September 2022, they will work together on a play that Natasha is putting on stage after a suggestion by the Schauspielhaus Graz team. “Magrit needed to say no to other projects to come and share this interesting artistic process experience with me. I am totally happy with it,” Natasha says.

Natasha notes that before coming to Graz, she was “closer to the Eastern European theatre bubble.” Since she arrived she has watched 16 performances and had conversations with writers, performers, directors from all over Europe.

They come from totally different schools, they have different feelings of the world, understanding of the mission of the theatre… I will combine all those new instruments with my native Ukrainian school,

she says.

Natasha acknowledges the change she is experiencing with the support of Schauspielhaus Graz is both personal and professional.“My conversations with the theatre staff push me to think about my plans for the future. In this stressful situation I find myself in, it is difficult to plan.” She also underlines that Schauspielhaus Graz has the same approach with other interns and artists in residence as well. “It is amazing that someone from the state theatre is helping young artists in general to realise themselves in different theatres and countries.”

Finally, when thinking about the impact of the opportunity, Natasha says that

for me change comes with changing myself and my priorities, my emotions and my personal borders

which is what she is currently experiencing in Graz.


Natasha Syvanenko is a Ukrainian Theatre Director. Due to the war in Ukraine, Natasha Syvanenko moved to Austria, where she works as an associate theatre maker at Schauspielhaus Graz.


This article is part of the ETC Publication Our Stories of Change, which is a new series to illustrat the effect and impact of our current programme of activities: TRANSFORMATIONS - Recharging European Theatres and Audiences in a Post-Covid World. The article was written by Matina Magkou, Researcher for On The Move.

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