Press Release

ETC International Theatre Conference in Dresden: the Century of “Spect-actors”?

28 May 2019



ETC International Theatre Conference in Dresden: the Century of “Spect-actors”?


From 23 to 26 May 2019, over 100 representatives of the European Theatre Convention Member Theatres and guests gathered in Dresden for the ETC International Theatre Conference. Closing the Our Stage – 4th European Bürgerbühne Festival, the conference focused on the practice of participatory theatre across Europe.

Taking place during the European Parliament elections, this ETC International Theatre Conference was one of the biggest in the ETC’s recent history. Representatives from 42 European theatres and many cultural institutions in 20 countries gathered in Dresden, thus highlighting the importance of dialogue and networking in Europe. The conference was also open to the professional audience of the festival who joined the discussions and participated actively in the debates.

“Bürgerbühne”, “Community Theatre”, “Teatro do Oprimido”, “Social Drama”… The practice and idea of turning citizens, users and audiences into active participants is on the rise in numerous fields of society and many theatres feel the urge to link art to new and more democratic forms of communication and community involvement.


"When everyone at this festival here in Dresden appears together, and displaying a diversity never experienced before, a vision of the future comes within reach: of European citizens that do not understand themselves first and foremost as Greek, French, Danish, Scottish, Austrian, Hungarian, Spanish, Belgian or German, but above all as Europeans."

– Joachim Klement, Artistic Director at Staatsschauspiel Dresden/Germany


Ten outstanding speakers from all around Europe were invited to share their experience and best-practice during keynotes and panel talks.

Tunde Adefioye, City Dramaturg at KVS in Brussels (Belgium), opened the conference with a strong statement, challenging the audience to urgently address the lack of cultural diversity in European theatres, on and behind the stage. This statement echoed with the previous ETC International Theatre Conference held in Bratislava in 2018, where the ETC Code of Conduct on Diversity for European Theatres was adopted unanimously.

The following panel talk introduced the work of the European artists Raquel André in Portugal, Anestis Azas in Greece, Edit Romankovics & Zsanett Horváth in Hungary and Miriam Tscholl in Germany, showing a kaleidoscope of the various forms and opportunities offered by participatory theatre. From collections to socially engaged theatre, the examples presented took many forms, yet all enabled the artists to address social or political issues in a new, creative way.

"We are living in times where we need to be aware of the role the arts can play in society.”

– Kristof Blom, Artistic Director at CAMPO, Gent/Belgium


The discussion continued over the following days, punctuated by the international performances of the Our Stage – 4th European Bürgerbühne Festival. The final panel talk gathered the theatre directors Iris Laufenberg (Schauspielhaus Graz, Austria), Marie-José Malis (France), Simon Sharkey (Scotland) and Kristof Blom (CAMPO, Belgium).

Throughout their experience, all speakers agreed on one point: including participatory experiences in their theatre’s programmes meant increasing its local involvement. Participatory theatre goes beyond the stage: it also makes your work available and relevant to a larger audience.

The nineteenth century was a century of actors. The twentieth century was a century of directors. The twenty-first century is a century of spectators. And 'spect-actors'”: Iris Laufenberg quoted Anna Burzyńska and Augusto Boal during the panel discussion. Fifty years on, Boal’s term “spect-actor” still resonates with contemporary society and the social and political challenges theatre faces. The ETC International Theatre Conference provided the opportunity for theatre-makers to exchange, share their knowledge and experience, but also their questions on the future of theatre.


©Klaus Gigga

Photo gallery

23 – 26 May 2019

©Klaus Gigga/©Sebastian Hoppe



Next ETC International Theatre Conference

“Whose Stories Are We Telling?”
28 November to 01 December
Hosted by De Toneelmakerij, Amsterdam (The Netherlands)

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Our Stage

Our Stage introduces the idea of Bürgerbühne (literally “citizens’ stage”) – which is run the same way as a professional in-house production company but involves nonprofessional actors – as a new form of creative community outreach via artistic collaboration and as a new artistic business model.

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