A Bet on the Future

Schauspielhaus Graz on how participating in the ETC Artist Residency Programme has helped them remain open to new ideas, people and audiences

Six years ago, Schauspielhaus Graz started hosting artists through the ETC Artist Residency Programme. They haven’t looked back - they have participated every year since.
Early career artists apply through an open call and are selected to join the creative team of a theatre production as assistant director or assistant dramaturge. “It needs time and dedication to make a programme like this work, but that is what international collaboration is all about. It’s up to us to make the most of the opportunities available to us,” explains Karla Mäder, Head Dramaturg at the theatre.

In April 2022, Franco-German director Magrit Coulon joined Graz’s dramaturgical team for four weeks within the framework of the programme. “So many people come and go and they all change the way we think. I was impressed by one video performance Magrit did - she has an interesting artistic core and I would like to see how it develops in the future,” Karla says. Schauspielhaus Graz’s hosting culture goes beyond the programme itself: after seeing a video by young Ukrainian director Natasha Syvanenko on ETC’s social media channels, discussing the reality for artists fleeing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the theatre immediately reached out to her. By hosting and offering a professional opportunity to Natasha, the theatre was able to further develop "an awareness that we live in a time of crisis that will not go away quickly. Not just because of the war in Ukraine, but because of all the crises that we are experiencing at the same time. It reaffirmed the importance of becoming resilient as a society."

One of the beautiful things about theatre is that we invest a lot of time, energy and love in projects without knowing if they will pay off. But they do.

Karla feels that this investment in young professionals has an impact outside of the specific theatre she works for. “It is more about THE theatre,” she says. She didn’t want Natasha’s career potential to be lost, for instance, and hoped that through her time in Graz, Natasha could be empowered to continue - one day returning to Ukraine to revive the theatre scene there. Equally, participation in the programme was an opportunity for Magrit to spend more time in Graz and improve her German, opening up to the German-speaking theatre market and even more professional opportunities. In the spirit of this ongoing commitment to offering opportunities, Karla invited Magrit to return to Graz in September 2022 to support Natasha in staging a new production. “It is unusual for two directors to work together on a collaborative project, but they try to strengthen each other and that counts,” she explains.

Schauspielhaus Graz’s ‘Story of Change’ is based on developing a hosting culture of care. The motivation for becoming a host derives – in Karla’s words – from the “obligation as an institution to open up to everything: to new ideas, new people, new audiences, new aesthetics, new technologies. Curiosity is in the DNA of theatre.” It is also interesting to note that alongside the people chosen for participation in the ETC Artist Residency Programme, the theatre has begun giving others that applied but were not selected the opportunity to join the Schauspielhaus Graz team for a short period of time, offering all possible resources available. The theatre has therefore expanded its commitment to artist development, inspired by the ETC initiative, by giving emerging artists from around the world the opportunity to see how Schauspielhaus Graz operates, and to contribute to this work.

As Karla adds:

One of the beautiful things about theatre is that we invest a lot of time, energy and love in projects without knowing if they will pay off. But they do. Maybe not in the way we figured it at the beginning, but this approach is a bet on the future.


Karla Mäder is Head Dramaturg at Schauspielhaus Graz. As a dramaturg with a wide range of interests, she sees herself as an impetus-giving background worker. The focus of her work lies in the cooperation with authors for concrete productions during the creation and preparation of plays and productions, as well as in networking the theatre in the city.


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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