“I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another what it is to be a human being.” This quote from Samuel Beckett reflects the role theatre can play, not only for the individual but also for society as a whole.Sharing our past, our stories and our experiences is crucial if we are to build a cohesive, resilient Europe for the future. And culture, in all its forms, has a vital role in making it possible.
That is why culture is at the heart of European integration. Cultural experiences not only bring us together, they also help create an emotional connection between us that is essential to keeping the European project alive.
I am proud that the EU supports culture and creators, including those in the theatre, through the Creative Europe programme. Like all the other parts of the cultural and creative sectors, theatre faces its own unique challenges. Strongly defined by language and tradition, it is not easily accessible across borders.
Creative Europe has supported the theatre sector with over €40 million in funding since the start of the programme in 2014, mainly by promoting cooperation projects. Yet, theatre-makers still struggle to stage their works in countries that do not share the same language, which makes it difficult for European citizens to enjoy plays from other countries.
That is why the European Commission is currently assessing how we can support theatre more effectively. We have just launched a mapping effort to better identify the sector’s needs. We are also looking into developing a fund to support the transnational circulation of performing arts works. The European Theatre Convention is an important partner in this endeavour, and I thank the network for its ideas and projects geared towards developing our strategy further.
This is especially important at a time when divisive politics are tearing at the fabric of our societies, creating new gaps between and within countries, and even between and within communities. Theatre, like other forms of cultural expression, has a unique power to help us learn about and accept our differences – as well as to see what we have in common. It is precious, and I believe that, together, we can ensure that it fulfils this role.
European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport
This foreword was published in the ETC Journal 2019/2020.
Top photo: Stolpersteine, guest performance by Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe (Germany) in Kyiv National Academic Molodyy Theatre (Ukraine), Theatre is Dialogue 2018. © Oleksii Tovpyha