class="">The 2022 National Theatre Festival. Performances selection and structure of the 32. Edition

The 2022 National Theatre Festival. Performances selection and structure of the 32. Edition

The NTF is a production of UNITER – The Theater Union of Romania. Coproducer: The Bucharest Townhall through ARCUB – The Cultural Center of Bucharest. NTF is a cultural project financed by the Ministry of Culture. Partner: The Romanian Cultural Institute.

NTF 2022 Curators’ Argument – Mihaela Michailov, Oana Cristea Grigorescu, Călin Ciobotari.

The curatorial team of NTF 2022 has selected for this edition of the festival exclusively productions of the last season, 2021-2022. Between 1. June and 1. September 2022, they watched over 100 performances from all over the country, both live and online, that have been submitted by state and independent theatre companies, as well as international productions. UNITER invited theatres to send two proposals each. Of course, the curators also took into consideration performances each of them watched during the last season even if these were not part of the proposals submitted by theatres.

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The theme of this year’s festival, “Fragile borders. Fluid histories”, announced after we accepted the task of being curators for this edition, has guided us in the creation of the program, which traces relevant aesthetic approaches and trends in Romanian contemporary theatre. The program’s two categories offer performances that invite to possible interpretations of this theme, without it becoming exclusive criteria. We think it is important to extend the interest generally shown for theater performances also to other performing endeavors, thus answering various proposals that are becoming more and more articulated.

The “Fragile Borders” section is a proposal for observing hybrid aesthetics: we paid close attention to crossovers between different genres, integration of technologies, the hybridization of aesthetic territories, as well as to artists who display dynamic and brave poetics.

The „Fluid Histories” encompases performances that revisit our relationship with the past and question the present, bring forth collective and family histories from subjective perspectives, question controversial episodes from the official history. We found it relevant to include in the NTF performative installations and online creations as well as VR, as a response to various significant transformations of artistic languages during the pandemic, a time in which online theatre has become a formula that was agreed upon by an audience without a place or who was attracted by everything that was digital.

Choosing some performances over others and including them in the NTF 2022 is by no means a scientific process. On the other hand, this doesn’t mean of course that the selection is simply a matter of personal taste and choice. We based our decisions on principles, criteria and norms that we present here, albeit in brief:

  • The suitability of performances versus the challenges of our times. We searched for and evaluated the capacity of these performances to interrogate the present in various ways, accepting the risk of stirring up anxieties and thus abandoning the predictability of some easy entertainment. In other words, we appreciated those performances that do not seek refuge behind sheer aesthetics or some minor discourse, but that throb with life and the will to do and to change something, be it at an individual, a family or a society level. We admired the freshness of the themes that were chosen but also the courage to head-on tackle of tabu or superficially approached topics. On the other hand we avoided museum-like production, that seem like made in a bygone century and foster monotony, boredom, blockage.
  • The innovative dimension of set design. Beyond the sad truth that the budgets of the majority of Romanian theaters do not allow significant technological adventures, we paid close attention to authentic pursuits, not just declarations, to the search of new, innovative forms, to the pursuit of diversification, nuances and the fluidity of stage expression techniques.
  • Acting performances. We do not believe that the new theatrical aesthetics that our century brings to the forefront go towards cancelling or hiding the actor. On the contrary, more than ever, the Actor is called to consolidate, interrogate and reveal the scenic voice of that which is human, in relationship to all the substitutive temptations of the trans-human. We were excited (and hope the NTF audience will be as well) about such examples of genuine, powerful acting.
  • The general audience and its expectations. No matter its shape or the topics it tackles, theater does not concerns only the elites but also the general audience (a term which is sociologically ambiguous but is important from the perspective of the openness that the art of theater has always displayed.) We believe that the NTF must also have this projection of “the general audience” and consider the expectations of a varied number of viewers.
  • Geographical representation. Although it is a questionable criteria from an aesthetic point of view, we also considered (without compromising) the ideal principle of an optimal geographical distribution of performances. We looked for a certain reasonable regional balance in selecting the performances. The theatrical reality of nowadays shows that good quality theater is created all over the country, and that hierarchies like periphery-center or national-local are obsolete.
  • The proposals submitted by theaters. For pragmatic reasons, the impossibility to watch and know everything is a limitation that we lucidly must accept. In order to co-involve the theaters in creating the NTF schedule we asked these institutions to submit two relevant proposals each. We believe in this partnership formula, between a curatorial team and various managerial teams from the theaters, a formula that build the NTF as a result of various collaborations and well-intended communication processes.
  • “Financial fragilities. Notwithstanding the extremely short time, we managed to coagulate an international section with a few guest performances, available during the NTF. We felt the need to include this section as a direct response to social and politica turmoil related to the war nearby. The Ukrainian Manifesto is an artistic format which includes two photo exhibitions, a performance and a debate. Within the same international section we propose performances by directors from Romania and the Republic of Moldova who staged last season in Germany, Luxembourg, The Netherlands and Serbia. Their creation is valuable as it makes Romanian theatre visible on a European level. Also, this section includes creations that deal with colonialism, dystopia and acute social and political transformations.
  • Education. For the first time, the NTF pays special attention to the presence of performing arts in schools and highschools, including workshops and meetings for University and Art Schools students. We believe that a national festival is also an artistic education platform, a framework for the training of young audiences and creating transformative encounters, a context that must be favorable to the consolidation of the relationship between contemporary art and educational environments. During the Festival there will be performances in schools and highschools throughout Bucharest, as well as workshops with theater games and improvisation, dance, music and animation. The NTF will also host performances by Theater schools in Romania.
  • Public readings. According to our curatorial vision, the dramaturgy of present realities, reflected in various texts, is highly important. The National Theater Festival offers four reading performances on texts tackling hot current topics. One of these performances is based on Romanian short texts that are the result of a playwriters’ competition announced by the NTF and a dramatic writing workshop.
  • Additional events. Alongside performances, public readings and educational activities, this year’s NTF includes debates, exhibition openings and a Theater Book Fair, which will highlight recent significant new publications as well as encounters with their authors.

Details about the full NTF schedule will be announced soon.