One of the major threats facing art is stagnation. When it intervenes, art is no longer able to keep up with society, and its stakes – reflecting the present world from an originative angle, the transformative effects it should have on humanity, its intuition and influences over the future – get suspended, postponed or repressed. Among other symptoms of stagnation, art is prone to suffer from the temptation of repeating the same forms of expression over again, a preference for certainty and already established ways, and the comfort of coming back to themes and solutions already tested throughout time.
There is one matter on our minds: who, respectively how and how much, is still researching in the Romanian theatre? Is artistic research only specific to academics or, ideally, should it be at the base of any and all stage creations? Is there a “will for research” when it comes to stage productions/performative arts? Are our artists – whether actors, actresses, directors, choreographers, dancers and so on – guided by a cognizance of research? Is the concept of rehearsal closer to a repetition reflex rather than one of testing through attempts and failures? Are theatrical institutions still able or willing to pursuit programs destined specifically for black box theatre, and, making room for experimenting?
We believe that such questions turn us back to an almost forgotten concept: the theatre laboratory. To some, it is an old-fashioned, even romantic concept, devoid of sense; to some, a mysterious space, forbidden to look at from outside, therefore, restricted. Yet, we like to think that the laboratory still maintains a direct, profound connection with a theatre that is alive, to dynamics in art that are below the surface and that avoid the predictable, the boring, the synthetic and the exasperating routine.
The current edition of NTF is a chance to take a look at the 2022-2023 theatrical season, reflecting precisely on these matters. With the intention of watching the productions as if peeking inside of laboratories. We attempt to spot those construction mechanisms hinting towards experiments/artistic experiences. We seek echoes of researchers and their research within artists and their characters. Lastly, we pay attention to the way the stage world is opening up towards other possible worlds, inspiring them, forcing them to come into existence and, thus, generating evolution, continuity, life.
To be noted: we do not only look for “experimental theatre”, which is a loosely defined phrase in Romanian theatre, rather than for a symbolic horizon of present tense’s laboratory, either explicitly or implicitly, in any type of performative act. Similarly, we are not chasing after a concrete definition of laboratory, rather than after that experimental energy that we consider is fertile and necessary in order to create. We do not expect to force the stage into changing into a laboratory; we wish to observe and dialogue with the artists’ inner, personal laboratories by starting to see their outlines in the public manifestations of the scenic act.
This year’s NTF is defined by current thematic research, by exploring less than conventional artistic tools, by new writing forms and reinterpretations of traditional playwriting, renewing the value of the body and body expression on stage, by reflecting on physical, emotional, spiritual transformations of the artists involved in the projects.
We believe that any sort of festival, all the more a National Theater Festival, should be not only a showcase, but a mean to explore; not only a recap of what has already been, but an anticipation of what could come next.
The Festival itself, as an action against stagnation.
The Festival itself, a laboratory.