theatrama Theater Magazine for Makers and Audience
Nicola Fano, Franco Ungaro, Ubaldo Villani-Lubelli, Valerio Gatto Bonanni, Gerd Buurmann Volume 2, 2014
Teatro Valle The Future of Theatre?
Editorial Katharina Herold and Daniel Austerfield
It does not happen too often that one single theatre is reported on internationally. Obviously, Teatro Valle in Rome really seems to make a difference here. After a back and forth and plans to sell the oldest and one of the most important Italian theatres in order to end the Valleâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s history, it was occupied by its artists and employees on June 14th, 2011 â&#x20AC;&#x201C; and still is. Since then it is run by the occupants, the comunardi, and the news report that the Valle has experienced its second spring. While it is said to be amongst the most popular theatres in Rome, the Fondazione Teatro Valle Bene Comune [Foundation Teatro Valle Common Good] presents us with a unique and controversial concept to liberate the Valle from empty national and communal coffers. In this issue, Nicola Fano and Ubaldo Villani-Lubelli discuss the occupation and analyse the success and the shortcommings of the comunardi. Valerio Gatto Bonanni, founding member of the Fondazione, speaks about their aims and motifs, and makes up an interim balance. Franco Ungaro draws conclusions about autonomy and practical alternatives for European theatre. Gerd Buurmann examines the situation and the controversy of Teatro Valle to answer the question about the future of theatre in general.
The story of Teatro Valle has dominated the Italian political and cultural debate for about three years and spreads into legal, political, philosophical, and social areas. It is a phenomenon the public will debate lively for a long time, not only in Italy. The experiences at Teatro Valle and the story of the comunardi have been discussed in the rest of Europe, especially in Germany, in the media and in journals for months. And the Goehte-Institute in Rome noted the importance of the events and how the story is bound to affect the overall situation of European theatre â&#x20AC;&#x201C; and our relationship with the so-called common goods which, unfortunately, is too often guided by empty rethorics. Furthermore, one cannot ignore the difficult and sometimes dramatic working conditions of the people at theatres; especially of those behind a protest against a situation with consequences beyond imagination, perhaps even by the occupants. The story of Teatro Valle Occupato is a metaphor for a country experiencing a phase of transition, of profound social and political transformation, where too often the boundaries between legal and illegal, public/common and private have not been defined clearly.
Guest Editor Ubaldo Villani-Lubelli
Another Occupation Nicola Fano & Ubaldo Villani-Lubelli paints a comprehensive picture of the different forces which lead to the eventual occupation of Teatro Valle. They critically examine the success and the shortcomings of the occupation of the Valle.
Exploring Teatro Valle (Photo Series) Teatro Valle in pictures. The series will take the reader on a tour through the old and beautiful Teatro Valle in the heart of Rome. Starting outside and leading through the halls, the series will direct the reader into its very heart.
Teatro Valle Occupato - The Movement Valerio Gatto Bonanni talks about the occupation of Teatro Valle and the political developments in Italy which lead to it. In this interview he particularly talks about the potential of the occupation and its implications for Italyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s theatre landscape. ... 25 3
European Alternatives Franco Ungaro compares the work of two befriended theatre makers working in institutional and independent theatres and draws conclusions about autonomy and alternatives for European theatre.
Democracy and Democratic Theatre Gerd Buurmann examines the recent developments at Teatro Valle from an outsiderâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s perspective. He considers the occupation from the point of view of an artist, as well as the artistic direction.
Another Occupation Nicola Fano & Ubaldo Villani-Lubelli
Nicola Fano is journalist, playwright and board member of the Teatro di Roma. In 2013 he founded the e-magazine “Succedeoggi”. Fano has written numerous books and theatrical works. Ubaldo Villani-Lubelli is a philosopher, writer and blogger. He writes for many magazines (Limes online, etc.) and his blog “Potsdamer Platz”. 05
There must be a reason why the German identity has produced Faust, the English identity has produced Hamlet and the Italian identity has produced Harlequin and Pulcinella. Shakespeare’s Italian characters were servants or political evil dissemblers: He certainly never saw Italy, but he knew the Italians. The traits of the Italian identity are all present in the intricate and complicated story of the occupation of the Teatro Valle in Rome. The story began almost three years ago, in the late spring of 2011, when a group of willing (more or less young) theatre practitioners occupied one of the oldest and most beautiful theatres in Rome. They are still there today, but unfortunately, no one seems to have lifted a finger yet to really transform the theatre. The occupants of the Teatro Valle have failed to complete the transition from occupation to a defined, credible and recogniz-
able cultural project with an original programme and concept – which was intended originally. By now, there is rather a permanent assembly of practitioners and spectators, and it is doubtful whether that could be considered a form of theatre programme without a lot of imagination or chutzpah. For example, the theatre has also become a place for political demonstrations, such as the recent meeting with Alexis Tsipras of the Greek left and candidate in the next European elections. But the non-Italian reader needs some more explanation to understand the really story of the occupation of Teatro Valle better. Outside Italy however, the story of Teatro Valle has become busy tones, often inconsistent with the reality of things seen up close. [The Italian System] The Valle is a horseshoe arch and a perfect example of eighteenthcentury Italian theatre architecture. Opened in 1727, it was designed by architect Tommaso Morelli. Teatro Valle has five tiers of boxes and typical audience stalls. The wooden structure guarantees perfect acoustics that has made it one of the most glorious Italian opera houses for centuries. By the second half of the twentieth century, Teatro Valle has become one of the temples of Italian theatre and one
of the most important theatres in Italy. Since Italian theatres cannot operate independently, Teatro Valle was managed by Ente Teatrale Italiano (ETI), a public institution allocated to the reasonable funding of theatrical products in Italy and abroad, but in fact only rated financial distribution. In contrast to Germany, where the network of regional theatres is strong and stable, in Italy there is still the old rite of scavalcamontagne, theatrical nomadism, causing performance companies being staged on one side of the Apennines today, and on the other side tomorrow. So the Italian theatre is strongly influenced by the structures that govern the distribution of the shows in every sense of the term. In 2011, the government headed by Silvio Berlusconi, decided to dissolve the Ente Teatrale Italiano (ETI) according to an established strategy for the disposal of any public support to culture – literally deemed «unproductive, unnecessary and non-essential» by the Minister for the Economy Giulio Tremonti. Two of the four theatres directly managed by ETI (the Quirino in Rome and Duse in Bologna) were sold to private investors on very favourable terms for the buyer. The third theatre, the Pergola in Florence was assigned to the City under the administration of Matteo Renzi. Renzi immediately started the 06
Cheering audience supporting the occupation.
formation of a cultural association in order to allow for a healthy municipal management of the Pergola. The same would have to happen to the fourth theatre on the list, Teatro Valle with the intention of installing Gianni Alemanno, the post-fascist major of Rome, as its manager. Rome’s major Alemanno assigned a group of experts with finding a solution. However, these “experts” of the Berlusconi government showed no intention or determination to solve the Valle-problem, even though there were possible plans to sell the Valle to private investors. Even a change of use was fabled (a solid entrepreneur in the food sector was also interested) – ignoring the laws protecting the historical artistic houses from changes of use: a historic theatre cannot become a mega-bistro. [Occupation and Euphorea] In this vacuum of ideas and the occupants invaded the historic hall, which had closed only a few days ago, saying they wanted to ensure the cultural programme. Supported by renowned lawyers they attempted to justify an unlawful appropriation of Teatro Valle with the principle of “common good”, the function of which is to safeguard the theatre for the benefit of the citizens. Yet, the occupation, also had concrete and
understandable political reasons: For at least the last three decades, Italian theatre has been tied up in a distribution of charges and a public funding system controlled by a real lobby – in total silence of the government, which more and more disregarded cultural and, considered them useless and socially unnecessary. During this time a monocracy of the lobby has been established which determines the financial situation for state theatres as well as the independent scene: in Italy there are 67 state theatres and an independent scene. Whereas the government funds the state theatres, the independent theatre makers apply for funding in order to cover their expenses – an apparently common dichotomy in Europe. The monocracy of the lobby in Italy however had the effect that all the younger actors and directors and many practitioners from thirty to fifty years were off the market for socalled Italian “public theatre”. The occupation of Teatro Valle, at first, seemed a fruitful and promising opportunity to break this tyrannical siege by the lobby. And indeed, the first months of this experience were accompanied by a national and international euphoria  felt by all those who saw the occupation as a symbolic act that could destroy and demolish decennial imbalances. Yet, Teatro Valle was not the only 08
theatrical occupation in Italy. The old theatre Garibaldi in Palermo or the beautiful theatre Rossi Pisa was occupied by young entertainment workers at about the same time. The occupants renovated and renewed these two abandoned theatres, and today, both operate independently from the government. Whereas the Garibaldi and the Rossi had been closed years before and were destined to fall into oblivion, only to be brought back to life by the occupants, Teatro Valle was working perfectly normal - it had a regular season until a few weeks before the occupation – and supposedly would have continued to operate as a theatre. Despite any shortcomings of Valle’s occupants, the occupation movement has given voice, strength and substance to a generation of artists unjustly excluded from the panorama of the Italian theatre. [Success and Failure of the Valle] Theatrical discourse in Italy today intensely discusses success or failure of Teatro Valle with an increasingly critical response to the occupation, to the extend that the occupation undermines the just demands of a generation of actors and directors often full of new ideas but always underutilized, underpaid and kept at the margins. The occupants of Teatro Valle made the mistake of not appreciating 09
the complexity of their actions; the mistake of not understanding themselves as a role model for a movement of higher complexity. And so the storm turned into a small breeze: the occupants have turned the Valle into a public cultural foundation full of vague formal claims (sharing choices, certainty of funding, expansion of responsibility) and nice symbolism (the members are called comunardi, like in historical revolutions). Unfortunately, the foundation proposal is based on an unsustainable legal principle and thus rejected by the competent authorities : the foundation’s written constitution ipso facto lead to the acquisition of Teatro Valle by the occupants. Teatro Valle is a public good currently occupied illegally by the comunardi. For this reason the Prefecture of Rome rejected a request for public recognition by the foundation, a formal act the denail of which effectively ended the adventure of the occupants.  Furthermore, water supply, electricity, security, and all other utilities are paid for by the municipality of Rome; in other words, by the citizens. And moreover, no legal requirements like the presence of fire fighters, compliance with safety regulations, or payment of royalties are met by the occupants. Additionally, in order to herald a new era of Italian theatre the occupation of Teatro Valle has sym-
Political demonstration by the comunardi.
Discussion about the future of Teatro Valle.
bolized from the beginning, not just a clear and precise statute would be needed, but a movement able to write new rules for theatrical production and funding! [Towards an uncertain Future] Now, the foreign reader perhaps may wonder about the artistic programme at Teatro Valle. Strangely, the shows at the occupied theatre go on stage usually for one night only: a really short time for a city in which the performances averagely run for two weeks. The sad reality at Teatro Valle is that there are only few spectators. Willing, but few. The polarizing discourse on the success or failure of the occupation and its future meaning for theatrical production in Italy, and maybe Europe, belies the sad overall situation for cultural production and reception in Italy. The inability of the Gouvernment to deal with the occupation, or at least react on it, reveals an essential lack of any political will whatsoever to make a decision about the future fate of a once renowned and internationally recognized theatre; a theatre no one in politics, neither municipality nor government, really knows what to do with. Indeed, politicians seem to believe Teatro Valle is a burden too hard to carry. And so the occupants, or comunardi of the millennium, have good game to
maintain their positions by programming the theatre in fits and starts. They have the opportunity to create something completely new. Yet, since the comunardi have underestimated their role and the possible impact of their movement, the future may simply be that they continue weighing on people’s pockets in an already financially exploited Italy. In this regard, Shakespeare’s observations are keen: Harlequin and Pulcinella, the two most famous masks of the Commedia dell’Arte are simulacra of indefiniteness: they are servants, but sometimes they can affect their owner, they are poor but they always manage to survive, they are deformed since one’s head is lumpy and the other one has a hump, but they always manage to fall in love with their Columbine. This duplicity and dichotomy are their absolute figure: they are evasive and incomplete like Italy, and like the perpetual revolution of the comunardi of the Valle. But a revolution that does not change the status quo other than for a small group of privileged people, and the history of the past three years connected to it, is just a parody. Albeit very Italian, unfortunately. Further Reading: Il caso Valle, ed. by N. Fano and A. Porcheddu, 2013; Teatro Valle Occupato, ed. by F. Giardini, et.al, 2012 12
Teatro Valle, Front Entrance
Rehearsal, I CavalieriW
In the Audience “Change the system”
Teatro Valle Occupato A Dialogue with Valerio Gatto Bonanni
Valerio Gatto Bonanni and Ubaldo Villani-Lubelli met and discussed the situation at Teatro Valle. Together they delved deep and explored the history of the occupation, their philosophy, and the impact the occupation has had on Italian theatre.
Teatro Valle Occupato is a collective experiment of democracy and the beginning of an innovative institution, the ‘Fondazione Teatro Valle Common Good’. And it is transforming constantly. Valerio Gatto Bonanni is a founding member of Teatro Valle Occupato. He is an activist, filmmaker, performer and public person. 27
Ubaldo Villani-Lubelli (for theatrama): When did the occupation of Teatro Valle start? Valerio Gatto Bonanni: I guess it was not out of impulse, was it? The occupation started on June 14th, 2011. But we had already organised events in theatres to pillory cuts in the budget and the troubles in this area before. The occupation of Teatro Valle is not just the occupation of a theatre, but political activism – pure political practise. The occupation has become part of our active citizenry. And we are certain that culture can
influence and define social processes. Originally, the occupation was born as a result of the political discussion about privatising the waterworks in 2011. You could say that, from the beginning, the movement had a clear perspective on common properties and democratic principles. theatrama: What then were the reasons to occupy a theatre? Bonanni: Teatro Valle was managed by ETI for centuries. When Berlusconiâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s government wanted to close the ETI in 2009 we wanted to make the speculations about the project public. Gabriella Carlucci, the former Italian state secretary, and Romeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s municipal administration wanted to make Teatro Valle a bistro. And the Italian industrialist Farinetti (Eataly) was supposed to manage this bistro and the writer Alessandro Baricco would have likely become director. This privatisation project would have completely distorted an important historical place of Italian theatre. theatrama: So the occupation was the only possible solution? Bonanni: It is a cultural war. And we fight for our stance because we reject the logics of cultural privatisation. The state cannot and must not withdraw from distributing and support-
ing culture. In this sense, our fight is both cultural and political, because we do not want the private management and private funding of cultural events and places. Another theatre, the Pergola in Florence, was managed by ETI, but after ETI was shut down two big banks are now managing the theatre. You see, we want it to be different with Teatro Valle. We have been working with renowned Italian journalists like Stefano RodotĂ and Ugo Mattei and formed an autonomous community with the aim to run the theatre as common property. theatrama: What idea of democracy is behind your project? Bonanni: We want to make politics without delegating. We want to develop and establish a new way of working. We want to find new social dynamics different from the benefits of only few people. Every Monday we have a plenary meeting is held where we decide about all decisions concerning the activities and events of the theatre together. This is a beautiful process, even though it is very demanding sometimes. theatrama: And you can also attend to these decision making processes online? 28
Blockupy DDL Fornero June 14th, 2012.
Bonanni: The meetings take place only at Teatro Valle. And you have to be there physically. We did a good online experiment with our statute of the Foundation of Teatro Valle, it was possible to emend the text and discuss in an open forum. We mainly use the web for communication purposes. The decision-making processes cannot be attended online, only directly at the Valle. theatrama: After more than three years after the occupation the prefecture of Rome still has not accredited the statute of the foundation Teatrovalleoccupato. What is your interim result? Bonanni: Obviously, we are in a critical phase. We need to re-define the experiences of Teatro Valle Occupato. It is true, the prefecture has not accredited the statute of the Foundation. But this will not stop us. We have tremendous ambitions: we want to re-think the theatrical institutions. And in order to achieve this we are working closely with many institutions, like for example the Georgian embassy, the Swiss Institute, and the French Academy. Now we have to figure out how best to proceed. We are seeking the dialogue with the city of Rome, but nobody wants to talk to us, yet. Still, let me assure you, the decision made by
the prefecture is not a final verdict; it does not mean the end of Teatro Valle. We can file an appeal â&#x20AC;&#x201C; and we will discuss it in our meetings. theatrama: Do you think that the occupation of Teatro Valle was an action greater than you, the comunardi, might have though? Bonanni: To a certain extend, maybe, because we could not know what would happen after the occupation. But it is more than we could desire. We we have shaken the whole society and the world of theatre in Italy. It was necessary and long due. AThere is the necessity and the desire to participate, to create and experience, and there is a community of people who want to discuss our present and find solutions. theatrama: And this service could come to an end now, couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t it? Bonanni: We keep our heads down. The weak political power in Rome is a good pre-condition for the police to act. We know that the eviction might come any time. theatrama: Until then, how do you cover your expenses? Bonanni: We might have to pay for operating, maintenance, light, and 30
Teatrodistinto - Cenerentola non Abita Piuâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; Qui March 27th, 2012.
the premises. There are no administrative costs. But we are not given a bill – it’s an occupation. We assume that the community covers the expenses, but it is uncertain. theatrama: I understand that the occupation also wanted to help the people working at the theatre. Which problems did you want to solve? Bonanni: The occupation’s origin lies in the struggles of the people working at the theatre. Do not forget that the occupation was a reaction to a project according to which the theatre would have been distorted, at the cost of the people at the theatre. With the occupation we have given hope to the younger generations. The working-conditions at theatres in Italy are evidently difficult and very bad. We are missing rehearsal rooms; we are missing places to actually make theatre. State funding is low and constantly declining. There are no drama courses taught at schools and there are no regional networks. The Enpal, financial support for artist in the field, has been cancelled and there is no unemployment pay any more. The institution for the artistic royalties, the SIAE, does not help the artists. Italian theatre has been in a crisis for a very long time now and one of our intentions was to stop these dramatic 33
tendencies. It cannot go on this way. We established a new form of theatrical governance: our artistic direction changes every three years and it cannot be re-elected directly. The direction is elected in one of our meetings. Also, the direction’s adviser changes every year. We want a theatre that is as open as possible. So we have activities during the day and and try to open the premises for discussions, and we try to instigate a dialogue with the public. Additionally, we host political demonstrations like the one recently with Alexis Tsipras. See, we understand theatre as substantial task and we want the community’s consciousness to be heard. Art plays an important role in forming a critical consciousness. And it must. Our understanding of art is diametrically opposed to what a determined and pre-defined system presents us with. Art is not entertainment and it furthermore should neither be nor become an exclusive market for capitalists and the cultural elite. We want to issue changes of society in our activities in many different languages – and this includes political issues as well. Our work is based on the principle of diversity, not uniformity – or any pre-defined categories, without any fixed identity –, because we want to open up and change society.
theatrama: If you put it this way, can Teatro Valle be a role model in Italy and beyond? Bonanni: Yes, it can, because we invent something new with old tools. Our work is based mainly on an ancient idea: Commons goods are connected with a large community that can manage, care and enjoy them. Cooperation is the key, in opposition to competition and private use. That is the philosophy behind the idea of common property; property is an invention of genealogy. Another thing is that we want to abandon the principle of delegation and make ourselves creators and protagonists of our own fate. theatrama: What would you say then, did the experience of Teatro Valle change Italian theatre? Which practical opportunities does a young person in Italy have to make a living with theatre? Bonanni: Like I said, we wanted to overcome the existing system. We wanted to make a strong signal in order to help those people working in the theatre get on their feet again. The occupation of Teatro Valle has given hope to go into a different direction. It is important to take chances to fight against old standardised rules. Hence, we want to convey the mes-
sage that the citizens have to get politically active, they have to re-claim their space and work together with other citizens. Only this way they, and we, can really create something different from the society we have and which we need to change. theatrama: How would you evaluate the experiences made by other theatres? Which differences do exist compared to Teatro Valle? Bonanni: Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s incredible how many occupations followed after ours. And of course, there are differences concerning the context and social constitution. In Pisa for example, reality is different because we are talking about a small university town. They occupied and rebuilt an abandoned theatre. Now they have all kinds of cultural activities: there are workrooms and production studios. On the other hand, the occupied theatre in Messina also has a lot of cultural activities, but they have a different goal; they fight to revive the city. And there are cases similar to Teatro Valle, e.g. the Macao of Milan. They had similar speculative operations; or the Cinema Palazzo in Rome. It was in private hands and supposed to be turned into a bingo hall. Still, there are many differences also. Every story is different. .
European Alternatives Franco Ungaro
Franco Ungaro has a degree in Philosophy and is the artistic co-director of Koreja Theatre in Lecce. He also works as a writer. His first work “Dimettersi dal Sud” (Libreria Laterza) was published in 2006, followed by his second work “Lecce sbarocca (Besa editore) in 2012.
In the only truly cold day of a ‘warm’ winter, at the end of January, I find myself in Skopje. It is not the first time. Two of my dearest friends, Dejan and Luca, live in Skopje. The first, a Macedonian, is the artistic director of the Macedonian National Theatre; the second, an Italian, decided to go to drama school and graduate as a director at the Skopje Academy. I can see why Luca would rather work in Macedonia - he hates an Italy made of lobbies and theatrical potentates, and hopes that Macedonia, sooner or later, will grant him a freedom of thought and practice he can’t find in Italy. I’m here to see the opening show at the new National Theatre, which was re-erected just where it had been destroyed by a terrible earthquake in 1963. It’s a large theatre, with a technologically advanced stage. Inside, fitted carpet and red chairs, precious
Eternal House at the National Theatre in Macedonia.
glass chandeliers, vault decorations and lots of glistening gold in a dazzling mix of neoclassic and baroque. This theatre looks at imperial stages and opera houses, and brings Skopje closer to Moscow and London. Teatro Valle in Rome turns pale in comparison. [Working Public Spaces] The show, Eternal House, is also imposing: a kolossal with a eighty-people cast acting on modular moving platforms manouvered by computers and latest-generation technology. So far, I have only ever seen Luca’s work on video, because his shows do not have a continuous schedule. He is not in charge of a theatrical space or institution: his directing takes place out and about, even in small centres. He has worked with different Macedonian ethnicities and, on one occasion, with Koreja’s actors. In Skopje, Dejan and Luca know of each other but do not speak to one another: every time I meet them in separate locations. It is as if they lived in two unconnected rooms, as if they were walking on roads that will never cross. It looks like I’m the only communication channel between them. Obviously, I talk to Luca about Dejan and about Luca to Dejan: what the one is doing, what the other is doing, one’s dreams, the other’s dreams, one’s obsessions, the other one’s. Both 37
are good directors. They are guarding the secrets of an art of acting, an art that – in Skopje as in Moscow, in Belgrad as in Wroclaw - rests upon a tradition of great masters, from Stanislavski onwards. They draw from the same texts, both classic and contemporary, although they employ different stylistic slants. Their directing is appreciated by the Macedonian public, albeit to different degrees. I, too, sincerely admire both. Dejan works for a theatre sponsored by the State, Luca lives and works in the no-man’s-land of independent theatre. This is the real reason behind their distance and their conflict. Every time I hear them talk, I think of the debates that have been going on for the last 50 years in Italy, where the same questions keep coming up, cyclical and always the same, including those put back on the agenda by the events at Teatro Valle. What is the best way to manage public spaces? Is it fair for the State to be financing the arts? How can we safeguard both the artists’ freedom and their economic needs? [Public only? Private only?] I am part of a generation which, in Italy, since 1968, has been contesting the role and function of public civic theatres, born out of direct initiatives by local and national authorities, as offshoots of their politics and their
Eternal House: Stella Benveniste portrays a Jew deported to Auschwitz.
Brechtian small curtains and postmodern temptations in Eternal House.
strategies. This generation started bringing the theatre to the streets, to the schools, to people’s homes, to abandoned factories, outside conventional spaces, to signify distance and autonomy from authorities and institutions. The same generation, in the 80’s, reclaimed the State’s support for those theatres that were taking up the cultural risk of carrying out research, of innovating and drawing in new audiences: kids, youths, weak society members. It was the generation of innovative civic theatres, which were meant to represent a third alternative to ‘public only’ and ‘private only’. I direct one of these innovative civic theatres (teatri stabili d’innovazione), in Lecce. We have reached the end of the line on a journey that, in Italy, sees everybody unsatisfied of how things are going in the theatre system. Civic theatres and companies (teatri stabili), public and private, independent and subsidized, apocalyptic and integrated – as Umberto Eco would put it – are all unsatisfied. [Paradise on Earth] In Skopje’s oldest coffeeshop, or kavana, like they call it, eating sjrenie cheese and drinking rakia, Luca says nothing is independent anymore. He has understood that the State has occupied all the room for cultural accessibility - and has decided 41
through financing choices who is going to work and who is not, who is going to survive and who is not. The biggest slice goes to the national theatres. This is nothing new for me; I think of my region, Puglia, considered innovative in Italy for its cultural politics. In Puglia, substantial financial resources have been invested in performing arts. Many local theatres have been assigned to young companies, many new spaces were born, together with three public agencies for the promotion of theatre, music and cinema. There was support for the internationalisation of performing arts, a network of festivals was set up, and so-called big events have proliferated. All of this happened under the public hand’s control - deciding where the financing should go and who should manage the theatres. Puglia, I tell Luca, would be paradise on earth if, together with public investment, employment had grown in the performing arts sector and short term contracts had decreased. This has not happened, meaning the main objective of the policy - job and employment - was missed. I ask him if he had liked the many independent Macedonian groups and artists like Nela Vitosevic’s “Wonderland”, Sofija Ristevska’s “Mal Dramski Teatar”, Dimce Nikolovski’s “SubProdukcija”, Martin Kochovski’s radical theatre, or Fabrika’s crew en-
Eternal House: theater burns passions and contradictions.
Eternal House: Macedonia Square is full of classic statues and heroes .
tered the public system, and the autonomous projects slipped inside the system. How long would they maintain their innovative, creative energy? What does he think of Teatro Valle? [Independence is but a Frustrated Dream] Can you lock up freedom of thought and creative practices inside a theatre’s walls, disregarding the laws, the rules and the stylistic conventions the theatre was built upon? Luca’s opinion, and my opinion, is that “independence is a frustrated dream” and that independent theatrical expressions can only exist from the point of view of poetics and style. As for the rest, “cultural processes are guided by cliques, parasites, impostors, and recyclers”. There is no way out of this nightmare, neither in Macedonia nor in Italy. I agree, thinking of how much dusty Rethoric – with a capital R – surrounds the conception of public policies (democracy, participation, cuture for all) and the practices of the so-called independents (the common good is common until it hinders personal interest or small lobbies, the sponsoring of whoever happens to be powerful at that point in time, artists chattering about the common people while inhabiting the city’s drawing rooms). The events at Teatro Valle are not immune to this contagious
illness: this theatre can’t be considered independent theatre. Rather, it represents the evolutionary parable of an independent theatre within the system. This system has always functioned on a dialectic of ‘apocalyptic and integrated’, valid at all latitudes and in all time frames, cyclically reproducing advantage and compatibilty. When I saw Eternal House at the National Theatre in Skopje none of these ‘sad’ thoughts was crossing my mind. Although I could not stand the nationalist rhethoric the show was soaked in, I was given the strongest emotions by two young actresses, Darja Ritzova and Dragana Kostadinovska. These are two pillars on which European theatre can build its future, with Dejan living in the most luxurious theatre in Macedonia, and Luca eating in the oldest kavana in Skopje.
Further Reading: Goce Smilevski, Freud’s sister (Penguin Usa); Anastasija Gurcinova, Macedonia: The Literature of Dream (Besa Publishing) 44
Democracy and Democratic Theatre Gerd Buurmann
Gerd Buurmann is an actor, former artistic director, political activist and blogger. As an actor, he has worked in many different countries and recently established the format â&#x20AC;&#x153;art for cashâ&#x20AC;?, which since has been regularly been performed in 12 different German cities.
There is a little anecdote that came to my mind when I first heard about the occupation of Teatro Valle: Imagine a place, a nice square with some grass and trees, beautiful streetlights, and with five different and wonderful restaurants around it. The restaurants compete against each other, fair and square, all have their customers. What can be dangerous for this place? Government subsidies! If one restaurant is subsidised suddenly, the other four restaurants see themselves exposed to a distorted competition because the cashier at the subsidised restaurant is ringing even before a meal was ordered. This restaurant can start offering the dishes cheaper and still invest some money in better products. The other restaurands, on the other hand, will have to save money by buying cheaper goods and cutting salaries. The quality suffers and fewer guests will come. As a result, one restaurant will
have to close. So there are four. The municipality reacts and subsidises another restaurants on the square. The summer comes. All restaurants put out their chairs. The clerk’s office and the building control authority send their people to check the standards. One restaurant cannot afford the new and expensive requirements and needs to close. Now, there are three. The municipality gets into a financial crisis and the funds need to be cut. The two subsidised restaurants organise demonstrations. The press reports, but it cannot be helped: subsidies are reduced and the subsidised restaurants need to save money. Salaries fall and the quality begins to suffer suffers. One restaurant grew accustomed to the subsidy funds and has forgotten how to do business. It has to close. And then there were two. In the mean time, fast food shops have opened. They are not much worse than the non-subsidised restauran, but significantly cheaper. The restaurant cannot compete and has to close. So there is one. The place that was known for its culinary diversity is gone! Eventually, a person asks whether it is fair that this one restaurant is subsidised. He is being answered: “We guarantee the quality! Without subsidies, the only restaurant would have close. Then there would only be junk left to eat here. It is our duty to support the
good!” The next day the municipality raises taxes. [Enemys of Cultural Diversity] I really tried to feel sympathy for the action, but I cannot help myself. Teatro Valle has been subsidised for centuries. Then the funding stopped. The closing, one could say, would have been a sad but true part of the artists’ profession, yet Teatro Valle decided to start a cultural war, as Valerio Gatto Bonanni, one of the comunardi, put it: “We reject the logics of cultural privatisation. The state cannot and must not withdraw from distributing and supporting culture.” Alas, the state withdraws from distributing and supporting culture all the time with every theatre and every artist not being subsidised. Still, on which grounds do the comunardi claim to have permanent access to the taxpayers’ money? The money given to institutional theatre houses is the money lacking in all the independent theatres. People claim that subsidies serve the culture, but they don’t! Subsidies serve people who produce art the state does not have to fear and can therefore support. Subsidies produce court jester art and are the enemy of cultural diversity. [The Rejection of Privatisation] The comunardi complain: “The work-
â&#x20AC;&#x153;Art for Cashâ&#x20AC;? performance in Leverkusen, Germany.
ing-conditions at theatres in Italy are evidently difficult and very bad. We are missing rooms; we are missing places to actually make theatre. State funding is low and declining constantly. There are no theatrical courses at schools and there are no regional networks.” Undoubtedly, Italian theatre has been in a crisis for a very long time because of the ETI. Still, the reason for the bad conditions is not the level of funding, but the funding itself. Take a look at the United States of America for example, where I have worked for some time: There is no funding like in Italy or Europe. Still, every school offers theatre classes. Each community has its own theatre. The networks in fine arts are exemplary. There are differences in quality among the different houses, of course, but they did not have to leave the square. Private management and private funding can still be accepted, when there is no governmental funding, surely. The comunardi however seem to reject this opportunity: “Our fight is both cultural and political, because we do not want the private management and private funding of cultural events and places.” If privatisation means making the theatre a mega bistro, the rejection is reasonable. Still, the concept itself may prove valid eventually. The difference between a privatised and a subsidised theatres is fairly sim-
ple. Privatised theatres take money from the people who visit their shows. Subsidised theatres take money from every citizen, regardless whether they attend to the shows. Subsidised productions are paid before the curtain is lifted for the first time. In that cases it doesn’t matter what’s behind the curtain; it could be rubbish – and very often it is. Subsidised theatres don’t need to care for the audience. They take people’s money, like kings, claiming they are using it for a better purpose. Teatro Valle Occupato is the manifestation of a cultural elite where only a few people benefit. [A new Form of Democracy?] Is this really a new form of democracy? Is it really a new form of theatrical governance? The statutes of the Foundation of Teatro Valle say that the artistic direction changes every three years along with the director’s advisor. Both cannot be re-relected directly. But that is not a new way of governance. It is an attempt to disguise exploitation: Teatro Valle Occupato refuses to pay for operating, maintenance, light, and the premises. They suppose that the community covers the expenses, when at the same time declaring that they were doing the city a service. To put it differently: You occupy a theatre, assume the community to pay for it, claim the taxpayers’ 48
‘Capitalist Swines’ of the night, at “Art for Cash”.
money, lower the ticket prices, create an atmosphere of distorted competition and then have the nerves to call it a social service. It seems that the tickets are not the only things that are cheap at Teatro Valle. It’s the philosophy, too, halfhearted and juvenile. Bonanni said that they want to abandon the principle of delegation and make them the creators and protagonists of their own fate. Let it be so! Be the creator of your own fate. The audience has strong means vote: the playbills they purchase. [A new Form of Audience] In 2007, I founded a theatre concept called “Art for Cash” in Cologne. I have realised that the people had increasingly lost touch with the value of culture because they were not actively involved in financing art. Therefore, “Art for Cash” puts the audience back into the position of the boss: They pay after the event, but they pay just as much as they think the particular piece of art was worth. Thus, the audience learns to be supportive again not just as a recipient, but as an active part of cultural production. They seem to realise again that no one else promotes art but the audience. And the audience appreciates it: In over twenty German cities from Berlin to Munich “Art for cash” has become a success.
People come to see different artists and they themselves decide what to support and what not. That’s democracy! It is close to the comunardi philosophy, but “art for cash” does what they don’t. “Art for cash” puts democracy into the hands of the audience without a net or false bottom. The remarkable thing about this idea is: instead of mere entertainment, it is especially the serious pieces of art that are promoted by this concept. Thunderous applause rewards the pleasing art, but sophisticated art opens hearts and purses. “Art for cash” proves that capitalism has its weaknesses, but it is much better than its reputation. So, the comunardi should stop delegating the financing of their self-realisation to the public! If you want to serve the public, let the public decide whether it wants to be served by you, with every benefit and constraint that come with it. You say that you have given hope to the younger generations. I say that, with the occupation, you have given the younger generations an excuse for not growing up!
Further Reading: Deleuze, G. & F. Guattari: Anti-Oedipus. Capitalism and Schizophrenia. 1983; Deleuze, G. & F. Guattari: A Thousand Plateaus. Capitalism and Schizophrenia. 1987 50
Legal information according to ยง 5 TMG (German Telemedia Act): Daniel Austerfield (Sonfield Verlag), Emser Str. 12, 12051 Berlin, Germany Phone: +49 (0)30 20673923 Email: email@example.com Web: www.theatrama.com Responsible for content according to ยง 55 2 RStV Daniel Austerfield, Emser Str. 12, 12051 Berlin, Germany Photos/Illustrations: Teatro Valle (Cover), Luke Adam (Editorial), Ubaldo VillaniLubelli (p.2), Nicola Fano (Nicola Fano), Teatro Valle Photo Series (Teatro Valle), Teatro Valle (Teatro Valle), Franco Ungaro (Franco Ungaro), Gerd Buurmann (Gerd Buurmann), Teatro Valle (p. 7, 10, 11, 13-24, 27, 29-30), Mazedonia National Theatre (p. 34, 3-38, 40-41), Tom Wolff (p.47, 49) Daniel Austerfield (p. 52) Authors: Gerd Buurmann, Valerio Gatto Bonanni, Nicola Fano, Franco Ungaro, Ubaldo Villani-Lubelli Technical Realisation: Phillip Austerfield (Phillip.Austerfield@sonfield-verlag.de) ISSN: 2197-5221 Place of jurisdiction and place of fulfilment: Berlin, Germany Editorial Deadline: 18.05.2014 Editorial Note: theatrama provides links to third party websites in this issue. Note that theatrama is by no means responsible for the content of these websites. 51