IV. MITEM - PREFACE
Dear theatre lovers,
The world thinks of Hungary, a country in the very heart of Europe, as a meeting point between North and South, East and West. The many empires whose armies and emissaries have come from all corners of the world and traversed our land over the course of the past millennia have strengthened this aspect of our identity, much as they have enriched our culture and added splashes of Eastern, Western, Northern, and Southern hues to our palette. But of course we also know that, had we not clung to both our independence and the distinctive features of our national culture, today we would not be able to speak of such a thing as Hungarian artistic traditions, traditions which, we remain modestly but insistently convinced, enrich the cultural palette of the world.
We are overjoyed to see that with every passing year the number of people who visit our country and our capital in search of vibrant cultural life continues to grow, perhaps in part because we find ourselves in such a fortuitous geographical location, but unquestionably also because of the wealth and diversity of artistic events and programs in our homeland. One need merely think, for instance, of the Budapest Spring Festival, which is currently underway. As a nation that looks back on a great tradition in the art of the theatre, we are very proud that this year the Madách International Theatre Meeting, a gathering of artists and theatre enthusiasts that has won acclaim all over Europe, is being held now for the fourth time. The Meeting serves in part as a meeting point for companies which represent new trends in the art of the theatre on the one hand and troupes and studios which cherish and preserve the noblest traditions of the stage on the other.
The great strength of MITEM derives in no small part from its tremendous diversity, which in turn is due to the distinctive theatrical languages and traditions of the participants and their intimate knowledge of their art. This diversity offers all of us an opportunity to enrich our understanding of the theatre and of culture. As Goethe said, “There are two things children should get from their parents: roots and wings.” With their performances, which we eagerly await, the participants in MITEM will nurture traditions and strengthen roots, while also giving us wings.
Dr. Péter Hoppál
Secretary of State for Culture
Ministry of Human Capacities
The Theatre as an Artistic Dialogue
Three years ago, in the course of organizing and then participating in the first MITEM, we could sense the increasingly palpable anticipation of audiences and theatre professionals in Hungary, for the festival, which we have organized every year since, addresses a need that has long been pressing. From the outset, we strove to create a festival that would stand out on the map of the art of the theatre in Europe, presenting works of art that are of universal appeal and value while also offering space for the expression of the distinctive perspectives, mentalities, and aesthetics of different peoples. Our goal, thus, was to present the remarkable diversity of the art of the theatre all over the world. From the responses we have gotten so far, MITEM has met with tremendous popularity, both among Hungarian audiences and artists and among visitors, dramatists, and actors from all over the world. For us and for the artists who participate in the festival, the performances, the various events, and the casual conversations have shown quite clearly that the diverse languages of the theatre have an inspiring effect on one another, strengthening our shared passion for theatre as a way of life.
In my view, the theatre is a distinctive and condensed model of human existence. But I am also convinced that the theatre, as an artistic dialogue, is capable of serving as a bridge between nations. A sophisticated artistic dialogue that is founded on shared love of the theatre not only offers us insights into one another’s cultural treasures, but also helps us better understand and even express our own identities.
Every year, we have had the pleasure of welcoming back audiences and artists who attended MITEM in previous years, and this is a clear indication of the success of the festival. Indeed, this year some of the most prominent artists of the theatre in Europe are returning to participate in MITEM, for instance Silviu Purcărete, Eimuntas Nekrošius, Rimas Tuminas, Krystian Lupa, Eugenio Barba, Valery Fokin, Alvis Hermanis, and Viktor Ryzhakov. We hope that their productions, which we look forward to presenting to Hungarian and international audiences alike, will evoke the cathartic moment captured so eloquently by Sándor Hevesi, one of the great Hungarian producers of the early twentieth century:
“The illusion on stage makes it possible for us to experience the present moment, life as lived right now, as if we were in it – and thus, what we see is the truth – and yet nonetheless we stand outside it, and what we are saying is mere play.
The merger of audience and actor in the name of illusion is the great shared experience that attests to the ancient kinship between the theatre and the temple, and worship, even in our day.”
General Director, National Theatre,
Artistic Director of MITEM
Horizons that Span Cultures
As the artiste associé of the Avignon Festival in 2006, I was able to observe first-hand the many potentials for self-expression that lie somewhat hidden in the work of festival organization. I had the extraordinary opportunity to present my artistic world and territory not only through my own works, but also through the works of artists with whom I shared an affinity. I invited Peter Brook, a director who in my eyes is a great master of the theatre, to participate in the festival, as well as Anatoly Vasiliev, Vojvodina poet Ottó Tolnai, visual artist Sándor Hollán, and composer György Szabados. Szabados’ presence at the festival was particularly inspiring for me, since his music, which is truly free, had had a fundamental influence on me back when I was a student in Budapest. To be able to bring these fine artists together as guests of and contributors to a major international festival was a tremendous experience.
I have read the program for the Madách International Theatre Meeting this year, and it is quite clear to me that the festival will host an array of extraordinary artists and masters of the art of the theatre. I have followed MITEM since it was founded, and while I may not necessarily share his artistic credo, I discern intentions in the work of Attila Vidnyánszky as a festival director that bear strong affinities with the goals I mentioned a moment ago. Like me, Vidnyánszky also seeks to create an artistic universe that bears important similarities to his artistic vision and a poetic strain in the theatre that is characteristic of his manner of seeing. Productions by the great visionaries of the theatrical arts who have been important to Vidnyánszky will be performed, but at the same time, Vidnyánszky has provided ample space for new discoveries. We can only be open to one another if we remain curious about one another. We could refer to this curiosity as a “horizon that spans cultures.” And yet, the superb productions are clearly an expression of one thing: faith in our share experiences and fates.
In the Wake of the Inscrutable Secret
These days, we often find ourselves asking what the actual function of a theatre performance is, and what kinds of new directions the art of the theatre might take in the future. In earlier times, theatres tended adhere to relatively uniform moulds and follow uniform tendencies. In the twentieth century, in contrast, change, polyphony, and experimentation became dominant. The theatre of our time is in a state of continuous renascence, always seeking new perspectives on individual experience. There were eras in which the art of the actor and actress were in the foreground. Then, the dramatist became the protagonist, as it were. In the theatre of our time, which is always searching for innovation and renewal, the director has the lead. The director does not simply create harmony and balance among all of the elements that are essential to the enchantment of the theatre, like a conductor creating harmony and balance in an orchestra. Rather, today the director brings a distinctive and individual vision to the production, and in doing so, creates a new work of art. It is perhaps not coincidental that the term “art theatre” was first used towards the end of the nineteenth century and became the name of the theatre in Moscow founded by Stanislavsky—arguably the creator of the theatre of our age—the Art Theatre, where the plays of Chekhov were first performed. On the occasion of his last performance, Giorgio Strehler, the founder of the Piccolo Teatro, one of the emblematic art theatres, made the following exhortation: “never be satisfied, and never stop moving.” According to Strehler, the art theatre was always in a state of motion, and it always strove to uncover new secrets, and when it had attained something, new paths would open in front of it, and this would spur it onward. He cited the 317th line of Goethe’s Faust: “Man errs, till he has ceased to strive.” Goethe suggests that humankind is striving towards something that it does not yet know. One might even hear in these lines reverberations of the last line of The Tragedy of Man, a play by Hungarian playwright Imre Madách: “strive on, trust, have faith!”
At MITEM, a major international theatre gathering named after Madách, audiences can enjoy productions at the National Theatre in which the directors have created personal, distinctive artistic worlds. They interrogate the great myths of world literature, and they transport viewers to unfamiliar lands.