Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Play-off/06 theatre festival

This is an English version of a post originally written in Portuguese.

I'm back after two weeks in Germany participating as an actor in an international theatre festival called Play-off/06, organized by four independent theatres in the state of Nordrhine-Westfalen (NRW): Consol Theater, in Gelsenkirchen, theater im depot, in Dortmund, Studio-Bühne, in Essen and Flottmann-Hallen in Herne. The festival is officially supported by the cities fo Gelsenkirchen, Essen, Herne and Dortmund, by the state of Nordrhine-Westfalen and organizations like the Goethe Institut and the International Association of Theater for Children and Young People.

During those two weeks I seldom used a computer (I only used them in Internet shops as cheap means of communication) and saw no TV or any news. I ignored what was happening in the world (except for the World Cup, which is impossible to ignore since it was happening in Gelsenkirchen). In Brazil, I work professionally as an information technology consultant, so two weeks away from those calculating machines and away from any news were the best holidays from that kind of work. But, as for my other life, in theatre, those were intense and very productive weeks. Besides acting, watching plays and getting to know interesting people, the trip was also an opportunity to discover a very interesting part of Europe: the Ruhr area. It's a place where I probably could have been before on a business trip, but possibly would not have considered as a tourist destination. I also had the time to spend a day or less in the cities of Cologne and Amsterdam, which were nearby.

The festival

Christian Strüder, director of the Flottmann-Hallen, Herne; André Wülfing, director of Play-off/06 and Berthold Meyer, director of the theater im depot, Dortmund. Photo: Play-off/06.
The Play-off/06 festival was planned two years ago and directed by André Wülfing, from the Consol Theater in Gelsenkirchen. The idea was to bring together in the Ruhr area young theatre groups from all over the world and use all the publicity around the FIFA World Football Cup in Germany to make it easier to obtain means for funding the event. Initially, the plan was to gather groups from each one of the 32 coutries participating in the World Cup. With help from the government, non-profit institutes and private companies, the project was able to get together 16 groups from 15 countries and 4 continents, who settled in a camping site set up for the event during two weeks. It was a great achievement. From the camp, the participants would leave to see the plays in four tightly integrated cities of the Ruhr area.

Kerstin Plewa-Brodam, director of Studio Bühne, Essen, during welcome meeting at the camp's central tent. Foto: Play-off/06.
Play-off/06 was a unique festival, unlike any other I've ever seen or heard of. It had the original idea to keep all groups together in a camping site, an international village, and that is what made all the difference. Twenty-four large standard tents and some extra smaller ones formed the small village which was home for 140 actors from 15 countries and five continents during two weeks. The place was a Babel of people speaking different languages, but despite all differences in culture and language they were able to understand each other. Sharing a camp for two weeks broke many barriers of communication. We all wanted to mingle. It certainly would not have been as successful if each group had stayed in a hotel or hostel, as it usually occurs in many festivals. Eating breakfast together, staying awake till late, learning how to say "hello" or "kiss me" in another language; there were too many opportunities to start a conversation and get to know someone that came from the other side of the world. The camp was like a miniature earth, and in two weeks those people who came from all parts of the earth were like one.

And how did we, from the Núcleo Experimental dos Satyros end up in Germany? I've already told that story in another post.

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