Or what it means to make theatre during the period of quarantine
Attila Eck, Hungary
“What kind of world do you want to live in? And what are you going to do about it? What does it mean to be European? What does the European identity mean when this community is made up of several communities with different traditions?” Maybe these are the questions with which I could best summarise the aspiration that called Europefiction to life.
The aim of this program is to assemble young people and young adults between the age of 16 and 23 to start searching for the answer together as a future laboratory and artistic discussion and platform. This great international project came to life as the product of the collaboration of five German (Ruhr region) urban and youth theatres and five other youth theatres operating in various countries of the European Union (Italian, Hungarian, British, French and Dutch). The German theatres create theatrical productions by collaborating with the theatre of another country under the pretext of a phrase which summarises European values in itself. We, the drama teachers of Kolibri Theatre for Children and Youth (Eszter Gyevi-Bíró and Attila Eck) together with the talented students of the Nemes Nagy Ágnes Secondary School of Arts from Budapest, began working together with the europefiction group and the theatre professionals (Nina Weber, Anna-Sophia Zimniak, Vera Grugel and Barbara Kölling) of HELIOS Theater from Hamm.
We took the first steps of this three-year artistic and pedagogical collaboration in the summer of 2018 when we drama teachers visited Germany and the camp called PottFiction for a few days. We had the opportunity to get a glimpse of that free, world-bettering atmosphere that is the trademark of the Europefiction; we also met the excellent professionals of Helios Theater (Nina Weber, Anna Sophia Zimniak, Vera Grugel and Barbara Kölling). We ended this meeting with the selection of a phrase under which the two teams could start their work. Our phrase was SOLIDARITY.
In the autumn of 2018 the students from Budapest dived into the work with great passion. The thought that there is a community hundreds of kilometres away with a different native language who also work on the same subject and with whom they are going to create a performance together in the future, filled them with excitement. All this time, they hadn’t even met each other.
This meeting took place in the spring of 2019 when we hosted the youth of Helios Theatre in Pilisszántó (a village close to Budapest) as part of a short creative camp. The experience had an overwhelming impact. Besides showing each other the theatrical studies we have done in the previous six months, we also did the research and trainings together. From a learning and experiencing viewpoint, the most exciting layer of these few days was that we had the opportunity to experience the subtle differences between our theatrical traditions and were able to observe the effects they had on each other.
The first Europefiction camp was held in the summer of 2019, when we performed our joint performance with great success, and we could watch the performance of the other international pairs as well. But this camp wasn’t only about theatre. During these 10 days, the participants could participate in various workshops: graffiti, street art, theatricals, choir, circus arts… It is impossible to enumerate them. At the end of the camp, we did another draw to reveal the new phrase of the last, closing year. Together with the people from Hamm we got the word SHARING.
In the autumn of 2019, we started working again. We were familiar with this rehearsal system; newer and newer theatrical studies were born. We were excited about spring 2020 when we would meet in Pilisszántó again… but which had to be postponed because of COVID-19…
But despite the pandemic and the constraints of the quarantine, the international intertwining of artistic and pedagogical energies couldn’t be halted! Between the 14th and 17th of April we organised the camp online! More than 20 Hungarian and German students and 4 drama teachers were thinking and working every day, in video conferences, on their own and in small groups, in connection to the topic of SHARING.
Our motto for the week was: although we are forced into an unforgiving situation which conflicts with theatrical thinking and in which we don’t have the opportunity to be physically present, let’s turn the circumstances to our advantage and get the most out of it! We, the participants of the program, were really surprised by the kind of productive and deep things we were able to create in the digital world. Scenes on shared screens, multilingual nonsense-haikus, atmospheric videos and illusion-clips were created, connecting everyone’s living rooms. These four days were the theatrical miracle itself!
And maybe this is the kind of miracle that being European means? That even in the wake of the biggest catastrophes we are able to work for the future and create values that give us cause to hope. It is certainly the key to being an artist and a teacher.