18 edycja 18 edycja 18 edycja konfrontacje teatralne

Conversation between the festival’s Artistic Director Janusz Opryński with the curators of this year’s programme, Marta Keil and Grzegorz Reske.

Janusz Opryński: For some time now we have been constructing the programme of the festival in collaboration with a curator. This year you are the curators…

Grzegorz Reske: In our case the position of a curator is not new. Over the years we have collaborated with people responsible for certain parts of the programme. The only difference is in the name – this function used to be called commissioner.

Marta Keil: It sounds even worse than a curator…!

JO: Then this years “commissioners” are Marta Keil and Grzegorz Reske. When I look at the programme you’ve created I am glad that you took the risky path straying from traditional theatre. I feel passionate about it, because during my whole professional life I have been to the side of, if not in opposition to repertory theatre.

MK: We want to forget about theatre that is predictable, covered with dust, boring because of its conventions. We invited independent artists, who have made their names as reformers of the way we think about theatre, and what can be called theatre and dance (Heiner Goebbels, Xavier Le Roy, Komuna Warszawa, Curators Piece). We will present performances in those repertory theatres (Teatr Dramatyczny in Wałbrzych and Teatr Polski in Bydgoszcz), which stand out due to their distinctive, consistent and fresh programme.

JO: I often surprise myself when I realise that, in fact, I don’t like theatre. Everything that happens before the actors enter the stage, the context accompanying the creative actions, is extremely important to me. I am also fascinated by theatrical means of expression, the process of putting the performance together, but not exactly by its consumption.

MK: And what are the proportions between the time you spend on rehearsals and the time you work at home, write the script, talk with the cast?

JO: I spend much more time preparing for the stage work. I am usually preoccupied with the greater narrative, the process of reading, additional reading, looking for a proper way to approach the text. What is more, the kind of theatre I grew up in is theatre interested in the social context.

MK: The theatre that we present this year disassociates itself from the traditions of both repertory and dramatic theatres. Let me point out that those performances were produced within the independent movement (which does not exclude them from the mainstream European theatre, as the cases of Heiner Goebbels or Xavier Le Roy prove) although some of them were staged by repertory theatres, but those theatres are exceptional (Bydgoszcz and Wałbrzych are both visible and significant exceptions on the theatrical map of Poland). The artists we invited this year are unique because of the way they think about theatre. They ask questions about its capabilities and its duties; its context and for whom it is created.

JO: This reminds me of what Krzysztof Warlikowski said about the vision of his Nowy Teatr as a cultural centre. At the moment we are working with Rafael Lewandowski on a film about the Centre for Culture in Lublin. We often go back to the cultural reform conducted by André Malraux in France. The most interesting things that happened in French culture in the 70s after the reform were created at local community centres, not necessarily at professional theatres or museums. I look at both your programme and your proposal of building a context around a festival with hope.

MK: Creating a context is an important task of a festival. In offering a certain programme we should be aware of the choice we have made, of the audience we are trying to reach and the things we would like to discuss. The dialogue with the spectator is one of the most important duties of a curator.

GR: This year we propose a new form of meeting with the audience. Namely, half an hour before every performance, we will make an introduction conducted by either Marta or Łukasz Drewniak. We want to see how those meetings can help to establish connections with the spectators and broaden the context, which is one of the most basic tasks a festival should be able fulfil. What is more, on 19 October, we will invite the audience to a lecture on education within the field of performing arts given by Heiner Goebbels. What seems to be significant in his experience as a teacher is his mission to free young artists from the chains of their own workshop. He points out that teaching is always burdened with some kind of ideology, it can provide important tools, but it cannot substitute for thinking.

JO: I would like to ask you one more question. What is the status of the Confrontations Festival in Europe from the perspective of your experience of, and travels, to the recognised European festivals you often visit?

GR: I think that there are many formulas for a festival. What we offer this year is indeed the shape of a festival we find interesting. This year’s Confrontations will become a festival of performances breaking conventions.

MK: It’s also important why they break them. They do it to enable a dialogue with a spectator, which can take place on equal terms for both sides. The audience is extremely important in this programme.

JO: What about the risk?

GR: There is a lot of risk in this programme as well, however we feel that it will build the strength of the festival and make it a significant platform for contemporary culture. Even when we invite repertory theatres, we chose the ones that follow a very distinctive programme line. I would like to avoid witnessing Confrontations become yet another review of more or less recognised names. The mission of a festival is to create culture, introduce new phenomena and new ways of thinking that will open doors for artistic experiments. I believe that due to the financial situation and the social role of theatre around the world, festivals will more and more often become production and experimental spaces for artists.

MK: On the one hand we are also witnessing the “festivalisation” of theatre life in Europe. In fact, the visual arts are dominated by fairs and biennales. This leads to the commercialisation of many artistic events, turning them into business tools or trade shows. What is more, when we look at the map of the biggest European festivals like Avignon, Ruhrtriennale, Wiener Festwochen, Foreign Affairs (the former: Spielzeit Europa) or Kunsten Festival Des Arts, we will see the same names in all of their programmes. It seems paradoxical that despite the growing “festivalisation”, the number of artists who have access to this elite international circulation is very small. Nevertheless, I believe that we are witnessing a visible crisis of festivals. When their role is narrowed down to presenting a review of artists, they become a marketing tool for selling certain products. We think that the only interesting future strategy for festivals is to develop its potential to create culture.


Marta Keil is a curator of theatre and dance currently working on projects for the Centre for Culture in Lublin, Goethe Institute in Warsaw, and the Institute for Applied Theatre Studies in Giessen, Schauspielhaus in Bochum. She created and now governs the project called East European Performing Arts Platform (www.eepap.org). Previously she worked for the Adam Mickiewicz Institute and Krakow Theatre Reminiscences. At the same time, she continues her collaboration with Theatre Institute, Institute of Music and Dance as well as the Theatre Confrontations Festival in Lublin. She is the co-founder of the curator’s collective MicaMoca, which from May to September 2011 managed a temporary performing arts centre in Berlin. She is writing a PhD thesis on the phenomenon of a curatorship in performing arts at the Art Institute of the Polish Academy of Sciences. She has a blog: fraukeil.wordpress.com