The idea for a special issue of Critical Stages/Scènes Critique on ‘Theatre and Statelessness in Europe’ seemed very timely when it was originally decided two years ago. However, none of us thought that it would be posted shortly after a champion of borders had been elected in the United States. Hardly thirty years have gone by since the collapse of the Berlin Wall and now Donald Trump’s idea that the “wall is better than fencing because it is taller and more secure,” comes to challenge that postmodern dream of a world with fewer borders or none at all.
We bear no gifts to Athens. The course of human history carries the footprints of millions of people who, for various reasons, found themselves crossing borders or jumping over walls and fences, risking their lives. According to the UNHCR, “the number of forcibly displaced people worldwide reached 59.5 million at the end of 2014, the highest level since World War II, with a 40% increase taking place since 2011. Of these 59.5 million, 19.5 million were refugees (14.4 million under UNHCR’s mandate, plus 5.1 million Palestinian refugees under UNRWA’s mandate), and 1.8 million were asylum-seekers. The rest were persons displaced within their own countries (internally displaced persons). Among them, Syrian refugees became the largest refugee group in 2014 (3.9 million, 1.55 million more than the previous year), overtaking Afghan refugees (2.6 million), who had been the largest refugee group for three decades.” (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_migrant_crisis, accessed 21/12/2016).
The reason we chose Europe as our case study is due to the fact that it is in the midst of the largest humanitarian crisis since World War Two. The ten essays (plus a video) that frame the Special Topic, edited with meticulous care and exemplary professionalism by S E. Wilmer and Azadeh Sharifi, far from being exhaustive, show how theatre participates in a direct and vital way in what is going on.
There are lots of people willing to tell their stories, and there are lots of ways to show how theatre can promote a new vision of the world. From devised theatre, to verbatim, documentary, participatory, site specific, interactive, Dionysus’ art brings into focus unrevealed aspects of this crisis; it gives to all these “other” people the chance to tell their own stories, narratives that are often lost amidst images of violence and dislocation or obfuscated by media distortion. Theatre is back to its original mission, to tell stories, and, through telling, to unite people, to make them empathize and, hopefully, open up spaces for future possibilities.
I owe a debt of gratitude to our two editors, as well as to all the authors who have written such enlightening and original essays on this Special Topic. The texts published here reinforce the journal’s mission to keep the values of humanism centre stage. I also owe many thanks to all the other authors of this issue whose contributions (32 in total) open Critical Stages/Scènes Critique to new perspectives and new theatre worlds. With their work they show how contextualizing the theatre event contributes to our better understanding of the world in which that event took place.
I gratefully acknowledge the work of the many people who helped put this issue together and assisting in every way (language readers, section editors, board and webteam members). From the very beginning the aim of Executive Editor Jeffrey Eric Jenkins, of Managing Editor Don Rubin and myself as Editor-in-Chief was to reinforce the role of Critical Stages/Scènes Critiques as an engaging, provocative and accessible forum hospitable to the new, the promising and the humane. The essays included here help point the way.
SPECIAL THANK YOU NOTE: For the completion of this issue, all members of the Editorial Board of Critical Stages/Scènes Critiques and all members of IATC’s Executive Committee owe (once again) special thanks to Professor Jeffrey Eric Jenkins, Executive Editor of Critical Stages/Scènes Critiques and ExCom member, and the Theatre Department of the University of Illinois at Urbana, for their most valuable financial support. Their generosity keeps us going. We are most grateful.
*Savas Patsalidis is Professor of theatre and performance history and theory in the School of English (Aristotle University, Thessaloniki), the Hellenic Open University and the Drama Academy of the National Theatre of Northern Greece. He is also a regular lecturer on the Graduate Programme of the Theatre Department at Aristotle University. He is the author of thirteen books on theatre and performance criticism/theory and co-editor of another thirteen. His two-volume study, Theatre, Society, Nation (2010), was awarded first prize for best theatre study of the year. In addition to his academic activities, he works as a theatre reviewer for the ejournals lavart, parallaxi, and the greekplay project. He is currently the president of the Hellenic Association of Theatre and Performing Arts Critics and the editor-in-chief of Critical Stages/Scènes Critiques, the journal of the International Association of Theatre Critics.