Section Editor: Savas Patsalidis (Greece)
Since the times of Ancient Greece, festivals have been an integral part of communal life. In fact, they were introduced to consolidate the sense of community: to recall the past and celebrate the present; and to assert national and self identity. Nowadays, festivals may no longer carry quite the same significance, in religious, metaphysical and national terms, but they still fulfill a civic function. Festivals continue to be events in which cities or states give people the chance to see what is most innovative in contemporary local and international theatre life.
It is clear that the impressive explosion of festivals around the world is not unrelated to the socio-cultural changes taking place within nations and beyond. Migration, population mobility and more relaxed cultural borderlines have created a more inviting cosmopolitan environment. This new territory is hospitable to ideas and activities that transcend local and national boundaries and communicate with a diversified world which is no longer organized along strict national cultural lines.
This explosion, however, must not be taken at face value. As antagonism continues to grow, more and more small cities and nations launch their festivals, not necessarily out of artistic needs but as part of an economic and promotional need, as part of an effort to establish their “brand.” In such cases, there is a very real danger of festivals functioning like cultural supermarkets.
With all this in mind, the current issue (# 17) of Critical Stages/Scènes critiques approached festival directors from Italy, Spain, Portugal, South Korea, Germany, and India to talk about their experiences, the difficulties and the challenges they face, and the role they envision for theatre festivals in the twenty-first century. Their answers are enlightening.
Savas Patsalidis is Professor of theatre and performance history and theory in the School of English (Aristotle University), the Hellenic Open University and the Drama Academy of the National Theatre of Northern Greece. 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 web journal of the International Association of Theatre Critics.