Monday 31 May 2010

International workshop for young playwrights - an interview with Gergana Dimitrova and Mladen Alexiev, by Ivan Radev

How did you come up with the idea of that seminar?

We have been thinking about a seminar for playwrights for a long time because one of the main priorities of the Organization for Contemporary Alternative Art and Culture 36 Monkeys is to promote and further contemporary drama. We have long been desirous to meet new authors interested in theatre and to work with them (we are theatre directors). One of the organization’s main long-term projects, ProText deals with selection, translation and presentation in Bulgarian of good samples of contemporary drama from abroad. The purpose of the project is to get those texts integrated into the Bulgarian theatrical context and thus to move it up, to up-date it in terms of both playwriting and means of expression employed to present such plays: we develop the form of reading performance in various urban spaces.

Among the other objectives set by the Organization for this project is to attract and encourage young authors to write for theatre and to develop their ideas in a context that is adequate to the European one. The provocative contemporary drama texts from other countries are the best way to remind us that writing for theatre has its strength, that it is capable of posing topical problems and developing new means of expression. In this way we hope to inspire young Bulgarian authors and to draw them in for joint work.

This is how the idea of an international playwriting workshop jointly with Elias Kanetti International Association was born. While we were discussing the project we got to this final form: to bring together two lectors, both practicing playwrights, one from Romania and one from Germany and eight participants (playwrights in the beginning of their creative careers): four from Bulgaria and four from Romania. The workshop will mainly be a practical one; it will enable the participants and lectors to share ideas, knowledge, information. On the other hand, the authors will thus meet us, in our capacity of directors who will share their point of view on the issues related to the realization of a dramatic text as a theatre performance.

Why exactly Bulgarian and Romanian authors?

Bulgaria and Romania are neighboring countries and what is common in their historical destiny makes them commensurable. At the same time, the cultural dialogue between them is rather difficult owning both to linguistic differences and to their rush towards the West. And indeed there are enough premises for a creative dialogue. In Romania, for some time now one can see a considerable stir up in the field of contemporary playwriting. A new wave of authors with their own voice and style has emerged: ones who are also recognizable outside the country’s borders. In Bulgaria this process started much later and it does not enjoy sufficient support from the institutions. The workshop aims both to offset that delay with the support of the non-governmental organizations and to bring the authors themselves “in line” with what’s happening in Europe and on the Balkans in the field of contemporary playwriting. The decision to gather together young authors from Romania and Bulgaria is also due to the cooperation that we have already started with dramAcum team from Bucharest. Our desire is to gradually set up an authors’ network of a kind which can provide them with an adequate and well-functioning context where they can share, check and develop their ideas and texts. We hope we’ll be able to extend the circle of participants in future in order to further diversify it.

Was it a difficult selection?

Our Romanian partners from dramAcum made the selection of Romanian participants and we selected the Bulgarian ones. We received some very good texts and it was very difficult to determine which ones to include. We defined several main assessment criteria and awarded points to each of the texts according to those criteria. That’s how we ranked the first four texts. It was difficult for us not to admit people who are motivated to develop as theatre authors and whose texts showed culture and skills. We hope that although they didn’t participate in this imitative we’ll keep in touch with them for our future initiatives and projects. Anyhow, they already belong to the same circle of young playwrights we’d like to form.

Are there any relations between Bulgarian and Romanian theatre practitioners?

There are not many. Apart from our last year’s project ProText, which was dedicated to new Romanian drama and dealt with the presentation of a text by Gianina Carbunariu, and the publication of four new Romanian plays in our selection to be released in late July in our joint series with Panorama+ Publishing House and one Bulgarian guest performance in Romania, we don’t know of any such initiatives. Currently, our partnership with Gianina Carbunariu and Stefan Peca (who is one of the two lectors at the workshop) from dramAcum team is a step towards more close cooperation.

Is Romanian drama well-known in Bulgaria?

We hope the last year’s presentation of the play FASTFORWARDREWIND (The Day After Tomorrow, the Day Before Yesterday), by Gianina Carbunariu and the publication of the collection of plays in late July will make Romanian drama more popular in Bulgaria. To our knowledge she has almost not been presented at all save for some isolated texts. Maybe Matei Visniec is the true representative of contemporary Romanian playwrights who is a little more popular.

Which are the objectives of the workshop, will there be a sequel?

The purpose is to get young authors encouraged and inspirited by the exchange of creative ideas and information, by meeting their colleagues from other countries and by meeting each other. We want to set up a situation of free artistic and cultural exchange being an inspiration for all: for the authors, for the lector authors and for us as directors and organizers. there’ll be a sequel on our part because our next project, which is to start in June, deals with the writing of three new Bulgarian plays as a result from the cooperation of the three directors from 36 Monkeys with three playwrights for a couple of months. This will be the ProText’s fourth edition and the first one which will present texts by young Bulgarian authors in Sofia this fall. We hope we can see them later published in the ProText book series, the joint initiative of the Organization 36 Monkeys and Panorama+ Publishing House.

English translation by Atanas Igov

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