The first issue was the expression of our shared need for a new beginning, for a new way of looking at things, for a restart in theatre and the performing arts. In the second issue, in view of -we hope- the opening of the theatre stages after nearly a year of absence, we’d like to turn our gaze to both the past and the future, to everything we wish to leave behind forever and to all we wish to keep as our supplies from now on.
We do not consider rupture with the past a panacea, we are not seeking cracks as ends in themselves, we are looking for bridges. We get into conversation with those who preceded, those who tried and succeeded or failed to chart new paths for the performing arts. We believe that only by knowing what pre-existed we have the hope and the chance to imagine a different tomorrow1‘What we need is a future and not the eternity of the moment. One must unbury the dead, again and again, because only from them can the future be derived.’ Heiner Müller in an interview, early 1990s..
That is why we introduce the concept of re-writing. We confront our memories, traditions, stereotypes, and habits so that we may choose from among them the concepts and processes that can lead our artistic practice one step further. Our theatrical utopia does not need reproduction, imitation, or repetition. It seeks to be ‘grafted’ with new ideas, texts, people, styles, processes, and visions; it desires the enrichment of the familiar with the ideal and the impossible.
We ask ourselves the question: what is tradition. We consciously choose the plural: traditions. The plural includes everything that has been passed down to us, everything that we want to look at reflectively, as well as whatever we want to pass down reformed anew. It also contains our understanding that history does not evolve linearly, that the history of people and of the arts is a history full of trials, setbacks, discoveries, hopes, failures, and forgotten alternatives which never materialized2‘The past carries a secret index, which points to redemption. Doesn’t a breath of the air that pervaded earlier days caress us as well? In the voices we hear, isn’t there an echo of now silent ones?’ Walter Benjamin, On the concept of history. Walter Benjamin: Selected Writings, 4: 1938–1940, Harvard University Press, Cambridge 2003 .
What are the practices and ideas that became a starting point for us and how can we improve them? How do we view today the works we once admired? How has time treated them and how can we re-evaluate our influences? In which traditions do we feel trapped? We treat the evolution of arts and traditions as a non-static, dynamic concept, intertwined with the living process of artistic creation3‘Memory is life. It is always carried by groups of living people, and therefore it is in permanent evolution.’ Eric J. Hobsbawm, The Age of Empire 1875-1914. Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London 1987.
We turn our gaze in multiple directions: to the heritage of the avant-garde, to the reception of motherhood in artistic professions, to the management of ruins as a performative event and as performative material, to the scarcity of non-heteronormative identities of gender and sexuality, to the revocation of boundaries between artistic practices, to the renegotiation of the concept of the individual and the collective identity. We get into conversation with artists from different generations, different practices, and different countries. We invite young people to collaborate and talk/conspire with us about the future of theatre. What are their expectations of us? We seek rupture from the weights of the past and rush to the sources of inspiration for tomorrow4‘To articulate the past historically does not mean to recognize it “the way it really was”. It means to seize hold of a memory as it flashes up at a moment of danger.’ Walter Benjamin, On the concept of history. Walter Benjamin: Selected Writings, 4: 1938–1940, Harvard University Press, Cambridge 2003.
We set as our primary goal to practice new ways of working and writing. We write and sign articles -even this introductory note- together, without knowing in advance the method or outcome of the project. We try the concept of Re-write in practice. We review our own habits and traditions. We get in conversation with people we do not know. We want to learn, to try, to fail, to be inspired, to eliminate the festered and obsolete practices that hold us back, to re-appropriate forgotten and discredited concepts, to discover new ways and mechanisms of synergy, to bring ourselves back.
The second issue of ACT II remains consistent with its statutory principles. It is the result of collective work, discussions, disagreements, and above all of the self-determination of all the artists who participate in it. The group’s meetings are reminiscent of a rehearsal in progress, towards an undefined, but fervently desired new artistic universe. Each new issue is an experiment, a test on the collectivity of work, on the multiplicity of voices, on the division of work, on the communication of the members of the performing arts community with each other and with those who believe that the performing arts, as a tool for reflection on the conditions of our life, are an essential part of social life.
With this issue we also introduce a new way of publishing articles: With the intention to achieve a more immediate response to current developments and to strengthen the periodicity of the publication, we will publish two articles every fortnight, namely on the first and third Monday of each month. The second issue of ACT II, like a puzzle that is completed piece by piece, will be concluded in six weeks from today.