Interferences: young theater critics in an international context

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The spirit of the holiday season found us all in the city from the heart of the hills. For 11 days Cluj became the meeting point of theater personalities from our country and from around the world. The Vth edition of the International Theatre Festival “Interferences”, held from November 26 to December 4, meant the pretext of controversial artistic experiences. Having on  the background the Christmas fair, the streets full of lights and the National Day of Romania, the Festival has helped create a Romanian-Hungarian specific in relation to intercontinental influences.

If mornings proved extremely dynamic due to dialogues with the creators of the performances, spent at Casa TIFF, evenings provided a bohemian atmosphere, proper for analysis and reflection on the productions. The organizers proposals cumulated shows coming from countries such as Romania, Ireland, Slovenia, Hungary, Germany, South Korea, Luxembourg, Italy, Russia, USA, Macedonia, Bulgaria and Poland. Perhaps the most cosmopolitan festival in our country, “Interferences” manages to put in contrast theatrical aesthetics of artists from around the world. The current edition was focused on the theme “Stranger Odyssey” – cleverly chosen and consistently supported by events. A delicate area of debate on the level of strangeness that we see in society, which we accept beneficially and stylized transpose it into art.

Simultaneously with dialogues, book launches and workshops, during five days took place the young theater critics seminar, organized by IATC. The intention of creating a favorable circumstance for discussions about the role of criticism has brought together a group of 14 young theater critics: six participants from Romania (Cluj, Târgu Mureș, Bucharest) and one representative from Croatia, Slovenia, Moldova, Czech Republic, Turkey Portugal, Japan and Hong Kong. The seminar was conducted in English and was coordinated by Diana Damian Martin. Writer, theater critic, curator, member of IATC, Diana moved from Romania to study Performing Arts at “Royal Central” School of Speech and Drama in London; she has developed numerous projects, has organized workshops and trainings in collaboration with Tate Modern, Barbican, the Yard, has been working as editor of Critical Stages, exeunt Magazine and became a lecturer at this university.

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Prodigious experience, fairly impossible to describe it through simple words, the seminar provoked serious changes at cognitive level for every one of us. Starting the topics with the performances invited at the Festival, the young critics present since sunrise at Casa TIFF approached diverse and acute issues of nowadays artistic views. From day one, it could conclude on a very important aspect: regardless of the original, all theater critics face the same major problems in the cultural system. For a relaxed atmosphere and in order to get to know the professional experience of each participant, was briefly presented the theatrical work of every country. Thus, they created several development directions of the conversation. On the one hand, critics debated on the function of criticism in general, on the other hand it was outlined the distinction between the classic show and contemporary one, but also discussed about the entertainment dimension of drama. The questions provoked reactions and responses gave birth to much more curiosities. Like a chain of challenges, young critics have exchanged views and visions, bringing with them their own professional experience. The seminar was also productive from the point of view of practical exercise, as Diana Damian proposed writing themes that were to be reviewed later.

Although sometimes opinions entered in a conflict zone, all participants were open to arguments and receptive to other’s counter-arguments. Because of particular styles of editing the materials, we were given multiple examples of how to do this and theories were developed on the presentation of the critical assessment. It was a fair gain for everyone, both in the development of writing skills, and in the extent of the horizon of perception within the artistic phenomenon.

It has proved impossible the depletion of topics during the short period of the seminar. From one day to the other relations were strengthening and communication was becoming faster and more efficient. Therefore, this meeting in Cluj was just the first step in creating a “network” of young theater critics worldwide. When people living thousands of kilometers away from each other become friends after exchanging just a few words and smiles, you realize that Festivals not only harness theater artistic productions, but also older or newer links between (not anymore) strangers.

Photo credit: Biró István

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