What is in the ark?
We have chosen the ark as the symbol of the festive 10th Theatre Olympics and within it, the 9th Madách International Theatre Meeting, MITEM. To use the biblical parallel, we board the ark to save ourselves and our values.
Since its foundation in 2014, MITEM has been organised in the spirit of dialogue, openness and curiosity. These times of crisis make it even more important to save our values via the imaginary ark of the theatre. Culture helps maintain the bridges of dialogue that politics destroys. Some people cannot be here at the Olympics. Our Ukrainian friends, who have been to MITEM several times, have seen their theatre life come to a halt - but as soon as things are back to normal, we will make it possible for them to attend the Olympics in the spring, even at the last minute. And we won't be able to see Russian performances either. Valery Fokin, who was the Principal Director of the 2019 Russian-Japanese co-hosted Olympics, says the important thing is not for Russia to participate in the Olympics, what really matters is that the Olympics take place! As soon as the political situation is right, we will host Russian artists again.
Support for the Olympics should also be mentioned because of the economic crisis linked to the war. The Hungarian Government has reduced the state contribution from the original HUF 6.8 billion to HUF 4.5 billion, which is appropriate in the current situation. Still, we will organise this celebration of world theatre at a high standard and with a diverse programme. Fewer companies are coming from overseas, Africa is currently represented only by Algeria, and we will have to consider which of the most expensive productions we can host. Even so, there will be around 300 theatre events across the country. There have never been so many international theatre events on offer in Hungary!
The core of the programme will consist of MITEM's nearly forty performances. The participating institutions in Budapest and across the country – including brick-and-mortar drama theatres as well as puppet, dance and musical theatres hosting foreign and cross-border productions - will also propose a wealth of events. A series of festivals will be organised, too. ISTA, a meeting of anthropological theatres, will be held in Pécsvárad. The National Theatre of Győr will host theatres from cities along the Danube. After two cancelled POSZTs, Debrecen's Csokonai Theatre will organise a seminar for an international trade audience of critics and festival organisers. The independent scene will be represented by Jurányi House and the Bethlen Square Theatre with their events and festivals.
The Olympics will run from Easter to Midsummer's Eve and will also trace a kind of sacral arc, including various performances of the Passion of Csíksomlyó. The 100-year-old Operetta Theatre and the 200-year-old Miskolc National Theatre will organise their own celebrations. And we will celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Imre Madách, after whom MITEM is named. From Canada through the UK to Greece, we have invited the world's actor-training institutions to stage a scene each of The Tragedy of Man. Each will present their own version at the Olympics. As a lover of The Tragedy, I am thrilled that many, many young people of different nationalities will be involved with Madách's poem on humankind, and we hope to be able to share this world-class piece of our dramatic literature with the international audience of the Olympics.
The ark of the theatre is about to set sail. See you in April!
Member of the International Organising Committee
of the Theatre Olympics,
Founder and Director of MITEM
(12 December 2022)