“Sirenos” festival announces this year’s Lithuanian theatre showcase programme

2023 July 5

Celebrating its 20 year anniversary, Vilnius International Theatre Festival “Sirenos” from the very beginning was seeking the exchange between Lithuanian and foreign theatres by not only bringing progressive modern theatre to Lithuania, but also by inviting foreign theatre professionals to explore Lithuanian theatre panorama. This year Lithuanian theatre showcase will present 10 latest season productions, selected by the producer Ana Ablamonova. In reference to a topic called “Word”, set by the foreign festival programme, the curator has put together a programme, the concept of which can be described by one key word – contexts. In order to extend those contexts, the showcase programme was additionally enriched by events of various formats. Lithuanian theatre showcase will take place from 20 to 24 of September in Vilnius, Šiauliai, Klaipėda and… Pravieniškės.

Choice ©Laura Vansevičiene

Organizers of the festival are seeking that “Sirenos” Lithuanian programme would not only be a platform for foreign curators to look for interesting artists and productions, but also a celebration for theatre community and a distinctive quality label, allowing Lithuanian audience to discover new unexpected productions.

Every year the showcase is attended by 50–60 guests from abroad – theatre and festival schedulers, curators, directors, theatre critics, academics, artists. “Sirenos” usually welcomes guests from neighbouring countries, but foreign performing arts experts from afar also visit the festival. Connections made during “Sirenos” promote Lithuanian theatre tours abroad – after last year’s showcase the production “Uncle Vania” (directed by Tomi Janežič) by the State Small Theatre of Vilnius was not only awarded by the committee, but also invited to a prestigious and one of the most important European theatre festivals – Wiener Festwochen (Austria).

Barbarians ©Dmitrijus Matvejevas

International jury and “Sirenos” awards

Anniversary showcase programme includes three jury awards – for a production, a person and a creative team. The prize itself is a musical instrument theremin, that produces sounds, perfectly matching the whole Siren-like vibe. When announcing the decision, the committee will specify what is this particular award for. Also, the jury will share their impressions of the whole Lithuanian theatre showcase programme. Jury’s verdict is an extremely important part of the showcase, allowing to understand how Lithuanian theatre productions are perceived in an international context and identifying what artists and creative pursuits are more valued by foreign specialists, rather than our own critics and spectators.

Members of this year’s jury – festival “Fast Forward” curator Charlotte Orti von Havranek (Germany), Polish director Łukasz Twarkowski, familiar to Lithuanian audience because of his works “Lokis” and “Respublika”. Ewa Zembok – curator of the festival “Kutna Hora Performing Arts” and the founder of the  Divadlo X10 theatre (Czech Republic), cultural producer and director, curator of the performing arts at the French organization ONDA (Office national de diffusion artistique) Geoliane Arab (Lebanon) and Hyde Hytti – the executive producer of international projects at TINFO – Theatre Info Finland.

Fossilia ©Dmitrijus Matvejevas

Prizes will be awarded not only by the international jury, but also by the spectators, who will be able to vote for the most audience-appealing production on the website of “Sirenos” partner LRT. What does the foreign jury appreciate most in the showcase? Which production did the audience like best? A chargeless open “Sirenos” award ceremony will take place at 9 p.m. on September 24 at the “Opera Social House” club.

Programme by the curator Ana Ablamonova

To participate in “Sirenos” Lithuanian theatre showcase the play has had to be staged in Lithuania during the last season – i.e. the nationality or the citizenship of the creator doesn’t matter, what matters is the location where premiere took place and the producer. The number of the selected productions is limited by an independent curator or a duet of curators. The same goes for making up the programme.

Metamorphosis ©Dmitrijus Matvejevas

In 2021 the showcase was curated by theatrologists Rimgailė Renevytė and Ieva Tumanovičiūtė, in 2022 – by theatrologists Vlada Kalpokaitė and Ramunė Balevičiūtė. This year the programme was put together by the producer and founder of “Operomanija” Ana Ablamonova, mainly working with interdisciplinary and modern opera productions.

“For many of our local artists Lithuanian theatre showcase of Vilnius International Theatre Festival “Sirenos” has always been a main or at least an auxiliary gateway to an international market. The programme of the Lithuanian theatre showcase, representing theatre season of 2022–2023, was put together, bearing in mind this crucial function of the showcase, shaped by many years of festival experience. Target spectator of this programme is a supposed curator from abroad, coming to “Sirenos” from Central or Western Europe and looking for unique authentic content, unusual artistic language, uncanny topics and experiences and intriguing cultural contexts, that can be presented in the programmes of the festivals he or she is curating.

Lately, international programme of “Sirenos” has been compiled according to a topic, that has to be different each year. This criteria does not apply to Lithuanian theatre showcase. Although we didn’t want to get too far from this year’s topic “Word” and to find something in common with the content of Lithuanian theatre showcase. So, we move from “words” and “texts” they create to “contexts” – a deeper perception, most of this year’s showcase productions require a more thorough presentation. These are the contexts of a country’s culture, traditions, historical experiences, modern society problems or even wider contexts of classical literature. So, because of that, in order to broaden the field of experiences of a supposed target spectator, to reveal and introduce various contexts, theatre programme is enwrapped in a coat of additional events of various formats.

Found Found Found ©Eimantas Paulauskas

With this humble selection of productions at Lithuanian theatre showcase, consisting of more than 70 plays I attended all over Lithuania, I’d like to reveal the main tendencies of development of Lithuanian theatre, modern trends, defining potential strategies of future collaborations. In my opinion, during the last season, the stronger and more active (physical, as well as political) positions were projected by artists of a new generation (especially women), significant role was played by visiting foreign directors (mostly middle-aged or older men). Meanwhile, big names of the older generation of Lithuanian theatre (basically just men) began reinterpreting their previous works or, as highly precious artefacts, entered the museum spaces (and here it’s worth mentioning not only the transfer of “Meno fortas” into LTMCM, but also an exhibition called “Vilnius poker” by Oskaras Koršunovas at the MO museum).

Also, we did not forget about 700th anniversary of Vilnius: 20 of those 700 years belong to “Sirenos” as well. So, one of the programme’s core motifs is dedicated to cultural and historical experiences of Lithuania’s capital. We have also prepared a little lost & found fragment: one day the caravan of “Sirenos” will start moving towards the Baltic sea – it will make stops in various places on its way, offering peculiar artistic and emotional experiences.

Life is a Dream ©Dainius Putinas

Even though the main focus while putting together the programme was a supposed foreign curator from a tasteful Center or Western European festival, I would still be glad if Lithuanian audience, who can attend all of those productions not only during the festival, would decide on following the trajectory of the curator’s thought and participating in the events of the Lithuanian theatre showcase. Despite the fact that the prose of market laws and basic logistics has made slight changes to the poetry of the supposed concept, I am glad that this year’s showcase breathes unique art – by reflecting on the past it summarizes the present and forces to think about the prospects of both near and far future”. 

Top-10 of the 20th “Sirenos” festival

Great New Body ©Martynas Aleksa

On September 20 Lithuanian theatre showcase will be opened by the production of the Youth Theatre called “Barbarians” – the third production of the Hungarian director Árpád Schilling in Lithuania. Before the performance audience will be invited to take part in a discussion about migration and afterwards – to a discussion of the performance in English.

On the second day of the festival in the Arts Printing House we will watch “Life is a Dream” by Gediminas Rimeika (production of “Arts and Science Lab”). The same evening the audience will be invited to the Lithuanian National Drama Theatre to enjoy “Fossilia” by Eglė Švedkauskaitė (produced by LNDT). After the performance, the screening of “Once upon a Vilnius” by E. Doškus, accompanied by live music, performed by composers Vygintas Kisevičius and Paulius Kilbauskas, will take place.

Fragment ©Domas Rimeika

On September 22, after a morning discussion with the showcase curator, we will welcome guests at the MO museum exhibition “Vilnius poker(directed by Oskaras Koršunovas). In the afternoon the “Great New Body” (created by Arturas Bumšteinas and Žygimantas Kudirka, produced by “Operomanija”) will be shown at the Arts Printing House. A final touch to the evening will be given by “Metamorphosis” by Oliver Frljić (produced by LNDT). After the performance, “Sirenos” festival opening and “Garbanotas” concert will take place at Trakų Vokė manor.

On September 23 the guests will take a bus out of Vilnius. The first stop will be Pravieniškės prison, where an unusual event will take place – performance “Guided” (created by Rimantas Ribačiauskas and Mantas Jančiauskas, produced by “Artscape”). Afterwards, guests will visit Šiauliai Drama Theatre and attend the performance “Found Found Found” by Naubertas Jasinskas. On the way to Šiauliai a 1976 documentary “Lost Lost Lost” by Jonas Mekas, revealing the contexts of “Found Found Found”, will be shown on the bus. The last stop of this trip will be Klaipėda Drama Theatre and the production “Fragment” by Dmitry Krymov.

Guided ©Martynas Norvaišas

On the last day of the showcase in Vilnius the guests will be invited to two more performances. The “Choice” by Gintarė Radvilavičiūtė will take place at Vilnius puppet theatre “Lėlė”. Finally, the showcase will be closed by Laura Kutkaitė “Silence of the Sirens” at the Lithuanian National Drama Theatre.

Vilnius International Theatre Festival “Sirenos” is sponsored by the Lithuanian Council for Culture. The festival is supported by Vilnius city municipality. Organizers: VšĮ „Teatro informacijos centras“ and VšĮ „Vilniaus festivaliai“.

Silence of the Sirens ©Dmitrijus Matvejevas