2023 July 5
In the spring of 2004, Lithuania became a member of NATO and the EU. In the autumn of the same year, under the slogan “The New Generation of Theatre”, SIRENOS: International > Vilnius * Theatre + Festival was launched, placing Lithuania on the European theatre map as a significant point in theatrical circulation. This year, from 20 September to 8 October, SIRENOS will blare in Vilnius for the twentieth time and will invite the audience not only to celebrate theatre, but also to reflect on the role of theatre in contemporary society. As the festival marks its twentieth year, its theme could aptly be “The New Generation of Theatre” once more – theatre stages are progressively being claimed by creators born after the restoration of independence. However, the theme of this year’s festival is – the word: what do creators discuss on stage today and how, and what are the capabilities and limitations of the word in theatre?
Two decades ago, SIRENOS filled in the empty space that opened up after the last LIFE Festival in 2000, which awakened Vilnius from Soviet stagnation with its spontaneous artistic force. The founders of the new festival, along with the organisations supporting them – OKT/Vilnius City Theatre and Vilnius Festivals – had a primary goal of fostering international theatre exchange and establishing Vilnius as one of Europe’s cultural centres of attraction. The first festival catalogue proclaimed: “Why SIRENOS? In ancient mythology, these maiden-birds were perilous temptations for travelling sailors. The festival is a seduction, an invitation, a spell that is impossible to resist, and an alarm, a warning, an alert that instantly attracts attention.”
Elona Bajorinienė, the festival’s inaugural artistic director, and Audra Žukaitytė, who took over the helm for eleven subsequent years, have created a strong and well-known festival in Europe and in our region, thanks to which many of the most famous European directors, often winners of the prestigious European award – European Prize for New Theatrical Realities – have visited Lithuania. SIRENOS also showcased works from various continents, welcoming artists from Palestine, Argentina, India, Japan, and other distant countries to Vilnius. The festival transformed the landscape of Lithuanian theatre, not only by introducing new ideas and inspiration, but also by providing a platform for Lithuanian theatres to present themselves to foreign producers.
Continuing the tradition of showcasing the foremost visionaries of European theatre, the festival’s current artistic director, Kristina Savickienė, has curated a programme that will feature the acclaimed Swiss director Milo Rau. Rau is renowned as a visionary of European theatre, known for his groundbreaking work in political theatre and documentary theatre. He is also the author of one of the most provocative manifestoes in contemporary theatre over the past decade. His production The Repetition. Histoire(s) du théâtre (I) will kick off the festival’s international programme and will be presented twice at the Lithuanian National Drama Theatre on 27 and 28 September. It was the director’s inaugural production, based on his own manifesto, since assuming the role of artistic director at NTGent Theatre (Belgium) in 2018. It is also the first part of the Histoire(s) du théâtre series. Subsequently, various other guest theatre artists presented their unique perspectives on the history of theatre as the series progressed. The Repetition reconstructs a murder in Liege, Belgium. With this performance, the director returns to one of the essential creative issues raised over the past fifteen years: how to represent violence and traumatic events on stage? It is symbolic that this year Milo Rau leaves NTGent as he takes on the role of artistic director at Wiener Festwochen, one of Europe’s most prominent performing arts festivals. SIRENOS will offer you a deeper insight into his philosophy and body of work, featuring screenings of two of his previous performances, along with a meeting with the director on 2 October.
The international programme of SIRENOS will continue with Mount Average, a performance-installation created by German director Julian Hetzel. He will invite you to walk through the factory of ideologies created by mankind, where the busts of historical figures and dictators will take on new forms through the joint efforts of the performers and the spectators. Hetzel is an artist who skillfully merges the languages of theatre and visual arts, often choosing provocative and personally engaging forms of theatre to analyse power structures in the postcolonial world.
Polish director Anna Karasinska will be visiting Lithuania for the first time. Her performance Easy Things is a minimalist stage work for two actresses, focusing on the subtle cinematographic presence of the actors on stage. As a graduate in philosophy and film directing from the famous Lodz Film School, Karasinska started creating for theatre later, so she feels more comfortable in the realm of cinema. The dramaturgy in her works emerges from a distinctive methodology that allows poetry to breathe through sparse, everyday dialogues. The director has agreed to share her methodology with Lithuanian artists, and during her visit to Vilnius, she will lead workshops on creating dramaturgy. Last year, Easy Things won the Grand Prix at the Boska Komedia Festival in Krakow, where it competed against the best performances of the season created in Poland. During the performance, the two actresses discuss what it means to be a woman on stage, in the streets, and at home. They explore how they are seen by others and by themselves, the power of gazes and uttered words. “Easy things can be quite hard,” they say.
This year, SIRENOS will also showcase two performances created in collaboration between international and Lithuanian artists, both of which will be premieres. The Feminist Secret Society of Helsinki, an informal group of artists, will host a series of discussions titled Encounters. Vilnius which will invite the audience to explore the intricacies of human connections and reflect on the most relevant societal themes of our time. During the performance, the audience will witness a dialogue between two anonymous individuals: two actresses will “lend” their bodies to them on stage, repeating the words they hear through their headphones. You have the chance to participate in this intriguing anonymous conversation. Make sure not to miss the opportunity to register when the call form is published in August. Encounters. Vilnius is produced in collaboration with TINFO (Theatre Information Centre of Finland).
The international programme will also offer a surprise – the premiere of Blood Stories Lithuania by Portuguese director Jorge Andrade (Mala Voadora Theatre, Portugal) and Lithuanian composer Jonas Jurkūnas. The performance is an ongoing artistic project based on the genetic analysis of two strangers and the stories that emerge from the DNA tests. On stage, Jorge and Jonas will examine their relationship and explore possible connections, while their performance will also include fictional stories. In this blend of fact and fiction, we may as well discover the connections between each of us.
Like every year, the programme of SIRENOS will commence with the Lithuanian Theatre Showcase, scheduled to take place from 20 to 24 September. This year, the programme is curated by Ana Ablamonova, the producer and founder of Operomanija. International guests, along with an international jury, will also attend to familiarise themselves with the processes and creators in the Lithuanian performing arts scene. The Lithuanian programme will reach its culmination with an awards ceremony. From 27 September to 8 October, the international programme will showcase theatrical diversity and present the latest innovative artistic visions.
During the festival, the audience will also have the opportunity to explore the offerings of the SIRENOS Club, featuring concerts, discussions, masterclasses, meetings with creators, and a host of other engaging events that extend beyond the main programme. The complete club programme will be announced in August.
Tickets for the international programme performances are available through bilietai.lt.
For further details about the events, please visit www.sirenos.lt.
The festival is funded by the Lithuanian Council for Culture and supported by Vilnius City Municipality. Organisers: Theatre Information Centre and Vilnius Festivals.