Short Theatre 2020 celebrates its 15th year in one of the most complex moments of recent history.
This will be a festival shaped by stratified experiences, an echo chamber of things near and far, all told by the multiplicity of voices that make Short Theatre very much a community of the here and now, albeit spread out over time and space. It will try and fuse what is happening at this very moment with what happens live, while recognising not just the traces that these past 15 years have left but also how these become images of its own future.
By initiating new relationships between human bodies through shows, performances and installations, we will cross new public spaces and inhabit Pelanda in a different way. Walking through the spaces of WeGil, we will once again question our perspective through the practice of decolonization, as well as query the notion of hospitality thanks to our alignment with both Materiais Diversos festival and the creative construction site that is Panorama Roma. While at night the bright atmosphere of Controra will attract us, during the day our meetings at Little Fun Palace and the workshops of the Tempo Libero section will resonate with the thoughts and ideas scattered throughout this program.
Intro – A Manifestation
When last year’s edition came to an end, we started to imagine this XV edition as a rite/party of passage, a chance for wrapping up all these years, searching through the past and the present – that are actually the same, as the former echoes through the latter. We conceived the idea of an archive, a catalogue; not a plain catalogue but a chain of thoughts, a map in the making: talks like rivers, gazes like squares, ways of being together.
In the first months of the health and social emergency that characterised 2020, we thought we might have had to cancel this year’s festival and reinvent it, perhaps launching an edition “on paper” (the idea of the archive appeared again). This did not mean merely to renounce our live performances, but to stop and think and observe things in a different way.
Then the possibility of the festival actually taking place arose, we could recompose the community of artists, spectators and operators that constitute Short Theatre. So, complying with the safety measures required by the emergency, we devised a festival structured differently: with bigger locations and a sweeter, dreamlike atmosphere.
For the fifteenth time we’ll meet up to share words and ways to become real, find oneself and one other and imagine the next editions: in the near and in the distant future.
We’ll try to decipher our new present through the languages of performance, theatre, dance, conversations, music. Some old projects will have new forms, as the blend of Panorama Roma with Fabulamundi, the Resident Projects that will run throughout the festival, the music appointments of Controra, that this year will be more precious than ever as it will renounce its subversive and unifying character. The festival will open in the WeGil and then unfold with Tempo Libero and its workshops at Teatro India and then with the performances in programme at the Pelanda and Teatro Argentina.
The lines you are reading have been the first ones drafted for a catalogue that we thought could include all these intentions and deviations: firstly a chain of thoughts and conversations to retrace the first fifteen years of Short Theatre, secondly the attempt to decipher this unexpected present through the dialogue with the artists and all the people who experience the festival. We felt we needed to address the artists, to involve them in the storytelling of the festival: we asked them not only to take a stand through their works but also answering some questions that came up during the organisation of the festival. So a choir of voices and bodies will animate, embody and narrate the unfolding of the festival, starting a contagion – the only one we wish for! – of words and images.
One of the things we are fond of is the choice of a tagline. A sentence, a word able to represent the structure of the festival, the atmosphere we perceive in the final phase of the organisation. It isn’t a theme or a title but rather a track, a condensation of a collective act of creation and curation. The huge complexity of these days urges us to subtract, even when it comes to words. This year’s edition of Short Theatre won’t have a tagline, hoping that the reduction of signs – instead of a multiplication – will help new meanings come to the surface.
This catalogue contains conversations with artists, theorists, curators, activist, critics, some of whom we already knew and some we got to know for the first time. The presentations of the programme and the theoretical notes are the result of conversations – real or imagined, direct or indirect – with the group of people that made Short Theatre 2020. These conversations deal with time, the geography of love and space where our actions happen and with all those things, people, images, themes and thoughts that revolve around it and nurture it. Such conversations have always happened during the festival, and this year we will transform them into a guidebook.
LET MY BUILDING BURN*
When a festival finally starts, it always feels like a miracle. This is especially true this year, for all of us. The idea that everything could slip through our fingers any moment, urged us to ask ourselves, time, the city and its places, the artists and our collaborators, “for more”. Today more than ever a festival taking place is a gift, the result of a collective effort we are grateful for and that we hope to be able to reciprocate. Buildings collapse, statues come down, seas turn into lethal fluids for so many, the earth burns and becomes more and more inhospitable (for us). The past months urged us to look straight at the heart of things, even if it can be a violent approach. Preparing the house where we’ll meet is not enough anymore, because we need to redesign it, to reinvent the strategies and tools to rebuilt it. The horizon is (finally) unveiled for what it really is: torn, confused, transformed, magmatic, sometimes toxic. In this truth we rediscover what we already knew and that we should put into practice more often: our manifestation is not a divine revelation, it is not a miracle, it does not represent a state of grace, an exception to the rule. Our festival becomes real because we are able to transform the present, we have the (earthly) power to fight, to imagine what does not exist yet, to create a space where it seems impossible to be, to spread and disseminate desire, setting what is shared against what is exclusive, collective against individual, passing down against retaining. Our festival becoming real reminds us that destruction is always an option – joyous, vital, erotic – in a world dying of injustice, privilege, self-referentiality. Destroying – even in its milder interpretations as modifying, changing, transforming, revising, correcting, moving – is nothing but a step towards building.
* On 25 May 2020 in Minneapolis an Afro-American citizen called George Floyd was arrested and killed by a white police officer who pushed him to the ground and knelt on his neck, suffocating him. Floyd’s killing ignited violent protests across the United States of America.
At the dawn of 29 May 2020 Ruhel Islam, owner of the Indian cuisine restaurant Gandhi Mahal in South Minneapolis, found out that his restaurant had been severely damaged by the fires set on by the protesters. Ruhel Islam commented: «Let my building burn, justice needs to be served».