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Monday, 22 April 2013 20:59

ETC Spring Tour, day 4: budgeting the future?

Written by Ioana Burtea

And on the fourth day they staged a play on the bus and it was good.

The ETC group left Zurich early in the morning and had a long drive to the Tuscan town of Prato. Given that the members of the caravan already feel like family after travelling together for several days, the bus activities on Sunday became more dynamic. Therefore, after our Italian friend Gherardo – a theatre critic – gave us a few details about the play we were about to see that evening, The Belle Vue directed by Paolo Magelli, part of the group decided to have a dramatic reading of the English version of the text. The impromptu play brought everyone to life and channelled the team's focus, making us forget about the sleep deprivation and the long distances we covered. Later that evening, we saw the show at the Teatro Metastasio di Prato – as lovely as it was, we were better.

Another special moment during our journey to Prato was spoken-word poetess Deborah Stevenson's performance for the group (you already know Deborah from the interview E&M published on Day 2). Deborah performed two poems - one in which she brilliantly impersonated an American pastor - and showed us clips from her earlier artistic experiences in London. The mini-show made us fall in awe with the talented poet and ended in tears and applause. We strongly recommend you keep an eye on Deobrah and her passionate work.

Day 4 was also about democracy and totalitarianism, following the theme of the play we attended. Our Portuguese friend and journalist Tiago talked to us about the symbolism of the show and its relevance for the meaning of democracy and the role of history. We thought that perhaps when we look at the present state of things around Europe we're looking at the wrong side of the story. We generally see the consequences of a series of irresponsible actions and judge our leaders, but we rarely look at how we vote, why we chose those people and how we view civic duty. This is a topic very close to my heart, so I wish everyone I know would've been present during our discussion.

Right after this, our British friend Ivor spoke to us on the bus about the crisis in theatre and in cultural industries in general. What he advised us to think about is particularly interesting: the original meaning of the word "crisis" is related to "decision". Perhaps, then, what we need to do in this time of crisis is not to close down, guard what we have and cut budgets for the arts. We need to open up and rethink the existing structures. Most importantly, we need to decide on a course of action (not just plan one) and implement those measures. One would say it is easier said than done – but then again what has the status quo done to improve the situation of the cultural industries since 2008? Closing down theatres and venues, firing artists and cancelling festivals hasn't brought any evolution; it is just halting all the progress that has been achieved. Would it be so awful to take a risk and try something else, even if it proves to be a mistake at a later stage? Mistakes can be corrected and people learn from them, while the alternative – under-financing arts and letting them decay until the damage is too big – will surely not bring anything good.

The effect of political decisions (or indecisions) on the cultural industries and theatre in particular was also the topic of a discussion we had in Prato after the play, with director Paolo Magelli and historian Umberto Cecchi. The talk, considered a bit too abstract by some of the participants, focused on the decadence of Europe and of language. According to the speakers, one of the main reasons for this is a loss of control on the meaning of words.

We'll leave it at that for now, as I'm sure we've given you plenty to think about until our next diary entry. Rest assured all these big conversations and experiences will be summarised in a feature after the tour ends. The ETC group is on its way to Maribor in Slovenia, where we're watching a performance of Dangerous Liaisons. E&M will keep you up to date with all the fun things we do on the bus and the great discussions we're having about Europe, crisis and theatre. Spoiler alert: this tour is really turning into something else, something bigger thanks to all the special people on the bus.

Last modified on Monday, 22 April 2013 21:28

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