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Friday, 26 April 2013 19:40

ETC Spring Tour, day 7: Theatre and long term relationships

Written by Ioana Burtea

I put off writing about the last day of the ETC Spring Tour because I didn't want to do it. I knew it was going to be nostalgic and mushy, and it was going to confirm what has already happened – the tour is over and so is our time together in the Driving Jail. Until reaching that point of sobbing though, I'm going to take the Eastern European dignified-and-unmovable position and write about the full, productive day we had on the way to and in sunny Zagreb.

While on the bus, we gathered as we had gotten used to in the previous days, to discuss our future projects. As you might remember, a large part of the group decided to work together on an artistic project after being inspired by what we saw and talked about during our travels. Also, we had reached a point of frustration because of the packed, fast schedule that didn't fully allow us to absorb what we were going through and give something back to our wonderful hosts in the eight cities we visited. Therefore, we wrote a manifesto with the massive help of Ivor and agreed to think about concrete steps towards our goal.

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Photo: Ioana Burtea
The stage in Zagreb

The plan started to take a clearer shape on Wednesday morning. We agreed we wanted to organise a similar experience to the ETC Spring Tour next year, but in just one country – Romania. Why Romania? Because everyone thought it would be exciting to go there and Gina, who works at the National Theatre in Craiova, and I offered to help with anything we could. The artists involved in our group would create one or several products which we'd present there, but we also want to give participants the chance to really immerse in the experience. That's why we thought the journey should last at least one week during which we'd organise several workshops or small, interactive plays that would give us and the other guests a space to learn from each other and communicate.

As Deborah said, the point of this would be to show the world "I'm changing this thing, I've made this product – what are you doing?" Looking at all the people in the bus we became certain that all of us, individually, will end up making a difference in our field of work – but we want to start together, now.

The next step was to think about artists' favourite subject: money. How would we fund such an experience? There are certainly several options: European funds, adults' funds for learning and arts funds that we'll certainly research in the weeks to come and later apply for. As Tiago pointed out, the key is not to fall in the trap of acting contrary to what we preach – after all, we are the ones who said that theatres spend money unwisely, yet we need funding for what we want to do. We are painfully aware of this and we will start to think of ways to avoid this contradiction (we have only begun three days ago), but as theatre director Susannah from London said, the money for arts is out there – we need to start believing that we deserve it and can initiate change. After some retrospective time to think, in the poetic words of Deborah, and a long sleep (my personal desire) I'm confident that the image will clarify even more. So, with four feet on the ground and our heads up in the sky, we walk into the future together.

As for Zagreb, I have to say it looks strikingly a lot like Bucharest – at least the areas in which we strolled around. In the evening, we saw a general rehearsal of a new play premiering at the Z/K/M Theatre this month, called "Europa". It is probably fitting to address the subject in the eve of Croatia's accession to the EU, especially since many citizens are not quite convinced by the single ethos. The play, spoken in Croatian, English, German and Polish, was definitely entertaining and had some strong points in highlighting the ridiculousness of several European standards and procedures – one of which was, go figure, applying for arts funds. However, my Croatian, German and Polish are a bit rusty these days and only part of the dialogue had supra-titles in English, so I missed a reasonable chunk of the show. It is meant to be confusing and the action could be understood reasonably well from the actor's performances and stage settings, but on tour this could become a problem for audiences. Daniela, our journalist friend from Bruxelles, also pointed out a trap into which the writers of the play fell – representing East Germans according to existing stereotypes, in a play that criticises the uniformity of the EU.

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Photo: Ioana Burtea
Discussing "Europa" in Zagreb

The show was followed by a discussion with the writers of the script and a series of short speeches marking the end of the tour. We heard from Susannah, Deborah and Anne who travelled across Europe with the gang, and also from the ETC president, Dubravka Vrgoc. We were a little sad because we weren't able to present a small performance we prepared on the bus – simulating a bus journey, of course – and announce our future plans in more detail, due to a lack of time. Hopefully the premiere will still take place, if only in Romania, during our own event.

Our journey ended with the typical wine and food party, a big Happy Birthday sung to the ETC on its 25th anniversary, and a lazy walk to the hotel, holding on to each other's weary bones and talking about how we'd start our project.

The next morning we all made the admirable effort to wake up early for one last breakfast, since everyone had flights to catch that day. There was omelette and fresh fruit and coffee and hugging and crying. But besides an emotional departure, there was e-mail exchanging, step planning and reinforcing our commitment to each other. We now have an online group where we keep in touch and decide on where to go next. We're ready to see if this long-distance, long-term relationship will be successful – if I'd have to bet though, I'd bet on this rather than any other boyfriend.

I arrived in London after noon, along with Deborah, Susannah and Ivor. On the Heathrow Express, the girls were sending Ivor anonymous texts so he'd think it was his alcoholic ex-constructor again. There was colossal laughter. Several minutes later, we were all hugging on the platform in Paddington. Ivor was the first to leave, up the stairs to the Circle Line. We joked about being Ivor's Angels and headed to the end of the platform. Deborah went down to the Bakerloo Line, Susannah took a bus and I hopped on a taxi to West London.

Last modified on Friday, 26 April 2013 20:41

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