Turn and Face the Strange

President of the Union des Théâtres de l'Europe, Michal Dočekal, has gathered some of the members of the UTE board of directors, young journalists and playwrights currently taking part in the UTE programme to discuss a crucial topic of contemporary theatre in an open discussion entitled "Turn and Face the Strange“

"Wondering about the actual function of theatre is not only a task for the ones who reflect on theatre, it also is a vibrant urgency for the ones who make, think, create theatre. As for any form of practice, theatre has to deal with the habitat; it must consider its own history and its own evolution and have the strength to confront them with the aporia of the present time, as well as with the opportunities.

UTE roundtables are articulated around a theme, attempting to draw a geography of theatre which would never be oblivious to the History. The privilege to count on a group of major theatre makers and thinkers gathered from all over Europe must be honoured because it is a way to underline the gaps, the contradictions, the critical points, often generated by such a diverse sequence of systemic issues. As in any other collective work—a truly dialectic one—when one wants to complete not only a simply heuristic task but also to understand the correspondence with a common thought, certain models are immediately opened challenge. The dialogue we try to establish here goes towards mediation, or—more specifically— a negotiation, in search of a shared horizon.

In this sense, theatre can count on a special tool kit. Although being characterized by a surprising variety of forms, theatre is a phenomenon present in every culture, a place for meeting and discussion on the contemporary discourse, based on a strong dialogue between audiences and artists. This time we decided to extend the theme to a fundamental function of theatre: its relationship with the present moment.

As the title suggests—Turn and Face the Strange, a verse from David Bowie's song Changes—we want to reflect on the responsibility of such a lively form of expression as are the performing arts that must keep on questioning its own place towards the environment in which a common and shared discourse is organized.

In what the social studies define as “hyper-mediated era”, marked by a strong “informationalism”, any data about the world and about the people that inhabit it circumnavigates the globe in a few seconds. If such a flow seems almost impossible to be reasoned out, indeed the arts might offer the opportunity to move backwards, to slow down.

The growing personalization of the current media experience leads to deterministic information, not only related to the collection of data, but in more general terms related to gathering the collective experiences that give shape to a collective conscience. We are running the risk of being trapped under a lowered, stereotyped still life of ourselves. While in the light of digital communication philosopher Jürgen Habermas theorises the “impossibility of a communicative action”, the German-Korean sociologist Byung-Chul Han proposes models for a “digital rationality”, an environment in which the “society of the opinions” can grow without being immediately conformed.

By virtue of the peculiar quality of presence that ties together the artist and the spectator, the performing arts are a way to social conjunction, a special place and time in which various points of view, a bouquet of diverse gazes, a reinvigorated and diagonal perspective converge together into an alternative landscape.

Thus, the question we address regards the possibility for contemporary theatre to become a generator for peculiar spaces and times. Using metaphors as a reference point, we can visualize the intimacy of a fireplace or the kind of thoughtfulness necessary for listeners of a symphony: something that is going to preserve its unique pace and spirit.

As we already discussed talking about disastrous contemporary phenomena, such as xenophobia, or a form of populism that levels to the ground the opportunity of critical thinking, creating space is a strategy to win a form of freedom.

Can theatre look at itself and offer itself as a mindful pause to the spectators?; as an opportunity to slow down this frantic rhythm?; not as a moment stagnation but a moment of hiatus, the caesura that for centuries the poets tried to locate in a perfect point of their verses.“

by Sergio Lo Gatto


||| Round Table ||| TURN AND FACE THE STRANGE ||| Speakers |||

Gisli Orn Gardarsson

Stage Director (Vesturpoort Theatre) | Iceland

William Docolomansky

Stage Director ("Farm in the Cave") | Czech Republic

Armando Punzo

Compagnia della Fortezza | Italy

Pippo Delbono

Stage Director | Italy

Michal Dočekal

President of the UTE,

Stage director, Director of the National Theatre Prague | Czech Republic

Francisca Carneiro Fernandes

UTE Treasurer

President of the TNSJ Board and International Relations

National Theatre São João do Porto | Portugal

Jan Hein

Member of the UTE Board

Head Dramaturg Schauspiel Stuttgart | Germany

Angelika Darlasi

Playwright, Greece

UTE thinktank Emerging Playwrights

Stefan Ivanov

Playwright, Bulgaria

UTE thinktank Emerging Playwrights

Roberto Scarpetti

Playwright, Italy

UTE thinktank Emerging Playwrights

Sergio Lo Gatto | Moderator

Cultural Journalist | Italy

Young European Journalists on Perfroming Arts

Learn more about the speakers here

24 April 2016 | Craiova, Romania


The roundtable at the Europe Theatre Prize in Craiova was presented in context of the CONFLICT ZONES | ZONES DE CONFLIT network programme of the UTE.

With the support of the Creative Europe programme of the European Union.

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