With the ITI Academy, the German centre of the International Theatre Institute has launched an exchange, mentoring and qualification programme for 20 emerging artists and curators in connection with Theater der Welt 2023. The future of internationality and diversity in the performing arts is the focus of the programme.
The idea came up at a board meeting some years ago, where we thought about how we can involve more young and diverse members in the ITI, and what we might need to offer them. Since I had already developed a few programmes for young artists during that time, such as mentoring programmes, I came up with this idea of an academy. We thought Theater der Welt would be a good context, because there are lots of international artists and festival-makers there, so it’s a good place to meet and talk to people.
Starting from this initial idea, we planned for the ITI Academy a structure of four modules and an additional mentoring programme. It was important for us to have enough time to deal with current relevant issues when it comes to transnational cooperation in the performing arts and to work out thematic priorities together in advance. At the same time, we wanted the fellows to be personally empowered in their professional development through individual mentoring – and maybe even have an intergenerational dialogue for both sides. Our hope was to build a sustainable network, which gives the fellows more time to get to know each and maybe even to start creating something together. Anastasija, what was your intention when you applied for the ITI Academy programme?
There were several reasons why I applied. Before working as a director, I worked as an actress at a German municipal theatre with very rigid structures, very little diversity and very little space for discussing issues, like what kind of theatre do we want to make, what kind of audiences do we want to attract and who has access, who is in the artistic teams, who is represented on stage and who isn’t. The ITI Academy gave me the opportunity to learn more about what theatre and theatre-making needs in order to be more diverse, more sustainable, and what kinds of tools and actions I can identify to subvert structures and mechanisms, which are often exclusive and harmful. I feel I’m learning from the other fellows in that sense, because there are different perspectives, questions and topics present in the Academy. This was exactly my hope when I applied: to have this dialogue with artists with various experiences, knowledge and artistic positions, who also want to move towards change in the municipal theatre landscape as well as in the independent theatre scene.
And of course, one main reason was my interest to work transnationally. Now I’m very happy that we’re planning a collaboration with my mentor Faisal. I didn’t know how to approach an international collaboration like that before and I feel like I am learning a lot from his perspective, experience and feedback.
Yes, I was very lucky to work with Anastasija, because she’s exploring specific topics that are in line with the context in which I work and that’s what makes our work an interesting conversation. I can understand what she wants to achieve, and I can offer a kind of interaction, based on where I think she can benefit from those topics she wants to explore. By the way, I really think aligning students’ topics of interest with other students coming from different countries would be an interesting option for ITI to explore.
Faisal, you’ve built up an academy programme connected to the BAYIMBA Foundation, you’ve already had the experience of being a mentor in the Festival Academy and now in the ITI Academy. From your point of view, what are the conditions needed to start these kinds of programmes, in order to build a sustainable network, so that the participants really exchange knowledge and ideas amongst each other?
It really depends on the context and what the purpose of the academy is meant to be. In this case, it’s about thinking in the long term: what’s the long-term impact that the academy wants to achieve? And is it only focusing on supporting students from Germany experiencing interactions with other students based in Germany, or do you want the academy to be an international academy? The ITI is an international platform that’s looking at internationalising its efforts and impact, so in my opinion it must have a much more global perspective in terms of its programme. The ITI Academy could do more in the long term to investigate opportunities for its current students to explore other geographical contexts. I find German theatre is very German in a way, with rules and regulations that are not easy to navigate, so bringing in others would really break those boundaries and give the students interesting challenges that they can explore, in order to express other things. And I also think opening the ITI Academy to other students coming from outside would really be very fruitful: they bring a lot of perspectives, can contribute a lot to the programme and that will give it its international dimension.
Another aspect is about how we manage our programmes within the academy: how do we make sure that we expand the opportunities for our participants through experiencing other cultures? This open interaction can be curated in a specific way by choosing a focus, for example, we want our focus this year to be on this specific topic, we want our focus this year to be on this region, we want our focus to be on this aesthetic. That really helps to cover many different areas within the programme, and we must try to make sure that everyone gets a chance to participate, otherwise you might always have the same people, the same aesthetics, the same interests. But when you really want to have diversity or a more cultural approach to it, then you must think about the focus and that gives us an opportunity to cover a lot more ground.
I agree, Faisal, internationalising this programme is my dream as well and that is the ITI’s aim: to bring people together. I’d like to remind you why the ITI was founded: after the second world war, with the experience of the war, dictatorship and censorship still fresh, in order to prevent this in the future. Of course, the ITI has also failed many times, but it’s still very, very necessary to bring people together from all continents to talk to each other, ultimately to change things, and I think this group, these first fellows, are a group of people who have a political concern. And it’s mainly the younger generation who are pointing out the global challenges of our times and working to prevent these crises in the future. That’s why I’m convinced this academy and this group is a real chance for the ITI, to build up something like a think-tank for what kind of future we want to have and what role art can play in ensuring a more democratic, sustainable future and what an institution like the ITI can do contribute to that.
You’re right… For us it seemed necessary to focus first on the diverse, international, but local performing arts here in Germany. Our impression was: first we have to identify and deconstruct colonial thinking, structures and Eurocentrism, and face the big challenges we have in our working lives here in Germany. That seemed to be the basic foundation for taking the next step: meeting artists and curators, as you said Faisal, from the international scene, bringing multiple perspectives together and getting to know these very different realities and approaches, in order to produce a third thing out of that.
The question of how theatre can confront complex global – political, economic, cultural, etc. – circumstances and crises is something I think about a lot and, to be honest, also makes me regularly doubt theatre. I’m not just interested in a reactive and reflective approach, but also in introducing counter-strategies and visions to our global issues. For these counter-strategies, however, we urgently need to make space for diverse perspectives and transnational networking and cooperation. I hope that the ITI Academy network and inspiring mentorships could be one small of many steps towards deconstructing the Eurocentric perspective and for developing transnational cooperation and visions. As a political theatre-maker, I also believe that making theatre itself always has a political dimension and therefore it’s even more important to ask: How do I make theatre? With whom do I make theatre and what are the dynamics and structures, how do we want to communicate? What materials are used? Who is telling what to whom, who is on stage? How do we use these spaces of gathering etc.?
I think about how we can share knowledge and experiences without reproducing neoliberal and capitalistic ways of thinking or patronising others. To overcome these kinds of logics in a more open way by sharing knowledge collectively, without having too much openness or an unsatisfying lack of structure. This especially has been a challenge for this academy. How much space is needed for the artistic and personal development of the fellows and at the same time, how much structure and what formats are needed to share knowledge in and with the group?
I think an academy must have its structure and an agenda. The participants have to sign up to that agenda, its principles, goals and objectives. I don’t think it should be a conversation between the student and the ITI, like: do you like this? No, I don’t like it, can you change it for me? – I don’t think that should be the way to work. There should be clear guidelines and rules in the way that it’s a policy, it’s a programme that people set up in a certain way to achieve something, so I think those who are interested can sign up to it and then they should follow its agenda.
I think in general, when you ask what we can do – we absolutely need new narratives, to move away from a Eurocentric perspective, and these narratives can only be established through listening. I think that’s an important point for the programme as well. But how we can achieve these new narratives is another question. How do you all think we can do this?
Yes, it seemed important to us to create space for personal experiences and meetings in order establish a solid network, to really build something together, to make a project happen and then experience new stories. This might give the participants the chance to build connections that last longer than just one year.
That goes together with the idea of expanding on the ITI’s growth. If the Academy also had partners and partnerships in all the ITI countries or theatre people around the world that could sign up to host students or participants in an internship programme, that would be something that would be very interesting for the students, to have a much more physical and much more experimental experience, as well as both the theoretical and practical aspects for their learning process. We work with a lot of universities, for example, with Princeton University, and they send students for one to six months. And they really learn a lot in a practical programme about enforcing and emphasising the theoretical training they do at the university. So it would be really interesting to add that to the programme, that you’d be placed somewhere for two or three months to work with a particular theatre group, in a particular country or one of our partners to experience the context in which theatre or ideas are developed and how people work in that place.
Indeed, that was the idea behind the ITI Academy as well, although in the last 50 years or more, there have been a lot of these programmes. But I have the impression that over time international organisations, like parts of the ITI network, became more and more bureaucratic, and due to repressive politics in many countries all over the globe, it became much more difficult to do these international exchanges. It’s my impression that bureaucracy prevents necessary changes.
And the personal, physical interactions are so important! Despite the challenges we have in the Academy, I feel we’re slowly building bonds between the fellows. We also meet sometimes outside the modules now to give each other feedback or to go to each other’s shows. I find this beautiful about the ITI Academy, that we are slowly growing a network of likeminded artists who want to seek change and who want to support each other. And I can definitely imagine cooperating, collaborating with these artists beyond the ITI Academy.
Bettina, what ideas do you have about how we can bring the generations together and have a better dialogue among the ITI members on the one hand and the fellows on the other? How can the older generation profit from these new perspectives and the ideas that the younger fellows are bringing to the academy?
I think Theater der Welt 2023 – with the academy and the annual conference – is a starting point. There will be a first exchange of ideas, and then we’ll see what happens, but I’m sure that it will be fruitful and we will continue with it. And my wish is to have regular meetings between the generations as well. So not only meetings between different cultures, this intergenerational dialogue is important as well.
I think two things would be interesting. One, like Bettina has said, how do we achieve this dialogue? During the Academy Week at Theater der Welt, you will have the opportunity to reach out to these older folks and tell them: we really want to push this, we would like your festival to be a partner of the programme, and we don’t know what we will ask you for now, but we might reach out to you later on and ask you whether you would like to suggest something, this is what we want to achieve. The second thing would be an opportunity to interact with people who organise big festivals. One of the things I experienced when I was doing my arts management training was working with older people in theatres and festivals, like theatres in Avignon, Edinburgh or Roskilde. That helped me understand the views of these older people. Most of them were over sixty and they had a lot to tell me, when it comes to the work they’ve done and the experience they have. This would also be an opportunity for the ITI Academy, to make interactions between the fellows and experienced people in theatre possible. I believe creating these interactions as part of the programme would really be meaningful, and the younger and older generations could make the most of it, because I think some of these older folks feel like we don’t appreciate them. Yet, they have so much that they can teach us in our business, as we are starting to explore opportunities. So, if there’s the chance of getting the older and younger generations together, this would be an opportunity for the programme. And identifying partners and creating a network and opportunities for interaction, I think that would be really interesting for the academy.
Absolutely I’m with you on both points. That’s also why we thought Theater der Welt would be a good space, because a lot of these festival-makers you were talking about meet there. And I think this exchange with the older generation is quite important as well, to talk about the failures they had and why, and how to deal with failure, because that’s a very big issue in art. I think that’s interesting for both sides as well. And I’m also with you, Faisal, on opening the programme up as soon as possible to transnational connections.
I was thinking about when I benefited most from the perspective of an artist coming from an older generation, and the most I learned was when I was able to concretely show my work and get feedback on it. Having a pool of artists and being able to invite them to shows or rehearsals and exchanging with artists who are currently in the same place as you or who have been in the same place, who have learnt from failings, and how to navigate in artistic processes and institutional structures could be beneficial.
My hope would be that the bonds that are growing and the connections that we’re making among this community will develop further and that they will stay alive. I think to transform the structures and dynamics, we need a strong network, we can’t do it all on our own. This individualisation is something that I notice in myself and the sector, so we need each other, we need such networks to create change.
Faisal KIWEWA is the founder and Artistic Director of Bayimba Foundation, which has trained, supported and created numerous platforms to celebrate the arts in Uganda. KIWEWA has organised a range of festivals and events, ranging from the internationally acclaimed Bayimba International Festival of the Arts and various festivals across Uganda. He was introducing the regional forum DOADOA | East African Performing Arts Market and the specialized Kampala International Theatre Festival as well as reviving the Amakula International Film Festival). He is frequently asked as speaker, trainer and programmer/curator, committee or jury member for various festivals and events across the continent. KIWEWA seats on several boards and committees including; Music in Africa Foundation Membership Committee (South Africa), Jeunesses Musicale International Ethno Committee, the International Independent Cultural Council (UK/Greece) Board. He is a founding Member of Africa Music Forum (Cape Verde), Country representative, Visa for Music (Morocco), Member of iGODA network (Reunion Island/Sub Saharan Africa), Member of Arterial Network (South Africa) and Member of Culture Connections Africa (US/Africa) among others. He acquired his International Cultural management knowledge base from the DeVos Institute of Arts Management at Kennedy Center (US), Management School of Fundraising (UK) and the CREARE – Erasmus Centre for Research and Cultural Economics (NL).
Dr. Bettina Sluzalek worked, after studying political science and graduated with a PhD, at the International Theater Institute (ITI) from 1996 to 1999. Afterwards she was working at the Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz in Berlin, from where she moved to the International Office of the Globe Theater in London. From 2002 - 2007 she was employed as Artistic Manager at Theaterhaus Stuttgart, and from 2007 - 2018 she was a member of the Artistic Direction at radialsystem, she also directed the mentoring program of the Performing Arts Program Berlin from 2013 - 2015. She is currently chief dramaturge of Ludwigsburg Festival. Bettina Sluzalek is a member of various juries and committees, from 2006 to 2021 she was on the board of the International Theatre Institute, of which she was vice president from 2015 - 2021.
Anastasija Harrowna Bräuniger works as an actress and director – combining political documentary theatre and varying artistic disciplines – in order to create poetic discourse spaces. Growing up bicultural, Anastasija has an interest in working beyond geographical borders, seeking transnational approaches. Next to her directing studies (HfS Ernst Busch), she created the short films CHAMPIONS (2016) in Kurdistan/Iraq and Interview (2018) in Lebanon, which were produced in co-authorship with children affected by forced displacements. She won the Regienachwuchswettbewerb at Theater Erlangen for her concept PROTEST4 (2020) which she staged in cooperation with activists from protest movements in Hong Kong, Chile and Lebanon. Followed by her diploma project Heterotopia Moria (2021) which highlighted human rights violations at EU external borders and discussed the development of EU asylum policies. During the ITI Academy Week at Theater der Welt 2023 she will present the participatory installation VOYAGER in the framework of the ITI Academy Week.
Malin Nagel takes care of the ITI Academy for young cultural professionals, whose highpoint is the Academy Week during Theater der Welt. She studied Literature and Music Studies at the University of Kiel, and Dramaturgy at the School for Music and Theatre in Leipzig, and worked for many years as a dramaturg and production manager at municipal and state theatres as well as in the independent scene.