Eugenio Barba is the founder and the director of Odin Teatret and of International School of Theatre Anthropology. www.odinteatret.dk
This text, written by me in 1988, is the first –in Greece–, report on Theatre Anthropology after my first participation at 5th ISTA’s session in Salento, South Italy, 1987.
A video here – Faust in Salento. You can see me at, excactly, the 9.20” with a freeze of the video. Second row, right side, with the red shirt.
A poster for a one-year workshop on the discoveries of ISTA on the secret art of the actor-dancer of all cultures, in my Stalker Theatre, Athens, 1993-1994.
Giving the lecture “Dances inside the body and dances with the body. Energy in Time and energy in Space. A comparison of the immobility of the traditional Japanese theatre with the slow or static dances of Epirus under the light of Theatre Anthropology (Cultural Assosiation of Zagori, Ioannina).
One day of June 1997 I received a parcel from Odin Teatret. I thought: But, I did not order something –books or videos or posters–, what is this ?
Inside I found –from Eugenio Barba personally–, a short letter, a speech of thanks and a “part” of his “Luigi Pirandello International Prize”!
The letter wrote: “Dear Constantinos
In January this year I received the “Luigi Pirandello International Prize” consisting of a solid gold plaque. I would like to share this award with all of you from Stalker. You will find the explanation in my speech of thanks here enclosed.
Best wishes for your work
On 28 January 1997, in Palermo, Eugenio Barba received thw “Luigi Pirandello” International Prize which is awarded to a personality who has marked the theatre history of our times. In previous years the prize has gone to Ingmar Bergman, Giorgio Strehler, Eduardo de Filippo, Luca Ronconi, Otomar Krejca, Harold Pinter, Jean-Louis Barrault, Andrej Wajda, Tadeusz Kantor and Dario Fo. The Pirandello Prize consists of a solid gold praque depicting the face of the playwright, by the sculptor Emilio Greco. Justifying the awarding of the International Prize to Eugenio Barba, the jury recalled the principal stages in Barba’s artistic career with Odin Teatret, including his books and his scientific research with ISTA (the International School of Theatre Anthropology), and concluded by saying that more than any other theatre personality of our times he has succeeded in creating an environment in which actors and scholars interact to investigate their techniques and knowledge.
The following is Eugenio Barba’s speech of thanks at the award ceremony.
I am here by chance, just passing through.
I shan’t stay longer than I need.
Not that I’m bored. Quite the opposite! The journey, in fact,
was amusing. But one has to move on.
Where will I go? Not even that do I know.
Not that it matters: I’ll go anywhere.
What matters most is to make a quick decision;
to look around, and choose yourself a road.
It’s easy to say: choose yourself a road!
These are the first verses from Pirandello’s poem La Via, The Road. Under the tittle he had written: “Show by any means the fortuity of life!”. Life has no other aim than to sustain and reproduce itself. It is our task to give it a meaning. It is in this capacity for endowing fortuity with a value that the greatness of human nature lies.
I don’t believe it is pure fortuity that I am here to receive this prize, in a part of the South where I recognize the colours, smells, tastes and prejudices that are part of my identity. Nor do I consider it fortuitous that the jury is rewarding not only me, but also Else Marie Laukvik, Torgeir Wethal, Iben Nagel Rasmussen, Tage Larsen, Urlik Skeel, Roberta Carreri and Julia Varley – all actors who founded Odin Teatret with me and have been working there for 20 or 30 years.
I imagine that the decision to give this prize to Odin Teatret must have taken a good deal of courage on the part of jury. We are a group of men and women which has not renounced its “strangeness” and has practised its cultural diversity through theatre in the small Danish town of Holstebro. We represent the theatre of margin. By giving your mark of recognition to the Odin, you have also given it to all theatre of the margin.
The theatres of the margin are not marginal theatres. They try to defend a margin, an emptiness which can be filled up with longings and personal needs. They struggle against the invasion of the margin by ideologies, techniques, poetics and fashions. They want an empty ritual, not usurped by doctrines.
The margin may be unconfortable, but it may be a reservoir of air for those who feel they are suffocating: a reservation where they can live out values which are threatened and difficult to share, urges for revolt, where there is room for animals which no ark has wished to save: centaurs, basilisks, unicorns, dragons mermaids. Or that other animal on the brink of extinction in our hearts: God.
The theatres of the margin have a long tradition with celebrated names such as Stanislavski, Meyerhold, Copeau, Brecht, Decroux, Beck and Malina, Grotowski and others. At times the sense of the margin reverberates in dramatic texts: above all in those of Pirandello and Beckett, Genet, Chekov, Ibsen and Strindberg, and perhaps even that unpleasant sharacter: Claudel. But these names represent only the part of theatrical iceberg which is above water. The submerged part –by far the most substantial–, determines the presence and the route of this island of theatre which is separated from the central and well recognized regions. The submerged part is composed of the faces of thousands and thousands of anonymous men and women in thousands of anonymous regions of our planet. It is they who constitute the deeply rooted tradition of the theatre which keep the margin alive.
It is to the theatres of margin, to these anonymous and submerged theatres, and not just the Odin and to me, that this Pirandello with its golden face belongs. I want to melt it down.
Luigi Pirandello asked to be cremated, to become ashes that would mingle with the earth of Chaos, his native village. He didn’t want to become a tomb. Now, sixty years on, I believe it is fitting to melt this small and precious work of art in which is petrified. With the gold I will forge many earrings. These I want to give to those who in Austalia, Africa, Asia,Europe and the Americas defend the margin.
It is not fortuitous: dozens and dozens of earrings, so that Pirandello can murmur words of encouragement in new and distant ears on how to lose and find one’s own road through action and refusal.