The Annual Encounters are the core of the PLATFORM – project work. Once a year, about 100 professionals from the 11 partner companies meet to reflect on the artistic work of the previous year and to receive new impulses for the next stage of the project in the Creative Forum.
The 6th PLATFORM – Annual Encounter was the first one of the PLATFORM shift + project and took place in Portugal. More than 80 artists coming from all 11 participating companies met for 5 days.
The Encounter started with the first Creative Forum, where educational opportunities concerning digital technology were delivered during the first day of the meeting.
Annual Encounter at Teatro O Bando
Over four days the participants of the Encounter were guests of Teatro O Bando, one of the most well known independent theatres in the country. After many years in Lisbon, the company has now settled at an idyllic farm near to Palmela, a small town 40 km from the capital.
Presentation of the concepts of the National Productions
Two days that the delegates spent with the National Productions, which are in the focus of the first period of the project. Therefore the artists were required to engage with young people to gather themes for new plays and concepts in new aesthetics during the first season. All 11 concepts were artistically presented and discussed. There were new performative, site specific, public space and participative models, reflecting the growing importance of non-written, conceptual work in contemporary theatre, alongside the traditional text-based play. The whole range of shows was produced in the 2015/16 season and was presented at the 7th PLATFORM shift + – Annual Encounter in Budapest (Hungary), June 2016.
One of the central concerns of the Annual Encounters was the dialogue between the partners about current themes in their work. Much of the discussion in Palmela was about the utilization of digital media in winning new audiences and the possibilities for educational projects.
At the end of the Encounter Joao Brites, Teatro O Bando’s Artistic Director, and actor and director Sara de Castro, conducted a workshop entitled “Actors and Conscience on stage.” The actors from 9 nations had the chance to get to know the methods and techniques behind Teatro O Bando’s exceptional way of working. The subsequent surprising confrontation with the city men’s choir made a strong and unforgettable emotional impact on both the workshop participants and the observers.
Partners were also treated to the open air production In the name of the Land, which was a great chance to experience a result of Teatro O bando’s working methods live.
The 2nd Annual Encounter brought the PLATFORM – partners to Budapest. As the leading children’s and youth theatre in Hungary, Kolibri Theatre has many years of experience in putting on festivals and international meetings. It was consequently the ideal host for the PLATFORM -Festival of National Productions “My Story”.
The challenge set for the first stage of the project was: The digital world as the direct starting point for the content or the form of theatre productions for young audiences. The presentation of the concepts at the 1st Annual Encounter in Portugal provided the opportunity for the theatres to exchange and develop ideas which then flowed on into the work on the National Productions in the 2015/16 season. Several productions grew out of the direct involvement of young people in the artistic process.
The focus on participation in the concept of PLATFORM shift is reflected in the opening of this year’s Annual Encounters. Together with his European colleagues and young people from Budapest, Andrew Siddall from Emergency Exit Arts London worked on a digitally embossed open air Event My Story, which marked the beginning of the Festival of National Productions. Following this, the young target audience and audiences from 9 European countries could view and discuss 8 complete shows and 3 staged presentations.
The last day of the meeting was determined by experts from the digital world who came to Budapest for the Creative Forum “cmd – Creative Media Delivery.” These experts passed on their knowledge and experience to the participants in TED style speeches and workshops.
The PLATFORM shift+ delegates met from the 7th-12th of July for their Annual Encounter in Dresden. Kraftwerk Mitte, the fantastic location in the middle of the city, new home of the German partner tjg. Theater Junge Generation, is ideally suited for the festival of PLATFORM shift+ Co-productions. On the impressive grounds of a former power station, with its various indoor and outdoor areas, there is a suitable space for (almost) every production.
The entire 2016/17 season for the PLATFORM shift+ partners was on the theme of collaborative work. The My Story Festival of the National Productions at the end of the last season in Budapest provided a good insight into the different working methods and individual theatres’ modes of expression. Co-productions grew out of a stimulating and exciting work process. In these productions, the two partners collaborated on the theme of “digital challenges” and put their ideas into practice, each in their own way. In this they aimed to achieve the challenge they had set themselves: to successfully speak to a “hard to reach audiences”. The results are convincing and varied and will be carefully evaluated.
In addition there was a large Round Table discussion about the contemporary digital political protest forms and a workshop for actors on the programme of the Annual Encounter. It was a tightly scheduled program but it allowed time for individual conversations, the essential part of getting to understand cultural differences and finding ways to work together outside of national boundaries.
After four years, PLATFORM shift+ has come to an end. 11 companies from 9 European countries had four years of intense working, learning and co-producing. Each year an Annual Encounter took place, presenting the productions developed in that season and bringing the artists involved in a direct exchange.
The final Annual Encounter was hosted by Theatre Massalia in Marseille (France) in October 2018. It was preceded by the fourth PLATFORM shift+ Youth Encounter, which brought together 45 young people from eight countries in La Friche, the impressive building, where theatre Massalia is located. The week of activities for the young people included workshops and rehearsals that will lead to an open-air presentation under the title Europe at Play. It was a welcoming presentation for the 40 professionals, who arrived for their final Annual Encounter, and of course for an interesting audience from Marseille.
In their meetings the professionals looked back to the previous season for one last time. They presented and discussed their final co-productions/events and their National Creative Forums, and they evaluated the ending of this EU-project.
For two days professionals and young people worked together at the final PLATFORM shift+ event Good luck, Europe, an unusual kind of birthday party. The extraordinary experiences in PLATFORM shift+ of artists and young people from 9 European countries were only possible because the Treaty of Maastricht came into force at November 1st, 1993. A great reason to celebrate, to eat and drink together, to dance and sing, to exchange memories and wishes, anecdotes and recipes, songs, poems, photos and more. All “platformers”, professionals and young people, and their guests from Marseille, created an unforgettable party night, which strongly reminded us of the unique opportunities only possible in a common Europe without borders.