27. October 2021

Eugenio Barba fylder 85

Eugenio Barba turns 85 years on 29 October, 2021


Eugenio Barba, director and artistic founder of Odin Teatret and ISTA (International School of Theatre Anthropology), turns 85 on 29 October. This is an achievement in itself, but an even greater achievement is that he is still active in many facets of theatre culture, globally and in Denmark. Even though he is no longer director of the Nordic Theatre Laboratory, he is director of Odin Teatret.

Dramaturgy at Aarhus University would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your cooperation over many years. It began way back in 1964, when Odin Teatret was formed. And from 1966, when the theatre moved to Holstebro, until today, a number of our colleagues have collaborated with Barba and Odin Teatret, Nordisk Teaterlaboratorium.

Barba has been the dynamo and anchor of this collaboration. What is remarkable is that during this period of over 50 years there has been a continuous exchange between a theatre and university studies.

This has given Dramaturgy at Aarhus University a unique opportunity to observe at close the internal and external life and relationships of the theatre: how the actors of the theatre have developed over a number of years through training, improvisation and by performing the same performances over several years, and by creating particular enduring theatrical characters that have been passed down from actor to actor. 

The theatre recycles its material, but of course also creates new performances after long rehearsal processes, which have usually been without the possibility of observation. Only during recent production processes has Eugenio Barba invited participants to be a creative mind and thus a kind of reflection room for the director.

By following a theatre group like Odin Teatret over a long period of time, it has been possible to observe the group's development as well as the creative processes, where it was important to strain one's own skill and routine.

It has been possible to follow the group's work with themes, spaces, light, compositions, texts and other materials, which have far from always been recognizable theatrical materials. Often there was a kind of sensorial surprise built into the work. Collapses are part of the theatre's dramaturgical vocabulary.

We have followed the theatre's work with local cultures in Holstebro and with other theatre traditions globally. This has been done through the work of ISTA (International School of Theatre Anthropology), which is currently running a session for a new generation of participants on the island of Favignana off the west coast of Sicily. But also rehearsals for large-scale theatrum mundi performances, such as Ur-Hamlet, which was performed in the courtyard at Elsinore Castle in August 2006.

We have participated in discussions on how theatre culture can be communicated and transmitted through books, conferences and films. Again, examples of ways in which the materiality of theatre can be used and reused in myriad ways.

We have been fortunate and seized the opportunity to develop our profession with the inspiration provided by Eugenio Barba. The theatre is not only a performance space, but a social laboratory with countless activities ranging from pedagogical dissemination, research on stage behaviour, theatrical encounters in different public spaces and exchanges between many theatrical traditions.

Since 2002, Dramaturgy has had a platform and a unique research collaboration with Barba and Odin Theatre through CTLS (Centre for Theatre Laboratory Studies). We have held a summer school, conferences and several major festivals that have created atmospheres that are still in the minds of many of the country's dramaturgs.

Several of our colleagues along the way have long since stepped down, but on their behalf and on behalf of Dramaturgy's current staff, we wish Eugenio Barba a very happy birthday and hope we can continue to be together for a long time to come.


Erik Exe Christoffersen and Annelis Kuhlmann

Centre for Theatre Laboratory Studies (CTLS) and Dramaturgi at Aarhus University