29. March 2019

Eugenio Barba leaves the direction of the Nordisk Teaterlaboratorium

On 31st December 2020 I will leave my position as director of the Nordisk Teaterlaboratorium in Holstebro. The task of artistic coordinator will be assumed by Julia Varley, and from 1st January 2021 the overall responsibility will be in the hands of a new director chosen by the board of directors.

We were five in 1964, myself and four youngsters rejected by the State Theatre School in Oslo, Norway, including Torgeir Wethal and Else Marie Laukvik who have remained at my side. We founded a joint-stock company and divided the shares among ourselves because the earth belongs to those who till it. We gave to our theatre the name of Odin, a Nordic god who unleashes his dark forces to destroy or give insight. We were a tiny curious and naive amateur group. We loved travelling in the realm of the dead - the history of theatre. We were convinced that we had to pay from our own pocket for the theatre we wanted to make. In silence, with trappist rigour, we took our first steps as autodidacts towards a knowledge that also became the conquest of our difference.

In 1966 our theatre group moved to Holstebro in Denmark. Its politicians welcomed these young unknown foreign actors and - as an exception in the history of Europe - generation after generation supported them even in the early years when the population was hostile to their strange way of doing theatre. Holstebro became our homeland, here our children were born, here some of us are buried, here our wings grew.

Over the years we transformed ourselves into the Nordisk Teaterlaboratorium, an international environment of initiatives in the field of the actors’ technique and the use of their craft in the community. Theatre cannot be reduced simply to a performance that can be bought with a ticket. Our profession has a dimension whose values are imponderable, but which leave deep traces: the quality of relationships, the development of a micro-culture, the practice of a social laboratory in continuous research, a daily obstinacy that is spiritual and political commitment, the ability to nourish a resilience against the wearing routine and the spirit of time.
Our laboratory opened the way to numerous activities: site specific and street performances, alternative pedagogy and pure research, sociological surveys, publication of journals and books, production of didactic films, encounters and regular exchanges with theatre groups from all over the planet, collaboration with masters of Asian and Latin American traditions and Afro-Brazilian culture. Our actors have become directors, guides for generations, forgers of adventures: "The Bridge of Winds" by Iben Nagel Rasmussen, the Transit Festival and the Magdalena Project by Julia Varley and other women in the profession, the Odin Week Festival by Roberta Carreri, the Laboratory Village of Kai Bredholt and Per Kap Jensen, the practice of a theatre of reciprocity as a cultural barter, the ISTA, the International School of Theatre Anthropology, Odin Teatret’s Living Archives, and the Festuge - the Festive Week - which theatricalises and unveils the variety of Holstebro's subcultures.
Today the Nordisk Teaterlaboratorium is deeply rooted in Holstebro's history and its challenges in the present. Its environment includes several independent groups headed by theatre artists, scholars and start-uppers with a "laboratory" mentality and way of proceeding: to explore, through the art of the actor, new relationships and conditions so that the unforeseeable may happen.

It is time for me to leave the command, the responsibility and the burden of the 101 daily decisions to those who will keep alive the essential that I and my companions have distilled during these 56 years. I have been the director of a theatre that wanted to intervene in the surrounding reality. I followed the strategy of circles in the water. I threw a stone that I knew how and where to hurl. The circles widen, move things which are close, produce tiny invisible currents. But I who threw the stone, cannot nor do I want to determine their future.

Like a cloud I continue my journey. I am rehearsing two new performances with my Odin actors. I will continue to meet the groups of the Third Theatre. I will not give up my research on the transition from the actor’s inner space to his/her first perceptible sign in the space shared with the spectator.

I have no heirs nor a legacy to leave. My teaching is not passed on or extinguished. It evaporates. And falls as rain on the head of whom least expects it.

Eugenio Barba