Before writing about my experience here in New York, US.
Before writing something about my experience here, I want to do first an introduction about my theater experience in my country. It’s only my opinion so if any of you guys want to learn more, please write me back. Also feel free to comment. Love.
What is the role of theater in Albanian society today?
According to the theorists who write thesis after thesis about it, the theatre has quite an influential role in our world. But how is its role defined? Is it a social institution, a place of cathartic release, or a provider of simple entertainment? Does it have political and philosophical statements? How could theater preserve his position during the years? How it can be today?
In 1992, after 45 years of dictatorial regime in Albania where theatrical art was directed by government and propaganda tactics, finally came time to say that we can say the truth in many ways, I mean truth in an artistic situation, a specific controversial language, an independent voice, from politics and media influences. Theater today is able to operate with all the forms, with different styles, to have in the essence of his spirit, nonconformist tendencies and the most controversial forms. We can say that now we are free to do what we really want. Now it’s the time to risk, whether this would be the right expression, to choose theater authors and a kind of dramaturgy like never before, a lot of subjects and many other concepts.
But in 25 years I have never seen and I have never heard about any real nonconformist, controversial, contemporary and original work, I don’t understand where is the difficulty of doing this? Any of the peers is very strong related with politics. Most of the theatre projects are made by artists pro government. No more national theatre festival, there are only some small local festivals where mostly the purpose is only to take funds by municipalities or other institutions. Never heard about true competitions, with different themes, different points of view, none is trying, at least why to take risks? Journalists asked me; is the public ready of other tendencies? I said, public is more open mind than us. We have a specific role in the history, we do not provide entertainment if we cannot show truth on stage. Public is smart, they can understand immediately what is going on the stage. It’s a serious thing or a “passatempo”. If we are not serious, how can people believe us? A waste of time performance is losing chances for the truth.
Over the decades National Theater and other theater institutions have been continue to produce the same classic works with realistic and psychological nature. This is a sign that the stereotype of classical theatre work would be a safe success. However facts speak otherwise. These classic works or so-called “safe” failed mostly on all points, and sometimes even in their commercial viewpoint. Sometimes authors work on superficial themes, tempting to create a masterpiece, the dramaturges write in a very heavy language, choosing words and phrases like in the Russian novels of the 19th century, they forget about the reality where live. Directors lose time on literary analysis on rehearsals and for the actors the only way to perform is the speech. None of these performers moves and nobody does anything. Drama exist but in their minds.
However this is my opinion and I think that these problems come because artists continued to follow the same bourgeois aesthetic methods, the chronological structure of the actions, which are some of the official conventions of traditional theater. The author suggests drama’s configuration. Most frequently the set is symbolist or realist. The nature of the dialogues resembles a soap opera and the action most of the time is based on words. The performances are presented in a classical stage and this space allows actors to be presented only in a single plan. The actors discuss the dramatic situations with a predisposition towards a psychological nature of the character.
Reproduction of our day-to-day life I think is uninviting in theater, and its translation in theater doesn’t need to imitate realistic life representation. Realistic and truth are different things. Theater doesn’t need to offer to whoever finds it everywhere, in television, in cinemas, Internet, in magazines, social media and in well-known star-system events. We are spectators of shocking images, dramatic, terrific, romantic, and attractive or superb stories everyday. There is war in some parts of the world now and fashion parades in the other side, touching pictures from all around the globe; there are no few cases when we can read in newspapers unusual dialogues between politicians, sad or tragicomic stories, social problems, nonsense mass murder, spectacular thefts and many other similar events.
Then, can a theater play be of interest to the public?
The public is bombarded 24 hours from all that said and can the public claim for something different? Can a theatre play respond to this? Is there any chance that theater play is very original on the texts, on images, in context, in form and substance; can one play for example “Amadeus” of Peter Shaffer staged in National Theater time ago bring to the public what it meant to be exclusive, original? I’m not mentioning Chekhov’s “Three Sisters”, where the actors did pretend like they were having tea. Or I don’t want to talk about Shakespeare’s “Henry VIII” where one of the main characters in the performance looks alike “Rambo” (review from an English critic.) Before these I saw also an Arthur Miller play, “The Crucible”. Everyone could say that the play is an allegory of McCarthyism and I could say this too but I never understood the relationship with the actual political situation in Albania. National Theatre supported the project. The director of the play has affirmed his political statement, which is pro government. So he is a completely conformist artist and during the performance I didn’t see one act of rebellion against the government power, which i think it is dangerous for the Albanian society. Even the title of the play was more allegoric than the whole Albanian adaption for the stage.
There is a tendency to offer plays of classic American or European authors of the 60s, where most of the plays speak about family problems, couple troubles or any other nature, which they are very well covered by television or also cinema. There is a desire to find a play that is easy, a little funny, with smart dialogues so actors will love it. Why? We have a lot of subjects around, everything around offer important materials to put up a theater performance. I meet an actress in Skopje. Her dream was to be Blanche in the famous Tennessee Williams play. Why this way? She live in a very masculine region in Skopje, surrounded by Albanian/Macedonian traditional fanatic males, patriarchal families, most of the women have problems with their relatives and she want to be Blanche. I don’t understand. She can speak about her life with her stories and not to choose to pretend to be some other girl in a different era.
Like everywhere, everyone wants to live with his/her profession and so do actors in Tirana. But is hard to make a living when you work in theater 3 or 4 times per year (the bravest guy), thus most of the plays the actors choose, are works where they are paid for it and most of the time I’ve seen them performing on a play without pleasure. The directors also choose an ensemble of actors who have reputation and they can also sell tickets and that means success. The payments are totally miserable and mostly the actors (even directors) do other jobs to support their living.
No important grants from cultural institutions, mostly no private theatre companies, no empty spaces to build a small theatre, none of the young actors or other artists is doing what they really want, none of the directors is choosing plays that they really like, a total absence of criticism, no theater magazines, a few nonprofit art organizations, small collaborations inside/outside of the country, everyone who graduates in the acting class or theater directing plans to work only in the National Theater. The law for scenic arts is problematic; it doesn’t offer independence to the artists. The urban composition of the city is a mess and nobody could afford to rent a space for performing arts since they are very expensive.
There is a total indifference by the government about cultural programs. If you mention something like this they immediately got a headache. The government treats the artists like they want. They just give money and support to work where they see no risks. The others just struggle. But we are not servants we are artists.
There is a Beckett play; “What Where” a short round of political allegoric tortures goes on and on. I think that’s the best example for an independent artist relationship with the cultural institutions in Albania. This for me is so-called censorship, control, and no freedom at all. None is using the power of theatre, theatre makers are afraid and everything is alike totalitarian times before 1992. The role of theatre in Albania is powerless since government controls everything.
So how theatre could stand an artistic and politic statement? How it could be important? Theatre today in Albania is useless and his function is hopeless and I feel very sorry for all the people who really want to do appropriate and wonderful things.
When I say today I mean not only the 2017.