Radically international; against all odds
We wrap up this year’s Zürcher Theater Spektakel, which, once again, resisted adverse circumstances and impressively demonstrated the indispensability of the arts. The festival offered a dense international programme with ten premieres, supported by co-operations with other cultural institutions in Zurich and across the borders. «Already last year, but this summer all the more: During these times of change, art presents itself particularly powerful, inspiring and intense», an enthused festival visitor wrote on social media after getting hold of a ticket at the box office for one of the three sold-out shows of «FUCK ME» by Marina Otero. The festival could not be summed up in a better way.
Around 12’800 tickets were sold. This corresponds to an average capacity of 88%. Additionally, around 6000 individuals visited one of the numerous free events on the Landiwiese or in the city. The audience’s response was all the more pleasing as the advance booking started off rather hesitantly this year and only gained momentum shortly before and with the start of the festival.
The programme was characterised by great diversity and internationality. Some of the highlights of this year’s programme included the two productions by the Columbian company Mapa Teatro, Marion Siéfert’s coming-of-age piece «_jeanne_dark_», which took place both on stage and live on Instagram, or the imaginary 14 monuments created by international artists for the Landiwiese at the invitation of Vlatka Horvat and Tim Etchells. Not only the amount of premieres this year, ten in number, were extraordinary but also the many co-operations with institutions in Zurich and beyond. The street art events in the city districts were again a great success. Especially the shows on Röntgenplatz turned out an attractive and lively happening which had people cheer even from the balconies of the neighbourhood.
The corona pandemic posed a challenge to many of the performing companies travelling to Zurich from abroad. Therefore, we are all the more pleased that the majority of the productions could be realised as planned and international artists and experts were able to meet during the Theater Spektakel. With lectures and workshops, the festival offered once more a platform for contemplating and discussing the pressing topics of the performing arts.
The return of the gastronomic services to the Landiwiese contributed significantly to the festival atmosphere. Even though the culinary offer was less extensive than in pre-corona years, the on-site restaurants – Mama Put, Le 2 Cucine, Le Cochon Vert and Cantina – were much appreciated and especially well frequented during nice weather. Nevertheless, the number of visitors on the Landiwiese was a quarter to a third compared of the overall attendance during the record year 2019. This effect was intentional and is regarded as a success as the aim was to avoid large crowds and still create a festival-like experience for the visitors.
During the final weekend of the festival, the ZKB Prizes were awarded, with which the Zürcher Kantonalbank, one of our main partners, has been contributing to the support of the artists performing at the festival for over twenty years. The ZKB Patronage Prize of 30’000 Swiss Francs went to Mallika Taneja for her piece «Allegedly». The jury praised her production for the exemplary and powerful use of the digital medium. The jurors were impressed with the artistic resourcefulness, the conversational storytelling and the nuanced writing combining a multiplicity of strong voices. They deemed «Allegedly» formally and contextually astounding as it offers the world an important contribution on courage and solidarity by examining the topic of rape and sexual harassment in meticulous and delicate ways.
The ZKB Acknowledgement Prize of 5’000 Swiss Francs was awarded to Edna Jaime. According to the jury, «O Bom Combate (The Good Fight)» proves the artist’s capacity to create powerful works despite the adverse conditions she addresses in her piece. The festival audience, however, took a liking to several productions. Two works share this year’s ZKB Audience Prize: the ensemble Tschuku Tschuku around the performer Nashilongweshipwe Mushaandja from Namibia and the Argentinian choreographer Marina Otero for her work «FUCK ME». Talking of awards: Martin Zimmermann, who presented «Danse Macabre» at the start of the festival, has just been awarded the Swiss Grand Prix Darstellende Künste / Hans-Reinhart-Ring 2021. Congratulations to him and all other prizewinners.
We are equally pleased with the sound implementation of the corona protection concept. The combination of free on-site testing and the use of the covid certificate worked effectively and was well received by the audience. Even the admittance procedures became increasingly smooth throughout the festival. The decision to introduce a mask mandate – due to infection dynamics – even for events requiring a covid certificate was backed by the audience. According to media reports, big theatres in Zurich will introduce this procedure and implement a mask mandate in addition to the certificate this coming season.
To realise a festival of this size and internationality in the circumstances of a pandemic has been an extraordinary effort. We thank all collaborators, artists and the festival audiences, who once again remained loyal to the Zürcher Theater Spektakel and contributed to the success of this indispensable event with their effort, heart and open-mindedness.
Next year, the Theater Spektakel takes place from 18 August to 4 September. We are looking forward to welcoming you again on the Landiwiese.
The festival direction
Matthias von Hartz, Sarah Wendle, Veit Kälin