Theatre is thriving around the globe. In this day and age where the attention is only on Broadway and the West End, it can be easy to lose sight of the theatre down the street let alone some of the great companies producing internationally. It’s important to remember that as a means of communication, the theatre is a medium that thrives when it addresses universal themes transcending borders and languages. In delving into diverse theatre communities, maybe we can start to notice these universalities and trends that can unify us in a world sometimes too easily content in its divisiveness.
Destination: Vienna, Austria
The primary German-language theatres of Vienna are the Burgtheatre — the palatial home of the National Theatre of Austria which opened in 1888 — and the Volkstheatre, a smaller “civic counterpart” which opened the following year in 1889. Another wonderful feature of the theatrical landscape of Vienna is the Austrian Theatre Museum with origins that go back to the Baroque Era. The museum is a theatre lover’s dream with everything from stage models to prints.
In addition to the grand national theatres, several English-language companies have made homes in the city, including Vienna’s English Theatre — which began in 1963 — and the female-driven company Thiasus Productions which began their productions last year with The Eight: Reindeer Monologues by Jeff Goode.
Theatre: The Vienna Theatre Project
The Vienna Theatre Project started in 2002 with the aim of bringing contemporary plays — no older than ten years — to Austrian audiences. VTP prefers “plays that are cross-cultured, interracial, and reflect current issues in modern society,” according to Artistic Director Joanna Godwin-Seidl. “We like to choose award-winners that are beautifully written, have a current story to tell, and have a global relationship.”
Joanna has been directing plays and musicals in both English and German for a number of years, including titles such as Crossing Jerusalem and The Barber of Seville. Her direction of Annie Baker’s The Flick played in January of 2019 at the Drachengasse Theater and the show was a “Pick of the Week” in the Vienna Review.
Production: The Flick
The play choice was certainly a risk given its U.S. setting and characters, but VTP had faith in their reputation as a go-to for great theatre and trusted audiences to respond to their dedication to new work.
“What could a story about three people working in a cinema in Massachusetts have to do with Vienna? The struggle for identity and the issues of employment security and debt is so relevant to now.”
Audiences praised the production’s acting and directing even though the content and length of the play were not typical — and in many ways challenging. “However, the risk was worth taking and many thanked us for bringing a brilliant show to the city they would otherwise have potentially not seen.”
Metropole’s review called it “bittersweet, relatable, and easily enjoyable to sit through its lengthy three hours” while praising the performances as “resonant and authentic.”
The Vienna Theatre Project is now moving onto their next production, looking at favorites like Red Velvet by Lolita Chakrabarti and Blasted by Sarah Kane — continuing their desire to bring shows with “exciting, current content” to their audiences.