ART DOT: Introducing Ukrainian playwrights to the European theatre sector in ‘Anthology24’
Ukrainian art is facing the worst crisis since the Soviet period. Though theatres try to resume their work, in the present, a repertoire of comedies and love dramas is not relevant. Furthermore, artists have little to no time or energy to engage in their usual activities as they are either in the army or helping volunteers with humanitarian aid. This includes playwrights who have stayed in Ukraine. Most of them have relocated and have lost their financial sources.
Moving forward, artists who flee war need to restore their professional networks and find safe environments and opportunities to start working again. To make contemporary Ukrainian art, particularly drama, visible in its global context, a team of professionals from the performing art sector will gather near 24 drama texts in ‘Anthology24’.
This digital book of texts from the Ukrainian theatre sector will also be translated into English, French, German, Polish and Czech to reach an international audience. Thus, it will introduce Ukrainian playwrights to the European art market and help artists get royalties from European theatres. The project will also provide further assistance in employment for Ukrainian artists and playwrights by consulting volunteer lawyers.
We have spoken to Veronika Skliarova— producer and cultural manager based in Kharkiv, Ukraine. Presently, Veronika has fled the war.
Can you introduce us to your organisation and its past activities?
ART DOT is a non-governmental organisation that aims to produce and conduct artistic and educational events that stimulate civic activity and create ecological spaces for the implementation of social improvements and social responsibility. We emphasise the performing arts because its a mediator of the level of civil society consciousness and a non-violent tool for inclusion.
We integrate contemporary Ukrainian culture into the context of world art. Through its activities, the ART DOT NGO forms a new identity for Ukrainians and raises issues of inclusion, media manipulation and human rights.
During the past six years of its existence, the organisation has held three editions of Parade-fest, an intersectoral festival which has hosted more than 5500 visitors to date. During this, we have released educational materials on the work of art institutions during the COVID19 pandemic, organised networking programs for librarians in district centres of the Kharkiv region, etc.
Who is working on the project team? We would like to get to know some of your members.
The team convenes based on the project. This means that during the festival, it grows up to 18 people and 50-70 volunteers, whereas in projects like Anthology24, there tends to be five to seven people in the team.
We also have constant members who are working on most of the projects:
Veronika Skliarova— programme director in the cross-sectoral festival ‘Parade-fest’, where she also works as a theatre critic and art journalist; co-founder of the educational project ‘Safe theatre: Laboratory of new game rules’; curator for Urban investigation project ‘Zavod. Expedition’ aimed at opening the iron curtain of the giant Soviet factories with tools of contemporary art; producer in Dolmen theatre, ‘Сrimea, 5am’, a project dedicated to the human rights situation in occupied Crimea.
Svitlana Bazhenova— theatrologist and financial director of the organisation.
Oleksandr Fomenko— organised an initiative that, together with professional psychologists and artists, developed a system of communications, activities and events that reduced the symptoms of psychological trauma, effective in the quick socialisation of combatants; involved in social and cultural projects ‘New Donbas’ (2014) and ‘Class Act: Exodus’ (2015), in which children with experience of living in the combat zone in Donbas wrote songs that were staged by professionals; 2017 onwards, co-founder of art spaces in Soviet heritage abandoned buildings in Kyiv and Kharkiv; and since 2022, volunteering at Lviv shelters for displaced people.
Can you tell us a little bit about the Ukrainian theatre sector, before the war?
We had a very fruitful and wide art and theatre sector. It was divided into governmental and non-governmental sectors.
The non-governmental sector worked hard to establish a new identity for the Ukrainian arts sector. It combined new technologies in IT with theatre, thus documenting and evidencing a theatre that reacted to the war that started with Crimea annexation and the war on Fonbass since 2014.
The governmental theatre sector was a mostly classical mise-en-scène ******theatre that interpreted theatre and comedies.
What range of works will Anthology24 contain?
The statements of contemporary Ukrainian authors, who reflect on the war and events since 24 February in any dramaturgical form, are a document of the war. Against the backdrop of the world’s support of Ukraine, many theatres are looking to stage such texts. It’s an important testimony of the war which can help to speak loudly about the truth of this war.
As for its implementation, in the first two weeks of the open call, we will collect more than 120 texts. Readers, the most known practitioners and cultural leaders from the sector, will pick 23 texts by Ukrainian authors. On the Parade-fest webpage, we will create a digital database with texts, biography and author contacts.
An anthology will be created in six languages. We currently have agreements with volunteer willing to translate two to three texts into Czech, Slovak and five to six into German.
Tell us about something that inspires you.
Oh. It’s a difficult question. The trauma of war will affect the whole society, and the role of artists and creative practices is crucial to initiating the healing process. 44-million people in Ukraine have experienced war. Artists from Ukraine will be at the forefront of rebuilding the country and repairing the damage and destruction left by the war.
The effect of small steps that can heal society and help the sector inspired this project. I believe that with all the violence and hate around us, we must retain humanity’s fundamental values.