Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

A European Library of Theatre Arts, Theatre and Lecture Hall Complex by Tom Rothfield

European culture at the present moment - and the ideas established in the classical inheritance of drama, comedy and tragedy in particular - exists in a state of jeopardy brought about the forces in post-war society that constitute a threat to global fundamental individual, cultural and democratic values. For this reason the theme - 'Learning from Differences' - could not be a more timely one for a symposium of this comprehensive nature.

As I see it, the issue to be debated is rooted in the question of the individual and the community: it is a matter of seeking harmony; a balance must be sought between what is essential to a citizen's well-being and the legitimate demands that a community expects from that person. Power, in other words, is the essence of the debate - who wields it; how it operates, and for whose benefit. Post-war global media forces - theatre, newspapers, television, film, video, et al- in the control of media barons, motivated solely by the profit motive, debase (or manipulate) both community and individual values. Power, for them, must be theirs, and theirs alone. No matter how this is disguised, it is anti-democratic. Theirs is a threat aimed at political and economic control, exploiting, in order to gain power, trendy vulgarity and triviality, divisive racist and nationalistic ideas; in so doing, exercising the worst kind of influence - what might be dubbed a neo-fascist mentality - on the spirit and soul or our young people. Media baron Berlusconi's sudden leap to power in Italy these past weeks in the gap left by corruption at every level in society, is the perfect prototype example to warn us all: resulting in an anti-fascist, anti-Semitic president, urging family values, and a party dedicated to law and good order, etc., etc., hailing the familiar garbage we heard in the Mussolini years; years when art, culture, decency and common-sense became outlawed.

What ought to be done to combat these pernicious forces? I would urge the following:
1. The strengthening of our resolve within the European Union in our towns and cities, wherever that may be, to bring forward our own regional cultural works, emphasizing the distinctive elements of our own countries in every respect. Let others learn from us, and we from them. Let the valuable discoveries of the past and the present be the basis of our journey into the future.

A European Theatre Secretariat:

2. For the accomplishment of the suggestions which follow, it is obviously necessary that we should have a European Theatre Secretariat established; given a proper status and funding, able to encourage and help towards the realization of the main project, which, when implemented, it will administer in full freedom the responsibilities which incur.

A European Library of Theatre Arts, Theatre and Lecture Hall Complex:

3. Since we are still so divided, one European country from the other, in spite of the efforts of a Brussels bureaucracy, we need a meeting-place were we can discover, discuss and share our different cultural ideas; where what is most valuable from the past, and significant in the present is concentrated - in other words, there is a most urgent and pressing need for the establishment of a European Library of the Theatre Arts, Theatre and Lecture Hall Complex, along the lines of the Lincoln Arts Centre in New York City with all its adjuncts. An important difference, however, would be its orientation - towards the regional European inheritance, country by country without exception.

4. Beforehand, whilst the implementation of this project takes shape, I propose that at the start of each six-months period of a country's presidency of the European Union, that as part of the ceremonies that accompany the event, that the presiding country in question be responsible for staging by one of its justly proud. Thus we would make an important step to demonstrating our attachment to the cultural values on which our European inheritance rests, giving an important boost to the country's drama in question, and the wider issue of drama as a whole.

5. Beforehand, also, I propose that as rapidly as possible, on the establishment of a Theatre Secretariat (before the Complex is established), that a Lecture Hall be added to it (or hired by it), in which, as a continuous activity, the gifted and experienced talents in every theatre field, European country by country, be invited to shape their experiences with others in the form of lectures or other forms of communication.

6. Beforehand, also, I propose that students and disadvantaged participants in theatre activity in various countries by given scholarships so as to attend rehearsals and performances by major theatre companies in the European Union.

7. Beforehand, also, as almost the beginning work of the Theatre Secretariat, it should set out to encourage a movement and exchange of playwrights, directors, actors, designers, custume makers, and technicians, between the various theatre companies in the European Union. Exchanges of this kind do occur at the moment but on a very occasional level. Perhaps, also accompanying the six-monthly change of presidency, a bi-yearly meeting at the Theatre Secretariat should take place, when theatre artistic ideas of a bold and controversial nature should be aired.

8. The exact locale of the Theatre Arts Complex is bound to be a question of heated, competitive dispute. I would urge that to be kept firmly in mind is the distinctive, regional objectives which ought to be our guiding principle throughout every facet of this Theatre Secretariat and Theatre Arts conception. We must avoid at all costs the appalling post-war push towards power being concentrated in the hands of major players in the game - i.e. capital cities such as London, Paris, Berlin, etc.. As a matter of definition, these disqualify themselves as places of administration or sites for either the Theatre Secretariat or the Theatre Arts Complex.

9. One can expect that the choice of Athens will be urged from the outset for obvious reasons as an exception to the general rule above. The idea has merit. But Greek administration on this island of Aegina of the archaeological Museum at the Temple of Aphia - closed to the public on the grounds of Greece's argument that it is unable to pay salaries to museum staff - gives one pause to think. When on thinks for a moment of the vast numbers in Greece swelling the idle bureaucracy whose jobs are simply to vote for the appropriate political parties, the refusal to pay a museum staff of two or three persons a few hours daily, does not suggest that the European cultural inheritance in its various buildings etc., - or the Elgin Marbles, if returned to Greece, for that matter - would be given appropriate attention.

10. In conclusion, I should like to reiterate the general standpoint from which the above mentioned ideas derive their inspiration, i.e. with the education of future generations as a primary objective in mind, to bring forward into the European consciousness a proper sense of its democratic cultural inheritance - values sought so passionately by the great dramatists, writers and artists of the past to establish for all time; ideas that revolve around the unique position of the solitary citizen in relation to the State or the community; ideas that combat the pernicious elements so strongly at work in our society in which culture exists as a commodity to be bartered and controlled by the ruthless and mighty media barons of our day.

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