Theater as a tool to study life’s routine

Latvian Alvis Hermanis’s «Theater of Memory» and Serbian Biljana Srbljanovic’s «Locusts» met with great success during the XI Europe Theater Prize, which ended in Thessaloniki recently. The event, which included a series of meetings with leading European and other directors, attracted the city’s theater aficionados, who flocked to the performances organized by the National Theater of Northern Greece. «It took me a number of years to realize that what matters most to me is life and not theater. I use theater as a tool to carry out my anthropological research. Now my obsession is focused on people’s daily lives,» said Hermanis. Speaking at the first presentation of the winners of the Europe Theater Prize, the Latvian author/director clarified his professional ideology and the methodology he follows in his work. Foreign journalists, critics, actors and theater designers participating in the panel discussion defined his innovative work as «Theater of Memory.» «Until now, Latvian culture was known for being Soviet. Hermanis managed to break this tradition and for the first time Latvian theater went beyond its borders, turning into a source of inspiration and experience in contemporary theater,» they noted. True stories recreated by an actor on stage becomes basic subject-matter for the award-winning artistic director of the New Riga Theater. Following the speakers, Hermanis spoke about his theatrical pursuits: On his obsession with daily life: «In 21st century Europe, people lead double lives. The social, a boring, never-ending game, and the private, where true life, passion and inspiration lie. That explains my obsession with private spaces.» On time: «I’m not interested in the future, I’m interested in the past. The future is boring and predictable. As an art form, theater has a different kind of rhythm. In the past, theater could stop time for reflection. The rhythm of theater and culture outside the theater have nothing in common. Genuine, everyday theater is introverted, it is much more than straightforward meditation.» On the audience: «I treat the audience as part of the family, not as someone foolish who simply wants to be entertained.» On his ideas: «I’m not interested in presenting traditional productions. Together with the actors, we act as private investigators looking into people’s daily lives. Any one person’s real-life story incorporates more drama than the entire body of work of Shakespeare.» On contemporary theater: «It is now vital to produce theater with clean hands and a kind heart.»