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Dieter Topp, Babel Fast XI: Unforgettable experiences în Târgoviște, the former capital of Romania

Tomorrow’s festivals mean immersive technology, sustainability and holistic well-being. Festivals are popular events that focus not only on theatre, music and dance, but also on an intoxicating atmosphere.
“Let’s Babel up the Town”, the 11th edition of the festival of the same name once again led to unforgettable experiences. Included in this were not only the international participants of the annual parade. It was the will to enrich the city of Targoviste, its citizens and the surrounding region with culture in the form of performing arts on an international level.
In the Romanian region of Dambovita, close to the capital Bucharest, an independent festival life has been developing for years and the makers of the Tony Bulandra Theatre, above all their boss Mihai Constantin Ranin, have already set many things in motion for the future. From its humble beginnings, this BABEL festival has developed into a trademark over the years. And the image of the city of Târgovişte also benefits from this.
Expanded networks and cooperative concepts make this festival more and more a truly international event in Târgovişte.
After years of cooperation with the South Korean Theatre Association, its CEO Jeungeii Son and MC Ranin signed a cooperation agreement last year. This already resulted in a bilingual theatre project for the opening of the BABEL Festival 2023. The ARGONAUTS, based on a Greek tragedy, combined highly technical Korean acting with Romanian playfulness to create a theatrical experience of rare provenance.
The South Korean premiere will soon take place on Jeju Island. The Romanian festival organisers had another surprise in store for us right afterwards. The invitation from Manger MC Ranin and CEO Jeungeii Son was accepted by theatre and festival directors from various countries, including Bulgaria, Poland, Kazakhstan, South Korea and Romania, to ratify the festival organisation AMASIA – Union of Intercontinental Festivals, the entry into a kind of international continent of performing arts at festival level. “… an idea of travelling and at the same time bringing together common elements from the cultures of the world, as an expression of cultural diversity as a reaction to what is happening right now in the process of globalisation,” says MC Ranin.
“The countries signing today are South Korea, Poland, Kazakhstan and Romania. We will add five or six more countries so that we have a total of ten countries, five from Europe and five from Asia. Africa has now been added to Europe and Asia, because Egypt has expressed a desire to join.” Numerous “gifts” were in the guests’ luggage. Among them, the performance of the theatre “Sava Ognyanov” from Ruse, Bulgaria, proved to be extremely remarkable. The story and play about the trauma of the society of the Transylvanian Saxons (Romanian Germans) had been dramaturgically embedded by the Moldovan director Dumitru Acris in numerous scenic images and elements of awareness between misery, frustration and brutality, deliberately omitting the comedic aspects of the original text by Elise Wilk. This ultimately prevented the protagonists from finding inner resources.
The tragedy of history could not and should not be dealt with here. “Eastern Europe is more than ever in the public focus in the wake of the Russian attack on Ukraine, which is now already the anniversary. Without looking to Eastern Europe, addressing the upheavals of the past and present, the picture of our world and current developments remains an incomplete one.” With “Disappearance”, Theatre Ruse brought a profound production of not only Eastern European drama to the stage, especially in light of the ongoing Russian attack on Ukraine.
Poland presented the open-air show SILENCE, which was a painful reminder of violence and death, especially of the children who suffer from it. With BAD CITY, the troupe took the Chaplin idea from MODERN TIMES of the 1930s straight into the 1920s of our time. imPerfect Dancers from Belgium/Italy/Spain/USA let the last hours of ROMEO & JULIA glide by in a contemporary dance interpretation and questioned what would have remained if the greatest love tragedy of all times had not ended with the death of the two protagonists as a statement of everlasting love.
Despina Sarafeidou represented Greece with RED EMPTINESS, a poem by Sophia Dionysopoulou about a psychologically divided Medea. Scotland performed with the Performing Arts Studio of Edinburgh College, as well as a show by Amy Duncan and Ben Harrison. France sent the WALD with Haruku Miyaamoto. From Iraq, the Ministry of Culture had sent actors Hayder Yumaah and Rezah Ahmed, China countertenor Xiao Ma. They were joined by Kazakh classical literature for the preservation and international promotion of a great culture.
The Republic of Moldova, Alexei Mateevici Theatre, Chisinau, sent the Jon Fosse play I AM THE WIND with the well-known Romanian actor Marius Manole, among others. The host’s own productions, including Beckett’s ENDGAME, directed by Mihai Maniutiu, Ruth Wolff’s CHINESE PRINCESS, directed by Alexander Hausvater, as well as the drama OREST, staged by the Greek director Yiannis Paraskevopoulos after Euripides, filled the evenings with demanding stage events. And finally Mariupol The group of surviving actors from the theatre in “Mariupol, which was bombed by the Russian invaders, is the special guest of the 11th edition of the BABEL International Festival of Performing Arts, organised by the Tony Bulandra Theatre in Târgovişte,” was warmly welcomed.
A Romanian-Ukrainian cooperation is to follow. Film evenings, book launches, art exhibitions with numerous retrospectives and open-airs every evening raised the tower of BABEL XI to dizzying heights of a festival marathon of nine days. In the coming edition and until 2024, there will certainly be a lot to learn from the city of Targoviste besides the usual tourist attractions of the former capital of Wallachia and its ruler Vlad Tepes, the model for Bram Stoker’s novel DRACULA.
Dieter Topp, german journalist, theater networking specialist
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