Why theatre?

Why theatre? We can’t ask ourselves a more basic question than that and at the same time no question is harder to give an answer to. Why do we make theatre? What purpose does it have or does it even need to have a purpose? Usually, the answers are given by the making of theatre itself – but suddenly we find ourselves in a situation that has shaken up our ways of searching for the answers. In March 2020, NTGent was closed for an unknown period of time, like most theatres everywhere, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. So we wrote the following letter to more than 100 artists and intellectuals all over the world:

“Dear friends,
In times when theatre and performance as live art are in a state of emergency and societies rethink necessities, we ask you: Why theatre? For two years now, we have been publishing the series ’The Golden Books’ at NTGent, together with the Berlin based publisher Verbrecher Verlag: books on the theory and practice of contemporary performance art, on individual plays and general social questions. In volume 5 of the book series we want to broaden the focus and ask: Why theatre at all? Why is this art form so unique, so indispensable? What is YOUR personal ’why‘ as a theatre-maker, spectator, activist, citizen – or simply as a human being? We are interested in the whole range of theatre: from classical theatre to performance art and dance, from activism to political theatre and the performativity of everyday life.
You determine the content and format of your contribution: whether you want to start from a concrete artistic experience as a theatre-maker or spectator, or write from a theoretical or utopian point of view. It can be a short essay, a memory, a manifesto, an invented dialogue, a poem, a letter to someone. A moment of epiphany, strong emotion, insight or confusion. A utopian text about the theatre of the future, post-capitalist theatre or one without any ideology, about Oedipus or the performance of birds outside your window. Whatever comes to mind when you ask yourself “Why theatre?“, whatever seems neuralgic to you or makes you feel confident.

With solidarity and kind regards,
Milo Rau, Carmen Hornbostel and Kaatje De Geest”

We received 106 answers in short essays, memories, manifestos, drawings, poems, letters, …. that we gathered in the Golden Book V: Why Theatre? – “A compendium of progressive contemporary theatre” as Deutschlandfunk says.

We continue asking Why theatre? in live events and performances and publish each months between five and ten statements from the book itself and the live events on this homepage.

Why Theatre? Because of all that follows….

Why Theatre? Golden Book V

  • ISBN 978-3-95732-450-4
  • Edited by NTGent (Kaatje De Geest, Carmen Hornbostel & Milo Rau)

Proofreading: Eline Banken, Kaatje De Geest, Carmen Hornbostel, Lesley Van Damme, Sophie Vanden Broeck
Translations in the book: Gregory Ball, Eline Banken, Sara Claes, Kaatje De Geest, Plator Gashi, Thomas Haskell Simpson, Dorien Heerink, Carmen Hornbostel, Michael Labuhn, Paula Maier, Ziad Nawfal, Tanita Pepermans, Julie Reniers, Keyvan Sarreshteh, Andreea-Maria Soricu, Daniel Tunnard, Stijn Van Asch, Lesley Van Damme, Sophie Vanden Broeck

Graphic concept: L8 Hickethier / Teirlinck / Kjær
Layout: Nina Wolters

The first volumes of the Golden Books were Global Realism (2018), Lam Gods/The Ghent Altarpiece (2018), Orestes in Mosul (2019) and The Art of Resistance (2020).

Dutch translations on the website: Koen Van Caekenberghe