Germany’s Weimar International Festival has been confirmed to go ahead this August and September. The number of audience members must be smaller, and the programme has had to be adapted and adjusted to work in the current restrictions but it remains as diverse, contemporary and rich with politically relevant work as ever. The Festival will run from 26 August to 13 September.
Festival Director Rolf C Hemke said: “When festival cancellations were coming in thick and fast in March, we were able, as a festival taking place in late summer, to bide our time. We’ve had a lot of questions to ask ourselves – how do we react to the circumstances? What do we do about the large dance and opera productions? What about the international artists and companies we present from elsewhere in Europe and from further afield? This festival will be different that is for certain, but also still bold, diverse, contemporary and relevant.”
The Festival this year will present 60 different shows and further interventions in the city and across the region. 22 world premieres feature among the line-up, which ranges from theatre, dance and opera productions to silent movies, film, talks, street interventions and visual arts exhibitions which take the Festival further across Thunringia.
Mr Hemke added: “The theme has changed and instead of a focus on 100 years of Thuringia our overall motto is now “Weimar Opens Up!”. In order to guarantee a festival start even in the case of a second wave of infections, we have co-initiated establishing a drive-in cinema with a wrap-around stage which means we have an open air venue we hope without needing cars, but also a drive-in stage for hosting a pandemic-proof core programme, and a rehearsal venue in which to work on new productions. One of the opportunities of this year, in amongst a great many challenges, has been that many wonderful, very renowned freelance artists became suddenly available to work on new commissions with us. We hope that this year’s festival will entice and surprise, let’s together celebrate that Weimar can once again open up!”
With the current crisis overshadowing other topics to a certain extent the pandemic remains as infectious as ever. There are three strands to this year’s programme – artistic responses to the challenges surrounding Covid-19, an exploration of issues around climate change and environmental destruction, and the originally planned focus around Thuringia’s 100th anniversary, its people and its history.
Weimar has brought on board a range of very diverse and illustrious theatre artists to develop new commissions with them that deal with the coronavirus and its impact on individuals or society as a whole. Additional criteria around the new works include that it can be produced by a maximum of three performers appearing on stage, and adapt to the specific environment of a drive-in cinema if that becomes necessary. Six specifically created Weimar Festival productions will be staged at a new venue, the Alte Feuerwache drive-in cinema, co-established by the festival and it is hoped, used more as an urban open-air stage with the audience not in cars.
Falk Richter, Chris Kondek and Dimitrij Schaad create Five Deleted Messages (world premiere), Dumbworld brings the world premiere of its full cycle of 7 x 10 minute street operas Things We Throw Away, Taiwan and Berlin based choreographer Shang-Chi Sun and visual artist Chaong-Wen Ting bring the premiere of their multidiscipline installation which explores ‘home’ Phit-Nan-So (Shelter), Matthias Goerne continues his ground-breaking concert format World Premiere of a Painting which this year sees Anselm Kiefer create a new work especially for the occasion entitled Secolo d’Oro (The Golden Century) and internationally acclaimed Catalan directors’ collective La Fura dels Baus brings its Bach/Electro/Flamenco work Free Bach 212 for its German premiere.
The multi-award-winning writer Sibylle Berg makes her Kunstfest Weimar debut with PAUL, written for the outstanding character actor Benny Claessens. Judith Rosmair plays Juno in a contemporary tale aboard a cruise ship by award winning playwright Theresia Walser. Swimming to… a theatrical exploration by Steve Karier reflects on 100 years of Thuringia and will be performed in 17 cities and villages across the state. DNT regulars, playwrights Lothar Kittstein and Stefan Hornbach are directed by Swaantje Lena Kleff in performances that trace the absurd and tragic everyday aspects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Pioneering Flemish theatre company Ontroerend Goed, author Thomas Köck, musicians Andreas Spechtl, Axel Thielmann, Ulf Bästlein and Christoph Ritter and the provocative and controversial founder of The Centre for Political Beauty, Philipp Ruch are among many others lined up for this year’s Weimar International Festival.
Among many installations and participatory events the Walk to Buchenwald stands out. The Kunstfest Weimar, Achava Festspiele Thüringen and Deutschlandfunk Kultur join forces to mark the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Buchenwald concentration camp by developing a social sculpture. The participants, in joint commemoration, walk the historic nine kilometre route up to Buchenwald used by the SS until 1939 to take prisoners to the camp. It’s also the route about 1000 Weimar residents were forced to take by US troops to witness the horrors of Buchenwald with their own eyes on 16th April 1945. Outside the gates of today’s memorial site, visitors will be welcomed by Buchenwald survivors from around the world via video stream and invited to participate in an exchange of thoughts and in communal remembrance.