11 September 2020

YDT AT THE BEIJING FORUM

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The General Manager of the Yugoslav Drama Theatre Tamara Vučković Manojlović took part in the two day online conference (9 th and 10 th September) – ‘Beijing Forum for Performing Arts’, organised by the National Centre for the Performing Arts. The invitation to the Forum was sent by the Foreign Affairs Office of Beijing Municipal Government to the cabinet of the Mayor of Belgrade and was forwarded to the YDT by the Secretariat for Culture.

The topic of this year’s Forum was Challenges and Opportunities During the Pandemic with special focus on Emergence and application of new modes of artistic production, Opportunities and challenges of online streaming, New modes of theatre operation during the pandemic and New prospect of building a community with a shared future for theatres around the globe. Over 100 institutions from more than 20 countries and regions from 6 continents took part in the Forum. Among them were Chief Executive of the Royal Opera House Covent Garden Alex Beard and Managing Director of the Barbican Centre London Sir Nicholas Kenyon, General Manager of the Metropolitan Opera Peter Gelb, Executive Director of Carnegie Hall Clive Gillinson, President of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Deborah F. Rutter, General Director of the Teatro Colón María Victoria Alcaraz, General Director of the Stiftung Oper in Berlin Georg Vierthaler… and General Manager of the YDT Tamara Vučković Manojlović. The Forum was officially opened by the Mayor of Beijing Chen Jining, Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Culture of China Zhang Xu and Vice President of the National Centre for the Performing Arts Zhu Jing.

The Beijing Forum for Performing Arts was first held last year and it gathered over 20 different institutions. The goal of the founder, the National Centre for the Performing Arts, was to bring together artists from around the world. This year’s pandemic caused the conference to be held online and further reinforced the idea that this was the moment when artists from around the globe needed to work together and exchange experiences as often as possible. That is why one of the ideas that were discussed was ‘New prospect of building a community with a shared future for theatres around the globe’. Hence the decision to go one step further this year and the Beijing Forum Council was appointed. The news was formally announced at the end of the conference. The members of the Council are Council President Wang Ning (National Centre for the Performing Arts),

Vice-Presidents María Victoria Alcaraz (Teatro Colón), Georg Vierthaler (Stiftung Oper Berlin) and Alex Beard (Royal Opera House Covent Garden), members Rory Jeffes (Opera Australia), Umberto Fanni (Royal Opera House Muscat) and Ignacio García-Belenguer Laita (Teatro Real). The Beijing People’s Art Theatre also took part in the conference. The BPAT was scheduled to give a guest performance at the YDT in May this year which was postponed due to the pandemic. The YDT gave a guest performance at this theatre in 2015 with a production of The Imaginary Invalid and our participation at the same festival was confirmed for the following year.

Many important and large-scale events and programmes were postponed due to the pandemic which became one of the greatest challenges. The presentations given included the importance of the assessment of current situation of institutions on the market, transparent communication with the founders, financiers, audiences, associates…and involving key management people in resolving current problems.

During the period of time when the doors of a vast number of cultural institutions around the world were closed and silence reigned through their halls, corridors and theatres, many decided to turn to online communication with their members, associates and audiences. The majority agree that this only way of communication had become a great support, either through streaming footage from their archives or through creating brand new material. The conference also touched upon future modes of online streaming and its side-by-side existence with live performances before a theatre audience while observing social distancing, but also once the theatres are back to working to full capacity. An increase was noted in the number of followers on all platforms and social networks as well as the fact that these were mainly younger people. In addition, some of the speakers mentioned an increasing number of donors. Commercial institutions registered a growing number of donors who supported them by purchasing season tickets. The institutions funded from state budgets streamed their performances mainly for the benefit of local communities but audiences from around the world were also able to enjoy them.

While the institutions are cautiously beginning to open their doors, they are fully aware of the necessity to observe protective measures which, in nearly all the countries, include temperature measurement, wearing face masks, social distancing… The confidence of the audiences as well as the performers in the implementation of these measures was also discussed but also the need for everyone involved to feel safe during the time they spend in cultural institutions. The general conclusion was that no institution wished to be responsible for a new wave of the pandemic.

At the very end of the conference, the President of the National Centre for the Performing Arts Wang Ning said that this was a historical meeting and that all the items on the agenda had been discussed and that the next step would involve a creation of multilateral exchange between the members and institutions with the help of the newly appointed Council.

To view video conferences (in Chinese) please click HERE