VILNIUS - Although Lithuania has an excellent tradition of contemporary theater and has staged an abundance of highly acclaimed productions in recent years, theater-lovers have been longing for a new international theater festival ever since LIFE, the last major theater festival, did the very opposite of its name, and died.
But now a new international theater festival has arisen in its place called Sirens, and will have the first of what will hopefully be many annual outings in Vilnius on Sept. 24- Oct. 3.
The goal of Sirens is to provide a platform for the distinct theater of central and eastern European directors.
The post-Soviet region has shaped a whole generation of highly talented theater directors over the past 15 years whose work, although radically different in many ways, is nevertheless bound by a certain shared esthetic sensibility.
When the Russian theater group Teatre.doc placed a DJ and a few posters of their sponsors on the stage for their play "Oxygen," most people at the Torun Festival were not expecting much from the Russian troupe. But they were severely mistaken. That same night "Oxygen" was awarded the festival's Grand Prix award.
The story of "Oxygen" involves everything from the Bible, skyscrapers being attacked by terrorists, anti-Americanism, drugs, sex and consciousness. Even if you watched "Oxygen" on a bad quality videotape, it would still exert its powerful effect on you.
Many in the theater shy away from using children, for rather obvious reasons, but the Belgium theater company Victoria took up the challenge.
"uBUNG" was highly praised at home in Belgium and its 11-year-old actors visited 25 countries in just one year. "uBUNG" is not about childhood in any romantic sense of the word but reveals more about the adult world, with its endless lying and pretence. The children's astonishingly credible performances only makes it all the more heart-rending to witness what bitter prospects await them.
The Latvian production "Long Life" is a story about elderly people in less-developed countries.
"International economic organizations have noticed that poor countries have to sacrifice their elderly people and spend the money on any other investment rather than pensions. Society has isolated them and made them part of an anthropological experiment, which reminds one of a reality show. Our play provides a unique opportunity to see this zoo," said the play's director Alvis Hermanis.
Young actors studied the body language and behavior of the elderly and tried to imitate it on stage. The actors' deliberately exaggerated motions only make the play seem all the more grotesque. "Long Life" received generous praise while touring in Germany and Italy.
"Cleansed" is Sarah Kane's most frequently performed play. It's the story of a young woman called Grace who suffers terribly when her brother dies. In an attempt to reincarnate him, she decides to undergo a sex change.
The Polish director's Krzysztof Warlikowski's interpretation of "Cleansed" caused some seriously stormy debate in Poland and won the award for best foreign play at the Avignon Theater Festival.
Sirens will also be staging 10 of the most interesting Lithuanian productions in recent years.
Renowned Lithuanian director Oskaras Korsunovas is one of those behind the new Sirens festival and you can experience his extraordinary talent for yourself by seeing his two most recent pieces, Marius von Mayenburg's "Cold Child" and William Shakespeare's slightly renamed "The Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet."
Many of the plays will have English translations but check www.sirenos.lt for more information.
Sep. 24- Oct. 3
Tickets: 15 (4 euros) 's 90 litas