Riga – the temporary home of theatrical experimenting

  • 2010-08-25
  • By Lelde Benke

RIGA - August 26 - 28 sees Riga fill up with theater aficionados. The experimental Homo Alibi theater festival attracts the young and old with its enticing program of performances and participatory workshops in Latvian, English and Russian.
The sixth of its kind since 2000, Homo Alibi is now a somewhat staple event of the Latvian theater calendar. It takes place appropriately around the time most Latvian theaters are kicking off their new seasons.

Each edition of the festival is dedicated to a new theme. In 2010, the lecture-performance genre, whereas last time, in 2008, the performances were dedicated to the concept of an object and puppet theater. The common principle is to introduce a topical issue of some kind through diverse performing arts and media.

This year’s program features shows and workshops staged by Latvian and international directors. Events are scheduled to take place both during the day and in the evenings at a selection of Riga’s trendy arts venues.
“An Anthology of Optimism,” which will be held on Aug. 26 at the New Riga Theater, is Canadian Jacob Wren & Belgian Pieter De Buysser’s co-production. The play is a dialogue between the two who take viewers on a hunt for a common definition of optimism for the 21st century.

The Marathon of Thinking on the Floating Workshop in Andrejsala on Aug. 28 is produced by the New Theater Institute of Latvia and will gather local, British, Estonian and Russian talent for a series of participatory lectures and discussions to foster critical thinking and intellectual debate. The concept of the day-long marathon was inspired by the Woodstock of Political Thinking event at Homo Alibi partner festival SPIELART’s 2009 edition in Munich.

Those leading the activities in Riga this year were asked to prepare an unconventional hour-long module focusing on the modern relations of art, society and politics. Some of the themes presented will be Retro Disco - A Phenomenon of Soviet discotheque as a medium for transferring knowledge, Tippingpoint – creative response to the challenges of climate change, and Sit and Watch – metamorphoses of performing arts in the context of architecture of public space. The presenters and performers are encouraged to avoid traditional lecture formats.

The 2010 festival edition’s informal party venue is Andrejsala’s Floating Workshop. With DJs set to play every evening, the crowds are sure to remain entertained until the early morning. Saturday night’s festival closing event features a concert by post-avantgarde band Krupja Klade.

Tickets for festival performances are available at Bilesu Serviss sales points and online, as well as at the box offices of the host venues. Festival passes can be bought at the New Theater Institute for the very reasonable price of 25 lats (35.30 euros) or 15 lats for students and pensioners.
Homo Alibi festival has its own newsletter available online at www.theatre.lv and in print at participating venues and throughout the city.

Theater plays an intrinsic part in Latvian culture. Even in the current economic climate it is not unusual to see plays sold out months in advance. Most theaters give discounts to pensioners and students to encourage attendance.
The arguably most well-known Latvian director on the international stage is Alvis Hermanis of the New Riga Theater, who woos his spectators with modern, often sarcastic comedies with tragic elements.