Playwrights from Other Countries Inspired by Vilnius and the Artworks They Saw There

International Playwrights' Residency in Vilnius. Photo by LNDT.


Last week the participants of the International Playwrights' Residency were staying in Vilnius for the whole week. This residency was implemented by the Royal Belgian Theatre in Brussels, the Spanish National Theatre in Madrid, the Gorki Theatre in Berlin, and the Lithuanian National Drama Theatre (LNDT). This year's Versmė Festival will feature plays by LNDT representatives and a final meeting of all participants will take place in Madrid in November.

Three of the four project partners have invited two playwrights to take part in the project: one local playwright from the country and one newcomer to that country facing migration and integration problems – or, in the case of Lithuania, a playwright from Ukraine, who has been going through a different kind of instability and migration caused by the war. The Spanish National Theatre was represented by Nicolás Lange from Chile and Eva Mir from Spain, the Royal Belgian Theatre by Belgian Rachida Lamrabet and Carolina Bianchi from Brazil, and the Lithuanian National Drama Theatre by Žygimantas Kudirka and the Ukrainian writer Natalia Vorozhbit.

The playwrights have already worked in Madrid, Berlin, and Brussels, and this time it was the responsibility of the Lithuanian representatives to host the writers.

"It was an unexpectedly striking image – the faces of the residents that I had seen in still a different European capital over the year, this time materialized against a background that I knew well. There was also the nice effect of seeing your city in a new light as you show visitors around. Every day we went to see a performance, every day we had dinner, and we wagged our tongues non-stop. Actually, the residents were close to throwing their passports into the Vilnelė river and becoming permanent residents in Vilnius," Žygimantas Kudirka humorously says about working in Vilnius.


Inspired by Vilnius and The Performances They Have Seen


All the participants in the residence (only Carolina Bianchi was absent) were in Vilnius developing their plays, and visiting various exhibitions and performances – the international theatre festival Sirenos was taking place in the Lithuanian capital at the time, so the participants were also watching the performances. A recent performance of the Lithuanian National Drama Theatre "The Metamorphosis" made a great impression on many.

In the words of Eva Mir, Vilnius was a revelation for her, as she had never visited Lithuania before and knew nothing about its culture, people, and nature: "I was really surprised to see a city where I would be able to live. I found Vilnius to be a very modern city, as did the plays I saw, but there is something very sincere in that modernity, something that has retained its uniqueness and cultural identity. I felt the artists' desire to seek fair compromises: with historical memory, ecological transformation, with critical thinking – in other words, to seek compromises with the past, the present, and the future. I am also taking away from Vilnius one of the most powerful theatrical experiences of recent times – Oliver Frljić's play "The Metamorphosis"."

"The residence was stunning. I found Vilnius to be an electrified city, evoking emotions, melancholic, and young. I finished the first draft of my play here and I am immensely grateful for the energy I have gained here. The showcase of Lithuanian theatre during the Sirenos festival left a very good impression. It is a bold theatre, looking for its own language, which is not boring. I was completely enchanted by Oliver Frljić's "The Metamorphosis," the Chilean Nicolás Lange has a similar response.

Rachida Lamrabet, representing the Royal Belgian Theatre, says she had a wonderful time in Vilnius because she had the time and space to write: "It's just a privilege. In Vilnius, I made important progress on my text because I have other commitments at home that make it very difficult to concentrate on writing. It was very inspiring to be in the company of other writers as well.  I also liked the fact that we could go to theatre performances, and it felt good to go out in the evening after a day of solitary writing and be inspired by the work and stories of other writers and performers. All in all, it was a wonderful experience. So, thank you very much for this opportunity."

"Vilnius hosted the inspiring Sirenos festival, which was a great place to see good performances.  I was impressed by the depth and seriousness of the artistic explorations and questions. Vilnius is interesting to me as part of the former Soviet Union, we share a common history, so it is fascinating to see how Lithuanians are rethinking their past and what kind of future they are creating," said Natalia Vorozhbit, a writer from Ukraine.


"Futures That Will Never Happen"


In this program, six playwrights have been creating dramatic works on the theme "Futures That Will Never Happen".

Spanish playwright Eva Mir writes "Un cuerpo se desplaza" (The Migratory Body), a play that explores the theme of nomadism and the notion of "home" in the contemporary world. Mir's play is a journey through the places where she has lived (Avignon, Valencia, Madrid) and the events connected with them.

Žygimantas Kudirka has been writing a work entitled "The Last Last Last Supper", which deals with the indifference of people in the face of the apocalypse. The play will be constructed from several suppers in different places at different times.

Ukrainian Natalia Vorozhbit has written about the author's search for themes, which is complicated by the fact that life insistently dictates one theme: war, about which the author can no longer write.  The main characters are the TV show presenter and the guest author, who is interviewed live on air, and they occasionally switch places.

Nicolás Lange from Chile is writing a play about LGBTIQ+ people who have been victims of torture, mass murder, and elimination by their own countries. "I see the survival and resistance of the queer community as a creative act. Drawing on different historical events and the recent wave of hatred against the queer community, I keep coming back to the question of whether it is possible to describe violence at all and whether it is possible to find the right language to do so," says Nicolás Lange.        

Rachida Lamrabet, representing the Royal Belgian Theatre, has been writing a play called "The Dolphin and the Bird", which raises the question of whether freedom is possible when you are surrounded by people full of expectations in a complex and polarized world.

"After a dramatic event, a woman takes the radical decision to withdraw from the rat race and a life conditioned by the expectations of others, the distribution of roles, and the burdens and responsibilities imposed on herself.  But is this possible? In this monologue, a woman explores what freedom means to her and what life without others looks like. She is joined by an unexpected guest in the place where she has retreated to," says the author.

The final meeting, which will present the playwrights' works, will take place in Madrid in November this year. The plays by the Lithuanian playwrights (Žygimantas Kudirka and Natalia Vorozhbit) will also be read at the Versmės Festival in Vilnius in November. It is possible that in the future all or at least some of the partners will collaborate to produce plays based on the selected work(s).


Moments from the residency in Vilnius (Photo by LNDT)