Žygimantas Kudirka and Natalija Vorozhbit from Ukraine Will Represent Lithuania at the International Playwrights' Residencies

The Lithuanian National Drama Theatre, together with three other European theatres –  the Royal Belgian Theatre (KVS – Koninklijke Vlaamse Schouwburg), the Spanish National Theatre (Centro Dramatico Nacional) in Madrid, and the Gorki Theatre in Berlin – is launching a year-long program of playwrights' residencies in four cities including Vilnius.

The program consists of a one-week stay in each of these theatres, during which activities will be developed by playwrights selected by the host country. The first meeting will take place in Madrid from 27 February to 5 March. In this program, six playwrights proposed by the three organizing institutions from Brussels, Madrid, and Vilnius will create plays on the theme of "Futures That Will Never Happen".

"What is the future of Europe? What unites us? Can we say that there is a moral foundation on which the Western world stands? Yes, there is war now, but it is temporary. With ethical dilemmas resolved, human rights violations resolved, with a quality of life that has never existed before, are we only concerned with the improvement of material prosperity?"

These and similar reflections have contributed to an attempt to organize a Madrid-Brussels-Berlin-Vilnius "bridge" with one of the main theatres in Spain, Belgium, and Germany, to share experiences and get to know and understand. "After all, art often raises questions that the majority of society only senses," says Vidas Bizunevičius, one of the project coordinators and manager of the Lithuanian National Drama Theatre.

Three of the four institutional partners of the project have invited two playwrights to take part in the project: one local playwright from the country and one newcomer facing migration and integration problems – or, in the case of Lithuania, a playwright from Ukraine, currently experiencing the instability and migration of a war-torn place of residence in a new way. They will take part in the writing process, which will last from February to November. The Spanish National Theatre will be represented by Chilean Nicolás Lange and Spanish Eva Mir, the Royal Belgian Theatre by Rachida Lamrabet and Brazilian Carolina Bianchi, and the National Drama Theatre of Lithuania by Žygimantas Kudirka and Ukrainian writer Natalija Vorozhbit.

"Indeed, the original idea was to have one playwright from each institution, but since the planning for these residencies started several years ago, and exactly one year ago, on 24 February 2022, something that happened, happened – we have changed the original idea to take into account the changed circumstances in Europe. We presented Natalia Vorozhbit's work in last year's "Versmė" national playwright competition, and we found it interesting and relevant, so we wanted to continue our collaboration with her. Moreover, it seemed important to give a creator from a war-torn country the opportunity to talk about the situation in her country not only through the text (although the theme of this year's residency is unplannedly fitting), but also through direct contact and communication with creators from other countries," says Agnė Pulokaitė, another project coordinator at Lithuanian National Drama Theatre.

In today's world of performing arts, the word dramaturgy encompasses a much wider range of activities and forms than just the play. Participants of the residency program are given freedom: they will not be required to write a traditional play – the residency is open to experimentation in finding the most appropriate forms of the text, reflecting both its theme and the contemporary situation. Audio-guide, performative poetry, and radio plays are just some of the possible forms, alongside traditional dramatic texts, that the six artists, currently based in Europe but with very different professional and personal experiences, are invited to create.

"I am not attached to one discipline and my creative projects take many different forms. So, I don't consider myself a playwright per se. However, my recent works have a dramaturgical quality: the radio play for thirty-seven voices "The Sexuality of Non-Beings", the holographic performance of lizards "Who Are You?", and the audio guides of an alternative reality, where the stage becomes the city and the listener becomes the actor.

On March 2, 2018, LNDT will present the experimental opera "Brave New Body", created together with composer Arturas Bumšteinas. So it's as if there is some kind of gravity that is slowly pulling me toward the playwright's craft.

I have noticed that the theatre is also moving towards the forms of expression that I cherish. It's becoming more and more interdisciplinary, and experimental, more and more often breaking out of the usual formats. Thus, both contemporary theatre productions are moving closer to my own practices, and my works are moving closer to what could be considered theatre," says Žygimantas Kudirka.

"Such residencies encourage and stimulate playwrights to write new texts. It is usually an experimental zone rather than a traditional theatre commission, which means a broader field of themes and creativity.

I am lazy enough to write something new. But there's an element of competition in these residencies, and it's quite quick to get from a blank page to a reading or a performance. It also broadens the geography of exposure to theatre communities and theatre culture in different countries.

In the war conditions in which Ukrainians live, it is important to be able to distance oneself from that reality. I take such opportunities to breathe. This creative laboratory is an opportunity for me to reflect on my experience through art and to share it with others," says Natalia Vorozhbit, a playwright from Ukraine.

Her play "Bad Roads" was presented six months ago at the "Versmė" competition of contemporary drama organized by LNDT.

After Madrid, the writers will travel to Brussels for a residency from 27 March to 2 April, followed by a meeting in Vilnius from 25 September to 1 October. A final meeting to share and evaluate the results of the program will take place in Madrid in autumn 2023. 

Žygimantas Kudirka is a Lithuanian writer, artist, and performer in the fields of interactive fiction, artificial languages, and avant-garde rap, who is trying to find a universal dialect that can be understood by plants, animals, babies, and future evolutionary links.

His work often takes unexpected forms: alternate reality audio guides, radio plays made for the interior of a car, media hacks, or interactive experiences.

Kudirka has published an interactive poetry book, and eight music albums, is a regular exhibitor in contemporary art exhibitions (e.g. the Baltic Triennial and the Venice Biennale), and has won numerous awards in the fields of music (e.g. Alternative Music Artist of the Year), advertising (e.g. Cannes Lions Silver), the visual arts (e.g. Music Video of the Year), and literature (e.g. Best Slam Poet in Europe).

Kudirka’s recent works include a dystopian opera, several interactive audio guides, a holographic performance/installation, and a work for three screens and three talking objects.

Natalia Vorozhbit is a Ukrainian playwright, screenwriter, film director, and curator of theatre and social projects. Since 2010 she has been working on contemporary Ukrainian dramaturgy and documentary theatre. Natalia is the author of about twenty plays, which have been produced in various countries, including the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and the Royale Court Theatre (UK), translated into various languages and published. She has written the following frequently staged works: "Granar", "Maydan Diaries", "Bad Roads", and "Sasha,  Take Out the Trash". She is also a screenwriter of feature-length and short films and has won several awards for the best scripts in her country.