ALPE ADRIA PUPPET FESTIVAL: OPENING YOUR MIND SINCE 1992.
“How did you come up with the idea of organising a cross-border figure theatre festival at a time when borders were still very present?”
“It was a desire that had already matured during the International Children’s Theatre Festival in Muggia. Here I discovered and fell in love with Figure Theatre, especially performances from eastern countries.
Hence the idea of starting with an International Figure Theatre Festival precisely in Gorizia/Nova Gorica: a city still divided by a border between two states, as an ideal venue for a cross-border festival looking towards Europe.
We started with a small programme of performances from the countries of the Alpe Adria region (Slovenia, Croatia, Austria, Germany, Hungary and Italy) together with a training masterclass for professionals, curated by some of the most important European Figure Theatre experts of the time (Zlatko Bourek, Edi Majeron and Breda Varel). This also gave rise to the first group of actors in Friuli Venezia Giulia capable of using Figure Theatre techniques.
Given the excellent response of this embryonic festival (this was 1992), we have continued to expand the programme year by year, proposing special cross-border events and thematic projects with a European dimension, to arrive today at a festival hosted in several towns: Grado, Muggia, Gorizia and Nova Gorica.”
“What was the initial response from institutions and the public?”
“On the part of the artists and the theatres, there was always a great openness as there was a desire to get to know each other and to exchange knowledge and experiences. However, we came up against the institutional and bureaucratic side: in theory everyone was very helpful, but in practice there was a lot of mistrust, little knowledge and scarce interest.
Even for the public, both Slovenian and Italian, crossing the border was not as easy and natural as it is now. But the desire to get together and get to know each other was stronger, particularly on the part of the young people who no longer bore the burden of a war and tragic events that had heavily marked the city’s destiny.
In short, it took a mixture of several ingredients to start the Alpe Adria Puppet Festival: a visionary idea, a pinch of courage and madness (which is always needed in theatre), and the desire to break preconceptions, trite mental schemes and cultural barriers.
“Why is it called Alpe Adria?”
“We wanted to emphasise the cultural, historical and geopolitical context in which the festival was born. The supranational Alpe Adria Community was created in 1978 with the aim of stimulating and supporting cultural, economic and environmental relations between regions of several neighbouring European states, which together can identify with the ideal and cultural territory of Mitteleuropa. They included: Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Veneto, Carinthia, Upper Austria, Styria, Slovenia, Croatia, Bavaria, Land Salzburg, Trentino-South Tyrol, Burgenland, Lombardy, Györ-Moson-Sopron, Vas, Somogy, Zala, Ticino, Baranya and Emilia-Romagna.
Today the Community no longer exists, having lost its original function overtaken by the changes and achievements of the European Community, but it was certainly a cultural outpost that anticipated ideas and values that have now become the heritage of the whole of Europe.”
“How does the Alpe Adria Puppet Festival fit into the important event of Nova Gorica and Gorizia as European Capital of Culture 2025?”
“In addition to being an international showcase of Figure Theatre, the Festival is also, and primarily, a permanent workshop that takes its cue and sap from the very territory in which it is hosted. A laboratory “in progress” in an area in continuous transformation that I hope can become a virtuous model of coexistence and progress for the whole of Europe.
I hope that the appointment of Gorizia/Nova Gorica as European Capital of Culture 2025 can become a historical watershed for the two cities to close the dregs of a difficult past and open up to the future. In its own small way, the Festival wants to be a protagonist of this change, increasingly becoming a “unique” and special occasion for meeting and getting to know all the artists of European Figure Theatre.”
“Can we say that the Alpe Adria Puppet Festival had and still has a goal?”
“One among all: to create an audience of citizens who feel European and, at the same time, maintain and are proud of their own history and diversity.
Questions by Sabrina Vidon.
Answers by Roberto Piaggio, artistic director Alpe Adra Puppet Festival.