Reading about theatre directors Peter Brook, Ariane Mnouchkine and Robert Lepage it is easy to find a few aspects in common: They all work with international crews, they all tour the world, they all search for inspiration outside their home countries and they also base their work in improvisation and mostly devised work. But if I take three of the four aspects, one idea will reign: Interculturalism.
I could think that their decision to go worldwide would be based only on their personal taste and curiosity, but there is also at least two other elements that make their approaches pretty obvious. One, all three have been personally exposed to multicultural environment. Brook, although English, found a theatre home in Paris, where he would base (or at least start from) all of his future artistic endeavours. Mnouchkine is French, but from a Russian father and she has studied in England as well as in French. Lepage is Canadian, but Canada itself is a melting pot of cultures. And two, in any large city in the world today there will be a “great diversity of religions, languages, ethnicities and countries of origin”, like Maria Delgado explains in the book Contemporary European Theatre Directors. So, avoiding and ignoring the work in a sort of international collaboration, what foster a cultural exchange, is simply to be blind and at some extent even racist.
Obviously when one talks about merging cultures, or about fusing cultural elements, there is always the secret or not so secret thought of an eventual cultural domination upon the other, but regardless of the outcome of such cultural encounters, if one loses and the other wins, there is still an intercultural approach that nobody can escape from. The world today, including the theatre world, can not afford ignoring the reality that internationalism has come to stay and that either we learn the proper way to deal with so many colours going on, or we are doomed to fail and be forgotten and also be stamped as racist. In fact, I do not believe that I am even talking about it, so natural is the situation – putting Kabuki and Beijing Opera aside, some of the traditional theatre forms that still have their problems mixing nationalities on the stage.
So, although I would like to see Mnouchkine, Brook and Lepage as heroes for being so open to the big, wide world, well, they did and still do nothing more than what they were meant to do, supposed to do.
Luciana B. Veit