Photo credit: La Strada

La Strada has celebrated its 20th anniversary and looks back on an eventful history. Since it was founded, the festival has set itself clear objectives. Many steps have been taken since and, looking to the future, it is important to collaborate both continuously and passionately with artists, partners and the public on further development.

When the festival began in 1998, it was all about bringing professional street performance and puppet theatre closer to the public. Art forms that had been largely unfamiliar in Austria till then. At the same time, modern street theatre has experienced a real boom since the 1980s and has today become an intrinsic part of contemporary theatre, characterised by the joy of experimentation and a never-ending desire and curiosity for innovative and unconventional performances.
Contemporary street performance has thus re-established itself over the past decades, spanning a context that is both aesthetic and reflective. Artists address pressing contemporary issues on topics such as migration and globalisation, consumption, energy and transport, taking into account their impact on people’s lives and living together. They talk about urban change, about fluid systems of relationships, about transgressing and dissolving borders, and they search for modern forms of expression – often in direct cooperation and exchange with the population. Questions of coexistence and cooperation, migration and integration are dealt with at a performative level with high intensity and intellectual consistency. It is not about clear artistic statements, but rather about the depiction of the penetration and interweaving of cultures and cultural expressions that has long since happened in Europe.
Photo credit: La Strada
La Strada investigates these artistic manifestations in public space, which change perceptions and perspectives and react to metamorphoses, using the city as a cultural space, directly and barrier-free. From the start, a dialogue of ideas in the public space and those that are found in “closed cultural spaces” represented a core element for La Strada’s focus and philosophy. The goal was and is to bring new audiences to theatres and vice versa, to reconquer the “city’s cultural space”, together with the artists and population, in order to instigate a metamorphosis of public space.
Together with artists, audience and cooperation partners, the La Strada Festival was able to evolve over a period of two decades. The generation of children who witnessed La Strada at its birth have now grown up and for them theatre in the streets and on the squares of their city has become part of the city’s identity; on fertile soil, forever conquering new terrain and continuing the interplay between city, artists and audience.
The production role of La Strada, as an indispensable part of a lively cultural festival, has developed gradually in recent years, and the proportion of co-productions with international and domestic artists now accounts for one third of the overall programme. La Strada not only fosters the development of productions, it also supports local artists in their involvement in festival events across Europe.
Photo credit: Benny de Grove
Photo credit: Benoit Lamay
In professional circles, Graz is already perceived as one of the most important European creation centres for street performance and contemporary circus. One of the main objectives of the festival is further to develop, network and locate this international “Creation Center” where urban development needs can be explored.
Another major focus is the internationalisation of the festival and the expansion and maintenance of supra-regional contacts and networks. La Strada is an initiator and co-organiser of the European network IN SITU, founded in 2003, which to date has supported and supports more than 200 artists in the development of innovative projects in public space. IN SITU has been continuously subsidised by the European Commission since 2003. The current ACT programme extends to the year 2020.
Supported by positive developments and successes of past festival years, and accompanied by great popularity with the audience, La Strada is today, in a sense, at a point of transition, a moment in which it is necessary to steer with great power and energy toward the future and to hone above mentioned priorities.
Photo credit:
Photo credit: Adrian Svchvarzstein

To see this year’s full programme, click on this link. 

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