"After, tomorrow", the digital "artistic revolution" of the Théâtre du Châtelet

Ruth Mackenzie, the artistic director of the Théâtre du Châtelet and its first digital festival "Après, demain". © Siegfried Forster / RFI

Text by: Siegfried Forster Follow

For artistic director Ruth Mackenzie, the first digital festival of the Théâtre du Châtelet, in Paris, carries the hope of an artistic revolution like the Ballets Russes in the past. From July 2 to 12, "Après, demain" will present 40 creations and a hundred shows by 150 artists, including Christian Boltanski, Rokia Traoré, Peter Sellars or Room With A View, for free.


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RFI: We know the 3rd digital scene of the Paris Opera. What is the Théâtre du Châtelet's project to take up the digital challenge and the coronavirus crisis?

Ruth Mackenzie : We started with the artists. Its very important. At the beginning, we simply said to the artists: here is a carte blanche, we have to do something with and for citizens. It was for confined artists, for the most part. Now, for the second stage, the artists are on the street, in the studios, in the parks, everywhere, with the public. We are starting to really create innovative things, new forms, forms that invite audiences to participate, to become artists themselves. After, tomorrow is the digital season for 2020/21. There, I say something that may not be humble: perhaps there will be artists who invent things with audiences that are in the history of Châtelet like the Ballets Russes [ created by Serge Diaghilev at the Théâtre du Châtelet in 1909, editor's note ]. It is another artistic revolution engaged with an audience. What do you think ? 

In this digital festival, what can we discover as a new artistic form? 

Christian Boltanski proposed a creation for all those who dream of singing on stage. Thanks to the digital miracle, everyone can do it. Everyone can sing on the stage of Châtelet. We are going to create a new Do it work , a performance by Christian Boltanski and you ... This is a new form. But also the Park performance  of choreographer Eric Minh Cuong Castaing. He is currently working in the studio with robots, dancers and young audiences. We are trying to find something that shares the mystery of the body, of thought, of life. Between robots and humans. It's really a project for After, tomorrow .

Today, our world is experiencing a double break, a health and ecological break. In your opinion, in the artistic world, what is changing in the creative process today for tomorrow?

We had, for example, a conversation with the choreographer Jérôme Bel. He started doing his job without traveling, without flying. So he already knows how to do it. For several years already, for example with Shanghai, he has been doing his rehearsals on the Zoom application. We in cultural institutions must find innovative and new ways. But, in fact, we are following artists and innovators who have already understood that to save the world, we should change lives.

The Théâtre du Châtelet, in Paris, is launching its first digital festival on Thursday, July 2, After tomorrow. © Siegfried Forster / RFI

In its programming, will the Châtelet take into account ecological factors?

We always have. For example, we did two activist weekends here at the theater with the ecological movement Extinction Rebellion. And before confinement, Room With A View gave, with Rone and La Horde, a show inspired by the challenges of climate change. For us, this is an extremely important axis for today and for the future.

There are also other very heavy trends such as the “ Black Lives Matter  ” movement  or the case around the translation of the book and the release of the film Gone with the Wind . How will the Théâtre du Châtelet react to this questioning of a certain heritage and cultural repertoire of the West?

We started our first season 2019/20 with a creation by Abd Al Malik, Les Justes , a musical tragedy, inspired by Albert Camus. We made an order to Rokia Traoré, Once upon a time, a pink iron ... . And also to Jeff Mills, Mind Power Mind Control . Flexn will do a work in progress , with Jeff Mills. The latter works a lot on the issues of state power or how each citizen can take power. So, I'm delighted to have the chance to start this line with Jeff Mills. But, first, we need to find the most incredible artists in the world. We have to be open. We have to think about questions like: is there institutional racism? Should we change? [Some think:] The scenes are for them; the room is for them; and for us? With Les Justes , we had 84% of spectators who came for the first time to the Théâtre du Châtelet. This is a good sign for the future.

RFI: Why did you program the Malian artist Rokia Traoré, despite the fact that she is currently under a European arrest warrant?

We commissioned Rokia Traore to create a show, with the Holland Festival in Amsterdam, over a year ago. She has already worked at the Holland Festival and with me at the Wiener Festwochen in Vienna and the London 2012 Festival.

RFI: Beyond supporting his art, does the Châtelet management also support Rokia Traoré in his fight for justice ?

We invited her and offered her to speak [by videoconference] for the launch of our festival, because we are proud to work with her on the subject of her creation, inspired by Miriam Makebà. This work, plural, multidimensional and embodied, is a major artistic work that we are happy to welcome.

Rokia Traoré during her intervention by videoconference on the occasion of the presentation of the first digital festival of the Théâtre du Châtelet. © Siegfried Forster / RFI

After, tomorrow , the first digital festival of Châtelet, will it change the relationship with the public?

I think that for the public, we first follow the artists, the partners, but we are also looking for activities that the spectators can do themselves. Above all, it's free, and it's extremely important, because [the entry price] is a barrier. But we should always think: the doors, for whom are they always closed? There are people who do not have access to the Internet. So, we must work with partners, we must do workshops with young people, not only online, to reach an audience, not only in the Paris region, but everywhere in the world. It is a huge opportunity for us. 

►  After tomorrow , the first digital festival of the Théâtre du Châtelet, in Paris, from July 2 to 12.

►  From July 3, in collaboration with the General Stores, based in Pantin (Seine-Saint-Denis), the Théâtre du Châtelet also starts TchatActivisme , a series of transversal conversations filmed on the transformations and the future of creation.

Hear the explanations of Eugénie Lefebvre, director of General Stores, based in Pantin (Seine-Saint-Denis).

RFI · “TchatActivisme” - explanations from Eugénie Lefebvre, director of General Stores, based in Pantin

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