How to Be Many? in 2021
how to be many in the city? in society? in a theatre?
how to be many and have an impact?
how to be many on earth — together with other species and nature?
how to be many within ourselves?
how to give voice to many — and listen to each other?
Agnes Quackels and Barbara Van Lindt came in as new artistic and general coordinators at Kaaitheater at the end of 2019. They brought a motto – or rather, a question: How to Be Many? A question that itself contains many questions. It is this question, with its many ramifications, that will guide Kaaitheater in the coming years.
Since its foundation in 1977, Kaaitheater has made a name for itself as a stage and partner for artists who create their own artistic worlds and languages. These artists often question the medium, stretch boundaries and introduce new elements. What is possible in the theatre, on a stage? With what bodies, voices, stories? With old and new technology? What can serve as a stage? Experimentation and questioning are the driving forces behind new generations of artists and that leads to rich oeuvres within the contemporary (international) performing arts. It is with pride and care that we present this broad spectrum of makers.
How to share power with many?
Today, we want to approach the reverse side of our programme with the same questioning attitude, and try out new forms of working. How to Be Many? is not only a question that resonates in society, it is also a task for us to investigate how we as an arts centre can better reflect the polyphony of the city. Within the organisation, on stage and in the audience. We do this by acting more as a facilitating platform. By giving shape to a programme not only in front of one particular audience, but also with several audiences.
We began with an invitation to dialogue to several Brussels-based organisations and individuals working on community building, social justice and/or artistic practices who had not yet found their way to the larger venues in the city. We started each conversation by asking: What are we missing in our theatres today? What themes do you want to include in the theatre? Can we invite you to host in our theatre, so you can invite other people yourself? If Kaaitheater were a toolbox, how would you like to use it?
We have the great privilege of being able to form new partnerships with many people and organisations. They help us learn how to share space, time and budget with others. Because without co-authorship, there is no co-ownership.
Citylab, Mophradat, For All Queens!, Wipcoop and Mothers&Daughters join the existing partnerships with Moussem, Globe Aroma and workspacebrussels. They ensure that the Kaai programme is filled with more perspectives and experiences. In this way, we broaden the spectrum of narratives and artistic practices together.
How to give voice to many — and listen to each other?
Within it, new thematic lines are emerging, such as We Hear You(th). These projects amplify the voices of children and young people giving us their view of the world and its rules, the clashes with imposed expectations, their precise and wild fantasies about living together in the future. Several creators listened to their experience within families and schools, their dreams and fears. They worked with children and young people themselves, each creating a different artistic encounter that is often confrontational, visionary and funny. From intimate one-on-one projects to performances in the main auditorium. Intended for adults, as an interchange across generations, mediated by idiosyncratic and finely honed artistic forms.
How to be many in the city?
Beneath the paving stones and the grey concrete, we look for the superdiverse life, in the form of (metaphorical) beaches, the swamp, mycelial networks, or the forest. We do this in bundled programmes over several days, each with a different focus. We have named this programme line Sous les pavés, het strand | Onder de stenen, la plage. A tribute to the Situationists who in '68 dared to dream of alternatives beyond the existing systems that tell us there is no alternative. The means: performance, poetry, protest, literature, discourse, meetings... The aim: a just city 'for the many' which creates the right conditions for a thriving urban life. A city that also consciously makes room for forms of life that are not infrequently trampled on in large-scale processes of urban development, the socio-economically lower classes, women, people from culturally diverse backgrounds, the LGBTQ+ community, children, people with disabilities and certainly nature.
Kaaitheater offers an open stage to makers and thinkers who are experimenting with different ways of living, working and learning. These are critical voices that question the foundations on which classic top-down urban planning rests. They research sustainable strategies that put people and nature first. To build alternative systems for another possible Brussels from the ground up.
Who is part of the many?
In line with the motto How to Be Many?, we try to make tickets as accessible as possible to the widest possible range of people.
In the autumn of 2020, we exceptionally used a unit price of €10, and a fifth of our audience reported buying a ticket for the first time. We took the opportunity of the summer programme 2021 to think further on this with a pay what you can experiment. Each performance is accompanied by a suggestion price, the price that used to be the standard rate. It is then up to the visitor to decide if that ticket price fits within their current financial situation.... or perhaps not. If a lower rate would make it easier to come to the theatre, you can make that choice. Can you afford a higher ticket price? That way, you make it possible for others to pay less.
By starting from the financial capacity of visitors, instead of discount categories that can be arbitrary, this solidarity-based system can make it possible for more people to visit the theatre.
Before the start of ticket sales in autumn 2021, we will evaluate whether and how to continue this pricing policy. Thank you for participating in this experiment!
‘How to Be Many?’ is all about voices, stories and bodies. Many voices, many stories, many bodies. In one society. In one city. In one theatre. A theatre by and for many.