Read This Year's World Theatre Day Message: 'Art Is Peace' | Playbill

Related Articles
International News Read This Year's World Theatre Day Message: 'Art Is Peace'

Norwegian playwright Jon Fosse provides the keynote for this year's international celebration.

Jon Fosse Markus Wissmann

Today, March 27, is World Theatre Day. Initiated by International Theatre Institute ITI, headquartered in Paris, France, World Theatre Day has been celebrated since 1962. It was created for the International arts community not only to celebrate the art form of theatre, but also to call the attention of governments to the cultural and economic value theatre holds. 

Each year, a World Theatre Day message is presented at the World Theatre Day celebration event, this year held in Langfang, China. This year's author of the message is Norwegian playwright and 2023 Nobel Prize in Literature recipient Jon Fosse. Read his World Theatre Day Message below.

Art Is Peace
by Jon Fosse, translated by Damion Searls

Every person is unique and yet also like every other person. Our visible, external appearance is different from everyone else’s, of course, that is all well and good, but there is also something inside each and every one of us which belongs to that person alone—which is that person alone. We might call this their spirit, or their soul. Or else we can decide not to label it at all in words, just leave it alone.

But while we are all unlike one another, we’re alike too. People from every part of the world are fundamentally similar, no matter what language we speak, what skin color we have, what hair color we have.

This may be something of a paradox: that we are completely alike and utterly dissimilar at the same time. Maybe a person is intrinsically paradoxical, in our bridging of body and soul—we encompass both the most earthbound, tangible existence and something that transcends these material, earthbound limits.

Art, good art, manages in its wonderful way to combine the utterly unique with the universal. It lets us understand what is different—what is foreign, you might say—as being universal. By doing so, art breaks through the boundaries between languages, geographical regions, countries. It brings together not just everyone’s individual qualities but also, in another sense, the individual characteristics of every group of people, for example of every nation.

Art does this not by levelling differences and making everything the same, but, on the contrary, by showing us what is different from us, what is alien or foreign. All good art contains precisely that: something alien, something we cannot completely understand and yet at the same time do understand, in a way. It contains a mystery, so to speak. Something that fascinates us and thus pushes us beyond our limits and in so doing creates the transcendence that all art must both contain in itself and lead us to.

I know of no better way to bring opposites together. This is the exact reverse approach from that of the violent conflicts we see all too often in the world, which indulge the destructive temptation to annihilate anything foreign, anything unique and different, often by using the most inhuman inventions technology has put at our disposal. There is terrorism in the world. There is war. For people have an animalistic side, too, driven by the instinct to experience the other, the foreign, as a threat to one’s own existence rather than as a fascinating mystery.

This is how uniqueness—the differences we all can see—disappear, leaving behind a collective sameness where anything different is a threat that needs to be eradicated. What is seen from without as a difference, for example in religion or political ideology, becomes something that needs to be defeated and destroyed.

War is the battle against what lies deep inside all of us: something unique. And it is also a battle against art, against what lies deep inside all art.

I have been speaking here about art in general, not about theater or playwriting in particular, but that is because, as I’ve said, all good art, deep down, revolves around the same thing: taking the utterly unique, the utterly specific, and making it universal. Uniting the particular with the universal by means of expressing it artistically: not eliminating its specificity but emphasizing this specificity, letting what is foreign and unfamiliar shine clearly through.

War and art are opposites, just as war and peace are opposites—it’s as simple as that. Art is peace.


Today’s Most Popular News:

Blocking belongs
on the stage,
not on websites.

Our website is made possible by
displaying online advertisements to our visitors.

Please consider supporting us by
whitelisting with your ad blocker.
Thank you!