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By Olga Zaets, Rostov-on-Don

Due to the spread of coronavirus infection, many international theater festivals were canceled. Olga Zaets, artistic director of new online festival “Better than us” would like to give young people who love and miss theater an opportunity to participate in an international online event, watch theater performances from other countries, think, discuss, hear the voices of peers from different parts of the world and theater professionals involved in the creation of performances, and feel that the world is still there. 

The festival will be held from May 1 to May 5, 2020 and introduce the performances from China, Germany, Romania, Italy and Russia. 

The festival audience will consist of an active and a passive group. The active group is 15 young people from different countries, aged 17-25, who will watch performances online and then discuss them with a moderator from the particular theatre in the format of a video conference. 

The passive group – theater professionals, teachers and all interested audience invited by participating theaters. The participants of the passive group will also be able to connect to the video conference, ask questions or leave comments in writing. Invitations to participate in the passive group, links for viewing the performances and IDs for connecting to the conferences will be posted on and on the websites of the theaters that participate in or invited to join the project.

Schedule of the International online festival “Better than us»: 

1.05.2020 “King of Basements”, Children’s and Youth Theater of Dortmund, Germany 
2.05.2020 “24 Grandmothers” XI’an Children’s Art Theater, China 
3.05.2020 “Golden Dragon”, Andrey Muresau Theater, Romania 
4.05.2020 “The Diary of the Ugly duckling”, Theater “Company Factory”, Italy 
5.05.2020 “I am Basho”, “Upsala Circus”, Russia

Comments from participants of the festival:

Artistic Director of the Children and Youth Theatre of Dortmund, Andreas Gruhn: “The KJT Dortmund is pleased to be part of this online festival. We work in several national and international networks and are always interested in making new contacts. It is an important part of our artistic development to get to know other forms of theatre and visual languages. Every encounter is an enrichment. The world as we know it will be completely changed in a few years. We must now look for new ways of exchange and communication. BETTER THAN US is a step in this direction. We hope to get to know new interesting partners and experience a new way of exchanging. And last but not least we want to have some fun in this time of fear and isolation”.

Xi’an Children’s Art Theatre, China: “Thank you a lot for organizing this project. I work at Xi’an Children’s Art Theatre in Shaanxi Province. There are few people heared of Shaanxi Province, but most of the people have heared of the Terracotta Army which is in Shaanxi Province.  The 24 Grandmothers represents the local culture of the Shaanxi culture. Thanks for the International Online Theatre Festival for Young People “Better than us” that gives the chance to show our local culture to the audience all over the world at this special time. In the important period of anti-COVID-19, pure human sensation can help and support each other! The 24 grandmothers is informed with sincerity. I really hope it can put out good energy and knits people close together!”

Jeremy Turner, artistic director of Cwmni Theatr Arad Goch helped to find young audience for future discussion of shows: “Cwmni Theatr Arad Goch works in the far west of Europe and in a minority languages, Welsh. However, we believe that our work and culture should be part of a wider scene and so, for twenty-five years, we’ve undertaken many international tours  and co-productions and have invited over 70 productions from other countries to perform at our festival . We are supporting this festival because it’s unique, exciting – and important!”

Diana Krzanic-Tepava, ASSITEJ Serbia, also helped to organize audience for the festival:

“I am very much looking forward to starting a different take on this virtual theatrical world, which is the only possible place for us to meet and act. From the outset of this pandemic, theaters around the world generously offer audiences viewing footage of their performances mostly  from their repertoire or archives, or  otherwise playing in front of empty theaters and streaming productions, and that is approving how strong and important  culture is for humanity, But I expect from the artists and cultural creators, especially in theater, to begin exploring as well this virtual space and discovering the thousands of creative opportunities that new technologies offer as a positive stimulus for new generations of theater and artists and viewers alike. I am personally very optimistic about this and cannot wait to see the first steps in that direction and the results… In that sense “Better Than Us ” is a good shift as giving the voice to young people”.