Prizes – why not?

Głos w dyskusji podczas kolokwium AICT w Salonikach w trakcie spotkania z okazji Europejskiej Nagrody Teatralnej.
Prizes. Why not?

When I have heard for the first time about a new proposal of IACT Biannual Theatre Award I was very surprised. A new award? What for? They said there is not any international award for critics. Maybe, I thought, but on the other hand there are so many awards for the people of the theatre and media. There is inflation of prizes. In Italy, as somebody counted, they have one thousand five hundreds prizes for poets every year. It's almost impossible, if one is not given any prize in a similar situation. Incredible. It isn't only Italian speciality. In Poland too. One of the most famous Polish actors who played a popular folk hero Yanosik in a very well known TV-series has been very proud because he never get any award. If I have told about Polish theatre life, it was a very real achievement. In the country of seventy international and local festivals, in the country, where in all regions, all cities special theatre awards are given away every year, where many newspapers, organisations, associations and other cultural or even non-cultural institutions have awarded their prizes too, everyone has to get  a lot of prizes. Even the Polish section of IACT has participated in this practice – we award three prizes every year; first, a prize for the best theatrical book, second, for  the artistic achievement, third, for the best spectacle in TV. Yes, who is not guilty, let throw stone. The incessant competition is a form of religion in our times. To be honest, the competition is the institution of European culture. We must remember that especially in Greece, the mother country of theatrical competition during Dionisias and other holidays. Ancient Greeks well knew that competition is a good way to the success.
Coming back to the subject – one of our Polish section traditional awards – called Boy Award (Boy – was a pseudonym of one of the most famous Polish translators and critics before the second world war, Tadeusz Żeleński), the award, which was founded 50 years ago, provides, in my opinion, evidence why prizes are necessary. When we read the list of the our laureates since 1956, we can see not only history of the Polish theatre. It is non-official version of history, more or less the history of the Polish taste in prior five decades. By the way –  in Polish section we prepare the book about Polish theatre after 1956, the history “symbolic written” by our Boy Awards – it should be, I'm sure – very interesting point of view on the Polish theatrical experience. When I have thought about it, I understood that new international award for theatre critics is very needed – maybe in future the list of the winners of this award will be our testimony for new generation. I voted on ExCom for this award, but not only this reason was the most important.
The awards are important, first of all, for the present day. They show what is valuable, interesting, impressive, extraordinary, incredible and unique. Certainly it is an idealization, but in practice they are more or less significant as a sign of our times. I believe that is a true, because the theatre was, is and will be specific art, the art for the elite. It is a reason why the danger of commercialization and the promotion, doesn't concern these prizes. But awards are the important signal for  the audience. When the Boy Award was awarded to a well known Polish film director, Kazimierz Kutz, a journalist reported about this honorary award with a special comment: "He was known as a film director, now he is an important theatrical director too". It is a real proof that our awards influenced the public opinion. For this reason, we must remember, why and who is awarded. The rest belongs to the history.

Tomasz Miłkowski

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