WITNESS FOR PEACE

The idea for this Conference was born in the snowy Iowa City where the last RAT Conference was held under the name THEATRE AND WAR in February this year. Numerous theatre practitioners from all over the USA gathered to hear the presentations of theatre makers who had lived and worked (some who are still living and working) in the the face of dictatorships, wars and repression in Argentina, Ireland and Yugoslavia. American colleagues also talked about forms of wars waged on different levels in their own country racism, family violence and poverty. At one point in a talk given by Diana Raznovich (playwright, Argentina) on her country's long history of violence, her translator stopped translating. We all waited for him to continue, not aware of what was happening until the artist herself gave the answer . She explained: "The translator cries." The fact that they were talking about a period 15-20 years ago deeply touched me. For how long do war and violence live in us even when they are over? Can we ever again bear and bring forth peace after a violent experience? What do we as theatre artists and human beings do for peace in our professional and everyday lives? If we deal with conflict in our work, how do we create a balance, how do we diminish the enormous amount of violence in our surroundings and can we participate in a cultural change of heart? Do we, by showing the war and violence in our work, feed it and flourish it or do we come to understand it refusing to let it happen again?

All these questions kept tormenting me every day of the conference, until one morning I received the possible answer. One day we gathered at a local church with the practitioners of different religions and teachings: a Buddhist monk, Protestants, Catholics, Bahai, Shaman women, actors and directors, and writers... people. Every representative of a certain religion gave his or hers contribution to peace that morning, through prayer, by reading an excerpt from a book, by doing a certain ritual. I could see all of us after presenting painful and fearsome facts of the difficult times we live in find our own PEACE. At least for a moment I felt "all will be well"

And the idea for the theme for this years INFANT was born:"THEATRE AND PEACE,"being conscious of the naive touch that these words carry in them. When I wrote Erik about my idea he suggested RAT at INFANT participate in a "WITNESS FOR PEACE." Artists from all over the world and from our country witness and attend to something that has been expelled, banished from areas of my country. If anybody would ask us who were our three biggest wishes, one of them would certainly be PEACE. That answer comes out automatically. The RAT Conference and the whole INFANT analyze this answer and try to remove its automatism. Is what we do in our private lives and by making theatre really in the line of creating peace? Can we even talk about it when the relations of the nearest collaborators are full of conflict and misunderstanding? Can we handle the situation of peace or do we subconsciously try to ruin it? How to create peace in the middle of a conflict?

The RAT Conference will give an opportunity for artists and audiences to hear experiences from artists from Mostar, Belgrade, Buenos Aires, San Francisco, and from many other countries. Through presentations, talks and performances, artists will witness together the possibilities and impossibilities of creating peace. While I write this text all free media in my town and almost all free media in the country have been closed by our government. Police are practicing daily violence over the protesters on the street. Numerous arrests and interrogations have started. The voice of the people cannot be heard. We get news mouth by mouth, like in old times. The theme of our festival and RAT conference is amongst few voices that can be still heard in this moment.

Dijana Milosevic
May, 2000.