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Postcards From The Festival

Dear Friends of the Festival,

I am in London where it is overcast and cold. In the last 21 days, I have been in 6 countries, 8 cities, seen 27 shows and travelled on squillions of trains, planes, subways and buses. The process of creating the New Zealand Festival for 2002 has begun.

In the pursuit of excellence, we travel the highways and byways of other people's Festivals - seeing as many events as possible, finding out what makes other Festivals tick and meeting artists' agents. So far it has been very interesting and rewarding. I have found some great events - some which seem to have potential for us and had some experiences which will help us in developing ideas for the programme. However, as always, one has to sift through a lot of boring and, frankly, just plain bad work to find those that are of interest to us. As Joseph Seelig always said, "for every 50 shows I see, only one or two are worth us considering." I have had some great meetings with Joseph who is being wonderfully supportive and helpful. He is currently working on producing the opera for us as well as working on his own festival in London and advising the Hong Kong Festival.

A few highlights so far: In Bergen, a wonderful string quartet concert in Greig's house overlooking the fjords in Bergen late at night with the midnight sun slowly setting. Only 70 people, the absolute maximum that could fit in the room, all having paid between NZ$70 - $100 to sit on very small uncomfortable wooden chairs. 75 minutes of Macmillan and Greig. An experience to be treasured.

In Istanbul, stone seats, in the amphitheatre of the Rumeli Fortress overlooking the Bosphorus, a fine Istanbul evening and a moving play about one of Turkey's leading poets, a folk hero who died earlier this year. I must read his poetry so that I can find out more about the man. Despite the fact that the play was in Turkish, I understood the emotions that it told as expressed by a fantastic actor.

In Jerusalem, the Gareth Farr of Israel, a percussionist who was absolutely wonderful blew me away with his skill. The Israeli Dance Scene, a performance jam packed with some of the best Israeli dance. An ancient travellers inn called the Khan, where their animals were housed in a cave is the setting for the story by Israeli writer CK Agnon as told by an orthodox Jewish actor - another moment where the language barrier does not seem important.

Bergen, Istanbul and Jerusalem - three Festivals similar to ours. Each that depends on the public sales of tickets and sponsorship to bring great art from outside their country and to present the best of their own. Each of these Festivals has been extremely hospitable and welcoming. I have enjoyed meeting each of the Directors and discussing challenges that we have in common. It is always good to have colleagues to bounce ideas around with.

In addition to watching the performances, I spend a lot of time observing audience behaviour. Mostly the type of audience to an event is much the same as to a similar style of event in New Zealand. However, the big differences come in the start time of a show and the audience response to a show. In Norway an audience always arrives early and then one minute before the advertised start time the doors close and the show starts on time. In Israel audiences arrive at a time that seems to be at their own discretion and the show goes up at least 15 minutes late. It drove me crazy. While in Istanbul, they were much like us. Everyone attempted to get there on time but there were always a few stragglers and the shows generally went up five minutes late. I think we should try to aim for the Norwegian standard of start times.

In the next postcard I will discuss different styles of handclapping and tell you about more highlights. I am off to Festivals in Holland and France over the next month - lots of dance and theatre.

Kind regards Carla van Zon, Artistic Director.

© Scoop Media

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