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The European Theatre Convention’s (ETC) first ever Spring Tour is in full bloom across the continent. For seven days, a caravan of five young artists, several journalists and ETC members are travelling east to west and north to south in a tour bus, aiming to examine the role of theatre in a time of uncertainty and crisis in Europe. Day one in lovely Stuttgart is already over and opened up discussions on the role of politics in supporting the arts and on theatre as a tool for promoting debate and change in society. E&M will keep you up to date with all the talks, productions and interesting people met along the way.
First stop: Staatstheater Stuttgart, the largest triple branch theatre in Europe. Housed in two buildings dating back in the early 1900s, it hosts opera, ballet and theatre. Our tour guide was dramaturge Christian Holtzhauer, who showed everyone around the impressive performance halls, the busy backstage and the painting rooms where the sets are put together. The theatre is not only a centrepiece of German architecture – it holds six Opera of the Year awards from the magazine Opernwelt and won Theatre of the Year 2006. Its role is heightened by its directors’ involvement in social and political debates, which are an important focus of the city of Stuttgart and its citizens.
"What do I know about the euro crisis?", "What does the media tell me?", "Do I get the same view of the crisis if I read a German newspaper, listen to Rai Uno in Italy or just live in Greece?". At the Polis International Journalism Conference, a panel of four journalists tried to tackle these issues.
Early in 2010, the euro crisis began to make the headlines of all the major media outlets. A German weekly magazine had Aphrodite holding up her middle finger on the front cover. The title said, "Betrüger in der Euro-Familie" (Fraud in the euro family) and this is how reporting about the crisis started to take shape in Germany. The eurosceptical tone was continued "in a campaign of the biggest tabloid and newspaper, Bild Zeitung, which with over 10 milion readers has a huge impact on German politics," said Peter Heilbrunner, a former Brussels reporter and now a Business editor in Stuttgart.
Heilbrunner also spoke of a general state of confusion because Germans didn't really understand why there should be at least a bit of solidarity with the southern countries. "They said: our economy is working well; we pay our taxes so what is the problem in the rest of Europe? It was hard for Angela Merkel, for the whole government to explain it."
An anti-bail-out mood developed in the country and an aversion towards the southern countries was generated primarily by the media "because it transported these clichés: they spend a lot of money they don't have, they are not competitive, and they are more or less lazy,"he added.
Antonio Preziozi, currently the director of Rai Radio News and Rai Radio Uno in Italy, talked about an ideal type of media that they try to promote, "credible and reliable," with "in-depth coverage about the euro crisis." He also mentioned the importance of explaining the technicalities when it comes to reporting about the crisis, as their main goal is to inform the audience but not to influence it.