10th Theatre Olympics - Budapest, Hungary


In Budapest and across Hungary, the 10th Theatre Olympics will feature performances by some of the world’s leading theatre artists, including Theodoros Terzopulos, Suzuki Tadashi, Romeo Castellucci, Krytian Lupa, Slava Polunyin, Heiner Goebbels, Silviu Purcărete, Eugenio Barba, Tiago Rodrigues, Alessandro Serra, Christoph Marthaler, Liu Libin, Declan Donnellan, Ivan von Hove and many others… In addition, there will be dance, puppetry and street theatre performances, with a total of around 750 events. The main events of the Olympics will take place at the 9th Madách International Theatre Meeting, MITEM, at the National Theatre in Budapest.

1 April – 1 July 2023

Slogan: “O Man, strive on, strive on, have faith; and trust!”

Imre Madách: The Tragedy of Man

From Easter to Midsummer’s Eve, the 10th International Theatre Olympics will take place in Budapest and throughout Hungary.

Why is the 10th Theatre Olympics hosted by the National Theatre, by Budapest, by Hungary in 2023?

Because Hungary, with its great and far-reaching theatrical traditions, has been taking an active part in the global developments in the field of theatre practice and theory. Budapest, a beautiful and unique monument of the world’s cultural heritage, is an international cultural metropolis ready to build bridges connecting other theatrical traditions. Well-staffed with talented and experienced ar-tistic, technical and administrative experts, the National Theatre is the institutional hub of Hungarian theatre that is as open to avant-garde international theatrical proposals as it is to upholding the prin-ciples of tradition. Thus it is well-placed to build new bridges between different schools and stage languages. In this day and age when homogenization of the theatre is the prevailing trend, the Na-tional Theatre, whose motto is reconciliation and New Humanism, embraces diversity, tolerance and multiculturalism.

Hosts, partners, venues

The key concepts behind the organisation of the Theatre Olympics in Hungary are autonomy, freedom and promoting access to culture. This is the Olympic concept of the National Theatre in Budapest and of the Artistic Director, Attila Vidnyánszky.

Globally, but also in individual countries, the relationship between centres and peripheries has been tense. Ensuring access to wealth and reducing inequalities are important objectives not only in the economy, but also in culture. Therefore, the organisers of the 2023 Olympics see the event not as the prerogative of a single institution or a city, but as the country’s shared festival celebrating the theatre. From April to July (and beyond in some places, sometimes even into the autumn) about seven hundred fifty prestigious theatre events will take place at dozens of venues across the country.

The Hungarian theatres, festivals and trade organisations that join the Olympics will decide who to invite and what kind of festival to organise. Our partners are free to work, invite guest companies and organise festivals according to their own theatrical, aesthetic and ideological preferences. Compared to previous Olympics, local institutions have more latitude in how to exploit the global potential of the Olympics. The Hungarian organisers of the Theatre Olympics will share their international experience and contacts with everyone, but essentially, they will function only as coordinators and resource providers for the locally envisioned events. Neither the International Committee of the Olympics, nor the National Theatre of Budapest as Olympic organiser will perform any curatorial tasks.

The theatres of Budapest and other cities participating in the Hungarian Olympics will host one foreign production and one cross-border production each – and it is up to them to decide which ones. This way, Hungarian-language theatres in neighbouring countries can take part in the Olympics, and the Hungarian theatres that invite foreign companies can benefit from the development of lasting international ties.

Major Olympic sites include the National Theatre of Miskolc, celebrating the 200th anniversary of its foundation, and the city of Debrecen, organiser of a contemporary Hungarian theatre festival. ISTA (International School of Theatre Anthropology) is a workshop in Pécsvárad under the intellectual supervision of Eugenio Barba.

Hungarian puppet theatres and dance artists will also participate in the Olympics with their nationwide programmes.

A number of side festivals will be organised by our partners, including the Operetta Theatre of Budapest celebrating its 100th anniversary, and the Kolibri youth and children’s theatre. The alternative scene will be represented by the Jurányi House and the Bethlen Square Theatre. The National Theatre of Győr will bring together the theatres along the Danube. The amateurs and student actors will also have their festivals. The programme includes street theatre spectacles as well as trade events: book launches, workshops, master classes, exhibitions and conferences.

Focus on Imre Madách

The focus of the Olympics will be on Imre Madách, one of the greatest Hungarian dramatists, born 200 years ago in 1823, whose major work, The Tragedy of Man, a masterpiece comparable to Goethe’s Faust, premièred 140 years ago. Madách’s work will be presented not only through conferences and new books, but also in a unique performance.

Theatre school teams from all over the world will perform excerpts from The Tragedy of Man, and then put them together in a large joint production.

The slogan of the 2023 Theatre Olympics comes from The Tragedy of Man: “O Man, strive on, strive on, have faith; and trust!”

The organiser and artistic director

The organiser of the 2023 Theatre Olympics in Hungary is the National Theatre of Budapest. Founded in 1837, this institution has been the definitive hub of Hungarian-language theatre ever since.

The Artistic Director of the 2023 Olympics, at the request of the International Theatre Olympics Committee, is Attila Vidnyánszky, Director of Hungary’s National Theatre.

Under Attila Vidnyánszky’s leadership, the National Theatre has developed an extensive international network via a range of activities, including the establishment of the Madách International Theatre Meeting, MITEM, in 2014.

Founded in 2014, MITEM is Hungary’s largest international theatre festival, organised in the spirit of openness and dialogue. MITEM is an artistic meeting place where representatives of different cultures, ideologies and theatre aesthetics can present their work and represent their nations’ theatre freely, with curiosity and respect for each other. The success of MITEM led the International Theatre Olympics Committee to entrust the National Theatre and Attila Vidnyánszky with the organisation of the 2023 Olympics.

The Hungarian Theatre Olympics will receive a HUF 4.5 billon grant from the Hungarian government.

Our symbol: the ark

The symbol of the 10th Theatre Olympics is an ark. To use a biblical parallel, we can board this ark to save ourselves and our values. Where to? To a peaceful future, we hope.

The theatre is an “ark” where tradition and innovation walk hand in hand, even when they are in conflict. In theatre, both tradition without innovation, and innovation without tradition are dead ends. But when tradition meets innovation in the freedom of creation, we can always look at our lives in a new light and perspective. In this way, we can respond more accurately through art to the conflicts plaguing our world, such as globalization, power rivalries, the climate and energy crisis, migration and overpopulation, wars, pandemics, human rights, religious persecution… and all the problems of this global village of eight billion people, the Earth.

The artists’ job

In Europe, our neighbour is at war. Major powers and small countries are threatening to use nuclear weapons. America and China are at each other’s throats, not to mention numerous local armed conflicts and civil wars in the Middle East and Africa. And let us not forget: a pandemic has turned the whole world upside down, and we don’t yet know whether it’s over. The entire global economy is in recession…

The question then arises: what is the artists’ job? Is there a need for art? Are cultural events like the Theatre Olympics justified in such times?

In 1995, the founders of the Olympics emphasised the spirit of the ancient games. The Greeks, in perpetual warfare with each other, used to cease fighting for the duration of the contests. Today, in a time of international conflict and mistrust, when our daily life is disrupted by Covid, the message of peace is extremely relevant.

We, the artists organising the 10th Theatre Olympics, can protect and, where necessary, rebuild the bridges destroyed by politics and the barbarity of war. To do so, we need sobriety and moderation, faith in the future and trust in each other. And above all, we must maintain dialogue with all well-meaning representatives of the arts and culture, regardless of their nationality, religion and political affiliation. Including Ukrainian theatre artists who, despite the war, continue to work and create performances, and who we hope will be able to participate in the 2023 Theatre Olympics. We believe in the higher community-building power of theatre arts, in accordance with the words of Gerhardt Hauptmann: “Theatre with its audience is the oldest and largest spiritual community in the world.”

From 1 April to 1 July 2023 – and beyond for many events – the diverse world of theatre will move to Hungary. One might say that Hungary will become the centre of world theatre.