Trasna Na Líne (TNL) is a partnership project (2019 – 2023) co-funded by the Creative Europe programme of the European Union, that comes out of the partnership Crossing the Line (CTL). The partnership consists of five European theatre companies: Moomsteatern in Sweden, Compagnie de L’Oiseau Mouche in France, Blue Teapot Theatre Company in Ireland, Theater Babel Rotterdam in The Netherlands and Teatr 21 in Poland.
Artistically led and committed to meeting the new challenges of producing and touring theatre made by learning disabled and non-disabled theatre makers, their aim is to bring their artists together to learn from and with each other; engage with creative and audience development processes; develop connections with a wider network of European theatre companies with a focus on learning disabled artists; and create a showcase festival.
Trasna Na L.ne (TNL) started in 2019 and was supposed to finish in 2021, but due to the pandemic the end date of the project was moved forward till the start of 2023. TNL provided learning disabled & autistic (LD&A) theatre makers with new skills, competences and knowhow to strengthen their access within the performing arts market. The five companies in the partnership represents some of Europe’s leading theatre companies making professional touring work with LD&A artists and brings a profound understanding of the challenges lying ahead as they aim to break down barriers and shift preconceptions about learning disabilities, within the wider cultural sector. By consolidating resources, exchanging experiences and imagining new scenarios across five European territories, TNL aimed to provide all involved parties and their extended networks with a new degree of interconnectivity and solidarity. Within the framework of this project, artists developed their skills through international exchange via artist workshop residencies, making and touring productions and come together as a showcase at a Crossing The Line Festival. In the original project plan this festival would be hosted by Blue Teapot Theatre Company as part of Galway European Capital of Culture (ECOC) 2020. Due to the pandemic the festival had to be cancelled just weeks before the opening and instead became a digital online theatre festival.
Transnational Mobility of learning disabled performers, the companies and their work
Trasna Na Line (TNL) activities were structured around:
1. 4 performing artist workshop residencies.
The first two, in Poland and Sweden, were carried out as planned. The third was to be part of a festival in France, but was cancelled due to the pandemic. It was replaced by a residency in Ireland that was co-hosted by the French partner, which turned out to be a successful way of creating a workshop residency. The fourth was set in The Netherlands, just as originally intended but a year later than planned.
2. 4 national dissemination activities.
To ensure that each company’s work reverberated outwards nationally four dissemination events were planned to happen in connection to the workshop residencies. Therefore the Polish and Swedish dissemination events were carried out, but the last two (planned to be at the NEXT festival in France and at the CTL festival in Galway) became digital activities, shown online and spread through the digital festival and social media.
3. The presentation of 5 live touring theatre productions.
Each company created (at least) one new production during the TNL project. These were planned to be shown at the CTL festival in Galway, but instead they were successfully presented within their own national contexts and/or digitally.
4. Crossing The Line Festival.
The planned festival as part of Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture (ECOC) was the clear focus for the TNL transnational mobility. Given the extraordinary amount of work our Galway partner Blue Teapot Theatre Company put into making this first ever Learning Disabled and Autistic (LD&A) festival of professional performance in Ireland, it was heart breaking to have to cancel this and replace it with a Digital Festival 18 months later.
Capacity Building – Training and Education
Responding to the articulated needs of the LD&A artists within the partnership, 4 artist workshop residencies provided unique skills development opportunities varying in artform, theme, duration and scale to foster new skills, ambitions and collaboration opportunities. These allowed the creative development of professional learning-disabled artists, skills transfers and peer to peer collaborations. The fostering of artists and the cultural operators that work with them – their creation, productions, their mobility, training and employment – is central. The mobility of the companies’ LD&A artists remains dependent on the mobility of the partner companies, as they have the requisite support expertise embedded into their operating systems.
While learning from the TNL project was shared via the digital festival for all those interested in the work of the companies, the intended benefits to a broader international network of organisations and artists, was inevitably limited by the autumn of 2021, as many people were experiencing digital realm fatigue. However, the 4 artist workshop residencies did provide unique skills development:
1. Workshop residency in Warsaw
The subject of the workshop was inspired by the performance “Revolution That Never Was” at Teatr 21; to expand this and to include an international context. Through artistic collaboration the participants examined the rights of people with disabilities, their quality of life, art as a space for self-fulfilment and theatre as a workplace – in different European countries.
2. Workshop residency in Malmö
The workshop at Moomsteatern in Malm. focused on the Orest method. A physical education theory that develops the posture and gait of the actor, focused on the individual artist.
3. Workshop residency in Inis Oirr
The originally planned workshop in France was cancelled, but during the time of locked borders a new idea took form. Compagnie de l’Oiseau-Mouche had a collaboration with Zone Poéme, a dance and theatre company based in Lille, that had a special interest in Antonin Artaud and his journey to a small island outside of Galway. Following the footsteps of Antonin Artaud and led by Zone Poéme, 10 artists from France, Ireland and Poland settled on Inis Oirr in Aras Eanna theatre for a four-day workshop that finished with a showcase open to the inhabitants of the island.
4. Workshop residency in Rotterdam
The partners from TNL were invited to submerge themselves into Theater Babel’s way of working. During the workshop artists and management from the different theatre companies were mixed together creating five groups, each working with a creative facilitator. In 4 days the group and the creative facilitator would make a small performance which was shared at the end of the week with all the other groups.
Go deeper into the TNL:
– A recording of the seminar “Academy and for what?”
In January 2020 we met in Malmö for a seminar called Are we ready for a change? that also included a conversation themed Academy – and for what?, inviting creative professionals from Sweden to attend discussions about how the cultural landscape can be changed to include artists with LD&A. We gathered Petal Pilley, artistic leader of Blue Teapot Theatre, Annabelle Mailliez, development officer at Compagnie de l’Oiseau-Mouche and Per T.rnqvist, artistic leader at Moomsteatern to talk about how they have chosen to recruit and educate their actors. What challenges they face and what their future plans are.
The second seminar gathered professionals from the Swedish Art’s sector to ask: As the Swedish art field is working towards a larger diversity on our stages, will this include artists with disabilities? What are the obstacles and possibilities? What structures would need to change? The panel included: Kjell Stjernholm, coordinator at Studieförbundet Vuxenskolan, Kajsa Giertz, Artistic director & CEO at Helsingborgs stadsteater, Tanja Mangalanayagam, project manager at Skånes Dansteater, Barbara Wilczek Ekholm, senior lecturer at Malmö Theatre Academy, University of Lund, Sandra Johansson, executive director at Moomsteatern and Jonathan Meth, freelance project dramaturg for Crossing The Line and based at Goldsmiths, University of London.
The Festival That Never Was
In 2020 Galway in Ireland was the host of the European Capital of Culture. Blue Teapot Theatre Company was working towards a Pan-European Theatre Festival to be part of Galway2020, in collaboration with their European partners from the Crossing the Line partnership. The partnership was co-funded by the Creative Europe project Trasna Na Líne and the vision for the festival was our biggest, boldest and most ambitious project to date: The Crossing The Line Festival in Galway 2020.
Just weeks before the festival was to take place it had to be cancelled due to the COVID pandemic. This is a 5-part mini-series created by Blue Teapot Theatre Company, along with videographer Fionn Rogers, that encapsulated the many highlights of Crossing the Line, a network of leading European arts organisations for intellectually disabled artists and our Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture journey from inception of the bid book to present day. Spanning over nine years work, the digital series documented the live and digital work of arts organisations from Sweden, Poland, Netherlands, England, Wales, France and Ireland.
Episode 4: Into the Dark Woods Reimagined. While working on the festival Blue Teapot were also working on a completely new production that was going to play at the festival. This is the story of Charlene Kelly’s debut play and the journey from page to stage.