Newsletter #June

Thank you for a fantastic Swedish Biennial for Performing Arts 2017!

Norrköping welcomed us all with sunny and warm weather, and we were 1400 biennial visitors, including guests from 26 countries. This year’s program consisted of 136 activities and the number of personal performance visits amounted to almost 9000.

Congratulations to the prize winner of the year, which was announced at the biennial party – Tilde Björfors (Swedish Theatre Critics Association award for theatre), Malin Hellkvist Sellén (Swedish Theatre Critics Association award for dance as well as the Swedish Directors Association director’s prize Iris), The performance Paper by Marionetteatern (Swedish Theatre Critics Associations award for childrens theatre) and Clowns Without Borders (Swedish Assitej Prix d´ASSITEJ). We would also like to thank and congratulate Wuthering Heights from Moment:teater that now unofficially holds the biennial record with 40 performances in five days.

We at Scensverige get lots of e-mails from people who want to thank us for the quality of the exciting selected shows and seminars this year, and we are happy about that! There are also some that have questioned the selection and presented critique about how the selection was done. We welcome all views and think it’s good that there is a discussion. Let’s keep the conversation alive until the next biennial in 2019!

We would like to give special thanks to the selection committee and the program group who did a great job in designing the program this year. Thank you everyone, actors, producers and organizations that participated in performances and seminars, you make the biennial what it is – at the same time broad and sharp, fun, stubborn, loving, committed and up to date.

As for the 2019 biennial, it is not yet clear which city will host the event. We have a number of interested municipalities and institutions that have notified us of their interest, and the board of Scensverige is currently working on the issue.

We would like to thank Östgötateatern and their fantastic staff who did a great job, the Scenkonstbolaget with their amazing symphony orchestra that helped the opening ceremony become something extraordinary. Upplev Norrköping / Norrköping, Louis de Geer Konsert och Kongress, as well as the region of Östergötland.

Thank you also to the Cultural Council for the confidence to let us handle this large arrangement, and to the Swedish Institute, which made sure that many long-distance guests had the opportunity to attend. And not least the Swedish cultural councils, who contributed with both exciting perspectives and guests.

Now we are preparing to program this year’s edition of Stolt Scenkonst at Stockholm Pride, the first week of August. During Växjö Pride a few weeks ago, we started the national network Stolt Scenkonst to spread and increase the availability of performing arts with LGBT perspectives. Our present constellation consists of Scensverige and the members Riksteatern, Blekinge Kronoberg Regional Theater, Danstationen in Malmö, Unga Klara, Folkteatern in Gävleborg  and West Pride. We are welcoming additions to the network, and will have meetings in Stockholm and Malmö Pride.

In July, the International Theater Institute’s World Congress takes place in Segovia, Spain. More information about this and the Swedish participation will be available in the next newsletter.

Make good use of the rest of June – make sure that you see all the performances you missed, before the theaters close and the summer season begins.

Ulricha Johnson
Managing Director

Newsletter #May

It’s finally May! Biennial month!

Correcting and planning this year’s biennial schedule is like having the world’s largest candy bag with sweet, salty, sour, creamy and some crunchy nuts. How will anyone be able to take part in all these sharp and exciting performances and seminars? Nobody´s experience will be like someone else’s.

In previous biennals, the egg trick has spread, ie walk around with some boiled eggs in your pocket to see more and not have to eat. This year we have a new solution, every day you can enjoy your lunch at Louis de Geer Concert and Congress while listening to various podcasts recorded on a specially designed stage. You do not even need to be without performing arts when you want to relax for a while with refreshments in the afternoons,  we run a new talk show concept on the same stage, where different hosts invite guests to talk about what they want. In the evenings there will be food even after normal restaurant hours for those who need to reload. A little later different things will happen, do not miss Friday’s “Coffee, cake and karaoke” where you can let your inner Justin Bieber come out, or why not finally show that you should have played Kristina from Duvemåla or Cavaradossi in Tosca! Haven’t you already bought your biennial pass, do it here.

It is very exciting to welcome so many international guests to the biennale. At the participating lists we currently have performing arts people from Bangladesh, Kenya, Rwanda, USA, Germany, Canada, Island, South Africa, Palestine, Turkey, China, Belarus, Georgia, Lithuania, Poland, Finland And Russia.

We are pleased to announce that we have received contributions from Stockholm City, The Swedish Art´s Council and Malmö City to arrange Proud Performing Arts at Pride this summer! We will go to Växjö Pride next week and formally launch a national network of institutions and organizations that will work together to make the queer performances more widely distributed and to make it easier for producers and audiences to find each other. The program for Malmö Pride is set, but we are still receiving ideas from our members about seminars, readings and performances for Stockholm Pride.

As many know, we are part of the global organization ITI-International Theater Institute. In July, the World Congress is taking place in Segovia, Spain, and a dance symposium is organized.


Ulricha Johnson

Managing Director



World Dance Day, Saturday April 29th

This year’s World Dance Day Message is based on choreographer Trisha Brown’s thoughts about the art that she loved and created, through her long and celebrated career.

I became a dancer because of my desire to fly. The transcendence of gravity was always something that moved me. There is no secret meaning in my dances. They are a spiritual exercise in a physical form.

Dance communicates and expands the universal language of communication, giving birth to joy, beauty and the advancement of human knowledge. Dance is about creativity…again and again…in the thinking, in the making, in the doing, and in the performing. Our bodies are a tool for expression and not a medium for representation. This notion liberates our creativity, which is the essential lesson and gift of art-making.

The life of an artist does not end with age, as some critics believe. Dance is made of people, people and ideas. As an audience, you can take the creative impulse home with you and apply it to your daily life.

*This message is for dance professionals and dance admirers all over the world. It is published also as a tribute to Trisha Brown who passed away on 18 March 2017.
The message has been put together from her written works and statements by her close collaborator Susan Rosenberg. It shares her vision about her work and the values that it reflects.

Trisha Brown was one of the pioneers of postmodern choreography and founded, among other things, the Trisha Brown Dance Company in New York in the 70’s. She has created over 100 dance works since 1961 and was the first female choreographer to receive the sought after MacArthur Foundation Fellowship “Genius Award.”
In 2003, Brown was honored with the National Medal of Arts.

Newsletter #April

We´ve finally released the tickets for all the performances and seminars at the Swedish Biennial for Performing Arts! We can´t wait to see you in Norrköping 23rd-28th May. If tickets to your most desired performances run out, don´t despair, things can often work out at the festival when people return and trade tickets.

We proudly present the international guest performances at the Biennal! The world famous Compagnie Marie Chouinard from Canada will come with a full evening performance which will be played twice on the main stage of the Louis de Geer Concert and Congress Hall. The first piece is this iconic choreographer´s reinterpretation of Rite of Spring. The other piece is Henri Michaux: Mouvements, based on a book by Michaux with poetry and flowing images.

We also offer a guest appearance by acclaimed Icelandic Kridpleir Theater Group. The show Crisis Meeting deals with an attempt to be transparent in working on an application to the Art´s Council. The performance is described as a blend between anarchy, sit-com and Samuel Beckett.

I´m currently in Cardiff for a European conference and general assembly with Europe on the Move. We are representatives from 14 countries here, and the very generous Wales Art´s Council are hosting us.

Ann Mari Engel, who is Sweden’s board member of the International Theater Institute, just took part in a meeting in Moscow, planning the ITI World Congress in Segovia in Spain in July. The congress should have been held last year in Brazil, but was canceled because of the shaky political situation.

Our fantastic project manager and communicator Lovisa Björkman is soon going on parental leave, and Johanna Broman will take her place for a while. Johanna has a deep knowledge of the industry and we are delighted that she has chosen to come to us. She´s worked at Riksteatern, Folkoperan, the Museum of Modern Art, Jupither and Josephsson, among others.

We are very happy for the response from the Arts Council and the City of Stockholm regarding Proud Performing Arts (Stolt Scenkonst) at Pride! We are thrilled to get to do this mini-performing arts festival with shows and seminars again in Pride House in Stockholm, and this year broaden the geographical perspective to Malmö.


Ulricha Johnson
Managing Director

Read the full newsletter here.
Look at all Swedish premieres in April here.

World Theatre Day Message

The message author of 2017 is Isabelle Huppert, the theatre and cinema actress from France.

So, here we are once more. Gathered again in Spring, 55 years since our inaugural meeting, to celebrate World Theatre Day. Just one day, 24 hours, is dedicated to celebrating theatre around the world. And here we are in Paris, the premier city in the world for attracting international theatre groups, to venerate the art of theatre.

Paris is a world city, fit to contain the globes theatre traditions in a day of celebration; from here in France’s capital we can transport ourselves to Japan by experiencing Noh and Bunraku theatre, trace a line from here to thoughts and expressions as diverse as Peking Opera and Kathakali; the stage allows us to linger between Greece and Scandinavia as we envelope ourselves in Aeschylus and Ibsen, Sophocles and Strindberg; it allows us to flit between Britain and Italy as we reverberate between Sarah Kane and Prinadello. Within these twenty-four hours we may be taken from France to Russia, from Racine and Moliere to Chekhov; we can even cross the Atlantic as a bolt of inspiration to serve on a Campus in California, enticing a young student there to reinvent and make their name in theatre.
Indeed, theatre has such a thriving life that it defies space and time; its most contemporary pieces are nourished by the achievements of past centuries, and even the most classical repertories become modern and vital each time they are played anew. Theatre is always reborn from its ashes, shedding only its previous conventions in its new-fangled forms: that is how it stays alive.

World Theatre Day then, is obviously no ordinary day to be lumped in with the procession of others. It grants us access to an immense space-time continuum via the sheer majesty of the global canon. To enable me the ability to conceptualise this, allow me to quote a French playwright, as brilliant as he was discreet, Jean Tardieu: When thinking of space, Tardieu says it is sensible to ask “what is the longest path from one to another?”…For time, he suggests measuring, “in tenths of a second, the time it takes to pronounce the word ‘eternity’”…For space-time, however, he says: “before you fall asleep , fix your mind upon two points of space, and calculate the time it takes, in a dream, to go from one to the other”. It is the phrase in a dream that has always stuck with me. It seems as though Tardieu and Bob Wilson met. We can also summarise the temporal uniqueness of World Theatre day by quoting the words of Samuel Beckett, who makes the character Winnie say, in his expeditious style: “Oh what a beautiful day it will have been”. When thinking of this message, that I feel honoured to have been asked to write, I remembered all the dreams of all these scenes. As such, it is fair to say that I did not come to this UNESCO hall alone; every character I have ever played is here with me, roles that seem to leave when the curtain falls, but who have carved out an underground life within me, waiting to assist or destroy the roles that follow; Phaedra, Araminte, Orlando, Hedda Gabbler, Medea, Merteuil, Blanche DuBois….Also supplementing me as I stand before you today are all the characters I loved and applauded as a spectator. And so it is, therefore, that I belong to the world. I am Greek, African, Syrian, Venetian, Russian, Brazilian, Persian, Roman, Japanese, a New Yorker, a Marseillais, Filipino, Argentinian, Norwegian, Korean, German, Austrian, English – a true citizen of the world, by virtue of the personal ensemble that exists within me. For it is here, on the stage and in the theatre, that we find true globalization.

On World Theatre Day in 1964, Laurence Olivier announced that, after more than a century of struggle, a National Theatre has just been created in the United Kingdom, which he immediately wanted to morph into an international theatre, at least in terms of its repertoire. He knew well that Shakespeare belonged to the world. In researching the writing of this message, I was glad to learn that the inaugural World Theatre Day message of 1962 was entrusted to Jean Cocteau, a fitting candidate due to his authoring of the book ‘Around the World Again in 80 Days’. This made me realise that I have gone around the world differently. I did it in 80 shows or 80 movies. I include movies in this as I do not differentiate between playing theatre and playing movies, which surprises even me each time I say it, but it is true, that’s how it is, I see no difference between the two.

Speaking here I am not myself, I am not an actress, I am just one of the many people that theatre uses as a conduit to exist, and it is my duty to be receptive to this – or, in other words, we do not make theatre exist, it is rather thanks to theatre that we exist. The theatre is very strong. It resists and survives everything, wars, censors, penury.

It is enough to say that “the stage is a naked scene from an indeterminate time” – all’s it needs is an actor. Or an actress. What are they going to do? What are they going to say? Will they talk? The public waits, it will know, for without the public there is no theatre – never forget this. One person alone is an audience. But let’s hope there are not too many empty seats! Productions of Ionesco’s productions are always full, and he represents this artistic valour candidly and beautifully by having, at the end of one of his plays, and old lady say; “Yes, Yes, die in full glory. Let’s die to enter the legend…at least we will have our street…”

World Theatre Day has existed for 55 years now. In 55 years, I am the eighth woman to be invited to pronounce a message – if you can call this a ‘message’ that is. My predecessors (oh, how the male of the species imposes itself!) spoke about the theatre of imagination, freedom, and originality in order to evoke beauty, multiculturalism and pose unanswerable questions. In 2013, just four years ago, Dario Fo said: “The only solution to the crisis lies in the hope of the great witch-hunt against us, especially against young people who want to learn the art of theatre: thus a new diaspora of actors will emerge, who will undoubtedly draw from this constraint unimaginable benefits by finding a new representation”. Unimaginable Benefits – sounds like a nice formula, worthy to be included in any political rhetoric, don’t you think?…

As I am in Paris, shortly before a presidential election, I would like to suggest that those who apparently yearn to govern us should be aware of the unimaginable benefits brought about by theatre. But I would also like to stress, no witch-hunt!

Theatre is for me represents the other it is dialogue, and it is the absence of hatred. ‘Friendship between peoples’ – now, I do not know too much about what this means, but I believe in community, in friendship between spectators and actors, in the lasting union between all the peoples theatre brings together – translators, educators, costume designers, stage artists, academics, practitioners and audiences. Theatre protects us; it shelters us…I believe that theatre loves us…as much as we love it…

I remember an old-fashioned stage director I worked for, who, before the nightly raising of the curtain would yell, with full-throated firmness ‘Make way for theatre!’ – and these shall be my last words tonight.

Newsletter #February

We are very much looking forward to the performing arts year 2017!

We are currently focusing on the planning of our largest event of the year; Scenkonstbiennalen – the Swedish Biennial for Performing Arts. The biennial is Sweden’s largest festival for performing arts, and it is an important gathering place for those working within the profession. For international visitors the festival also serves as a window into the world of Swedish performing arts.

The Swedish Biennial for Performing Arts 2017 is held May 23-28 in the beautiful city of Norrköping, which is situated approximately 130 kilometres south of Sweden’s capital Stockholm. The festival includes jury selected performances, student productions and international guest performances as well as a variety of seminars, workshops, meetings, parties and much more. The full festival program will be published in March at

If you wish to join us, please send an email to and we’ll do our best to help out!

After the Biennial, we are looking forward to meeting our international colleagues at the ITI World Congress in Segovia, Spain. As the world is closing its boarders, the international collaborations and relations are more important than ever. Even if 2016 was the year of political depravation in many ways, we look brightly into 2017 and hope the year will bring lots of artistically important and fascinating experiences.

Ulricha Johnson

Managing Director, Scensverige – Swedish ITI


Read the full newsletter here.

Newsletter #December

I have now worked as managing director for a year. It has been a wonderful, exciting and busy year, and I’m only now starting to grasp the both broad and specialized work this organization does.

In the beginning of the year, our organization was called Teaterunionen – Swedish ITI, but we have now changed name to Scensverige – Swedish ITI. Discussions regarding name change have been held for years, and now we and our members found a name to agree on and be proud of.

We are a national and a neutral member’s organization for producers, unions, institutions and universities of all performing arts genres, and it is important that our work is essential for our members. It is also very important for us that we nurture our international contacts. We want to thank all members, partners and contributors for this year and also welcome all of our new members and contacts.

Through this year we have arranged and participated in many different projects. For example New Nordic Drama in the Faroe Islands, the ITI conference and Monodrama Festival in the United Arab Emirates, Stockholm Pride Festival, the Swedish Focus on Maribor Theatre Festival in Slovenia, Swedstage in Stockholm, Europe on the Move conference in Germany and conducted a pilot study for Queer Voices of Russia in Russia. Our latest trip was in November on occasion of Swedish Theme at the Alexandrinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg.

Scensverige’s former director Ann Mari Engel remains in ITI’s Executive Committee until the next World Congress, and has during the year participated in board- and committee meetings. The ITI World Congress, which was supposed to take place in May 2015 in Brazil, is now being planned for Spain in July 2017.

During the remaining part of this year we will mostly work with the The Swedish Biennial for Performing Arts that will take place May 23-28 2017. We are looking forward to both welcoming international guest performances as well as international guests, so if you are interested in Swedish performing arts, please stay updated on the festival work!

Ulricha Johnson,
Managing Director Scensverige Swedish ITI

Read the full newsletter here.

Newsletter #November

We have had a very nice October and are now full of impressions and inspiration!

We participated in Festival Borštnikovo Srečanje (Maribor Theatre Festival), which this year was dedicated to Swedish playwriting and theatre. During the first week of the festival, the book Contemporary Swedish Drama (edited by Alja Predan) was released, featuring translations of four contemporary plays selected by Edward Bromberg in collaboration with Alja Predan.

The Swedish focus also included an introductory lecture by Ulricha Johnson, the director of the Swedish ITI, as well as the first staged reading of the play Medea’s Children (S. Osten and P. Lysander), a conversation with translator Vida Sebastian and director Michael Cock, staged readings of Dissection of a Snowfall (S. Stridsberg) and I Call Upon My Brother (J. H. Khemiri) followed by a conversation with translator Mita Gustinčič Pahor. The focus was concluded with the staged reading of Where is Everybody? (M. Unge) and a conversation with translator Silvana Orel Kos and Ulricha Johnson.

The festival also presented “Wuthering Heights” by moment:teater and the “This is Not a Love Story” by Gunilla Heilborn. Everything was very well received and the festival management and we were very pleased!

A few days later in October, 23-26 to be exact, the third edition of Swedstage started – a major sales event in which 60 international theatre directors, festival bookers, artistic directors, etc. from all over the world came to Stockholm to see what Swedish performing arts has to offer. The performance program included shows for children, youth and adults and was very well received by the guests. We want to thank everyone who took the time to participate and provide assistance in various ways!

Later in November we will go to St. Petersburg with a bunch of translated plays, and arrange readings and talks around new Swedish drama. The playwrights Paula Stenström Öhman and Rasmus Lindberg will go with us, as well as a performance by Unga Klara and a number of playwrights students from the Stockholm Academy of Dramatic Arts. We are very much looking forward to spread information about Swedish performing arts in Russia!

Ulricha Johnson, managing director

Read the full newsletter here.

Newsletter #October

October is indeed an international month for us. We will go to Slovenia, where Maribor Theatre Festival has chosen to focus on Swedish drama and performing arts for a few days. The four plays that have been translated into Slovenian and will be presented in the form of staged readings are Dissection of a snowfall by Sara Stridsberg, I call my brothers by Jonas Hassen Khemiri, Medea’s children by Suzanne Osten and Per Lysander and Where is everyone? by Mirja Unge. Swedish productions Gunilla Heilborn’s This is not a love story and Moment Theatre’s Wuthering Heights will perform, and we also have with us Ylva Lagercrantz, Michael Cocke and Edward Buffalo Bromberg to lecture and participate in seminars.

The week after we announce the third edition of Swedstage in Stockholm, where Teaterunionen along with Assitej invite around sixty bookers and festival organizers from Germany, China, Iran, Nigeria, the UK, Turkey, USA and many more. The selected performances are Wild Minds, Tvärslöjd, Limits, Trans(e)ición, The Fables, The Can, Scenes from a Marriage, Sensescapes, People respect me now, Paper, Falling Out of Time and Buy Hearts, read more HERE.
New this year is that a number of producers will be able to present themselves in a shorter stage program and pitch their international touring productions. We will also hold a seminar with the title Gender on stage.

We’ve also had a couple of days workshop on site in St. Petersburg, preparing for a possible LGBT project in Russia, which we hope to tell you more about shortly.

On the sadder international note, we get alarming reports from our ITI office in Poland, where the space right now is shrinking further for artists. The colleagues there report that the government last month dismissed artistic directors of several theatres and replaced these with elected leaders without artistic qualifications. Almost half of the heads of cultural institutions around the world have been called home. ITI’s Action Committee for Artist’s Rights continues to follow the situation.

The performing arts and its development around the world as well as in Sweden, we’ll discuss at the Performing Art’s Biennial in Norrköping in May. We are stepping up preparations, and hope to see as many international guests as possible there.

Ulricha Johnson, managing director

Read the full newsletter here.

Newsletter #September

Autumn is here and a new performing arts season! We are happy to see how well arranged the large Swedish festivals Gothenburg Dance & Theatre Festival and the Ingmar Bergman International Theatre Festival have been. Many of our members are also out and about in the world right now and we get excited reports from the Edinburgh Fringe as well as the Tanzmesse in Dusseldorf.

We look forward to arranging our next big event, Swedstage, which is where Teaterunionen and Assitej invite people of arts from the whole world to Stockholm, to showcase the very best of Swedish performing arts ready to tour the world.
We are very pleased with the response we received Stockholm Pride this summer with our performing arts theme. The audience numbers were above all expectations, we had to start with changing to larger venues already on the first event. Our invited participants from across the country and Russia were well prepared and made the seminars and talks reach a high level and sharpness even though many came straight from their vacation.

We want to thank everyone who contributed their time and knowledge, and thank our partners, Unga Klara, Stadsteatern Skärholmen, Riksteatern and Stadsteatern Fri Scen. We have great hope that this can become a recurring and growing place for the country’s performing arts to come together and deepen their knowledge and exchange experiences. We will continue our dialogue with the Arts Council, and hope that the concept will ripple toward several pride celebrations in the country.

– Ulricha Johnson, managing director

Read the full newsletter here.