Àfora Focus organizes the First International Congress of Theater Spectators in Barcelona from October 24 to 26. The meeting, which is curated by the cultural manager Pepe Zapata, and in which the public, creators and programmers from 25 countries are invited, has three lines of work: diversity, participation and transversality. The organizers want both experts and the public to express their concerns, their needs, their habits, their desires, in addition to sharing information about the projects in which they participate, and to debate what the role of the spectators of the performing arts should be in the future. Pepe Zapata stresses that it is “a unique event”, where “spectators are both subject and object of analysis”.

The first edition of this meeting will feature conferences, round tables and workshops. The congress will end with the public reading of the Barcelona Manifesto of theater spectators, written by them. “We trust that after the three days we will have a broad set of indications of how this relationship between all the agents that intervene in the value chain of the performing arts and the spectators should be optimized,” explains Zapata.

Among the participants, there are people who come from Argentina or Mexico, countries that have a long tradition in what is called spectator school. “This type of initiative allows us to delve into the theatrical experience to its fullest extent, before, during and after the stage itself, taking into account that audiences are increasingly interested in knowing the intrahistory, how the processes of creation to the final result. There is a lot of training, prescription and cultural mediation, strengthening the ties between what happens on stage and what happens in the audience”, says Zapata.

One of the bets of the congress is transversality. Does theater today dialogue sufficiently with other artistic disciplines? “Increasingly we hear references to the concept of hybrid scene to precisely identify scenic proposals that move in a territory of intersection and mixture of various creative disciplines. But the concept of transversality goes further, and we want to analyze theater connections with other territories such as health, education, mediation, or tourism, in its desire to place spectators in the backbone of their experience”, clarifies Pepe Zapata.

Another of the fundamental axes of the proposal is diversity. What blind spots is leaving the scenic creation? “Every project, artistic action or contemporary creative process must be affected by social values ​​such as equity, cultural diversity and social inclusion, environmental sustainability or respect and knowledge of different languages, customs and cultures, while ensuring maximum accessibility. from citizenship to the performing arts. Our realities are increasingly complex, and the theater continually reflects this, both in stage proposals that are born from incorporating this perspective of diversity and projecting classic texts on our present that help us understand ourselves as a society”, answers the cultural manager.

Pepe Zapata has been working as an expert in audiences for many years. Technology has transformed the conception of entertainment. How to incorporate it without giving up the idea of ​​theater ritual? “It might seem like a paradox that, at a time when immersive experiences are continually appearing thanks to technology, we continue to focus on an in-person offering,” he replies. And, although technology can help disseminate this experience beyond a theater, he argues that if something specifically distinguishes the face-to-face theatrical experience, it is “its uniqueness”, as it is always a “unique and unrepeatable” moment, caused by the experience that occurs between stage and stalls.

The semantic field linked to viewers is vast. We could consider that the public refers to the group of people who actually attend a theatrical performance, the curator tells us, while the audience includes individuals who follow a stage experience through audiovisual media, although, for Zapata, the really interesting concept is that of community. It is about the group of people who are linked through various theatrical proposals in an organic way, forming part of a shared cultural and social imaginary.