The International Theatre Fair of Donostia-San Sebastián is an outstanding showcase for performance arts. The event takes place in early summer, inaugurating Donostia’s cultural calendar for the summer season.
Dating back to 1988, over the past editions the Theatre Fair has become a central point of reference for performance arts professionals throughout Spain and continues to work toward strengthening bonds between Latin American and European markets. The Donostia-San Sebastian Theatre Fair has consolidated into a leading theatre venue and has been at the top of the list of theatre fairs in Spain for several years. Quality programming has been the hallmark of the Fair, attracting theatre programme directors to many of the events.
The purpose of the Theatre Fair is to promote the performance arts, provide professionals an opportunity to exchange ideas and present the latest theatrical creations, with particular attention on promoting Basque theatre companies. The Fair was also created as a celebration of theatre and a time to enjoy quality dramatic performance. Together with Donostia-San Sebastián’s well-known film and music festivals, the International Theatre Fair rounds out the city’s cultural calendar.
For five days Donostia-San Sebastián becomes the meeting point for the performance arts sector, promoting contact between agents, performers and technicians, and facilitating development of the sector itself.
For five days the Theatre Fair turns Donostia into a giant performance arts marketplace. The fair provides an extraordinary meeting place for different people active in the sector, promoting and facilitating exchange and employment opportunities. Directly or indirectly, the Donostia Theatre Fair generates an significant volume of sales among participants. This explains why for many theatre companies, more than 300 candidates in 2004, Donostia is such a excellent opportunity for opening new markets.
The Theatre Fair attracts some 600 performance arts professionals to Donostia, 200 of which are programme directors. Particularly noteworthy is the presence of virtually all of the programme directors of the leading theatres in Spain, and from theatres in Latin American and Europe.
The Theatre Fair programme includes a wide variety of quality performances, with a special focus on recent productions. Donostia is known for its excellent theatre and dance performance venues both indoors and outdoors. The Theatre Fair is rounded out with street theatre performances which turn the entire city centre into a mini-festival with a lively and festive atmosphere. The calendar of events at the last edition of the fair included 31 plays and nearly 60 performances.
The Donostia Theatre Fair has chosen to make quality its hallmark – quality performances, quality venues and an overall high-quality experience for the accredited professionals attending the event. Donostia’s excellent offer of hotel accommodation and premier performance venues only helps to make this type of event an even bigger success.
Donostia audiences turn out in droves to see the performances. Over the course of five days, some 25,000 people come enjoy the Theatre Fair’s outdoor and indoor performances. In fact, due to the popularity of the various events, it is not uncommon to see “sold out” signs hanging on ticket booths around town.
The first four years of the Fair, from 1988 to 1991, were held in winter. Thus, in late January and early February, San Sebastián served as the venue for the first steps of the event in a version differing slightly from its second stage though based on a similar spirit: the objective was and still is on the one hand to promote the opening of new markets and achieve the putting on of professional shows produced in the Basque Autonomous Community, in the rest of Spain, and even internationally; and on the other, to bring the Fair closer to the city and its people, giving it a festive, theatre atmosphere for a few days.
This first stage of the Fair was held in two of the city’s most emblematic spaces: the Teatro Victoria Eugenia and the Teatro Principal. On the odd occasion, stages were organised in other venues (Antzerti, San Telmo, the City Hall basement…) in order to be able to programme more events and, on others, two functions per day were organised in each theatre for the same purpose. Even that far back the endeavour was to offer as wide a range of performances as possible, although always related to theatre. While street theatre had not yet become an essential part of the Fair, the plays put on in the different theatres did pay some attention to the subject. In addition, different kinds of parallel activities always related to theatre, such as exhibitions, debates, etc. were organised during these early years.
After a break of six years for different reasons, and thanks to the backing and support of institutions like the Basque Government’s Department of Culture, the Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa and the Ministry of Culture, San Sebastian City Council’s Municipal Culture Board took charge of the project, thus permitting the 5th Theatre Fair to take place in 1998. Based on the same spirit, the Fairs to have taken place during this new stage have been organised in more and better spaces based on a more ambitious project.
In 1998, the Victoria Eugenia and Principal theatres were joined by the new stages at the Cultural Centres of Egia and Lugaritz as Fair headquarters, meaning that it now takes place in four theatres. The respectively small and medium-sized format of these new spaces made it possible for the Fair programme to gain in diversity.
Subsequently, due to closure for rehabilitation of the Teatro Victoria Eugenia in 2000 and the unstoppable growth of its programme, the Fair has also acquired two stages in the Kursaal Centre, a situation continuing today while waiting for re-opening of the Teatro Victoria Eugenia.
The street theatre and dance programmes are the other two important parts of this new stage. Street theatre has taken plays to the squares and streets of San Sebastian, creating a highly festive, theatre atmosphere throughout the city. This street programme features the most outstanding works on the Basque, Spanish and international scene. For its part, the presence of dance at the Fair grows continuously, standing out for the performance of the most important works by Basque choreographers.
This new stage is now forging strongly ahead. In only a few years it has seen the number of works exhibited and accredited professionals multiply, as has the number of spectators to have enjoyed the Fair, with the only hiccough occurring in 2004 due to causes beyond the control of the organisation. The programme growth has been incredible, with an important increase in the number of parallel activities mainly aimed at reflection and meeting between performing arts professionals.
The San Sebastian Theatre Fair is looking towards the future in the endeavour to maintain this strong evolution by broadening its borders with a view to becoming one of the big performing arts events in Europe. It therefore works hard every year to try and improve the works on offer while trying to encourage the inhabitants of San Sebastian and all of those who visit us to enjoy a big theatre party for a few days.
The San Sebastian Theatre Fair offers an extensive theatre and dance programme in both theatres and in the street. In addition to bringing us the latest in Basque and Spanish productions, the Theatre Fair includes international proposals, with particular emphasis on South America.
In addition to this programme are a series of parallel activities organised around the Fair, such as a theatre market, presentations, round tables and debates on burning subjects in the sector. The Fair similarly recognises and pays homage to the theatre career of outstanding figures or institutions from the world of theatre with its Victoria Eugenia Award.
We should also point out that the Fair issues a yearly publication on the theatre and collaborates in activities promoted by other entities, such as the University of the Basque Country’s Summer Courses, which focus on the theoretical aspects of the theatre while the Fair is running.
THEATRE FAIR OF DONOSTIA – DONOSTIAKO ANTZERKI FERIA
Plaza de la Constitución, 1
20003 DONOSTIA (GIPUZKOA) ESPAÑA
Phone: (+34) 943-481183 / 943-481966
Fax: (+34) 943-481536
Horario de oficina: 9:00-14:00 horas