When I was first appointed artistic director of the Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg in 2015, it was obvious to me that we, as a public institution, had a huge responsibility to support the local artistic community and contribute to its development. As a former actor, I was very aware that one of the most urgent needs expressed by many artists was the one for time and space: the possibility of experimenting and working in a safe space and the opportunity to experiment outside the result-oriented production logic.
It was with that in mind that the idea of the TalentLAB originated. Conscious of the fact that I was about to take over the helm of a major European co-producing venue with a large international network and an eclectic programme spanning opera, dance and theatre, I felt that it was important to find ways to give something back to the local community and add value to what we are doing for our artists, our audience and our organisation. It was clear to me that I wanted to explore the idea of a more collaborative co-production model. The driving force behind our artistic project and the launch of the TalentLAB was to create a win-win situation where we would continue to support international creation through co-commissioning and co-production whilst at the same time seeking ways for the artists we support to contribute to the development of our own artistic community. Since I was convinced that any research laboratory would benefit immensely from a mentoring element, it was not difficult to imagine that these mentors could come from the pool of established directors, choreographers and artists that we had or were going to support in our co-commissioning and co-producing role.
Within the space of only four years, the TalentLAB has developed into an international laboratory that, over a 10-day period, brings people together to research, experiment and work on their projects, to share their working methods, learn from each other and discover exciting performances. The encounters that take place, the diversity of the participants and the richness of the exchanges is something I am very proud of and that I get excited about every year. This hybrid form between a project laboratory and a multidisciplinary festival has since enabled 24 artists from nine countries to develop scratch performances under the benevolent eye of 19 mentors from four countries. What was originally designed to provide time and space to artists from the region has since grown into an important international platform where local artists meet and exchange with others from all over the world. The pluridisciplinary aspect of the TalentLAB enhances the potential for cross-pollination between theatre, dance and opera practitioners, and represents further opportunities for learning and growth.
It is our responsibility, as publicly funded organisations, to support artists and give them the chance to take risks, to fail, to learn and to work in a safe space that is not dictated by production logic or the pressure of producing a result. Part lifelong learning, part research and development, but first and foremost a unique way of working in a dynamic and international environment for 10 days, the TalentLAB is now not only at the heart of our artistic project here at the Théâtres de la Ville but it has also become a major tool in our collaborative co-production model.
As a major institution in a small country, it is very important for us to provide international opportunities for our artists and support the ongoing professional development of our artistic community. Facilitating internships or assistant positions with international directors for our emerging artists, encouraging choreographers and directors to hold auditions in Luxembourg and include dancers or actors from here in their productions are now things that we directly link to the level of our financial co-production contribution.
Other initiatives that we have launched to support the creative process are residencies such as Capucins Libre. Here we give young companies the opportunity to perform their final weeks of rehearsals and the première of their project at the Théâtre des Capucins with our full technical, administrative and communication support whilst ensuring that they have the full artistic responsibility and ownership of the production. Our international collaboration with the company La Barraca and the Chapelle Sainte-Marie in Annonay has enabled us to provide one choreographer a year the opportunity of a six-week residency in Annonay, including a two-week technical period in a theatre to bring their project to creation.
Acutely aware of the importance of time and space, of financial support and professional guidance, we continuously invest in the development of our artists by putting our international network of partners and artists at the disposal of the young generation of creators. In doing so, we aim to further not only the overall artistic development of our institution as a producing house but also the evolution and dynamic of the cultural sector in Luxembourg.
Born in Luxembourg, Tom Leick-Burns originally completed his training as an actor in London where he lived for 10 years. Upon his return to Luxembourg, he continued working as an actor in theatre and film, and in 2004 he took his first steps as production assistant at the Grand Théâtre. In 2008 he started working full-time for the organisation as production administrator for the opera department. To further develop his skills, he embarked on a Master of Business Administration at Sacred Heart University, graduating in 2012. In July 2015, he succeeded Frank Feitler as Artistic Director and General Manager of the Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg. In less than four years, he has made his mark and found a balance between continuity on one hand and a new artistic project for the Théâtres de la Ville on the other. Tom Leick-Burns has been a speaker and mentor at the ETC European Theatre Academy for the last few years.
This article was published in the ETC Journal 2019/2020.
Photo: Scratch performance of Là où en sont nos vies by Godefroy Godet, acknowledging the excesses and drifts of our era, TalentLAB 2019. © Boshua