“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.”
JOHN DONNE, DEVOTIONS UPON EMERGENT OCCASIONS IN NUCCIO ORDINE, LES HOMMES NE SONT PAS DES ÎLES [NO MAN IS AN ISLAND] PUBLISHED BY LES BELLES LETTRES, 2018
In No man is an island published in 2018 – a title inspired by the 17th century English poet John Donne – the Italian writer and professor Nuccio Ordine warned us of the downward spiral threatening Europe, with the rise of populism and nationalism, the building of walls and the hundreds of kilometres of barbed wire laid to stop the progress of poor and suffering people fleeing war and hunger. In 2020, this tragedy was once again playing out on Europe’s doorstep when the epidemic hit us.
As we write these lines, reality has overtaken our worst fears and, at a time when international cooperation is crucial in tackling this scourge that knows no borders, we are witnessing European and global dissent and acts of state piracy on runways to recoup, with cases of cash or through confiscation, plane loads of masks that have become a new geopolitical weapon.
As we write these lines, however, we remain hopeful thanks to the growing demonstrations of solidarity, the courage and dedication of caregivers and of the students and young retirees who have volunteered to join their ranks and save lives.
We also acknowledge all those previously invisible individuals who have carried on working to ensure the production and supply of the goods and services that are crucial to our society. Nor must we forget all those who have carried on working to secure the future of this useless, yet much-needed wealth consisting of education, ideas, art and culture.
As we write these lines, at a time when the values of excessive individualism promoted by lethal neo-liberalism seemed to prevail over humanism and the legacy of the Enlightenment, we are rediscovering the extent to which we remain interdependent, connected to each other despite our isolation during the lockdown period. We are rediscovering that our collective protection depends on our individual acts and that decidedly, no man is an island.
As we write these lines, we are facing uncertainty. Les Célestins is closed and we do not know when we will be able to return to work or when we will be allowed to open the doors of the theatre to you again. We realize all the more keenly how precious it is to be able to come together to see and hear fictional tales and actors providing an insight into the world.
Theatre is a collective experience of invention, a way of narrating the world, representing it, sometimes challenging it, and yet unveiling its truth. By doing this, it can also lay bare who we really are.
Can this narrative change the world?
Probably not, but we believe it can change the way we look at the world, and we know that alone can change lives.
It is from our disrupted and confined lives that we have compiled this new season, once again in an aim to bring together and share major theatrical works with you, and to support artistic creation, in particular that of our regional companies. Two Lyon artists and their companies are now partners of Les Célestins, namely Thierry Jolivet with La Meute-Théâtre and François Hien with L’Harmonie Communale, for whom we provide support in the development of their artistic and cultural projects. We have also decided to give more prominence to shows for the whole family throughout the season, as well as during the school holidays.
And as a special welcome for our youngest theatregoers, we are introducing a new rate for children under sixteen years of age.
As we write these lines, we are dreaming of the time when we will be together again in the darkness of the theatre and we will be able to look out over the open sea like the crew of the ship bound for the Terra Incognita.
CLAUDIA STAVISKY and PIERRE-YVES LENOIR