Scenography is the art of making space able to accept a context

Interview with Marina Maleni from the Cyprus Theatre Organisation THOC


“Scenography is the art of making space able to accept a context. Whether it be for theatre on a stage, or a city for an issue, or an environment to say something.”


Born in Nicosia, Cyprus, holds degrees in Theatre Studies, Acting, Sociology (Hons) and Communication.  Has worked successfully as an actress, TV host and radio producer for several years. Working since 2001 as Theatre Development Officer for Cyprus Theatre Organisation, in charge of State theatre subsidies and policy forming, European collaborations, playwriting development, non-professional theatre, theatre education programs, Festivals, etc. Among other appointments, member of the Committee for Theatre in Schools (THOC - Ministry of Education and Culture), Board member of CYCSTAT, and of the Cyprus Theatre Museum, member of the advisory body of the Cyprus Youth Board. PQ Cyprus National Participation Curator since 2007. Hosts weekly television talks on art for CYBC. Coordinated several european culture collaborations for Cyprus, among which Emergence.


Could you briefly introduce us to your institution and its activities in the project?

The Cyprus Theatre Organization (THOC) is engaged in promotion of the art of theatre and cultivation of the theatrical sentiment of the people as well as the artistic relations between the theatre world of Cyprus, Greece and other countries. 

During the Emergence project we were able to explore ways in which arts and cultural projects can act as a driver for supporting local talent through multinational creative exchanges. Implementing a series of workshops, talks, events and activities over these three years, we brought together art professionals, policymakers, educators, academics, and audiences gave us important knowledge, skills and resources. All these tools will also be used to empower the artistic community in the future.


Why is Emergence project important to you?

EMERGENCE as seen from Cyprus Theatre Organization’s perspective, has been a programme that achieved its goal to strengthen cultural participation, mobility and collaboration between important art & cultural institutions, artists and audiences from 8 different countries. The partnership proved to be an effective tool for enhancing knowledge exchange and capacity building in varied and sometimes surprising ways. During these 3 years, each partner facilitated locally varied activities for the artistic community as well as for audiences. 


What do you think is its main goal? Has this goal been met?

EMERGENCE placed emerging artists at the centre of the work, acting as a platform for the development and support of the next generation of international performance creators: all activities were specifically designed to encourage transnational mobility, create links between international professionals and advance their professional development within the international arts scene. All activities led by the 8 partner organizations had as a common goal to provide mobility, exchange and co-working opportunities for scenography students, young and established professionals alike. 

At the same time, Project’s participants experienced the atmosphere of places with “porous borders” – “from the city of Nicosia divided by a militarized border, through thin frontier zone in-between Ukraine and Russia, to problematic Brexit,”.  We feel it has been immensely successful in promoting all sorts of dialogue, between ethnicities, between convention and innovation, between the older, established successful generation of scenographers and the younger, emerging, budding generation of new scenographers to be.


Have you been surprised by anything during the project? Did anything exceed your expectations?

First time experiences of  exploring space in unique ways, such as in the Island of Haoya in Norway,  surviving without electricity, cooking our own meals and cleaning after ourselves in primitive conditions, working wonderfully at the same time in an exploration of the surroundings and space of majestic Norwegian nature and amazingly “forgotten” national histories.  But with humans placed in the center of all activity.


Have you experienced any conflict caused by some of your project activity?

The Cyprus workshop was an attempt to reflect on heritage and memory, provoking mobility, encouraging in depth interaction and collaboration between different artists: emerging & established; local & international; Greek & Turkish Cypriots, professionals and art students. 

The tragic events of 1974 in Cyprus, amongst others, led to the forcible displacement of more than a third of Cypriots from their homes and ancestral lands, to the loss of loved ones and to the still unresolved tragic issue of the missing persons whose friends, relatives and families have yet to be informed of their fate. It approached the human aspect, as a spark of regional and communal memory of people whose lifelines were cut off forcibly and irrevocably. Two of the Participants found it difficult to exist in a culture very different than theirs, where they felt that their individuality was perhaps not recognized in a manner they agreed with.


How did you cooperate with the Czech team of the Prague Quadrennial?

What an amazing team!  These people can walk on water!  Personal interest, talent, creativity in finding solutions, incredible vision, touching availability and generosity! 


How would you evaluate your participation in the project?  What was the main benefit of the project specifically for your institution?

EMERGENCE provided us with the necessary human and financial resources that made possible the planning of joint artistic and educational activities in Nicosia, enabling the exchange between established and early career artists, creating a platform for performance creators and audiences to meet and interact. This long-term process allowed us to come closer to the initial goals: to offer new experiences, enhance careers and raise employability of young artists and creators across Europe, while establishing links between Cyprus Theatre Organization and international institutions and individuals. We anticipate that gained experiences will help us better establish our international presence of the Organization, and secure a positive, long-term impact on the fast-growing arts community of Cyprus.