Theatre in Cyprus has flourished since antiquity and there is wonderful proof of this with the existence of the ancient theatres of Kourion, Pafos, Salamis and Soli. The Cyprus Theatre Organization (THOC) was founded by law in 1971 with the aim of promoting Theatrical Arts in Cyprus and aiding cultural links with other countries. The creation of THOC was the first serious attempt made by the government to create a state theatre. THOC aspires to base its work primarily on the long tradition of theatre in Cyprus, a tradition closely interwoven with the principle of democracy, and the provision of culture and entertainment to the citizens of the island.
The vision of THOC for the future is now becoming all the more meaningful and important in order to ensure that Cyprus will be in a position to contribute in a qualitative way to European and world-wide culture and civilization; a contribution that promotes communication among the peoples through Art and the presence of all the Arts in theatre. With a view to achieving its aims and vision, the Organization's activities cover:
- The production of classical and modern plays, from both the International and the Cypriot/Greek repertoire
- Touring to towns and rural areas of Cyprus and abroad
- Training of actors, technicians and personnel
- The promotion of theatre development in Cyprus mainly through subsidization of independent theatres and ad hoc productions, improvement of infrastructure, promotion of theatre in education, amateur theatre etc
THOC is governed by a 9-member Board of Directors appointed by the President of the Republic for a 3-year term of office, and is run by a Director whose appointment is made by the Board and ratified by the Council of Ministers. There is also an Artistic Committee, an advisory body responsible for artistic matters. THOC employs 23 actors on a regular basis and works with a group of internationally acclaimed stage directors, scenographers, composers and choreographers and also employs actors on short-term contracts.
In the summer of 1974, THOC - as indeed the whole of Cyprus - was dealt the heavy blow of the military coup and Turkish invasion. Despite the uprooting of many of its employees, the destruction of the country and the fact that so many people had become refugees, THOC rallied its forces and set out on an unprecedented six month tour of Greece with two plays. The CYP 26.000 collected from the performances went to a fund specially set up for those who had suffered the effects of the coup and invasion. Since then, THOC has gone from strength to strength and can count among its achievements a large number of productions that have made history.
THOC Today - At present THOC operates four Stages: the Main Stage, the New Stage, the Experimental Stage and the Children's Stage. In thirty three years of operation the Organization has staged over three hundred plays, varying greatly in respect of subject matter, dramatic genre, language, approach and philosophy:
- Main Stage: With large-scale productions of classical and modern plays, as well as ancient drama.
- New Stage: Established in 1994 as a follow -on from the Second Stage. Plays with small casts are performed in smaller spaces, with a more intimate relationship between stage and audience.
- Experimental Stage: With the aim to develop research and to promote new forms of theatre.
- Children's Stage: With plays by authors from Cyprus, Greece and other countries, as well as performances of Shadow Theatre.
The Organization has toured abroad extensively, giving performances in the United Kingdom, Egypt, Germany, Bulgaria, Russia, Greece, the USA, Poland, China and Denmark. Since 1980 THOC has taken part in the annual Epidaurus Festival in Greece, with plays from the Ancient Greek Drama repertory.
Theatre Development in Cyprus - Added to THOC's structure in 1979, the Theatre Development Section deals specifically with the following:
- Subsidization and support of independent theatres (non-profitable companies)
- Subsidization of ad thoc performances
- Organization of seminars, lectures, and other events connected to the theatre in Education
- Amateur theatre
- Theatre of Cypriot communities abroad
- Competitions and support of Cypriot playwrights
- Collaboration with organizations abroad
- Operation of the Cyprus Theatre Museum
- Subsidization of organized groups (e.g. Cyprus Centre of the International Theatre Institute, Cyprus Actors Union, Playwrights Society etc)
Subsidies for the Creation of Theatre - The support offered by THOC to independent theatres takes many forms, the most important of which is their annual subsidization based on new, revised terms and measurable criteria, which is granted to non-profit making theatre organizations such as Satiriko Theatro,Theatro ENA, ETHAL, and Theatro Scala, which demonstrably enhance theatre development in Cyprus.
Cyprus Theatre in Education - The Cyprus Theatre Organization, in close co-operation with the Ministry of Education and Culture, promotes Theatre in Education in a number of ways:
- Organized performances of THOC's Children's stage for primary and secondary education students
- School Theatre Competitions
- Seminars for teachers involved in theatre in education
- Placement of Drama specialists within schools
- Drama therapy programme for children with special needs
Amateur Theatre in Cyprus - The Cyprus Theatre Organization attaches particular importance to the development of Amateur Theatre, which is perhaps the purest expression of interest for the theatre. The decision of any club or association to engage itself in the area of theatre is always welcomed with great warmth since it leads to new quests for creativity and the highest quality of performances. The Cyprus Theatre Organization offers the following to groups that can demonstrate their involvement in the field of Amateur Theatre:
- Inclusion in THOC's register of amateur theatre groups and dispatch of information regarding amateur theatre.
- Dispatch of a bi-monthly bulletin and complimentary tickets to THOC's performances.
- Organization of the Pan Cyprian Festival of Amateur Theatre, in which groups can take part with performances given at venues of their choice. The best performance of the Festival will go on to represent Cyprus at the “Meeting” of Amateur Groups of the Aegean which takes place every Autumn on an Aegean island. Each participating group receives a symbolic grant of CYP 600.
- Assistance in the selection of plays.
- Help and advice to amateur (and school theatre groups) by an actor/director employed by THOC.
- Contact data with other amateur groups based in Cyprus or Greece, with a view to promoting exchange programmes.
- Organization of training seminars.
New THOC Building - The new THOC building aspires to give new life to theatre activities of the island. In addition to the two state of the art stages (550 and 150 seats), it will include offices, an exhibition area, a foyer, a bookshop, a restaurant and a cafeteria. The building will be constructed on the basis of modern specifications and will provide all facilities for people with disabilities. The new theatre building will be completed in 2007.
Cyprus - EU - THOC - is already making use of the enormous opportunities for theatre development provided either by the European Union itself, or on a bi-lateral level between EU member-states. Cyprus has participated in the following:
- the “Leonardo programme”
- the programme “Culture 2000”
It also has
- co-productions with other EU member-states
- bi-lateral collaborations with Greece, Germany etc
THOC is examining new avenues for exchanges and collaboration with EU Member-states within the framework of Cyprus accession to the EU.
Cyprus Theatre Museum - With a view to presenting a comprehensive overview of the history of theatre in Cyprus, THOC in collaboration with the Municipality of Limassol have founded the Museum of the History of Cyprus Theatre. Original material which is already being collected will be exhibited in the museum's various rooms (from historical productions, especially set-up 'dressing-rooms' of important artists of the theatre). The museum will also house a Theatre Archive. Access will be given to researchers, students and theatre-enthusiasts. With the aim of attracting audiences of all ages, activities and events related to theatre and theatre practice will also be organized in the building.
Theatre Awards in Cyprus - The “THOC Theatre Awards In Memory of Melina Mercouri” are awarded every two years to professional artists, whose work is deemed exceptional in a particular production during two theatre periods:
The Awards cover:
- Theatre play righting/Theatre adaptation
- Theatre translation
- Set design
- Costume design
- Lighting design
A Grand Prize is also awarded for lifetime achievement.
Source: Press And Information Office, Republic Of Cyprus, 2005