Great things are coming to the reconstructed Trafó next year – interview with director Beáta Barda

Now it is a system closed from its upper side, with new people entering it each year, so the only way to finance newcomers might often be to take money from the older ones

– says Beáta Barda, executive director of the Trafó whom we asked about the current situation in cultural corporate tax changes, about the construction works in Trafó, and also their plans for the next season. She thinks that raising the ticket prices drastically won’t solve any problem, especially if we compare it to a multiannual support system. As for the group in Trafó nowadays, she labels them ‘brilliant’. An interview.

Attila Vidnyánszky, current director of the Hungarian National Theatre, said these days that Hungarian theatre finally experiences a golden age. Do you agree?

There are good performances, average performances and bad performances, just like anytime, anywhere. It might not be, though, that the good performances are where we would expect them to be.

With the abolishment of the cultural corporate tax, some chosen theatres in Budapest are going to get 3.5 billion HUF (almost 11,000 EUR) to compensate them for the lost financing. Some newspapers claim that Trafó is supposed to get 60 million HUF from it. Are you satisfied with this?

To be a bit more exact, Trafó got a promise of 59 million. If the money really arrives, it’s fine. But of course, we would be happy with a bit more support.

Mayor of Budapest István Tarlós claims that the decision was influenced by discussions with theatres and current trends of ticket selling. How did this all happen?

As I recall, there was a meeting in the beginning of the calendar year between Budapest theatres and experts about what cultural corporate tax could be exchanged with.

What do you think could be an ideal support system for independent theatres?

On the long run, a system of multiannual support. It would also help if bids were out much earlier, so that independents wouldn’t need to wait so long to get money. The amount of the money should be also raised, as it is now a system closed from its upper side, with new people entering it each year, so the only way to finance newcomers might often be to take money from the older ones.

After the Örkény Theatre, also the directorate of the Katona József Theatre decided that due to the insecure situation of independent and inclusive theatres, they won’t apply for the National Cultural Fund Theatre College Grant. What do you think?

This is an important gesture.

Have you also thought about doing what a lot of independent theatres do? They try to secure their further operation with more expensive tickets, or they do fundraising among their fans. How can Trafó influence its own budget?

Trafó is not an independent theatre, it’s a Budapest-led institution like the Comedy Theatre – but we indeed work with independent artists. And if they get less, if their money is not enough, then, logically, they want more support from our side. Most of our audience is young, we would really like to keep them, so I guess it’s not a good strategy to raise ticket prices. Even until now, we had heated discussions with foreign artists about their finances, so this might continue, but it also won’t save us from everything.

“Community and audience is smaller and smaller, there is a regression in the field of independent theatre and dance” – said your colleague György Szabó in an interview last year. Do you have the same experiences?

Yes, I also recall that when we opened Trafó, contemporary dance was more popular than nowadays.

In April, the construction works at Trafó started. How long they will be, what will be different in the new space?

We hope that the works will end until the start of the new season. We’ll have a built-in parking space, a bigger cloakroom, a bigger cash desk, a coffee shop connected to the street, and a barrier-free toilet in our plans.

Visualization of the new café

What are your plans for the next season?

There will be a lot of great things! On the one hand, there are performances in the great hall and the club that are continued from this season, and on the other hand, a lot of new debuts. From Pál Frenák to Andrea Pass, from Stereo Akt to Papa Dollar and Hodworks. There will be foreigner stars from Milo Raud to Marie Chouinard, from Sidi Larbi to Lloyd Newson, and there will also be some rather unknown artists in Hungary presenting their works here, from South Korea to Turkey.

You are executive director of the Trafó since 2017. What do you perceive as your greatest personal success from this time?

I don’t have any personal successes. No matter how full this is with pathos, but what we are doing here is teamwork at its finest, and we have a brilliant team. This is success.

Interview: Zsolt Várkonyi

Translation: Zsófia Hacsek