The Theatre: texts, tours and the boards of the stage

Théâtre universitaire de Liège, the TURLg, later designated ‘royal’ was created in 1941, although the University had had a theatre since the 1930’s. Defined as a creative performing group, the Theatre stages plays in French, German, English, and Walloon. TURLg performs 5 or 6 plays a year, and now has performed over 150.

Fin de siècle 2The Theatre has evolved over time. For its first 20 years it featured a classical repertoire, but then the Middle Ages and Antiquity were swept away by interest in more modern work. Today the TURLg has an eclectic repertoire of plays in which Molière, Shakespeare and Aristophanes are played beside playwrights of today. From the outset, though, the University Theatre has maintained a tradition: the company participates collectively at every step of the staging of a play, the choice of texts, and of translations, direction, set decoration, and scene construction. What subjects are emphasized the most? “Doesn’t matter, as long as we find strong content, a text that has something to say about man, to man, through men,” says Robert Germay of the TURLg. Germay professes a love for leaving the beaten track and presenting less well known plays, along with the famous classics. The Royal University Theatre does not operate according to any “ star-system “, but the company does not hesitate to double or add roles in order to achieve the right balance between members of the company, which prefers to adapt plays to the conditions of performance and the circumstances of creation, rather than the reverse – the motto of the association.

In the wide world of university theatres - Robert Germay states that he has rarely known a university that did not offer theatrical activities – the University of Liege is known for several specialties, according to the TURLg President. Among these, a repertoire of plays that have a long-term capability. Students participate in several productions, and each play produced becomes ‘available’ for several years. The TURLg is also one of the most mobile of university theatres, traveling to about a dozen international festivals each year. After trips to 32 countries on 5 continents, Robert Germay has lost count of the number of in-flight baptisms the company has experienced… The TURLg also introduces children as young as 6 to the stage. The entire company bridges more than one generation, including children, adolescents, students, adults, and senior citizens, which makes for a family atmosphere among the members.

How is the TURLg organized? The center of activity is the company, including about 100 actors, 75% of whom are students, which rehearses every week and travels to festivals. There are also weekly workshops, begun in 1997, and week-long intensive instruction sessions that take place throughout the year. All in all these activities bring together 1200 registrations annually, all under the guidance of 12 directors.

Besides the annual programme offered to the public at large, for which most plays are presented in the main theatre building downtown, on the quai Roosevelt, the members of the company also make presentations in primary and secondary schools.

The TURLg is as much an integral part of the University as it is oriented toward the world entire (RITU is a good example of this). It is given life by actors of all ages who are involved in the process of artistic creation from beginning to end, and who pay close attention to the original languages in which certain plays were composed, a policy that is at one and the same time attraction and challenge. The Theatre is almost 70 years old; it is an institution that has accumulated weighty experience, and one that has renewed itself continually. The Theatre has a way of giving the gift of tongues to each actor that becomes a member, and of revealing to each the sense of human discovery and self-mastery to which the theatre has the secret key. 

Theatre is a school, isn't it?” (Karl VALENTIN)