‘LEADING THE WAY FOR CULTURE’
MEET GEORGIA DOETZER
Director, Rialto Theatre Limassol
Georgia Doetzer is the Director of the Rialto Theatre in Limassol. She was also the Artistic Programme Director of Pafos European City of Culture 2017 which transformed the cultural scene in Pafos. Georgia was born in Limassol but was brought up in Nicosia. After leaving school, her studies took her to Germany, where she studied for her degree in Social Sciences and Economics. She stayed in Germany for nine years and met her husband there. They both returned to Cyprus in 1984, and she still lives in Limassol today. She has a son who also resides in Limassol. In this exclusive interview with Georgia, she shares he one wish; to create a separate Ministry for Culture in Cyprus.
HOW DID YOUR CAREER IN CULTURE START?
Initially, when I came back to Cyprus, I went into teaching. However, my love for the theatre was prevalent, and I started working with a local theatre group, the ‘ETHAL’ which was an excellent opportunity to get involved with the cultural scene in Limassol.
The Rialto used to be one of two main cinemas in Limassol, so it was always a landmark building for the people of the city. The Rialto was built in the 1930s on Heroes Square, and, as a building, has always been loved by all. During the mid-1980s the building was abandoned. There had been plans to demolish it, but thankfully the Limassol Coop Bank stepped in and bought it. They extended, refurbished and rebuilt the old cinema building and it opened as a modern theatre in 1999. It is operated by a non-profit cultural foundation and it has changed the cultural scene not only in Limassol but across Cyprus.
The theatre’s mission was to present events of the highest standard and make them accessible to everyone, not just a select few. I was appointed as their Artistic Director before it opened and I worked there from 1999 – 2014 when I left to work on Pafos 2017 European Capital of Culture. As soon as the Pafos 2017 project was finished, I was offered the job to return.
HOW DOES THE RIALTO THEATRE WORK TODAY?
At the Rialto, we organise six of the leading state festivals, which are all aiming to promote not only the arts but culture in general. We have several Cinema Festivals which we do in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Culture. We have an annual Film Festival, the Cinema Days and an annual Short Film Festival, usually in October.
Again, in collaboration with the Ministry, we also arrange Dance Festivals. We have the Cypriot Choreographers’ Platform and the International Contemporary Dance Festival.
We are also starting a new festival which will be called the Cyprus Choreography Showcase. This is where we will invite festival directors, curators and programmers from abroad, to come to Limassol and see selected Cypriot dance performances, in the hope that they will be invited to attend worldwide events.
Annually, we also hold a Jazz and World Music Showcase, which shows the world, the musical scene in Cyprus. Our main aim is to help our artists get the recognition they so richly deserve. We have a lot of talent in Cyprus in all cultural genres, including music, dance and theatre. By participating in these festivals, we are offering the opportunity to these artists to prepare and show their work at a European level.
Twenty-five years ago, these opportunities were not available to young artists. After Rialto’s first twenty years, we see this as a priority to support and promote our talent to the international audience.
To celebrate our anniversary, we were rethinking ways we can help the young artists coming through, and we have developed a new project called “Associated Artist at Rialto”. We have invited the director, Paris Erotocritou to work on a collaboration with us. Together with writers and actors, we aim to develop the project from the beginning to the performance. The emphasis is actually on the development phase of the project. This way, we can invest more in the artists and conditions of developing artistic work together.
HOW WAS PAFOS 2017 FOR YOU?
It was a very challenging experience. It was a very intense time during my career, as together with our seventeen staff, we were all under an immense amount of pressure. There was a great deal of preparation, and it was a lot of work even just to complete the design of the programme which had to be approved by the EU. Our primary mission was then to implement the programme.
We had over 350 volunteers who worked with us throughout the year. They were a precious asset and were all passionate about Pafos 2017. It was a lovely atmosphere with everyone working together for the good of culture and the city. Everybody involved in my team worked so hard. We all worked to our maximum potential and saw it through until the end.
The extreme pressure resulted from the fact that some of the venues had not been delivered on time. The City has been totally transformed since then, with nearly all the projects completed.
WHAT IS THE LEGACY OF PAFOS 2017?
The lasting legacy, in addition to the infrastructure changes, is that it has influenced and changed the mindsets of people and brought the different groups living in Pafos, closer together. It brought the arts to everybody and developed the audience. We had 168 projects with 332 actions throughout the year, and the majority of them were available with free entrance. This made culture accessible to everyone and presented strong networking opportunities to the artists.
WHICH EVENT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF?
The most prominent event was the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra performing in front of the castle. This was important for me as it stood apart from other performances for its artistic excellence. It was a very demanding and challenging event to organise. To bring them here and have it transmitted to a worldwide audience on TV of 30 million viewers was a great success for Pafos. The European capital is not just about culture but to make the title city more well-known across the world.
In addition to this, the creation of another concert which took place the day before meant a lot to me as well. It was a musical performance by young Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot musicians, united by music, performing together. The orchestra still exists and holds events today.
To be honest, I feel connected to all the projects, and I relished the way that it brought all sectors of society in Pafos together. All the Paphians came together and became a big group. It bridged all different nationalities as well.
Another performance which stands out for me was the theatrical production of The Trojan Women. It is a play that deals with the pain after the loss of Troy. It focuses on the side of the women coming out of the war. In the production, we used actors from divided cities across the world, including Nicosia, Jerusalem and Mostar. It was a compelling and emotional performance for Cypriots to watch as we were all reminded of how conflict could cause significant pain. The cast had some amazing actors, and this production has gone on to be performed around the world since 2017. In 2018 it was shown in Delphi, and then in 2019, it went to China. Soon, the plan is to perform in South Korea! This is the legacy of Pafos 2017, and I am so happy to see that the spirit of that year remains alive today and continues to inspire people.
WHAT DID PAFOS GAIN FROM HOSTING 2017?
Pafos, without a doubt, has gained a lot from the Pafos 2017 experience and good practices. Today there are many more people who can produce and implement big projects thanks to the groundwork done in 2017. In Cyprus, our capacity, knowledge, expertise and networking have all grown from the experience. It was a very positive thing to happen to Pafos after a period of darker times with financial problems and scandals. It has revived the city and given it a brighter future.
IF YOU COULD PLAN YOUR DREAM CULTURAL EVENT, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
I am lucky enough to say that I have already done it. It was the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in 2017. If I could have one wish for cultural development in Cyprus, it would be to have a separate Ministry for Culture. At the moment, it is part of the Ministry of Education, but I think Cyprus would benefit significantly from a new independent Ministry. A new, unique Ministry could work solely on promoting and investing in the arts and artists of Cyprus. While Cyprus is small, we have a significant cultural history and a considerable amount of talent here that should be shown to the world.
CAN MORE BE DONE FOR CULTURE IN CYPRUS?
While there is government funding for culture, there is certainly not enough. If we look at the film industry, we will never attract high level international film directors here without a proper film centre and support infrastructure in the country. We unfortunately underestimate the importance of culture. I firmly believe that culture is a powerful tool for the development of Cyprus, both in economic terms and on a social basis.
The next generation coming through in the Cypriot Arts has a lot of potential, and we need to support the up and coming artists. I believe that Cyprus has the potential for culture to be a real product; up there with tourism and the service sectors. It is a part of our economy which has never been considered or given the importance it so richly deserves.
For example, in Pafos, they had 3 million visitors who came to Pafos 2017 of which 500,000 visited the antiquities. While we invest in roads and hotels, it is essential to invest in our culture. It is vital for our future.
Editor’s Note: As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, plans may have changed since this interview took place. For all the latest updates on what’s on at Rialto Theatre in Limassol, please ‘Like’ their Facebook Page or visit their website at Rialto.com.cy. To view the In Style Business Network, please start browsing here.
By Sarah Coyne
Published March 2020 – Photography by Amita Cathcart