House on Fire was a multi-annual project which ran from 2012-2017, supported by the European Union’s Culture Programme 2007-2013. At its start, ten performing arts organizations from across Europe were acutely aware how artists were playing an active part in the public debate on social, environmental and political challenges, most notably through politically engaged and documentary theatre. Through House on Fire these organizations partnered in their support for this so-called ‘Reality Trend’ with an aim to develop the critical potential of the performing arts in a European context.
The word ‘House’ in the title stands for sustainability in supporting arts and artists, as well as the world we live in. ‘Fire’ stands for the urgency and passion that drives artistic creation, as well as the pressing need to tackle worldwide issues together. Guided - respectively - by artists, curators and theoreticians, House on Fire co-produced and presented 87 international performing arts creations, co-organised 10 thematic programmes, and published the book series ‘Performing Urgency’. Over the course of the project, however, Europe found itself in an increasing state of turmoil. In this sense, as one programmer reflected, the title of House on Fire turned out to be ‘prophetic’.
This report offers both an overview and a review of House on Fire, and opens a window onto what such a European project may offer artists and societies in these times when more and more urgent issues are ignited. In the sections Entering the Burning House and Performing Burning Issues, Lonneke van Heugten, dramaturge and researcher at the University of Amsterdam, reflects both on the process of curation and on the outcomes of the project in terms of performances, thematic events and books. Midway, House on Fire presents the Blazing Numbers & Fiery Facts about what was achieved over the course of the project. Finally the report includes Audience Responses - a sample survey by Acesso Cultura on the perceptions of House on Fire activities at Teatro Maria Matos in Lisbon. The report concludes with a Listing of House on Fire Activities. The report was edited by Lonneke van Heugten who attended several of the House on Fire meetings in the framework of her PhD research into the relationship between European cultural policy and theatre practices.