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The 2019 Lion awards for Theatre
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The 2019 Lion awards for Theatre

The Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement goes to German dramaturg Jens Hillje (Award Ceremony on 4 August); the Silver Lion to Dutch author-director Jetse Batelaan (22 July).

The awards

Jens Hillje, the German dramaturg and co-artistic director of the Maxim Gorki Theater, the fulcrum of the new theatre scene in Berlin, is the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement in Theatre 2019.
The Dutch author-director Jetse Batelaan, creator of innovative children's theatre and not only, has been awarded the Silver Lion for Theatre 2019.
The decision was made by the Board of Directors of the Biennale di Venezia, chaired by Paolo Baratta, which approved the recommendation of the Director of the Theatre Department Antonio Latella.
The Golden Lion and the Silver Lion will be awarded during the 47th International Theatre Festival that will take place in Venice from July 22nd to August 5th.


Raised between Italy and Germany, and for many years co-artistic director of the Schaubühne in Berlin with Thomas Ostermeier and Sasha Waltz before coming to the Gorki Theater, Jens Hillje, says the motivation, “as a professional figure embodies all the characteristics that define the role of the dramaturg today, which embraces far more than just the authorship or elaboration of texts for the theatre, as has been true until the recent past.

Over the years Hillje has served in most of the roles that qualify a contemporary dramaturg, participating in the programming for major theatres, creating synergetic relationships between actors, authors and directors, collaborating with the most important figures on the international scene to propose original themes on which to work, that could orient the choices of artistic directors. Consistently, he has sought to discover and launch new authors for the theatre, selecting very young actors for the theatres in which he has worked and works now,  and matching them with equally young or well-established directors. His work has contributed to the creation of a new audience, from different social backgrounds and geographical areas, a surprising and exemplary result that may even challenge the marketing logic to which today's theatre often defers”.


Just over forty years old, director Jetse Batelaan, says the motivation, “has become established on the international scene as a singular and innovative artist, with a strong and recognizable highly personal approach to theatre. Presenting works of powerful visual impact, Batelaan reinterprets contemporary myths, creating a kind of magic on the stage that seduces even the most sceptical of spectators. Thanks to his masterful use of theatrical conventions, the Dutch director, who chooses to address his works primarily to audiences of adolescents and children, succeeds in involving people of all ages, a characteristic that is intrinsic to great popular theatre. With Batelaan, theatre for children, which is often mistakenly considered to be second-class or in a category below 'official' theatre, reclaims the importance it deserves and which has been acknowledged in the past, as the history of the Biennale Theatre demonstrates”.

Jetse Batelaan will present two productions during the 47th International Theatre Festival in Venice (22 July > 5 August): The Story of the Story, an archaeology of storytelling, and War, which addresses tragic themes with profound and unexpected levity.


In the past, the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement in Theatre has been awarded to Ferruccio Soleri (2006), Ariane Mnouschkine (2007), Roger Assaf (2008), Irene Papas (2009), Thomas Ostermeier (2011), Luca Ronconi (2012), Romeo Castellucci (2013), Jan Lauwers (2014), Christoph Marthaler (2015), Declan Donnellan (2016), Katrin Brack (2017), and Antonio Rezza & Flavia Mastrella (2018). The Silver Lion, dedicated to promising talents in theatre or to those institutions that have distinguished themselves in their support of young talents, has been awarded in the past to Rimini Protokoll (2011), Angélica Liddell (2013), Fabrice Murgia (2014), Agrupación Señor Serrano (2015), Babilonia Teatri (2016), Maja Kleczewska (2017), and Anagoor (2018).

Jens Hillje

(Germany, 1968) - From 1989 to 1995 he studied Applied Arts at the University of Perugia, continuing these studies in Hildesheim and Berlin. Since 1990 he has worked in independent German theatre as an actor, an author and a director. From 1996 to 1999 he worked in Berlin as a dramaturg for Recherche Faust/Artaud, directed by Thomas Ostermeier, with whom he began a long partnership: together they founded "Barracke" at the Deutsches Theater, a space and a company dedicated to staging contemporary dramaturgical works. From 1999 to 2009 he was the chief dramaturg and member of the artistic direction of the Schaubühne in Berlin with Thomas Ostermeier and choreographer Sasha Waltz: with them he created a permanent international-level dance and prose ensemble.

As a dramaturg, he has worked with the leading exponents of European theatre: in addition to Ostermeier, Yael Ronen, Falk Richter, Luk Perceval, Sebastian Nübling, Nurkan Erpulat. The play titled Crazy Blood, directed by Nurkan Erpulat, won the German critics' award as production of the year 2011. In 2011 he was also the Artistic Director and Curator of the Performing Art Festival – In Transit at Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW) in Berlin.

Since 2013, he has been the co-director and chief dramaturg of the Maxim Gorki Theater in Berlin, named Theatre of the Year by Theater Heute magazine in 2014 and 2016. The Preussiche Seedhandlung Foundation awarded him the Theaterpreis Berlin in 2016 alongside Shermin Langhoff, artistic director of the Maxim Gorki Theater.

Jetse Batelaan

(Leiden – Netherlands, 1978) – He graduated from the Theatre Director’s Course at the Amsterdam School of the Arts. After working as an independent artist and as a regular director for the Theatergroep Max and the mime-theatre group Bambie, from 2009 to 2013 he was associated as a director with the Ro Theater in Rotterdam. He was earning national and international acclaim before becoming the artistic director in 2013 of Theater Artemis, a leading company in the field of children's theatre. Along with Theater Artemis, he also collaborates with other theatre companies, including Het Zuidelijk Toneel and De Warme Winkel.

He has won important awards since he was very young, including the Young Theatre Prize at the Theater aan Zee Festival in 2001, the Erik Vos Award, many Silver Cricket Awards and one Golden Cricket Award. For his productions titled Come on father, drink (2005) and If you run fast enough, no-one will know where you are (2016) he won the VSCD Mime Award, one of the highest acknowledgments by Dutch critics.

His works have been performed at important Festivals: Het Theaterfestival, Theaterfestival Boulevard, New Island Festival in New York, Parc de la Villette in Paris, Wiener Festwochen in Vienna, La Bâtie-Festival in Geneva, Theaterfestival in Basel, Westwind Festival in Cologne, and the Panoptikum in Nuremberg and the BIBU Biennale for Children Helsingborg among others.