The ZKB Prizes

No nominations for ZKB Prizes

One of the long-standing commitments of the Zürcher Kantonalbank as main partner of the Zürcher Theater Spektakel has been the funding of the ZKB Patronage and the ZKB Acknowledgement Prizes, which have awarded young artists and companies worthy of support for over twenty years. In 2016, the Zürcher Kantonalbank launched the ZKB Audience Prize. Since then, not only a jury of experts but also the audience have been able to cast their vote on productions nominated for the ZKB Patronage and ZKB Acknowledgment Prizes. Due to the corona pandemic and the ensuing conditions for this year’s Theater Spektakel, the criteria for nomination and awarding prizes cannot be applied to productions in this year’s programme. Accordingly, Zürcher Kantonalbank and the festival direction have decided not to award any ZKB Prizes this year.

Audience prize CHF 10 000.-

In 2016, the Zürcher Kantonalbank successfully launched the ZKB Audience Prize of 10,000 Swiss Francs. Since then both the expert jury and audiences have had the opportunity to cast their vote for productions nominated for the ZKB Patronage and the ZKB Acknowledgement Prize. The spectators at those shows are handed out a ballot on which they can rate what they have seen.

The winners of the ZKB Audience Prize 2019 are Samara Hersch & Lara Thoms (Australia) for «We All Know What's Happening».

Their play not only delighted the audience but also the expert jury: Australian theatre-makers Samara Hersch (3rd from right) and Lara Thoms (far right) were awarded the ZKB Audience Prize and the ZKB Patronage Prize. | Photo: ZTS/Christian Altorfer

ZKB Patronage Prize CHF 30,000.-

The ZKB Patronage Prize is awarded annually to an artist or a company working in independent theatre, dance theatre or performance art, who have distinguished themselves and shown innovation in the creation of new work. The aim of this prize is to support the chosen recipient in their future projects. The criteria for candidates is that the significant work for which the award is actually given has had its premiere within the past three years.

The festival board nominates five to seven productions from the festival’s current programme. Precedence is given to artists who the board feel have yet to receive a level of public recognition that is commensurate with their achievements. Former winners of the prize are excluded from nomination.

The winners of the ZKB Patronage Prize 2019 are Samara Hersch & Lara Thoms (Australia) for «We All Know What's Happening».

ZKB Acknowledgment Prize CHF 5000.-

The Acknowledgment Prize allows for additional recognition and support of a nominee whose work is considered to be outstanding. It is awarded to a company or an artist for extraordinary achievement in such areas as choreography, dramaturgy, audience participation or acting.

Since 2012 all productions presented in «Short Pieces» have been nominated for the Acknowledgment Prize, unless the artists have not previously been nominated for the ZKB Acknowledgment Prize.

Winner of the ZKB Acknowledgement Prize 2019 is Ira Melkonyan & The Rubberbodies Collective (Ukraine/Niederlande) for «Upstairs Geology 50/50».


Direct from Malta: At the award ceremony 2019 Ira Melkonyan was present with a video message. | Photo: ZTS/Christian Altorfer


An independent jury, consisting of five experts, decides on awarding the prizes. The jury panel is chosen by the festival management and is presided by one of its members. This person is not entitled to vote. The jury consultations are not public; the decision for the awarded production is substantiated. The jury’s decisions are announced on the last weekende of the festival at the occasion of an award ceremony.

The idea

During the run-up to the 1996 festival, Markus Luchsinger, artistic director of the festival from 1990 to 2001, who passed away untimely in 2009, approached the Zürcher Kantonalbank, one of the festival’s main sponsors, with the idea of a patronage prize. He wasn’t thinking of an award for lifetime achievement or special accomplishment. Instead he had focused on recognition of a young, innovative, hitherto little-known individual or company. A substantial prize would be awarded annually at the festival. This would represent a significant financial contribution towards future productions involving the prize-winner. Briefly, it was to be a prize with long-term effects.

Markus Luchsinger’s proposal resonated ideally with the ZKB’s idea of sustainable cultural commitment. The criteria for nomination, the jury board and the award ceremony were discussed fruitfully with the result that the ZKB Patronage Prize of 20'000 Swiss Francs (today 30'000 Swiss Francs) was awarded that very year at the festival.

Today we look back with joy, gratefulness and pride. There is continuity: A long-term cultural commitment such as the ZKB Patronage Prize is not to be taken for granted: it enables the festival board to develop a perspective for the promotion of young talent in a way that reaches beyond the annual festival itself. In addition there is sustainability: The list of former prize-winners confirms that the prize has fulfilled its purpose: Stefan Pucher, 400asa, Sarah Michelson, The Living Dance Studio, 600 HIGHWAYMEN, Eisa Jocson, Omar Abusaada & Mohammad al Attar have all triumphed with their subsequent artistic creations and have justified the faith invested in them. Festival audiences were equally given an opportunity to see that the original productions were not a flash in the pan as the majority of prizewinners returned to the festival with new productions.

And finally there is the impact: The Patronage Prize has added profile to the festival program as the denotation «nominated for the ZKB Patronage Prize» has become synonymous with riveting productions of promising young artists. In this spirit, the ZKB and the festival board invite you to give the nominees your special attention. They deserve it.

Former Prize Winners


Patronage Prize: Silke Huysman & Hannes Dereere, Brazil, Belgium: Mining Stories
Acknowledgement Prize: Youness Atbane & Youness Aboulakoul, Morocco: The Architects
Audience Prize: Casus Circus, Australia: Driftwood


Patronage Prize: Wojtek Ziemilski & Nowy Teatr, Poland: Jeden gest (One Gesture)
Acknowledgement Prize: Fatoumata Bagayoko, Mali: Fatou t'as tout fait
Audience Prize: Lukas Avendaño, Mexico: No soy persona. Soy mariposa


Patronage Prize: Omar Abusaada & Mohammad Al Attar, Syria: While I Was Waiting
Acknowledgement Prize: Sorour Darabi, Iran: Farci.e
Audience Prize: Gravity & Other Myths, Australia: A Simple Space

For a complete list of the prize winners since 1996 please check here