Manon van de Water
Manon van de Water

Take a child to the theatre

March 20th is International Take a Child to Theatre Day, but this whole month we are reminded how important it is to take a child to the theatre. And it should not be one month, of course; we need to remember this every day, all year long.  We want to grab the moments and opportunities to expose children to theatre and theatrical activities, to give them theatrical experiences. Because that is what we love to do and why we work for and with children and youth.

The message from  Malala Yousafzai and Guila Clara Kessous speaks for itself. We are lucky that we have these women join ASSITEJ to bring the message about the power of our art. What can I add to that?

As I am writing this, I am sitting in an airplane from Bologna to Paris, the first leg of a long day flying across 7 time zones. We had a meeting in Bologna, the first of its kind, among the five networks of ASSITEJ. Roberto Frabetti had the brilliant idea to bring representatives of the first five networks of ASSITEJ-Small Size, Write Local Play Global (WLPG), the International Theatre for Young Audiences Research Network (ITYARN), the International Inclusive Arts Network (IIAN), and the Next Generation Network together for an open discussion on what the networks’ place in ASSITEJ is, how we can support each other, if and how we can work together, and how we see our future.  We had representatives from both Berlin-where we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of ASSITEJ during the artistic gathering at the Augenblick Mal! festival in April 2015, and Birmingham-where we will have the next artistic gathering at the On the Edge festival in July 2016, which was very useful for the short and long term planning. We looked at themes and the history of the networks and we learned a lot from each other and about each other.

We had a realization. The ASSITEJ networks are a 21st century phenomenon. There were no ASSITEJ networks before the 21st century, and for part of the first decade three of the networks developed more or less independently of ASSITEJ, although the network members were also connected with ASSITEJ through their national centers. And in the course of the 3-hour discussion we discovered a sense of purpose. A mission to energize, to offer new perspectives, to integrate generationally, interdisciplinary, and interculturally-exactly the themes of the next three ASSITEJ Artistic Gatherings and culminating World Congress and Festival in South Africa in 2017. We discovered that each of the networks had a purpose to work with and within the other networks: all networks can use research (ITYARN); all networks have or invite Next Generation members; all networks aim to be inclusive (IIAN); all networks embrace plays, playwriting, (cultural) translation and devising (WLPG); all work on or with Theatre for the  Very Young (Small Size).  And all are ready to get to work and excited about being a part of ASSITEJ.

So: this is the month of taking a child to the theatre but our work never stops. We do it because we are driven to it; in airplanes, in offices, in theatres, in found spaces. Networks, National Centers, Theatre Companies, and individual artists. Creating, researching, advocating, inspiring. Because we all look forward to the next 50 years.
March 20th is International Take a Child to Theatre Day, but this whole month we are reminded how important it is to take a child to the theatre. And it should not be one month, of course; we need to remember this every day, all year long.  We want to grab the moments and opportunities to expose children to theatre and theatrical activities, to give them theatrical experiences. Because that is what we love to do and why we work for and with children and youth.

The message from  Malala Yousafzai and Guila Clara Kessous speaks for itself. We are lucky that we have these women join ASSITEJ to bring the message about the power of our art. What can I add to that?

As I am writing this, I am sitting in an airplane from Bologna to Paris, the first leg of a long day flying across 7 time zones. We had a meeting in Bologna, the first of its kind, among the five networks of ASSITEJ. Roberto Frabetti had the brilliant idea to bring representatives of the first five networks of ASSITEJ-Small Size, Write Local Play Global (WLPG), the International Theatre for Young Audiences Research Network (ITYARN), the International Inclusive Arts Network (IIAN), and the Next Generation Network together for an open discussion on what the networks’ place in ASSITEJ is, how we can support each other, if and how we can work together, and how we see our future.  We had representatives from both Berlin-where we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of ASSITEJ during the artistic gathering at the Augenblick Mal! festival in April 2015, and Birmingham-where we will have the next artistic gathering at the On the Edge festival in July 2016, which was very useful for the short and long term planning. We looked at themes and the history of the networks and we learned a lot from each other and about each other.

We had a realization. The ASSITEJ networks are a 21st century phenomenon. There were no ASSITEJ networks before the 21st century, and for part of the first decade three of the networks developed more or less independently of ASSITEJ, although the network members were also connected with ASSITEJ through their national centers. And in the course of the 3-hour discussion we discovered a sense of purpose. A mission to energize, to offer new perspectives, to integrate generationally, interdisciplinary, and interculturally-exactly the themes of the next three ASSITEJ Artistic Gatherings and culminating World Congress and Festival in South Africa in 2017. We discovered that each of the networks had a purpose to work with and within the other networks: all networks can use research (ITYARN); all networks have or invite Next Generation members; all networks aim to be inclusive (IIAN); all networks embrace plays, playwriting, (cultural) translation and devising (WLPG); all work on or with Theatre for the  Very Young (Small Size).  And all are ready to get to work and excited about being a part of ASSITEJ.

So: this is the month of taking a child to the theatre but our work never stops. We do it because we are driven to it; in airplanes, in offices, in theatres, in found spaces. Networks, National Centers, Theatre Companies, and individual artists. Creating, researching, advocating, inspiring. Because we all look forward to the next 50 years.