25Mar
rlevitow March 25, 2014 No Comments

Theatre Communications Group: World Theatre Day 2014

Theatre Communications Group: World Theatre Day 2014

Theatre Communications Group (TCG), which serves as the U.S. Center of the International Theatre Institute (ITI-US), invites all theatres, individual artists, institutions and audiences to celebrate World Theatre Day on March 27, 2014.

This year, in honor of World Theatre Day's 52nd Celebration, South African playwright, designer, director, installation maker and artistic director of Third World Bunfight, Brett Bailey, will write this year's annual International Message. 

We're also excited to announce that TCG board chair, Diane Rodriguez, the associate producer/director of new play production at Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles, will give the U.S. World Theatre Day message.

Theatre Communications Group (TCG), which serves as the U.S. Center of the International Theatre Institute (ITI-US), invites all theatres, individual artists, institutions and audiences to celebrate the 52nd annual World Theatre Day on March 27, 2014. For questions, or access to the World Theatre Day logo, please email wtd@tcg.org.

Other ways to participate:

  • Share Bailey and Rodriguez’s message on or around March 27 through program notes, curtain speeches and online media.
  • View videos of international theatre artists reading translations of Bailey’s message in their own language on ITI Worldwide in Paris’ website: www.iti-worldwide.org.
  • Read the Crossing Borders World Theatre Day salon on the TCG Circle, which will feature interviews with and essays from Mexican and Canadian artists, as well as other globally-minded theatre people working across borders:http://www.tcgcircle.org/.
  • Learn about other globally-minded theatre-makers on the Circle through our Fulbright Theatre Artist and Global Connections Grant Recipient post series, then…
  • Connect with other global theatre-makers on TCG’s year-round online community platform, Conference 2.0.
  • Write your own globally-minded essay for the TCG Circle.
  • Promote your WTD activities on the official Map of WTD 2014 Events
  • Tune into The NYC WTD Coalition's The Around the Globe Chain Play.
  • Follow WTD updates on Twitter, and tweet about World Theatre Day using hashtag #WTD14 with a message like, “Celebrate World Theatre Day 2014 on March 27"
  • Follow the International Theatre Institute on Facebook, and post your own messages like this one, “Join us as we celebrate World Theatre Day 2014 leading up to the 52nd Anniversary on March 27. There are many ways to get involved, so please help us champion the power of theatre to strengthen cultural exchange and mutual understanding across borders!”
  • Register with the Performing Arts Alliance (PAA) and take action by contacting your elected officials regarding the need for: Improved visa processing for international guest artists (Issue Brief / Advocacy Letter); Increased funding for the Cultural Programs Division of the State Department (Issue Brief / Advocacy Letter)
  • Host a round table with your community to discuss the themes related to World Theatre Day
  • Offer ticket discounts in celebration of the day
  • Make your backstage space available for audiences to tour

Participate Beyond WTD 2014:

  • Register with the Human Rights Watch to learn about human rights issues from around the world
  • Consider applying for a Fulbright to conduct theatre research, training, and teaching —our world needs more creative solutions and leadership to resolve many of our challenges, and the Fulbright is making an effort to include more artists and theatre scholars in their programs
  • Set a goal to work with your local community and Sister Cities International to create a reciprocal cultural exchange or project with your sister city
  • Purchase a copy of the World of Theatre, published by ITI Worldwide, which serves as the best reference guide available to explore the diversity of the current global dramatic scene

History

Created in 1961, World Theatre Day, is celebrated annually on March 27 by ITI Centers around the world and the international theatre community. Each year, a renowned theatre artist of world stature is invited to craft an International Message to mark the global occasion.

Please click below to read World Theatre Day speeches from previous years:

2013 WTD speech by Dario Fo

2012 WTD speech by John Malkovich

2011 WTD speeches by Jessica A. Kaahwa and Jeffrey Wright

2010 WTD speeches by Dame Judi Dench and Lynn Nottage

International and US Messages  

International Message | US Message

International Message by Brett Bailey

Wherever there is human society, the irrepressible Spirit of Performance manifests.

Under trees in tiny villages, and on high tech stages in global metropolis; in school halls and in fields and in temples; in slums, in urban plazas, community centres and inner-city basements, people are drawn together to commune in the ephemeral theatrical worlds that we create to express our human complexity, our diversity, our vulnerability, in living flesh, and breath, and voice.

We gather to weep and to remember; to laugh and to contemplate; to learn and to affirm and to imagine. To wonder at technical dexterity, and to incarnate gods. To catch our collective breath at our capacity for beauty and compassion and monstrosity. We come to be energized, and to be empowered. To celebrate the wealth of our various cultures, and to dissolve the boundaries that divide us.

Wherever there is human society, the irrepressible Spirit of Performance manifests. Born of community, it wears the masks and the costumes of our varied traditions. It harnesses our languages and rhythms and gestures, and clears a space in our midst.

And we, the artists that work with this ancient spirit, feel compelled to channel it through our hearts, our ideas and our bodies to reveal our realities in all their mundanity and glittering mystery.

But, in this era in which so many millions are struggling to survive, are suffering under oppressive regimes and predatory capitalism, are fleeing conflict and hardship; in which our privacy is invaded by secret services and our words are censored by intrusive governments; in which forests are being annihilated, species exterminated, and oceans poisoned: what do we feel compelled to reveal?

In this world of unequal power, in which various hegemonic orders try to convince us that one nation, one race, one gender, one sexual preference, one religion, one ideology, one cultural framework is superior to all others, is it really defensible to insist that the arts should be unshackled from social agendas?

Are we, the artists of arenas and stages, conforming to the sanitized demands of the market, or seizing the power that we have: to clear a space in the hearts and minds of society, to gather people around us, to inspire, enchant and inform, and to create a world of hope and open-hearted collaboration?

Download the message in:

English | French

Bio for Brett Bailey

US Message by Diane Rodriguez

The Movement of all Things……

Let’s take today to honor the four directions, and the thought and culture, ritual and practice of the ancients: the Muslim Sufis, Tibetan Tulkus, Christian mystics, Hopi spiritualists, Indian yogis, the Japanese Zen, Mexican Toltecs, and on and on who believed that the artist was a creator seer, a trickster who illuminated, disrupted, challenged cultures so in need of constant reflection and change.

In our hemisphere, the Nahuas and the Toltecs envisioned the artist and tribe forming the two strands that entwined to make the nahui ollin, the symbol for harmony and balance.

For me at the center of their connection is a space, a circle that is the theatre where community and artist live to form the human band and together, they give and receive.

Artist and spectator: interconnected and interdependent, and wherever and whenever we come together to make work, to struggle to find the truth, to listen, to be lifted, transported, our energy reverberates drawing from the ancient past and facing, dissecting, embracing what is to come.

Let’s take today to will into belief that the creative endeavor that is theatre gives a child the tools to live a life that they create of their own design. That learning to be a good actor is learning to be a good citizen; making choices, committing to them, then, following through. ACTivating a moment in a play is akin to ACTivating a moment in the struggle that is our life. There are victories and there are setbacks and when the setbacks happen you are filled as a creator with ideas that take the setback and set it right.

I discovered how to be an actor and an activist at the same time. And now, I live in the center of that encounter. From a very young age during the 1970’s, I joined a scrappy, itinerate, California troupe of actors made up of children of farmworkers and cannery workers, and we took our message of social and political justice to our own people and they saw themselves in us and they listened and changed.

The power of seeing yourself on stage is like no other. Let’s give that experience to all who live in our cities, our states, our countries. It is just. There is no need to fear the other.

Each of our stories, like our ancient myths, speak the truth; and if, like the moth, artist and spectator enter the flame together to hear a story that is true, it brings us closer to our communal heartbeat.

Please, let’s take today to muse on the non-commercial practice of doing theatre. Let’s not think of the restrictive confines of budgets and box office, the numbers that rule our lives both on and off the stage: the obsession our theatres have for us to buy tickets instead of being obsessed with the thought of believing that people and civilization change through the ACTivation of creator as community and community as creator.

What freedom to know that this is a gift we can give each other and that our circle has the ability to expand.

It’s this notion of collective creation that inspires me today. When an artist knows her audience it is because she is living in the center of her community. Community, a word we overuse today but its essence remains vibrant—communing, gathering, sharing, listening, exchanging, giving, taking, making. You can’t make theatre and not KNOW for who you are making it.

As an artist ages, the characters we’ve played are etched on our faces. I know they are on mine. Sometimes, we tire as we challenge ourselves to continue the movement. The struggle is ever present. But it is our job to be good actors. To be good citizens. They are the same. I hold onto the hope that our struggle to be good actors continues to cause change. That it gathers all of us from throughout the four directions and makes a theatre for us in the center so that we can hear ideas, disagree, challenge, laugh, illuminate.

A Toltec poet wrote:

The actor draws his presence from the face of all people
With the word of truth
He smiles, cries, sings, acts
He is a teacher, guide, prophet of the people
He moves so that all may enjoy
With all their heart
The movement of all things.

And so it is.

Onward.

Diane Rodriguez
World Theatre Day/March 27, 2014

Download the message here.

Bio for Diane Rodriguez

7. Theatre for Dialogue in Ukraine

(Roberta Levitow, Co-Founder of Theatre Without Borders, connected TCG with Hjalmar Jorge Joffre-Eichhorn, who is creating theatre work in the Ukraine amid the current political crisis. We sent Hjalmar a few questions about his work; for more details, visit the NITEnews report andTheatre for Dialogue’s Facebook page. Photo above by Joker Tsunami.)

GS: Please share a little about how you identify as a theatre person, and about the work you do.

HJALMAR JORGE JOFFRE-EICHORN: I am actually not sure whether I identify as a theatre person at all. I suppose I have always thought of myself first and foremost as a political activist with different types of interactive grassroots theatre as my main tools of action. Having said that, after nine years of using such incredibly transformative methodologies as the Theatre of the Oppressed (TO) and Playback Theatre (PT), in addition to the occasional writing and directing of more conventional theatre pieces, I am certainly happy to affirm that I regard the theatre as one of the most effective ways of working towards socio-political change.

Over the years, I have been privileged to work in many countries across the globe, often in places of violent conflict or its immediate aftermath. In such intense circumstances making theatre with as opposed to for communities and creating spaces for people physically and emotionally wounded by massive human rights violations to use the theatre as a way to reaffirm their most basic humanity, is often a painfully beautiful and immensely empowering process, in which everyone involved appears to at least temporarily expand on an existential level, thereby creating glimpses of the possibility of a better world to come.

GS: What was the genesis of Theatre for Dialogue? 

HJJE: The Theatre for Dialogue initiative was born as a result of a number of previous theatre activities that I had led in different parts of Ukraine since the summer of 2010. Largely focusing on working with the Theatre of the Oppressed, over the years a growing number of Ukrainian activists eventually became interested in working more regularly with the theatre as a powerful instrument of change.

It was some of these activists that I met in Ukraine’s capital Kyiv in the middle of January of this year. Reflecting critically on the situation in the country of what at the time had been six weeks of peaceful protest on the main independence square Maidan, my activist friends called for more creative, horizontal and participatory ways of discussing the increasingly intractable state of affairs, including a seemingly growing number of disenchanted and tired protesters.

Then, shortly after, the Yanukovich government passed the so-called anti-protest laws followed by violent clashes between riot police and protesters in which four people were killed. This serious deterioration of the situation reinforced our desire to promote a peaceful alternative using Theatre of the Oppressed techniques as the main tool.

We then began an international “Joker Tsunami” campaign, inviting a total of six international TO Jokers to come and join us in Ukraine and conduct six simultaneous four-day theatre workshops culminating in the same number of final public dialogue events in five cities of the country. The publicly invited participants were not necessarily pro-Maidan but rather concerned citizens committed to engage in peaceful dialogue about how to positively transform Ukraine from a grassroots perspective. Age-wise, the participants were between 16 and 60 with a majority of them being women and very few having any acting experience. In terms of finances, the entire initiative was done on a voluntary basis and money for local and international transport costs was raised via non-institutionalised crowdfunding.

In short, a theatre by the people, for the people and with the people of Ukraine.

GS: What have been some of the positive outcomes thus far? 

HJJE: The positive outcomes have been numerous and given that we are still in the immediate phase after the event, including a currently ongoing written evaluation with the 100+ workshop participants, we are hopeful to see more positive responses in the near future.

In general terms, the TfD initiative generated an immense interest and buzz among hundreds of Ukrainians looking for opportunities to discuss the situation in the country in a respectful and non-violent manner. Many of those who eventually took part in the activities described how after weeks of looking for their role in the protests, they finally found a medium that would allow them a more active participation, i.e. the theatre. Others described how their participation was a life changing experience in terms of becoming more conscious of their own powers to positively affect change in their personal lives as well as the community they live in. Yet others confessed how their involvement produced a strong healing effect given the intensity of the sea of emotions most Ukrainians have experienced since the protests broke out in late November.

Plus, what was highly exciting is that we were contacted by activists from regions where for financial and logistical reasons we were unable to organize any events. They expressed their frustration of not being included and kindly requested for us to come to their parts of Ukraine very soon, suggesting that we were on the right track in terms of our faith in theatre-based dialogue activities in times of monologue.

Finally, the Ukrainian media, both national and regional, got highly interested in covering our activities and a great number of newspaper articles, in print and digital, as well as radio interviews were conducted throughout the duration of the project.

In fact, it might be the repeatedly demonstrated interest, expressed by a variety of stakeholders, in exploring ways to use the theatre to aid the ongoing transformation process in the country which is perhaps the most noteworthy outcome of the activities so far. The theatre as a powerful tool for change is now on many people’s minds and as far as we can tell, many Ukrainians want more of it and it is now up to us to figure out how to meet this demand in a collective and inclusive manner.

GS: What have been some of the unexpected challenges? 

HJJE: The only major challenges encountered during the implementation phase of the TfD initiative were security related and happened in those parts of Ukraine dominated by groups opposed to those protesting on Maidan. In Crimea, site of the latest confrontations since the overthrow of the Yanukovich regime, the local organisers decided to cancel the TfD workshop at the last second due to fear of potentially violent repercussions in case word got out that seemingly “Pro Maidan” activities were being organised in a largely “Pro Russian” bastion.

The second, unfortunately more serious challenge occurred during the theatre activities organised in the home region of ex-president Yanukovich, in the Eastern Ukraine. There, our activities were constantly interrupted including by indirect threats of violence and defamatory words directed against the international workshop facilitator in addition to acts of being followed and protests during the final performance. Ironically, those protesting against the use of theatre were in part people who had participated in a previous theatre workshop I conducted with the youth wing of Mr. Yanukovich’s party in 2012.

Luckily, nobody was harmed physically but the experience as such certainly merits a more critical analysis of the dangers involved when engaging in theatre activities in highly complex and sensitive circumstances.

GS: What work remains to be done?

HJJE: Given the growing popularity of interactive theatre techniques in Ukraine combined with the fact that there are currently very few Ukrainian nationals professionally engaged with using these techniques, one of the main objectives for the immediate to medium-term future will be to support those interested in doing so.

In other words, it might be time for a Ukrainian-led army of Theatre of the Oppressed and Playback Theatre professionals who can promote the methodology in a way that its results can be more impactful and sustainable. Hence, the first step for this to happen will be to start training Ukrainian activists and artists in the different interactive theatre techniques and possibly establish some form of local theatre company or non-governmental organisation that can host these trainings, implement future theatre activities and address the always challenging question of funding.

GS: How has this experience changed your outlook as a theatre person?

HJJE: To be honest, at this stage I am still way too involved in processing our theatre activities while also dealing with all the strong emotions produced by the recent events in Ukraine, including coming to terms with more than 80 people killed while we were in the midst of our final theatre workshop.

At the same time, the extremely positive responses our initiative generated among hundreds of people, strengthen my long-held conviction that the theatre in general, and interactive, community-based theatre in particular, are among the most powerful ways of authentically engaging people from all walks of life in the humanisation of themselves, the other and indeed humanity via bottom-up, community-led, embodied dialogue of words and action.

I therefore believe that the time has come for more concerted efforts on behalf of theatre activists from across the globe to engage in more regular, coordinated, sustainable and effective theatre activities, including a thorough engagement on a theoretical and intellectual level that will, among other things, better prepare us for the difficult conversations we will encounter with those questioning the general validity of theatre and/or those in the position to finance our actions but doubtful of theatre’s impact.

In times of crisis, the theatre is not a luxury. On the contrary, quoting a close theatre friend from Afghanistan: “The theatre can help us transform our tears of pain and hurt into energy to keep struggling for a better, more just, democratic and peaceful world.” La lucha continua.

Learn more about Theatre for Dialogue here.

Hjalmar Jorge Joffre-Eichhorn (Germany, 1977) is a German-Bolivian theatre maker, facilitator, script writer and director who uses different forms of interactive, participatory theatre to work with communities in conflict and create possibilities for bottom-up dialogue and a search for grassroots solutions.

Hjalmar has carried out community-based theatre initiatives in more than a dozen countries on all five continents including in (post-) conflict environments such as Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Northern Ireland, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tajikistan, Timor Leste, Ukraine and Yemen. He is the co-founder of the Afghanistan Human Rights and Democracy Organization (AHRDO;www.ahrdo.org), a community-based theatre platform in Kabul, Afghanistan.

In 2013 he published ‘Wenn die Burka plötzlich fliegt-Einblicke in die Arbeit mit dem Theater der Unterdrückten in Afghanistan’, a book in German language about his experiences working with theatre in Afghanistan. Besides, his documentary theatre play ‘Infinite Incompleteness’ was recently published and produced in Japan with the support of the International Theatre Institute (ITI). The play was also published in PAJ, A Journal of Performance and Arts.

August Schulenburg is the Associate Director of Communications at TCG. He is also a creative partner of Flux Theatre Ensemble, winner of the 2011 Caffe Cino Fellowship Award. He is a playwright whose produced plays include Riding the Bull, DEINDE, Carrin Beginning, The Lesser Seductions of History, Dream Walker, Honey Fist, Rue, Jacob’s Houseand Other Bodies. He is also a director (most recently Ellen McLaughlin’s Ajax in Iraq and Sol Crespo’s Old Maid) and actor (the recent film, The Golden Scallop and the play Hearts Like Fists). He serves on the board of the Network of Ensemble Theaters. Learn more here.

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