World Day of Theatre for Children and Young People on March 20th is an ASSITEJ campaign, and a worldwide celebration of performing arts for children and young people. Joyee (8 years), Jojo (11 years), and Yvette Hardie (President of ASSITEJ) are the authors of this year’s messages.
Our world is riven through with division and divisiveness. Around us on every side are leaders and strategies seeking to turn people against one another, on the basis of race, language, culture, economic status, gender, sexual orientation, loyalty to an idea, belonging or not belonging… Almost every aspect of our humanity has been used by someone to bring greater division and to build higher walls of suspicion and hatred. As a result, we seem to have turned our backs on Ubuntu, the African philosophy that says „I am because you are“ and „a person is a person through relationships with other people.“
How can we work to undo this great wrong we are doing to our children and indeed, to ourselves? Children need to be able to enjoy moments in community where they are reminded of what we share, and where they are able to appreciate the multiple realities of what it means to be human. They need spaces in which to explore new ways of thinking that challenge these divisive narratives, in which they feel empathy for those most unlike themselves. They need concrete experiences of communion in community to remind them of the joy and beauty that the world has to offer.
ASSITEJ believes that theatre provides multiple doorways into feeling a greater sense of connectedness with others, and – importantly – with ourselves.
Recently The New Victory Theater in New York released the results of a five year study into the benefits of theatre for children and young people. One of the key unexpected findings was that exposure to the theatre gave these children greater hope for the future. These results were contrasted with a control group, where those who were not exposed to theatre performances and workshops over the same period, experienced a diminishing sense of their future possibilities in terms of study and work opportunities.
Why is hope so important? Hope creates positive energy which translates into self-assurance, willpower, resilience and finally into concrete actions to make a difference in one’s own life and in the lives of others. Every child needs to have hope.
So let us all commit to taking a child or young person to the theatre today and to rallying the support necessary to ensure that every child has access to the arts and to theatre, regardless of their personal or social circumstances. And for those of us working in the profession, let us commit to providing quality experiences that will make the difference in how the younger generation perceives the world – for the sake of both today and tomorrow.
Yvette Hardie, President of ASSITEJ
Joyee (8 years old) and Jojo (11 years old) are children attending the House of Muchness, „An environment where young people can belong to a collective and build social relatedness, artistic expression and find their creative kin“, in Brunswick/Australia. The following words are a transcription of a conversation with its founder and artistic director, Alex Walker.
Everything is connected to theatre. I was born in a place where theatre was very special. In India.
And even though I was in an orphanage, I knew theatre was important there. My mum is part of theatre. I’m part of theatre. I do House of Muchness which is a type of theatre – we put on shows. Stuff like that. Every child has the right to do fun things. Like House of Muchness. I do Bollywood too because it goes with where I came from.
Everything is theatre. It’s hard to explain. I wouldn’t try to explain it to someone who didn’t understand, I would just take them, show them, and they could see for themselves.
Theatre is you. Whatever you do is theatre. Everything around you is theatre. You are theatre. All your body works together like a theatre. To make one big show. And that show is your life.
Without theatre, there would be no imagination. Everyone wouldn’t be able to be themselves. Without stories, everyone would be bored all the time. A bit gloomy – they wouldn’t really feel very nice. It would be like the moon. No one could actually communicate with each other because of the big hats.
If you have no imagination, well, the only thing to fix that is theatre. It makes you learn things. It can teach you about love. How it looks in different ways. And how different people who might not know if they can love each other, well, they can. If it’s a really powerful story, it can actually change us. Theatre is special and good and beautiful. And we have to have all the feelings – if a show makes us feel sad, then it can also make us feel hopeful – that a good thing can happen after. And most of the time it does.
Joyee, 8 years old
I’m 11 and I’m dyslexic. I’m a person who swears a bit. I like people who understand me, as me. I want to be a part of something. I’m a person who wants to change the world. I’m in the Children’s Party which is about children and ideas and politics in a theatre show. I might start to change the world that way.
Theatre is important because it shows stories. Stories show generations and generations of people what’s going on. Where they’ve come from, why they’re here, and how they’re here. Things we need to know. Then we can understand people and their ways.
My first show was actually a music festival in Adelaide when I was in my Mum’s belly. The first theatre show I remember was an opera. Because Roger’s cousin is an opera singer. Roger was my grandfather.
I love theatre where you have to use your imagination, your own imagination which is different from everyone else’s. Because the things in the show are hard to see or aren’t there, you have to imagine them. You make them up. And then you can see them really well. But people might have a different story or pictures in their head compared to what’s in my head.
If you don’t take kids to the theatre, then theatre will stop. Theatre shows lives and hearts and souls in actions. If I was taking a child to the theatre, a little child, I wouldn’t explain or tell them anything on the way. They would watch it and then they would explain it to me.
If I was told I couldn’t see any more theatre, it would make me sad, it would make me angry. If I hadn’t seen some of the things I’ve seen in the theatre, I wouldn’t be me.
And I like me.
Jojo, 11 years old