10 abr 2013

AITA/IATA Artistic News

Latest artistic news from IATA/AITA!
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     Since 1952 when aita/iata was founded, our members have flocked to Monaco on France's Cote d'Azur every four years for our World Congress and Festival that we call "The Mondial." The first Mondial was launched in 1957 and it has continued uninterrupted to the present year when the 15th edition will take place August 19 - 28. It's a unique and vibrant experience for everyone: Monegasque volunteers, visiting troupes from around the world, distinguished workshop leaders, delegates from national centers, and of course for the general public as well.

  Mondil Logo   Few of us realize, however, how many years of planning go into the Mondial, especially the work involved in shaping all of the unique artistic opportunities of this glittering event. "First-timers" at the festival, for example, often miss out on these artistic experiences because they've never encountered them in their home nations.  Even Mondial veterans often overlook them as well. Old-timers as well as newcomers, therefore, should keep in mind that the Mondial is unlike any other major international theatre festival because of the artistic training opportunities it offers.

     For example, it would be good for directors of invited theatre companies to explain to their troupes that the Mondial is not so much a showcase of work as it is an experience of aita/iata's global artistic diversity. In contrast to many famous European world festivals (France's Avignon Fest, London's LIFT Festival, Greece's Athens/Epidaurus Festival) the Mondial wants participants to contribute more to the event than simply present a play. Troupes are expected to stay for most if not all of the festival period, sharpen their art in the various workshops, learn about different
artistic styles by attending the evening performances, and build new relationships through after-hour discussions and socializing at the Festival Club.

     Too often, however, troupes arrive at the Mondial uninformed by their national centers about the Mondial's special focus, and the range of its artistic opportunities that are available to them. For example, some may attend the plays expecting world-class artistic excellence from everything they see--indifferent to or unappreciative of the range of artistic skills on display, or the way in which diverse approaches to theatrical art reflect different cultural values in various societies. Still others may be baffled or disappointed by some of the presentations because of
an unusual performance style--without seeking more clarification from the artists themselves in the next day's discussions.

Monte Carlo and the Harbor  In fact, one of the Mondial's most valuable artistic experiences (and one that often seems greatly misunderstood and unappreciated) are the morning "colloques" or discussions of the previous day's performances. In the colloque, individual members of troupes have the unique opportunity to share with others from around the world information about their theatre background and the ways in which they developed their show. 

     This exchange of ideas and variety of viewpoints that people express for 30 - 45 minutes generates a vibrant and exciting early morning conversation. Aled Rhys-Jones from Wales whocoordinated the colloques in 2009 with two other professional European directors, praised the non-competitive, volunteer atmosphere in which everyone was working. He found the general public as well as the international artists enthusiastic about voicing their opinions; and he enjoyed the amateur theater community's "open, non-judgmental and inclusive approach to learning about the artistic goals, working methods and directorial intentions of the companies"

Allison William's 2009 Mondial Workshop     Everyone participating in the colloque--the artists themselves, members of the audience, artists from other national troupes, and the distinguished colloque leaders--is free to ask questions of the group under discussion and enrich their understanding of the many ways in which art and self-expression unfold on Monaco's stages each night. And for the artists whose show is the subject of the day's colloque, many of the audience's questions and comments can enlighten them about unique and special aspects of their work that they may have taken for granted and failed to appreciate.

     In addition to the Mondial's morning colloques, festival participants can also directly strengthen their stage skills and grow artistically by participating in one-, two-, and three-day workshops. Distinguished artists are invited from around the world to conduct special training sessions in voice, movement, characterization, dance, and other popular areas. The workshops are open to everyone young and old, regardless of language skills; and offer wonderful opportunities for meeting other festival visitors. At such a prestigious event as the Mondial, it would seem a shame that artists would take the trouble to travel to Monaco yet miss out on joining a workshop or two.

     Of course, workshops help practitioners keep their performance skills fresh and up-to-date in a creative, hands-on environment. They also introduce members of the public to performance skills that heighten their own personal creative abilities. This kind of interaction between the public and the Mondial artists helps to build a vigorous and enjoyable artistic community in Monaco.

     Workshop leaders also enjoy the opportunity to learn from the contributions of different workshop participants from around the world. For example, the international performance artist Allison Williams from the USA who led a 3-day commedia mask & movement workshop at the 2009 Mondial, remarked: "I was challenged to explain exercises to a group with a wide range of abilities and backgrounds, without the usual theatrical jargon, and to teach simultaneously in French and English...I was also inspired by their work...the participants made joyful, open, unselfconscious and refreshing choices that expanded my work as well as theirs."

   Patrice Cellario and HSH Albert II  Encouraging international visitors to participate in the Mondial's many artistic activities is central to the mission of aita/iata, which is to promote understanding and education through theatre. And our organization's efforts to build a global community of amateur theatre practitioners in this way is certainly one of its core goals. Every four years the Mondial contributes immensely to this worthwhile artistic task. As Patrice Cellario of Monaco, General Commissioner (Director) of the festival in 2009, remarked: "My greatest pleasure in organizing the Mondial, is to see everyone come together from all over the world, smiling, laughing, sharing ideas with each other, and curious about each other's work."

     Plans are already in full swing for this year's Mondial in Monaco. For further information on the troupes invited to present their work, registration forms, and other materials, visit the official website at: http://www.mondialdutheatre.mc/mdt2013/en/index.html.




 In the small town of St.George on the Ott River  in the Transylvanian region of Romania, the amateur theatre troupe Osonó has been operating for twenty years, developing workshops & performances where young people can search for new forms of self-expression. Their goal is to initiate dialog between different cultures by using the common language of theatre as they create artistic values with their workshop participants and spectators at their shows.

            To date, Osonó has toured their work throughout Romania as well as to Slovakia, Germany, Denmark, Thailand, Hungary, Belgium, the Czech Republic, and most recently, to the 7th NEATA International Festival last summer. They've won 17 national and international prizes for their work, and are active members of aita/iata's CEC region.

            Founded in 1993 by Salamon András, the ensemble ihas been led since 1999 by artistic director Fazakas Misi. Along with artists of the ensemble--most of whom are members of the Hungarian-speaking minority in Romania--Misi also coordinates drama activities of the Plugor Sándor Art School, the only Hungarian drama school in Romania; and the acting and directing courses in Romania's State School of the Arts. Osonó's unusual performances are devised in the workshops they conduct with young people in various regions.  For example, earlier this year they worked extensively with young performers in Budapest at The Open Circle theatre education society. In February, Osonó presented their drama-in-education show in Romania that they devised in this workshop that focused on sexuality issues of 13 - 14 year olds.

            Several years ago Osonó established a partnership with the Maradokmai Theatre Center from Thailand, where the Osonó artists developed and performed the work, Carnival. It  was a revolutionary idea in Thai theatre, considering the fact that European and Thai actors performed together, and organized workshops together in Thailan's best schools and in that country's  prisons. Several years ago, young artists from Thailand traveled to Osonó's home in Romania, where the two groups held workshops and presented one of their shows to Romanian audiences.

            One of Osonó's most riveting recent productions--and one thatOsonó artists gather at the Maradokmai Theatre Center in Thailand Mondial audiences will be able to enjoy at the Mondial this year--is entitled As Water Reflects the Face. It's a 65-minute "theatrical utteranbce" that they developed in 2011 and presented at last year's NEATA festival. "The performance ...has a documentary character," Fazakas Misi declared, "in which we explore social problems concerning youth. We weave the stories of solitary children, helpless parents and vulnerable young people with our personal experiences into a theatrical happening, continuously searching for the possibility of encountering ourselves, the audience, and God. We started from our own anxieties and reached out to reveal the problems of lonely children, helpless parents and vulnerable young people."

            Estivades Festival audiences in Belgium were enthralled  by the show last In performance in Thailand.year: "It was a show that wasn't political but nevertheless a great moment artistically," one commentator explained. "Directed and executed with perfect control by Fazakas Misi and the young actors of Osonó. There were few words but many scenes of strong emotional content, scenes often silent but so eloquent!"

            Another reviewer reported on the emotional impact of the show in Marche en Famenne, calling it "...a spectacle that leaves no one indifferent: it is Romania. Statistics and reports support the young Romanian troupe delivering the straightforward reality of their country. With strength and talent, they paint a very black society. The absence of a curtain, presentations, and greetings plunges us directly into the heart of the problem, amid cries of pain of these bruised children. The acting reinforced by documents left us in silence ... I'm speechless for the courage it took... Congratulations and thanks to the Osonó Theatre who chose us as confidants of this wonderful testimony."

            What's next for this dynamic theatre troupe from central Europe? "We would like to continue our work developing Stage setting for an Osonó Theatre show workshops, and break new ground," Misi explained.  "We want to take As Water Reflects the Face, and apply it to the Thai culture.  It would focus on language and play, and involve Thai and Romanian artists; and we will tour the show to festivals in their region:  to the Asia- Europe Cultural Exchange and the Moradokmai International Theatre Festival in Patumthani, where we've been invited to perform."
            Although Osonó focuses mainly on youth workshops, the artists also work with community and professional actors. Osonó conducts acting and improv workshops for professionals, while for community theatres they concentrate on self-knowledge and team-building. During these programs, participants develop better knowledge and deeper experience of their interior world and feelings. Osonó members use exercises to distance participants from their usual life situations, helping them to develop better self-knowledge. "Our workshops can be a spiritual and sentimental adventure," Misi explains, "that can lead to experiences, Osonó actors perform CARNIVALknowledge and encounter with ourselves and others."  Osonó has organized workshops in schools, at different events or other occasions, and to-date have organized 36 national and international theatre camps for young people.

            More information can be obtained from their website (in English, Hungarian & Romanian). It includes videos as well as a wealth of photographs documenting their work.
Find the website at: 

Or watch their performances on YouTube:



      "Growing up in the Faroe Islands is a constant search for new things to do," reported Brynhilde Weihe, veteran actress in the amateur theatres in the Faroe Islands.  "But my experience in amateur theatre there opened so many doors for me, it's Brynhild Weiheunbelievable." Brynhilde is now pursuing a degree in theatre arts at Grand Valley State University in the United States, where she hopes to relocate permanently and build her theatre career.           
     Located in the Atlantic Ocean about 600 kilometers west of Denmark, and a few hundred kilometers south of the Arctic Circle, the island nation nurtures over 50,000 people spread over 500 square miles of territory. Yet amateur theatre flourishes here, organized by the Faroe Islands Theatre Organization, Meginfelag áhugaleikara Føroya (MáF).
     The most visible theatre activity is located in the capitol city, Tórshavn, and amateur theatre is presented there by the Tórshavn theatre society on the stage of the Nordic House built in 1983.  That's where Miss Weihe spent many of her happiest hours onstage, performing in playsTórshavn's Nordic House and especially in musicals.  The Nordic House in Tórshavn functions as a community arts center presenting films, concerts, plays by Faroese and touring groups, art exhibitions and other events.
     Despite the small population of this island nation, the Faroese are avid theatregoers and practitioners. In part, this stems from a long tradition of making theatre in the islands--for almost 200 years.  Today MáF boasts a total of 16 members: theatre societies, theatre groups, village societies and individual members from all the islands in the archipelago. Every other year the secondary schools gather to produce a musical, every six years the Faroe Islands hosts the grand regional NEATA International Festival in the Nordic house, and troupes from the Faroe Islands regularly present work at AITA/IATA festivals in Monaco, Moscow, Tromsø and elsewhere.
     One of the distinguishing features of MáF that accounts for the success of Faroe Islands theatre is the strong community-based nature of the organization.  Theatre in smaller cities and villages exists throughout the islands, and the Tórshavn theatre society in the capitol provides the opportunity for local actors to work with artistic practitioners from all over the island nation. Stage productions are well supported and well attended. And few spectators are more than an hour's travel from the capitol city. "It was really great for me to start acting in community shows in Tórshavn in high school," declared Ms. Weihe, a Tórshavn native. "The workshops they offered and the production staff were all very professional, the casts came from everywhere in the islands." 
     Her comments point to another strength of Faroe Island theatre, the degree of professionalism maintained by MáF that strengthens the artistic quality of shows.  Professionals are always engaged for amateur shows as directors and actors, and professional shows--largely done at Tórshavn's Gríma"HAIR" Theatre--often include amateur actors in their casts. MáF has also established a theatre school with courses for directors and actors--training that has now been adopted by the Tórshavn Theatre Society.  Youth theatre classes are also an important development of MáF, serving young practitioners between the ages of 7 - 16. "I took classes in improv, acting, singing and mime while I was working in Tórshavn," commented Weihe. "It was a sensational experience to work with such experienced people and feel that I was learning professional skills." 
     The artistic strength that MáF lends to theatre practitioners in the Faroe Islands, also includes the activity of playwriting.  MáF actively promotes the work of Faroese writers who are producing original musicals. The organization also provides financial assistance to have plays in foreign languages translated for Faroese audiences, and its officers participate in Poster for the recent international touring show, "Havgird"international festivals and associations worldwide, For example, AITA/IATA's NEATA region is headed by President Hilmar Joensen of the Faroes. 
     Training in the United States has added many new skills to Ms. Weihe's "actor's toolbox" as she has grown older and developed her training. At the University she has studied more acting, of course, but also stage directing, lighting, theatre history, voice, movement, combatives and touring theatre. ("No one tours in the Faroes," she remarked. "It's a small place and theatre is easy to get to.")  Soon she'll graduate and will embark on her artistic career in the profession.  "Right now it's a matter of obtaining a green card to work here in the States and support myself," she declared.  "But I'd rather try to work here than in Europe where acting opportunities for young people just starting out are very scarce."
     Miss Weihe is perhaps typical of many young actors and theatre practitioners who have honed their skills in the amateur theatres of the Faroes.  Her ambition and talent are likely to carry her a long way towards a successful life in theatre.  As our President Merja Laaksovirta of Finland remarked: "The Faroe islands is a very special place with wonderful nature, fresh winds and people who are honest, creative and genuine. I love the Faroe Island people; they really are true ones!" 



     Photographs of productions, people, and events - colorful posters and lists of colloque and workshop leaders - workshop descriptions and festival booklets - and a mountain of administrative minutes, finance reports, agendae, schedules, correspondence...all this and more constitute the official archives of aita/iata.  The materials are now gathered in several piles of large boxes painstakingly collected and categorized over a seven-year period by Dr. Joke Elbers of the Dutch National Center.
     "Being a prolific  user of  libraries, collections, and archives," Dr. Elbers comments, "I realized at a certain moment that there were no aita/iata archives available.  A shame. So I devised a structure, organizing archives in a professional way. In order to do this I consulted a professional Merja Laaksovirta (left), Dr. Norbert Rademacher, and BDAT Office Manager Rut Ferner display some of aita/iata archives. archive expert...the Executive Board gave me permission to start the work...the Dutch Centre of AITA / IATA donated the necessary official brown boxes, and I donated my energy and time."  She declares that she was inspired by the British author Oscar Wilde with whom she shared "the importance of being earnest with history."
     Dr. Elbers was retired by the Dutch Center in 2011, after many long years of service. But her departure left no one able to carry on her work. One of President Laaksovirta's first efforts  in 2011 – 2012, therefore, was to gather the valuable archived materials and relocate them to a safe and secure space.  Accepting the invitation of Dr. Norbert Rademacher, President of the German Amateur Theatre Association (BDAT), she began transferring  the archives to the new BDAT offices in Berlin where the BDAT staff will be able to continue cataloguing and digitizing the materials.
     Through the generous efforts of Dr. Elbers, aita/iata will now be able to use these resources in a variety of ways. Of course, the archives contain piles of administrative documents that need to be legally accessible: budget records, minutes of meetings, correspondence, Congress actions and the like.  And some of these are time-Mondial Event Poster from the aita/iata archive sensitive and confidential.  But how can the bulk of the archives—dating back to 1952--serve theatre practitioners for artistic purposes?
     "A lot more artistic material should be added to the Archives," Doctor Elbers observes,  "like registrations of performances, of meetings and so on--so that people who research the material can really learn something from it. The Archives should be interesting and useful for directors, actors, scenographers, for arts practitioners."
     We should remember that the importance of the archive lies not only in the items that constitute its present collection, but also in the new materials that we can add to it in the future.  For example, photographs of productions can be very useful to designers of costumes and settings who are working on similar stage productions, and to directors seeking ideas for play titles. And when it comes to theatre training, older festival programs can provide valuable lists of workshop and colloque leaders for future reference.
     Arts managers can also learn much from the archives about creating effective contexts for touring productions and workshops.  For instance, budget information can guide new theatre producers and directors about how to anticipate financial needs and how to predict expenses & income. Newsletters can inform troupes about solutions for accommodations, financial Archive Material Awaiting Cataloguing in Berlinsupport and other matters related to touring. And untrained volunteers inPress materials from aita/iata Archive management areas can learn much from reading press releases, festival bulletins and critical reviews of programs and shows that were presented by more experienced festivals.
     "I urge everybody in theatre, amateur or professional, everybody who is interested in the history of the Association, to use the Archives and to contribute suitable material to them," Dr. Elbers points out. "They constitute a picture of more than fifty years of amateur theatre on the world level, a piece of cultural history. Especially now, when so much art and culture is disappearing because of financial difficulties, it is of the utmost importance to treasure the history of it...Also, the material could be used for the writing of a thesis, for articles on amateur theatre, for all sorts of research."
     Dr. Norbert Rademacher has already received requests from the theatre program at Germany's Leipzig University whose students and faculty wish to launch significant research projects on world amateur theatre, particularly in Europe.  He has also been searching for a new librarian specialist in the BDAT Berlin office who will begin digitizing & cataloguing aita/iata's materials. And aita/iata President Laaksovirta continues to oversee the transfer of other portions of the archive located in London and Helsiknki.
     One novel suggestion for utilizing the archives that aita/iata Secretary Anne Gilmour Secretariat offers us: "a mobile exhibition could be created from archived photographs, programs and other materials that could be displayed at various aita/iata festivals in order to inspire old members and encourage recruitment of new members."   
That sounds like a good idea! idea! Is anyone interested in developing it?

Copyright © 2013 aita/iata-Dr Roger Ellis, All rights reserved.
This newsletter is being sent to all aita/iata member organizations, associate members & selected individuals
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aita/iata-Dr Roger Ellis
Grand Valley State University
School of Communications
Allendale, MI 49401

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