As an artist and cultural worker, I constantly yearn for new learnings and fresh ideas. The cultural exchange I had in Japan allowed me to be fully enriched and fulfilled. As a Filipino and a member of our organization, YATTA (Youth Advocates Through Theater Arts) of Dumaguete City, I have always been guided by the framework we call PAGASA or OAO. Experiencing the festival, made new light to just how this structure is crucial in creating meaningful and quality performances.
The third O of OAO is Organization corresponding to SA in PAGASA which means SArili (self) and SAmahan (Others). After various conversations with festival directors, I now have a better understanding about organizing festivals for children and how relevant it is in advancing culture and the arts appreciation. Even the festival itself was well organized. I could clearly see just how each member of the team was working hard to make the event a success. Being an organizer myself in our group, I look forward for us to someday be actively organizing international theater events.
Another observation on the organization of the festival is how they were able to successfully bring in young audiences. One of the things that was really memorable for me was meeting the young delegates from China, June and Lin, as I witnessed them fully engaged with all the performances and even asking relevant questions to people regardless of their age. They gave me much joy and hope for the future generation. I could only wish that more children had the opportunity to join and be fully immersed in relevant events such as the ricca ricca festa.
The A on OAO stands for Artistry which is also GA in PAGASA which means GAling (Skills) and GAwa (Actions). Watching the performances, I saw just how magnificently and carefully crafted many of the pieces were. I think it was my first time to be in a festival where almost all of the performances were non-verbal. It was a great idea to line up the performances in that sense because the language barrier was no longer a concern. Truly theater has proven to be capable of communicating in ways beyond words.
And because we are theater practitioners, allow me to share my thoughts and dramaturge the performances. There was a time during the festival that I thought that some of the plays might not be appropriate for children. But then I thought of theater for young audiences, and asked myself exactly how young are the young audiences for this festival?
I am still in awe every time I remember “Night Light”. It’s just an amazing production. It deeply touched and moved me to tears. The overall performance was really amazing. “Night Light” has a wonderful production set, beautiful story and effective storytelling which gave me a very refreshing and at the same time very enriching experience as a theater maker.
I was also very happy to see the performance about the native Okinawans and their story during and after the war. This is an important addition to the festival because it allowed the foreign delegates as well as the people from Japan to understand part of Okinawa’s history. I also think that the play using the traditional Okinawan theater form was refreshing and although the story wasn’t new to me, I still enjoyed the performance. I felt that it wasn’t really for children and maybe more for teenagers who would also learn about the form being practiced in Okinawa. These two performances, specifically, I think is a good eye opener
I found the open forum after every show as a great opportunity to know more about the performances, its inspiration and motivation and the process of creation. Being able to personally interact with the cast and production team made me feel even more connected to each group, which leaves me with a feeling of happiness after every show. Although, I personally think that it would have been great if more children were involve in the forum. I mean, children asking questions or maybe say things or share their feelings about the performance. This will in turn assure them that their opinions matter regardless of age.
And finally, the first O in OAO is Orientation corresponding to PA in PAGASA which means PAnanaw (Vision) PAninindigan (Stand point) and PAnanampalataya (Faith). One of the things I really admire in this festival is the effort to bring families together in the theater. I personally think that this is a strong platform in promoting appreciation of culture and arts. This also allows parents and children to interact; throw and answer questions in relation to the festival performances.
Another privilege I enjoyed in the event was being able to be part of the Asian Theater for Young Audiences network. The first activity we had together with some of the delegates was really amazing. It allowed me to start engaging myself with people from other countries. For me, that activity was very personal and it was a really great start for the festival. It was also a good thing that it happened before the festival opened because it helped us to be more comfortable with each other and made deeper connections for the rest of the festival. This network has given me the opportunity to share and exchange stories and experiences with co theater practitioners and festival directors around Europe and Asia. The exchange that I had with my co delegates opened a deeper connection not only to my culture but also to the social reality that we also face in the Philippines.
In Cambodia for example, Sokny’s work with differently abled persons. When we were talking about the work that she does, I noticed that she would consistently say "people with disability." It always gives a ring to my ear every time I hear it because I learned from my training that these people are still capable of doing many things and therefore be called “differently abled persons”. Then I started thinking, why do they keep on calling themselves that. Good thing that topic was highlighted and emphasized during the symposium with the Japanese panelist. The sharing of the nature of the work that we do in our respective countries enlightened me about the different context that we are in. This context requires careful study and deep engagement for it to be fully understood
This network was also an affirmation of the work that I do in the Philippines. We resonate so much with each other and we are able to connect experiences and learn from everyone. It was also a good mix of cultural workers, theater practitioners and festival directors, which made the sharing more interesting.
Overall, this festival has given me a lot of insights yet left me feeling refreshed. I am now more passionate to continue to create theater for children. I've seen the essence of giving importance to children by cultivating their young minds with important life lessons through theater, art and festivals such as this. Allowing them to be exposed to these wonderful activities and events will not just benefit them our future as well. These children will also carry with them a deep appreciation for culture and the arts, which they will pass on this to their children and the generations to come. I feel extremely blessed and grateful for this chance to expose myself to different performances and be able to interact and make new friends in the festival. But more than that, I'm energized to use what I have learned from the festival to my community.