No One is a Stranger
Asian TYA (Theatre for Young Audiences) Network Programme opened my eyes to different possibilities and ways of performance-making. Watching the different performances alone gave me a lot of learnings and inspiration to make performances for the young audiences. Because this is my first time to participate in a theatre festival, a lot of things were new to my eyes more so that the productions I have participated into are cultural performances.
Of the 25 performances, I was able to watch 13: Puzzle, Baby Sauna, Adam’s World, One Morning I Left, Sticks Stones Broken Bones, Jekyll on Ice, Goodbye, Mr. Muffin, Three Little Songs, Possessed by Love, I on the Sky, Children of the Ocean, Les Miserables and Again. Watching all the performances, made me realized that regardless of age, color, nationality, gender, religion, and regardless of other individual differences, everyone was welcomed to witness the different performances *ricca ricca festa has offered.
Everyone is sharing the same space and became a community inclusive to different differences. The theatre experience became a moment where people can get together even if they don’t know each other. They even recognized each other in a form of a nod or a bow, laughed together or felt the same way depending on emotion the performance has portrayed; thus, making them closer and understand each other.
What really interested me in this festival was the opportunity to talk with the artists, directors, producers, actors or anyone involved in the performance. We asked them about their process in making the performance, their inspirations and how the performance were accepted by the young audiences. As part of 2017 Asian TYA Network Programme, we were also divided into two groups with two facilitators each. As a group we have to discuss two things: 1) Is the work appropriate for young audiences; and 2) How do you see the possibility of the performance if it is shown to your own community or country and would it be suitable in your community’s sensibility?
According to Thomas Eisenhardt, one of the writers of Again, he was inspired to make a performance for young audiences through his son who got captivated in watching one of their rehearsals 20 years ago. This experience he had with his son made him realize that children has the capacity to think and understand things better than adults. This scenario was his driving force to make “Again” which to him is a celebration of life. On the other hand, Pierre Leclerc- General Manager of DynamO Theatre who performed “I on the Sky”- said that we should not underestimate the young audiences because he believes that they are also like adults. This is also the same with the argument of Stefan Fischer-Fels, director of “Adam’s World” saying that we should not judge the young audiences because they are also human beings who has the capacity to think and feel. He believes that babies and children are oppressed and that many people conceived them to be weak and don’t have the capacity to understand complicated things.
Thus, with these arguments, I became ambivalent to the categorization of Theatre for Young Audiences. I started to question if there is really a need to that categorization. If young audiences have the capacity to think, understand things better than adults and not stupid, just like how one of the participants in the TYA Meeting puts it, then are all performances suitable to all groups of people including children? Is theatre exclusive to a certain group? Are there limitations in the performances we make so that it is applicable to young audiences?
We cannot deny the fact that there are some performances in the festival that portrayed violence, vices, bullying and the like. To me, if the performance is really for young audiences, then why are these being shown in the performances because I fear the young audiences might not comprehend the aim of the performance. This was also the question of some of the members in our group. But then again, some of the performance-makers, would argue that the children have the capacity to think and that they are smart.
I started to look for answers in the remaining days of my stay in Okinawa. I would like to cite Don Quijote, output of the World TYA Creation Series Workshop on Multi-lingual performance for Older Children, in trying to answer my own questions. In the performance, the performers were seen playing a common game among children as part of the performance, they played different instruments, narrated the story of Don Quijote in different languages and innovated available materials to make props. The performance was just simple. The story is not known to everyone but the manner how it was presented for me appeals to young audiences and even I do not understand the languages used, I was able to understand the story. My point here is that theatre for young audience can be varied depending on how the performance speak to the language of the young audiences. I believe TYA, if categorized as a performance that would touch the sensibilities of its audience, is a venue where children (no matter how diverse their backgrounds are) can come together as children, to be children and experience theatre like how adults do.
What then is TYA?
As a father of two, Dara Huot- one of the facilitators- said that we really cannot control the things children are seeing in their surroundings more so the presence of televisions and social media. He said what they see in these two forms might be even graver than what is being shown in the theatre. Thus, parents are still playing an important role in the theatre experience so as not to confuse the young audiences who watched such performances.
To Caleb Lee, one of the facilitators, TYA is an opportunity to empower the children and give voice to young people. In our theatre group, Aanak di Kabiligan (Children of the Mountains), for example, we used theatre as a medium to promote environmental awareness and cultural preservation. We perform folktales that would educate the young audiences values for them to take a positive role in the society and appreciate these stories that they cannot find in books. TYA is moment for us to talk to them and open their senses and ignite the rich imagination that they have.
I would like to cite what Linda Ang, participant of the TYA Network Program, said that “Children need theatre for them to think freely”. Indeed, theatre must be introduced to the young audiences as young as they are to help them develop their artistic skills and appreciate art that would help them as they grow or even in their future lives.
Building Connections amidst Diversity
Being part of the Asian TYA Network Programme gave me an opportunity to introduce my culture and the performances I do and to know what my co-participants are also doing in their own communities. It was also an opportunity for me to gain friends and network with them, to help one another in the programs each are doing involving children. With the different performances I watched using different techniques of performance-making, I was also very inspired to develop a performance that would cater to young audiences including babies.
During parties, I observed everyone was so busy talking to each other, sharing stories, exchanging calling cards and trying to build a good relationship. I thought it would be a time to relax and enjoy but I felt like it was an extension of the theatre experience wherein some converse with each other and talk about their works which I really appreciated.
I will not go home empty-handed. My heart and mind is full of inspiration and learnings and this would not be possible without the people behind the *ricca ricca festa. I would like to express my deepest gratitude to Mr. Shimoyama and his team who worked really hard for the success of this project. Thank you also to the coordinators, supporters, funders, volunteers, performers, facilitators and participants.
Arigatou Gozaimasu! Maraming Salamat po!
Aanak di Kabiligan
Community Theatre Performer and Director