Organized by ACO Okinawa with Japan Foundation Asia Center, an assembly of professionals from South-East Asian nations (Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam) discuss the current situation and potential of TYA in their respective countries and region.
ATYA (Asian Alliance of Theatre Festivals for Young Audiences), the festival network of the Asian community chaired by ricca ricca*festa, spearheads the project which aims to promote TYA in Asia to increase the number of festivals in the region; further audience development, especially the number of children audience; encourage more companies to join festivals and create festivals; and open the network to more professionals and enthusiasts in the region.
Festival Center Okinawa
Current climate of TYA | What we are looking for | Possibilities and challenges to international exchanges
The objectives were to gather TYA information with a focus on Southeast Asia, allowing a platform for cultural collaborations, to reconnect with former collaborators and connect with new prospects, also deepen a socio-cultural understanding among participants. The forum essentially maps TYA activities in various regions across Southeast Asia.
In a nutshell, the participants shared insights about the profile of their audiences, their experiences with local and international festivals, the nuances of their cultures that affect their mode of production, and the possible platforms of engagement that can advance their work as TYA professionals.
The following are the platforms for collaborations that the participants hope to have more in the region:
Below are some suggestions on how ATYA can help in the work that each company does in its own country:
One interesting point that I noted in the conversations is that across the region, companies who belong to countries that have age-old theatre/performance/art traditions get support from their governments, mostly via national policies and institutions such as cultural centers or councils and national theatre and/or art schools, all geared towards the preservation of local cultural heritage and/or the promotion of tourism. Other companies, especially those considered to be non-traditional, contemporary or experimental, get little or no support from their governments, and rely mostly on the initiatives of kindreds, private sectors and international organizations to sustain themselves.
Presentation of TYA Activities + Individual Networking
Festival Center Okinawa
Who we are | What we do | Why we persevere | How we connect to each other
The roster of professionals in the gathering was a very rich mix of traditional, non-traditional, contemporary and experimental theatre/performance/art makers. Brimming with passion and enthusiasm for the work that they do, they encapsulated for about 5 minutes the myriad of TYA activities the companies represent.
The most striking stories that stayed with me are the accounts of perseverance in difficult situations, administering or curating performances designed by children, and creating productions based on social issues. It is indeed challenging for artists to flourish given the socio-economic conditions in the region, but these professionals are proving that it is possible to emerge with the help of the specific communities that they serve and the broad alliance of networks that they connect with.
Performances for children, performances by children
Nuchigusui nurtures spirit and life | Theater is Nuchigusui
A total of thirty works populated the program of this year’s festival, not to mention workshops, talks and presentations, all for the entertainment and education of young audiences and their advocates. I feel fortunate to have watched twelve different performances that showcase the talent and professionalism of the creatives behind each production — performers, directors, designers, stagehands, technical staff, managers and producers. Their devices transcend language and culture, so that during those few moments you spend time in their universe, and age becomes a singularity.
Here are the performances I was able to catch:
Festival Center Okinawa
When we hope for more meetings | Where we bid farewell
And it is at the final session that I find the best exchanges happened. I had hoped that time could stretch a while then, to allow for more stories and conversations. That kind of honest sharing of thoughts among fellows affirms our praxis, whichever community we come from.
Here I list a few quotes I heard during the final session, that for me, synthesize the week spent with the assembly. I apologize for not being able to write who said what, for I was in awe listening to the integrity of their words.
“Theatre belongs to the community.”
“All artistic expressions start as personal, that eventually find context in the social milieu of each society.”
“The work of TYA cannot be overemphasized; all art for children are important, we should feed them everything.”
“Children’s sensitivity comes from adults who are feeding them; what we feed them is what they use for survival.”
Anino Shadowplay Collective