To summarise for readers who might not be familiar with what the programme is about, the Asian TYA (Theatre for Young Audiences) Network Programme is a programme initiated by ricca ricca*festa in 2016 to connect TYA practitioners in South East Asia.
Writing from the perspective as the artistic director for the Little Door Festival in Malaysia, I am extremely grateful to be part of the Asian TYA Network. Not only has it been an invaluable experience for me to become better exposed to the situation of TYA in the region, it has given me a tremendous boost and opened me up to the possibilities of further developing TYA in my home country.
More than just the learning and cross-exchanges of ideas and techniques, however, the Asian TYA Network was also a fantastic opportunity for me to network with a host of TYA organisers, researchers and practitioners from around the world, and form long-term relationships and cooperate across borders with these professionals.
As a follow-up to the first Asian TYA meeting in 2016 and to gain a better understanding of the situation in South East Asia, the organisers of the Asian TYA Network initiated a research trip to Singapore, Malaysia and Cambodia in 2016 and 2017. As experienced facilitators and directors, a few of us were invited to participate in the research trip, namely Caleb Lee (Singapore), Adjjima Na Patalung (Thailand), Liew Kung Yu (Malaysia) and Dara Huot (Cambodia).
The research visit was quite fruitful and we met with several groups of performers and theatre practitioners in each country and interviewed them about their own practice and the state of TYA in their country, as well as the support they needed to improve. Some of the more pertinent key findings that came up from the research visits are as follows:
From these findings, it was determined that the best way we could help seed the growth of TYA in this region is to expose the practitioners to new ideas and techniques, and to educate them about the possibilities of how theatre can help nurture young minds. It was also determined to continue using ricca ricca*festa as a platform to provide practitioners and observers from these Asian countries with a chance to experience TYA performances of international quality and standards.
Asian TYA Network Programme 2017
For Asian TYA Network Programme 2017, 10 participants from 7 South East Asian countries were invited to participate. As with last year, they’ll have a chance to present their own practice to the group and to the public, and would also have a chance to watch the performances going on during ricca ricca*festa 2017 (Naha City, Okinawa, Japan).
The participants attending this year’s Asian TYA Network programme were: Sreyleab Nov (Cambodia), Ariyo Zidin (Indonesia), Khamhou Phanludeth (Laos), Lattanakone Insisiengmay (Laos), Ho Shih Phin (Malaysia), Linda Ang (Malaysia), Roger Sangao-wa Federico (Philippines), Natalie Alexandra Tse (Singapore), Pinya Chookamsri (Thailand) and Suchawadee Phetpanomporn (Thailand). Facilitating the programme were Caleb Lee(Singapore), Adjjima Na Patalung(Thailand), Liew Kung Yu(Malaysia) and Dara Hout(Cambodia).
Based on the developments from the preceding research visits, this year’s programme was substantially different and angled towards further exposing and educating practitioners about the possibilities of TYA. To facilitate this, we implemented several changes to the format of the Asian TYA programme, the most pertinent of which I have listed below. These changes were mainly to help new TYA practitioners better understand the methodology and the creative thinking processes that went on behind the making of each show, as well as delving into the backgrounds, mindsets and intentions of the performers.
Out of everything that we took back from this year’s Asian TYA Network, I felt that the exchange of opinions during our own group discussion was the most valuable part of the process. The sharing of perspectives and opinions in this manner not only provided us with different entry points to the show, it also provided each of us with a clearer and better understanding of each other’s cultures and values.
To illustrate this, I am listing down the following three examples of performances we watched, and the things we discussed after the show:
Among our group we have participants with different training, such as actors, directors, musicians, designers, producers and even managers. As we all come from different training with different cultural backgrounds, we each have our own way of interpreting the show basing on our own experience so our personal views about the performance that we just watched can be rather different.
Discussions like this helps us to look at the performance from different perspective and gain insights which we might not be aware off. Not only that, this exchange of opinions and experiences will also help us to understand things better. For a diverse group like us, this exercise in critical thinking is definitely a valuable learning process that can only help improve the quality of our thinking and the work we produce.
This concludes my report. In closing, I would like to offer my gratitude to the host: ACO Okinawa and co-host: The Japan Foundation Asia Center and also the sponsors of Asian TYA Network Programme. I would especially like to thank Mr. Hisashi Shimoyama, Ms. Nao Miyauchi, Ms. Yumi Sakai and everyone in the team for initiating the programme and inviting me to be part of it. I have gained a lot from the Asian TYA Network and I hope to fulfill all the expectations that have been placed upon me.