Every work needs a serious attitude and respect for the audience.
Nguyen Hoa My (Vietnam)

Coming back home after 10 intense days at Ricca Ricca Festa, I was browsing all my notes taken during the festival and realized how useful and motivating the festival was for me. Before going, I was uncertain and worried about my theater practices. Day after day, Ricca Ricca has taken me back to the root.

Ricca Ricca Festa shows me that above all, theater is a celebration of our creativity and innovation. This creativity can belong to the content, as this theater work from the Befu company that adapted the Giving Tree tale in putting new details from our contemporary world. Or Shona Reppe’s Cinderella has been transformed into a mischievous and little devil girl.

I also saw the creativitiy in the stage directing and set design. Cain and Abel’s director takes the story from the Coran to the stage with two break dance artist and sends the God’s message through a battle between those two breakdancers. Kumi-odori, the traditional form of Okinawan Opera is mixed with western music and innovated with facial expression from actors. These additions aim to make the form more accessible to the audience. All theatrical works are a demonstration of the creativity of every artist, as well as their own challenge to their art.

Some theater works are in its experiemental phase, as in the case of « the Little Pobon and the Moon », with a mix of circus, puppetry, shadow, pantomime and drama in oder to « try a non-verbal work for little children ». Some theater works has reached a degree of subtlety and finess. Nightlight with a simple storyline about a night housekeeper guarding children at night. Those children have no particular shape, simply represented by a light and sound. A round stage designed for less than 40 people in audience and all props customized for specific purposes on stage. On the stage, we see only one actor with behind him a technician who manages all the theater effects. Nightlight dives me in a dream of innocence, imagination, surprise and strong emotions.

Ricca Ricca Festa also reminds me of the purpose of theater, that is an engaging act. Each theater work brings an implicit message to its audience. Sometimes, theater for young audience are seen as entertainment, so it needs to bring laughter. However, theater for young audience should be engaging, it needs to evoke critical and multidimensional thinking on a variety of subjects. Children's dramas can also be enjoyed by adults, allowing them to think There is no more border between theater for young or adult, at least on their purpose. Working in theater for young audience is like sowing a seed using words, message, artist’s body and expression, colors and sound, set design, etc. Those seed would be stamped on their subconsciousness and may flourish one day. Therefore, choosing the message is very important. After seeing a lot of works in the Ricca Ricca Festa, I think the author, scriptwriter and director of a work should be cautious with the desire to reproduce their personal story on stage, especially when that personal story is attached to a global context. Then, when it comes to universal themes, directors might need deeper researches in addition to their own experience/creativity.

Furthermore, Ricca Ricca Festa also curates and supports collaborating projects between the West and East, between professional artist and community.

In one hand, about the collaborating projects between the West (often western director) and the East (often eastern artist dancer/actor), as in the case of The Strangers, a dance/play sponsored by the Goethe Institute that gathers german directors and asian artists (from Thailand, Malaysia, Korea and Japan). The dance play tells about the multi-cultural communication and encourages each of us to learn about a non verbal, non violent communication. Nevertheless, multiculture is not a subject matter of current context in Asia. I would appreciate more a deeper research or analysis of Asian context and issues from a western point of view. For it, we might need in this kind of project some time for the research or an expert on this subject matter who can help during the process of creation.

In the other, we see the community project collaborated between professional artists and community. The « Community dance project » is a dance project based on true stories told by participants and on the local history. The touching performance by these old women dancers is also an efficient way of transmitting knowledge and preserving historical culture from one life to another. When stories are being told, a cathartic process has been operated and people, in particular the participants of the project themselves had chance to be healed. When I saw the work, I suddenly thought of my grandparents in Vietnam. Vietnam is a country with several wounds from the past, due to the wars in which many generation of Vietnamese people has been suffered. They need this kind of activity to express themselves, to tell their stories and then, to be able to face their suffering. Above all, what I draw from community projects is the work should base and focus on the community needs and wishes. Playback Theatre that I have been practicing could also be a mean to investigate the needs of the community. I also think of transforming the research data from the Playback Theater into a stage work so that these stories are more general, and thus reach the masses.

Ricca Ricca Festa also enriches my theatre knowledge, both practical and theoretical thanks to symposium and talks with professionals in the field. I was especially inspired by Alex Byrne’s presentation that explains another way of co-creating plays with children and for children. Transforming a venue or creating with stories imagined by children could be well applied in Vietnam where people are not familiar with theatre.

Whether it is co-creativity or creativity of the individual, whether for entertainment purposes or for thought-provoking purposes, whether a work has been honed or still in the process of experimenting, every work needs a serious attitude and respect for the audience. Because only the audience is the decider of the fate of the work. The quality of a work is also from that out.

This is the most important thing that Ricca Ricca Festa has given to me during those 10 days.

Another aspect of Ricca Ricca Festa, as well as every other festival, is the logistic aspect. I learned from Ricca Ricca Festa how important is the attitude of the organizers, from the festival director to the volunteers. It is a very attentive and thoughtful attitude towards each audience. When we see the festival's director present at every show, and personally welcome the audience, arrange seats for each person with always a smile on their lips, I believe that every audience has felt appreciated, honored, and this is prerequisite for the sustainability of the festival. In addition, the partnership with schools in Taiwan is also a clever choice. The Taiwanese students, therefore, have been involved in organizing and practicing Japanese, and I believe that each of them has had a good time. However, these venues are not necessarily suitable for audiences with special needs (eg disabled audiences, pregnant women).

The program is also well-selected from local and international artists, works by young artists and well-known troupes. Every show that I am participating in is filled with viewers, which is something that every festival dreams to be. Ricca Ricca Festa has become an indispensable cultural feature of the local people. Even though, sometimes discussions after the performance were not effective, largely because of the facilitator's discussion.

Talking about Asian TYA Network program that I was gratefully joining in, I could« unblock» my mind thanks to beautiful meets and exchanges with other practitioners from different asian countries.

The keyword that I brought back home is «advanced training». As I was struggled with the question of a training in a formal school somewhere in the world, TYA questioned me about what could be the « real advanced training ». And the answer is « deep sharing, learning from each other through meeting, exchange and workshop ». During the Ricca Ricca Festa, as the schedule  was short, we didn’t have time to have more activities and workshop to learn deeper about the practices of each participant. This is probably the thing that I would see more in the next meeting of TYA. The 3 discussions between TYA although well organized are very broad, which is difficult to delve into some specific topics. May a preliminary research on needs, questions or issues of each participant be a solution for it ?

Otherwise, the profiles of the TYA members are also diverse, from festival organizer to director, teacher, choreographer, community artist. Each person contributes a voice during the exchange. I also think about hosting a TYA locally, with a local network. How to apply this model locally is the permanent question I have in during the TYA exchange.

In addition, I also hope to see the works of the TYA members at the next festival. The work of director and screenwriter by Asian artists with Asian artists is what I would expect in the years to come. Can an "Asian talent" section be added to Ricca Ricca Festa's program?

Finally, I was thankful to be selected to join Ricca Ricca Festa from a different role and point of view, as a TYA member. As I mentioned above, Ricca Ricca has encouraged me a lot in my personal practice. I would keep in mind two important basic knowledge while practicing theater for young audience : « creativity in a high quality and engaging work » and « advanced training ».

Asian TYA Network
Nguyen Hoa My
ATH - Drama and Art space of Hanoi
Drama Teacher for Children