Kids Are The Boss in Japan

Polyglot Theatre is returning to Minamisanriku, Japan later in the year. In this new collaboration we apply Polyglot’s international Drawbridge model to a community of elders and children, forming a brand new project called Kids Are The Boss. We meet with the Director touring on the project, Stefanie Robinson.

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Polyglot Theatre (PG): Stefanie, you’ve been part of the team that travelled over to Japan in 2011 after the Tsunami struck the the Tohuko region. Are you interested in seeing the town’s re-construction?

Stefanie (SR): I am looking forward to returning to Minamisanrikui to see how the community is four years later. I visited with Polyglot six months and then two years after the tragedy, it has been slow, slow recovery process. Connecting more deeply with the community over this longer period, and seeing where the community is now enables us to learn more about their recovery process. I’m looking forward to adding a joyful thread to their rebuilding.

PG: What is your background?

SR: I’ve been working with performance, puppetry and community for most of my career. In 1996 I graduated from the John Bolton Theatre School and went on to study Animateuring/Dance at the Victorian College of the Arts. I have since directed and performed in national and international touring works, and worked in community developing high profile events that activate local spaces. I’ve been working with Polyglot on their Play Space installations and community works.

PG: In three words describe yourself and your passion:

SR: Community, creativity, play

PG: Tell us about Kids Are The Boss. What is it? 

SR: It’s a project where we follow and help facilitate kid’s ideas, imagination, and dreaming to create an artwork together. This new collaboration will be incorporating traditional Japanese artforms with contemporary illustration in comic book style. We’ll open the floor to the community to discuss using other specific forms.

PG:  Who will be participating?

SR: The team consists of performing artist and maker Dan Goronszy, and also illustrator and comic book maker Bernard Caleo. Together, we will help shape the community ideas into a tangible artwork. We’ll be working with a community of elders, and children from the local school. Our Japanese collaborators are Acchi Cocchi. They’ve recently been creating projects with this community.

PG: What do you hope to learn and share with the children in this project?

SR: When we were last in Japan, the kid’s manual skills blew us away. They were very comfortable with quite complex making techniques and handling of tools. It’s always exciting to be sharing and learning in a new cultural landscape… new songs, stories and games. A lot of our exploration builds from play. What children bring to the table also brings learning. The Polyglot process is interesting to see unfold in different contexts. I’m excited to share this.

PG: What are the challenges of this kind of work? Have you done it before? Is it intense?

SR: Finding ways to connect with the kids without language is always my biggest challenge. It is an intense experience, but also wonderful, whether in Japan, or New Zealand, or Australia. Polyglot piloted an artist care program around this kind of work, which was a great opportunity to share care and mechanisms to enable artists in communities.

PG: What aspects are you most excited to see come to life?

SR: The whole thing! What we can create together has no bounds.

PG: It is a collaboration. What do you hope to learn and share with our Japanese collaborators?

SR: The joy of cultural exchange is seeing what we do the same and what we do differently. Japanese language would also be great! I’m open to exploring new forms and techniques, and sharing a child centred process with international artists.

PG: In what ways do you find kids impact your artistic practise?

SR: Working with kids reminds me to play, be simple but add lots of colour.

Stay tuned to Polyglot’s social media for updates about the project. Kids Are The Boss is supported by the Australian Government through the Australia-Japan Foundation. This project is also supported by the Australian Government through the Australia International Cultural Council, an initiative of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.