“The kind of passion and dedication that is needed when you make your work together”

In April, Polyglot’s Artistic Director Sue Giles, attended the ASSITEJ International Executive Committee meeting in Uruguay, in her capacity as Vice President. ASSITEJ International is the
global association of theatre for young audiences. Sue kept a travel diary of the experience – we’re pleased to share some excerpts with you below. 

Day 2 – Sunday April 25

The ASSITEJ International Executive Committee work has increased dramatically since I joined and everyone is feeling it. We have a few observers this time too – following up on the Open Executive Committee idea of inviting people to join and see how the work is done and also to introduce potential members to the inside workings. Yvette and Louis are alike in their desire to be as transparent as possible so this week’s work will be around creating conflict of interest procedures, expanding on the National Centre tool kit and also discussing Gatekeeping in the association. We also have Mr Shimoyama and Ms Minamoto from Tokyo congress and also Mr Yin and Su Su from ASSITEJ China, Gonzales – a delegate from Spain, the Ibro American Network members and Yannick from Belgium.  All sorts of personalities plus our usual crazy mix of languages and types.

Day 3 Monday April 29

All the ASSITEJ Uruguay Festival shows were in the classically beautiful Teatro Solis, built in 1856, from plans drawn up by an Italian architect that was dismissed halfway through the project because he was discovered to have been of an opposing political faction. The work was completed by a Uruguayan (who followed the first one’s plans). 

The children were all from public schools. The festival has been trying to get more involvement from the public schools and has succeeded very well at this fifth Festival, with full houses for most of the works.

Back to the Teatro Solis again after lunch and this time Cantana de Pedro y la Guerra. A play written by Marie Inez from Argentina and co-directed by our own Daniel and another Uruguayan director Gabriel. This was set in traverse, and for an older audience. The public school children all wear white overalls over their clothes, with large blue silk floppy bows, like painters’ smocks. The show was good – well-crafted and with an excellent performance ensemble, in the mode of performance that is very recognisable, direct address and live song and music underlying the action, swift changes of character and use of props and space minimal and clean, relying on performance to relay the story. Design elements of wood and clothing beige and brown. The play was about the impact of war on children whether they are involved or not, and it left some of the kids in tears.  

We went outside into the sunshine and I had a meeting with Kenjiro about the Australian showcase idea which went down very well. He will talk to Mr Shiomoyama about it. We need to think of a process to offer the idea to the Australian artists going to the festival.

We walked back to the hotel for our Executive Committee meeting where we heard about the work done on the Creative Europe application. Here in Uruguay we were trying to garner support from associated festivals in the Ibro American network to host some of the work of the project.

At 7 we all met for a city tour in a bus which took us around and about the interest point of the city – the Municipality buildings, the parliament, the significant fountains, the obelisk, the circular theatre, the Ramblas, the city park that used to be the president’s private garden, and the beach front.

Dinner was at a charming restaurant/bar and theatre venue run by the director of the show that opened the ASSITEJ Uruguay festival and who told us how things run for performers of children’s theatre here in Montevideo. There are about 50 companies, all working part time on jobs to support their involvement. Very little funding is available, and there are only three critics of children’s theatre in the city. Grants that in total offer only $8,000 each year that must pay for two plays, so basically no one gets paid properly ever. In their winter festival there are over 100 shows across five days, many of which are ‘non-professional’. The theatre companies act more as families. His company for instance, employs the performers in the theatre and cafe – behind the bar, as cooks, etc and focuses on the training and professional development of his ensemble, so that young performers will gradually become expert enough to begin training up newer members and take on directing roles, writing roles etc. For him it is all about pathways for the young ones.

To be continued…