Imagination Stage Founding Artistic Director Invited to Speak in Beijing

In late August, Founding Artistic Director Janet Stanford and Associate Artistic Director Kathryn Chase Bryer traveled to Beijing, China to attend ASSITEJ’s Artistic Gathering 2018, where Janet was asked to speak on the importance of international collaboration in the arts.

As “The Olympics of Children’s Theatre,” the International Association of Theatre for Children and Young People (ASSITEJ) is engaged with 92 countries and 75 national centers to promote, research, and develop theatrical arts for children and young people worldwide. The Artistic Gathering provides a platform for teaching artists to exchange and cooperate on creating performing arts for children and young people. Last year’s gathering took place in Cape Town, South Africa. This year’s gathering was co-hosted by China National Theatre for Children and China Children’s Drama Society.

As a leader in theatre for young audiences (TYA), Janet spoke on the importance of international collaboration. She outlined Imagination Stage’s long history of working with artists from countries such as the United Kingdom, Spain, Germany, and Pakistan, and discussed lessons learned from the organization’s 15 international productions. “As our world depends increasingly on global cooperation and cross-cultural understanding, we believe that children everywhere can prepare for their futures by seeing stories and performers from around the world,” said Janet. “We know that live theatre is the most enjoyable and impactful way to teach not only empathy but enthusiasm for the many cultures, histories, languages, and traditions of our fellow humans around our shared planet.”

This conference was a great experience for both Janet and Kate, especially because of the workshops they attended. “The Great Wall of Ideas,” was an activity in which 200 participants wrote their own statements and definitions of what theatre for young audiences is and how it helps children and society. After the workshop broke for tea, participants returned to find their words translated and hung all around the room so that everyone could appreciate the importance of TYA. Janet and Kate also attended a workshop on Beijing Opera make up, puppetry and set design in anticipation of Imagination Stage’s Beijing Opera-inspired production of The Ballad of Mu Lan next year. 

The festival is two months long and presents 17 productions from 10 countries. In the short week Janet and Kate attended, they were able to see some amazing performances, including a Chinese adaptation of The Little Mermaid. Their favorite performance was a powerful movement piece that took place in a black-box theatre. Janet and Kate learned a lot about how Chinese values impact their productions for young audiences. The conference was also a great opportunity for Imagination Stage to foster connections with Chinese artists. When not attending the gathering, Janet and Kate found time for a tuk-tuk food tour, a fancy Peking duck dinner and a visit to the Great Wall of China!

After a successful week in Beijing, Imagination Stage looks forward to collaborating with international artists and continuing to learn from other TYA practitioners.

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