A Message of Celebration for Youth Theatre

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By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK “This is a brief message to celebrate the work of thousands of practitioners, artists and administrators around the world who dedicate their lives to presenting theatre for children and young people.” So said Stefo Nantsou, honorary president of Assitej-International in Australia, in a message for World Theatre Day on March 20, to all 76 member countries of the organisation, including Namibia. “I take my hat off to all of you. We choose not to be stars or celebrities, we choose our passions above our bank balance and we choose our audience with an overwhelming strength of commitment and boundless theatrical zeal,” Nantsou said in a statement circulated around the world to all children and young people theatre centres. According to him, he has over the past 25 years been involved in and seen hundreds of theatre productions, in many countries, for children and young people. “Most of these productions have similar aims and objectives, to help inspire, educate and entertain with a vision of developing a better world. “The importance of theatre for children and young people has no measuring stick, no degrees or points of obvious calculation. “Its effects are at times unknown and invisible, yet we know it has changed lives, awakened lives and in some cases saved lives,” he said. He further stated that people are becoming more technologically focused. “Keyboards are replacing mouths; text messages, e-mails and mobile phones replacing personal contact. “Live theatre as a powerful platform where human beings can assemble and exchange stories, emotions and freedoms in schools, community halls, parks, in-door, out-door and make-shift theatres all over the world, seems as important now as never before,” the president said. “The importance of cultural expression is now a bizarre battle against dominant popular culture monopolised by corporate media and celebrity-driven dribble. “We theatre practitioners must continue to make our stand, to tell stories the newspapers do not print, stories not shown on television, and when we tell these stories they should contain a magic that a computer chip will never have.” In his view theatre must celebrate cultural diversity, it must explore the world with wonderful complexity, and must assist in the improvement of conditions of children throughout the world. “For the next 25 years, I hope to be doing the same as what I have been doing, only much better. “There is still so much to learn, and so many people to meet, to entertain and together to help create a better world. “The great Italian playwright and performer Dario Fo continues to inspire me with his words, that we should “continue doing what we set out to do from the start: to attack, with laughter and reason, in song and in mime, every form of oppression and injustice,” he concluded. World Theatre Day will be celebrated only on June 21 to 23 during the annual Youth Theatre Festival, which will be presented for the 23rd year in the capital. Seven rural youth theatre groups will take part in the festival’s school section then.