Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Theatre - World Theatre Day 2018

Theatre - World Theatre Day 2018

World Theatre Day Message 2018 – The Americas

Sabina Berman, Mexico

Writer, playwright, journalist

We can imagine.

The tribe launches small stones to bring down birds from the air, when a gigantic mammoth
bursts in on the scene and ROARS –and at the same time, a tiny human ROARS like the
mammoth. Then, everyone runs away...

That mammoth roar uttered by a human woman –I would like to imagine her as a woman– is the
origin of what makes us the species we are. A species capable of imitating what we are not. A
species capable of representing the Other.

Let's leap forward ten years, or a hundred, or a thousand. The tribe has learned how to imitate
other beings: deep in the cave, in the flickering light of a bonfire, four men are the mammoth,
three women are the river, men and women are birds, bonobos, trees, clouds: the tribe
represents the morning's hunt, thus capturing the past with their theatrical gift. Even more
amazing: the tribe then invents possible futures, essaying possible ways to vanquish the
mammoth, the enemy of the tribe.

Roars, whistles, murmurs –the onomatopoeia of our first theatre—will become verbal language.
Spoken language will become written language. Down another pathway, theatre will become rite
and then, cinema.

But along these latter forms, and in the seed of each one of these latter forms, there will always
continue to be theatre. The simplest form of representation. The only living form of

Theatre: the simpler it is, the more intimately it connects us to the most wondrous human skill,
that of representing the Other.

Today, in all the theatres of the world we celebrate that glorious human skill of performance. Of
representing and thus, capturing our past —and of inventing possible futures, that can bring to
the tribe more freedom and happiness.

What are the mammoths that must be vanquished today by the human tribe? What are its
contemporary enemies? About what should theatre that aspires to be more than entertainment
be about?

For me, the greatest mammoth of all is the alienation of human hearts. The loss of our capacity
to feel with Others: to feel compassion for our fellow humans and for our fellow non-human
living forms.

What a paradox. Today, at the final shores of Humanism —of the Anthropocene— of the era in
which human beings are the natural force that has changed the planet the most, and will
continue to do so— the mission of the theatre is –in my view-- the opposite of that which
gathered the tribe when theatre was performed at the back of the cave: today, we must salvage
our connection to the natural world.

More than literature, more than cinema, the theatre —which demands the presence of human
beings before other human beings— is marvelously suited to the task of saving us from
becoming algorithms, pure abstractions.

Let us remove everything superfluous from the theatre. Let us strip it naked. Because the
simpler theatre is, the more apt it is to remind us of the only undeniable thing: that we are, while
we are in time; that we are only while we are flesh and bone and hearts beating in our breasts;
that we are the here and now, and no more.

Long live the theatre. The most ancient art. The art of being in the present. The most wondrous

Long live the theatre.

World Theatre Day Message 2018 – Asia Pacific

Ram Gopal Bajaj, India

Theatre director, theatre and film actor, academician, former director of the National School of
Drama, Delhi.

After all the evolutionary stories, we only know one thing in brief; that all life forms tend to
survive till eternity. If feasible life tends to pervade beyond time and space to become immortal.
In this process, the life form also mutilates and destroys itself universally. However, we need to
limit the deliberation to the survival of humanity and its emancipation from the hunter cave man
of the Stone Age to our Space Age. Are we now more considerate? Sensitive? Joyous? More
loving toward the nature that we are a product of?

Since our beginnings, the live performative arts (Dance, Music, Acting/Drama) now also have
the developed instrument of the lingua, consisting of vowels and consonants. The Vowel
basically expresses the feelings or emotions, and the consonant does the communication of
form and thought/knowledge. Mathematics, Geometry, Armaments and now Computer have
been its result. So now we cannot go back from this evolution of lingua. The very earth itself will
not survive if the collective joy of live theatre arts and knowledge (including technology) is not
emancipated, re-sublimated from the mundane, the fury, the greed and the evil.

Mass Media and our science and technology have made us powerful like demons. Thus, the
form of theatre is not the crisis today, but it is the crisis of content, of statement and concern.
We need to appeal to the man of today’s earth, to save the very planet earth and therefore
‘theatre’. At a pragmatic level the arts of the actor and the arts of live performance need to be
made available to children in primary education. Such a generation will, I believe, be more
sensitive to the righteousness of life and nature. The advantage of lingua thus may be much
less harmful to mother earth and other planets. Moreover, ‘theatre’ will become more important
for to the retention and sustenance of life itself; it therefore needs to empower the live performer
and the spectator without threatening each other in this cosmic era of togetherness.

I hail theatre and appeal to the world to implement and facilitate this at grass root level, rural
and urban all. ‘Limbs, Lingua and Compassion together in Education for the Generations’.

World Theatre Day Message 2018 – Arab Countries

Maya Zbib, Lebanon
Theatre director, performer, writer, co-founder Zoukak Theatre Company

It’s a moment of communion, an unrepeatable encounter, not found in any other secular activity.
It’s the simple act of a group of people choosing to come together in the same place at the
same time to take part in a shared experience. It’s an invitation to individuals to become a
collective, to share ideas, and envision ways to divide the burden of necessary actions… to
slowly recover their human connectedness and find similarities rather than differences. It’s
where a specific story can trace the lines of universality… Here lies the magic of theatre; where
representation recovers its archaic properties.

In a global culture of rampant fear of the other, isolation and loneliness, being present together,
viscerally, in the here and now, is an act of love. Deciding to take your time, away from
immediate gratification and individual self-indulgence in our highly consumerist fast-paced
societies; to slow down, to contemplate and reflect together is a political act, an act of

After the fall of major ideologies, and as the current world order is proving its failure decade
after decade, how can we re-imagine our future? As safety and comfort are the main
preoccupation and priority in predominant discourses, can we still engage in uncomfortable
conversations? Can we cross over towards dangerous territories without the fear of loosing our

Today, speed of information is more important than knowledge, slogans are more valuable than
words and images of corpses are more revered than real human bodies. Theatre is here to
remind us that we are made of flesh and blood, and that our bodies have weight. It is here to
awaken all our senses, and to tell us that we don’t need to seize and consume with our sight
alone. Theatre is here to give back the power and meaning to words, to steal the discourse back
from politicians and restore it to its rightful place… to the arena of ideas and debate, the space
of collective vision.

Through the power of storytelling and imagination theatre gives us new ways of seeing the
world and each other; opening up a space for common reflection amidst the overwhelming
ignorance of intolerance. When xenophobia, hate speech and white supremacy have effortlessly
come back on the table, after the years of hard work and sacrifices of millions of people around
the globe to make them shameful and deem them unacceptable… When teenage boys and girls
are shot in the head and imprisoned for refusing to comply with injustice and apartheid… When
figures of insanity and right-wing despotism are ruling some of the major countries of the first
world… When nuclear war is looming as a virtual game between the man-children in power…
When mobility is becoming more and more restricted to a selected few, while refugees are dying
at sea, trying to enter the high fortresses of illusive dreams, as more and more expensive walls
are being built… Where shall we question our world, when most of the media has sold out?
Where else than in the intimacy of the theatre, are we able to re-think our human condition, to
imagine the new world order… collectively, with love and compassion but also with constructive
confrontation through intelligence, resilience and strength.

Coming from the Arab region I could speak of the difficulties artists face in making work. But I
am part of a generation of theatre makers who feel privileged that the walls we need to destroy
have always been visible ones. This has led us to learn to transform what is available and to
push collaboration and innovation to its limits; making theatre in basements, on rooftops, in
living rooms, in alleyways, and on the streets, building our audiences as we go, in cities, villages
and refugee camps. We’ve had the advantage to have to construct everything from scratch in
our contexts, and to conceive ways to evade censorship, all the while still crossing the red lines
and defying taboos. Today these walls are facing all theatre makers of the world, as funding has
never been scarcer and political correctness is the new censor.

Thus, the international theatre community has a collective role to play today more than ever, to
face these multiplying tangible and intangible walls. Today more than ever there is a need to
creatively re-invent our social and political structures, with honesty and courage. To confront our
shortcomings, and to take responsibility for the world we take part in making.

As theatre makers of the world, we don’t follow an ideology or one belief system, but we have in
common our eternal search for truth in all its forms, our continuous questioning of the status
quo, our challenge of systems of oppressive power and last but not least, our human integrity.
We are many, we are fearless and we are here to stay!

World Theatre Day Message 2018 – Europe

Simon McBurney, United Kingdom
Actor, writer, stage director and co-founder of Théâtre de Complicité

Half a mile from the Cyrenaican coast in Northern Libya is a vast rock shelter. 80 metres wide
and 20 high. In the local dialect it is called the Hauh Fteah. In 1951 Carbon dating analysis
showed an uninterrupted human occupation of at least 100,000 years. Amongst the artefacts
unearthed was a bone flute dated to anywhere between 40 and 70,000 years ago. As a boy
when I heard this I asked my father

“They had music?”

He smiled at me.

“As all human communities.”

He was an American born prehistorian, the first to dig the Hauh Fteah in Cyrenaica.

I am very honoured and happy to be the European representative at this year’s World Theatre

In 1963, my predecessor, the great Arthur Miller said as the threat of nuclear war lay heavy over
the world: ’When asked to write In a time when diplomacy and politics have such terribly short
and feeble arms, the delicate but sometimes lengthy reach of art must bear the burden of
holding together the human community.’

The meaning of the word Drama derives from the Greek “dran” which means “to do” … and the
word theatre originates from the Greek, “Theatron”, literally meaning the “seeing place”. A place
not only where we look, but where we see, we get, we understand. 2400 years ago Polykleitos
the younger designed the great theatre of Epidaurus. Seating up to 14,000 people the
astonishing acoustics of this open-air space are miraculous. A match lit in the centre of the
stage, can be heard in all 14,000 seats. As was usual for Greek theatres, when you gazed at
the actors, you would also see past to the landscape beyond. This not only assembled several
places at once, the community, the theatre and the natural world, but also brought together all
times. As the play evoked past myths in present time, you could look over the stage to what
would be your ultimate future. Nature.

One of most remarkable revelations of the reconstruction of Shakespeare’s Globe in London is
also to do with what you see. This revelation is to do with light. Both stage and auditorium are
equally illuminated. Performers and public can see each one another. Always. Everywhere you
look are people. And one of the consequences is that we are reminded that the great soliloquies
of, say, Hamlet or Macbeth were not merely private meditations, but public debates.

We live in a time when it is hard to see clearly. We are surrounded by more fiction than at any
other time in history or prehistory. Any ‘fact’ can be challenged, any anecdote can have claim on
our attention as ‘truth’. One fiction in particular surrounds us continually. The one that seeks to
divide us. From the truth. And from each one another. That we are separate. Peoples from
people. Women from men. Human beings from nature.

But just as we live in a time of division, and fragmentation, we also live in a time of immense
movement. More than at any other time in history, people are on the move; frequently fleeing;
walking, swimming if need be, migrating; all over the world. And this is only just beginning. The
response, as we know, has been to close borders. Build walls. Shut out. Isolate. We live in a
world order that is tyrannical, where indifference is the currency and hope a contraband cargo.
And part of this tyranny is the controlling not only of space, but also time. The time we live in
eschews the present. It concentrates on the recent past and near future. I do not have that. I will
buy this.

Now I have bought it, I need to have the next… thing. The deep past is obliterated. The future of
no consequence.

There are many who say that theatre will not or cannot change any of this. But theatre will not
go away. Because theatre is a site, I am tempted to say a refuge. Where people congregate and
instantly form communities. As we have always done. All theatres are the size of the first human
communities from 50 souls to 14,000. From a nomadic caravan to a third of ancient Athens.
And because theatre only exists in the present, it also challenges this disastrous view of time.
The present moment is always theatre’s subject. Its meanings are constructed in a communal
act between performer and public. Not only here, but now. Without the act of the performer the
audience could not believe. Without the belief of the audience the performance would not be
complete. We laugh at the same moment. We are moved. We gasp or are shocked into silence.
And at that moment through drama we discover that most profound truth: that what we thought
the most private division between us, the boundary of our own individual consciousness, is also
without frontier. It is something we share.

And they cannot stop us. Each night we will reappear. Every night the actors and audience will
reassemble. and the same drama will be re-enacted. Because, as the writer John Berger says
“Deep within the nature of theatre is a sense of ritual return”, which is why it has always been
the art form of the dispossessed, which, because of this dismantling of our world, is what we all
are. Wherever there are performers and audiences stories will be enacted which cannot be told
anywhere else, whether in the opera houses and theatres of our great cities, or the camps
sheltering migrants and refugees in Northern Libya and all over the world. We will always be
bound together, communally, in this re-enactment.

And if we were in Epidauros we could look up and see how we share this with a larger
landscape. That we are always part of nature and we cannot escape it just as we cannot escape
the planet. If we were in the Globe we would see how apparently private questions are posed
for us all. And if we were to hold the Cyrenaican flute from 40,000 years ago, we would
understand the past and the present here are indivisible, and the chain of human community
can never be broken by the tyrants and demagogues.

World Theatre Day Message 2018 – Africa

Were Were Liking, Ivory Coast
Multidisciplinary Artist

One day
A Human decides to ask himself questions in front of a mirror (an audience)
To invent himself answers and in front of this same mirror, (his audience)
To criticize himself, to make fun of his own questions and answers
To laugh or cry, anyway, but in the end
To greet and bless his mirror (his audience)
For giving him this moment of spite and respite
He bows and greets him to show him gratitude and respect...
Deep down, he was seeking peace,
Peace with himself and with his mirror:
He was doing theatre...

That day, he was talking...
Despising his flaws, his paradoxes and distortions,
Shocking himself through mimicry and contortions;
His pettiness that has blemished his humanism
His tricks that led to cataclysms
He was talking to himself...
Admiring himself in his surging outbursts,
In his aspirations to greatness, to beauty,
A better being, a better world
That he would build of his own thoughts
That he could have forged with his own hands
If from him to himself in the mirror, he wanted it, he says to himself,
If he and his mirror share the desire ...
But he knows it: he was doing representations
Of derision, no doubt, of illusion,
But also, of course, mental action
Construction, Recreation of the world,
He was doing theatre...

Even by torpedoing all hopes
By his words and accusing gestures
He was bent on believing
That everything would be accomplished in this single evening
By his crazy stares
By his sweet words
By his mischievous smile
By his delicious humour
By his words that, even while hurting or rocking
Operate the surgery for a miracle
Yes, he was doing theatre.

And in general
At home in Africa
Especially in the Kamite1 part where I come from
We do not care about anything
We laugh all the same, mourning while crying,
We hit the ground when it disappoints us
By the Gbégbé2 or the Bikoutsi3
Scary Masks are carved
, Wabele5 or Poniugo6
To figure the Uncompromising Principles
Who impose on us the cycles and the times
And puppets, who like us,
End up figuring their Creators
And by subjugating their manipulators
Conceive rites where the spoken word,
Inflated with rhythmic songs and breaths,
Goes forth to the conquest of the sacred
Provoking dances like trances
Incantations and calls to devotion;

But also and above all, bursts of laughter
To celebrate the joy of living
That neither centuries of slavery and colonisation
Racism and discrimination
Nor eternities of unspeakable atrocities
Could smother or snatch
From our paternal Soul of Father the Mother of Humanity;
In Africa, as everywhere else in the world
We do theatre…

And in this special year dedicated to ITI
I am particularly happy and honoured
To represent our continent
To carry her message of peace
The Peaceful Message of the Theatre;
Because this continent that was said not so long ago
That anything in the world could happen
Without anyone feeling the slightest malaise or lack,
Is again recognized in its primordial role
Of Father and Mother to Humanity
And the whole world is pouring in...
Because everyone always hopes to find peace
In the arms of their parents, isn’t that so?

And as such, our theatre more than ever, convenes
And engages all humans, and especially
All those sharing the thought, the word and the theatrical action,
To have more respect for themselves and for each other
By favouring the best humanist values
In the hope of reclaiming a better humanity for all:
One which brings out intelligence and understanding.
By using this part of the most effective human cultures
The very one that erases all borders: the theatre...
One of the most generous because it speaks all languages,
Involves all civilizations, reflects all ideals,
And expresses a deep unity of all men who,
Despite all the confrontations
Are especially interested in getting to know each other better
And to love oneself better, in the peace and tranquillity
When representation becomes participation
Reminding us of the duty of an action that imposes on us
The power of theatre to make everyone laugh and cry, together
By decreasing their ignorance, by increasing their knowledge
So that man becomes again the greatest wealth of man.

Our theatre proposes to re-examine and reassess fundamentally
All these humanistic principles, all these high virtues
All these ideas of peace and friendship between peoples
So much advocated by UNESCO
To reincarnate them in the scenes we create today
So that these ideas and principles become an essential need
And a deep thought of the theatre creators themselves first
Who can then share them better with their audiences.

This is why our latest theatrical creation titled « L’Arbre Dieu » repeating the recommendations
of Kindack7 Ngo Biyong Bi Kuban8
, our Master, says:
"God is like a big tree”
Of which can only perceive one aspect at a time
From the angle where it is beheld:
Whoever flies over the tree will only perceive the foliage
And possible fruits and seasonal flowers.
Whoever lives underground will know more about the roots,
Those leaning against the tree will recognize it
By the feeling in their backs.
Those who come from every cardinal point
Will see the aspects that those opposite do not necessarily have access too,
Some, privileged, will perceive the secret
Between the bark and the pulp of the wood
And still others, the intimate science in the marrow of the tree;
But whatever the superficiality
Or the depth of perception of each,
No one is ever placed under an angle from which
You are able to perceive all these aspects at once
Unless you become this divine tree yourself!
But then, are we still human?

That all the theatres in the world tolerate and accept each other
To better serve the global goal of ITI
In order that finally, on its 70th anniversary,
There is more peace in the world
With a strong participation in Theatre...

Werewere-Liking Gnepo, Multidisciplinary Artist
Translation: Malory Domecyn / Tom Johnson

1 Kamite; Inhabitant of Kamita, the ‘Land of the Blacks’, lit. "Africa". Kamite also refers to all natives and their descendants scattered throughout the world in the diasporas, as well as practitioners of the original religion of this region.
2 Gbégbé; a traditional dance of the Bétés country, Ivory Coast, used in public demonstrations of rejoicing or mourning.
3 Bikoutsi; a) Kout: hit. b) Si: the earth. An original Fan Beti dance from South Cameroon, initially practiced by women when to ensure blessings from Mother Earth: good harvests, better weather, etc. in which it was necessary to strike the ground vigorously to get it to listen to reason. Today it has been recovered by the youth of the whole country and beyond, thanks to many international stars.
4 Glaé; Religious system of the Wè and Wobè peoples of western Ivory Coast, based on ‘the Masques’. A whole hierarchy of masks, often frightening, acts as a cornerstone to all the beliefs and social organization of these peoples.
5 Wabele; one of the masks of the religious Senufo system in the north of the Ivory Coast. With the head of Hyena, fire-eater, it represents knowledge and power.
6 Poniugo; another mask of the Senufo religious system, based on the Poro, the initiation in the heart of the sacred groves and which governs all their society.
7 Kindack; lit. "Mistress of Recommendations", title given to the Matriarchs. Women who have attained a level of wisdom by initiating Mbock or Mbog, religious system of the country Bassa, in the center of Cameroon and corresponding to the title of Mbombock reserved for men. 8 Kuban; Girl of Biyong, Son of Kuban. This is the name of my grandmother, my initiator, one of the last holders of
knowledge "KI-Yi Mbock" from which I received the duty of transmission that I have been toiling toward for more than three decades.