Report from Jessica Wilson.
I am excited to report that I was one of 26 theatre artists selected from around the world to attend the 2017 ASSITEJ International Directors Seminar – the representative from Australia. It was the remarkable breadth of cultures represented that made this event very worthwhile. The group of artists were almost all independent practitioners, and shared a spirit of determination as well as creative flexibility and adaptability. Many worked across both adult and child contexts, and all drew on various income streams to support their practice. Despite the dramatically different cultural, political and economic situations that the participants came from, commonalities were constantly found – whether identified or intuitive.
I had a very memorable time being thrown into this intense bubble with other creatives for a whole week – with a distinct absence of management staff or heavy spruiking of work. I enjoyed the stimulating conversation and social engagement the most. I made new friendships that will last well beyond this event, I forged a couple of ideas for collaborative projects with others, and I learnt about presentation contexts in many different countries.
Our hosts, Theatre Wrede – a dedicated theatre for young audiences in the small German town of Oldenburg – were very generous and had clearly input enormous energy and resources to make the week successful – the food in particular was wonderful and the hotel was very comfortable. ASSITEJ Germany and the Theatre fund raised in order to be able to host (accommodate and feed) all of the participants free of charge. Oldenburg was a great context as it is always good to be in a quiet town for this kind of event where the lack of distraction forces you to focus on your fellow peers and the work.
The work was mostly very fluid with 3 groups being asked to respond to a theme and present something on the final day of the Seminar – an interesting task when everyone in your group is a director! This openness aimed to give us the opportunity to each share our practice and how we might approach developing a new work. There was also an evening where most artists presented their work in 5 minute slots. This was a good event which enabled me to pick out people whose work I found intriguing and allow me to ask more specific questions to them, an led to many approaches from others to me.
The ASSITEJ Germany team were very open to suggestion and have considered the shape of the event and tested new ideas since it was first presented in 1981. The event never felt too ‘fixed’ which really contributed to the atmosphere of sharing and creating.
I have forged some very genuine friendships through this experience and I want to thank ASSITEJ Germany for inviting me and hosting the event, and for the opportunity afforded through ASSITEJ Australia. It was sad to leave all these awesome people, but very excellent knowing that they are scattered around the world and that our network and understanding is broadened through knowing each other and experiencing the week together. This Seminar is hosted every year and will be in Berlin in 2018.