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Every day I’m reminded of the impact and importance that theatre has in the lives of the people around me. That’s not hard to believe since I work in theatre though. I’m surrounded by actors, technicians, administrators and box office employees who make their living off of theatre in Ottawa or throughout Canada. I’m also constantly interacting with people that don’t work in theatre, but people who are lovers of theatre that are just as invested in it. Whether it’s that they’re looking for a laugh, some serious drama, or something completely different that will open up their minds to something they have never thought of before, theatre has the power to do all of those things. This is why the recognition and celebration of World Theatre Day is important. Today is a couple of days before World Theatre Day on March 27, but a couple of extra days of theatre appreciation is a pretty good thing in my book. View the World Theatre Day message from PACT below:
Each year PACT celebrates World Theatre Day. Created in 1961 by UNESCO, World Theatre Day is celebrated annually on March 27 by theatre communities around the globe. The impetus behind World Theatre Day is to honour and further the goal of UNESCO's International Theatre Institute (ITI) to celebrate the power of theatre as an indispensable bridge-builder for mutual international understanding and peace as well as to promote and protect cultural diversity and identity in communities throughout the world.
Together with l'Association des théâtres francophones du Canada (ATFC) and the Playwrights Guild of Canada (PGC), PACT has once again commissioned a message to promote and celebrate World Theatre Day from a distinctly Canadian perspective.
The 2015 Canadian World Theatre Day message is written by Mieko Ouchi, an accomplished actor, writer, and director who is currently Artistic Director of Concrete Theatre in Edmonton AB. The message was translated into French by Mishka Lavigne, an Ottawa-based playwright.
Mieko Ouchi is a Canadian actor, writer, director, dramaturg, and much sought-after teacher. Her plays have been produced across Canada and the U.S. and have been finalists for the 4 Play Reading Series at The Old Vic in London, the Governor General’s Award for Drama, the Gwen Pharis Ringwood Award and the City of Edmonton Book Prize. Ouchi’s work spans everything from Theatre for Young Audiences to large scale adult work, often exploring issues around diversity and the artist’s process and involves a mixing of the techniques, vocabulary and imagery of theatre and film.
The world we are living in today, is a place in deep flux. One that feels increasingly uncertain and precarious. Power is shifting. Economies are rupturing. We are confronted by unthinkable acts of inhumanity. And while on some fronts concepts of equality are moving forward, in other ways we are increasingly being pushed backward into separate and potentially more extreme corners by forces on many sides. Into perilous ideas of Us and Them. Right and Wrong. Black and White.
Faced with this stark reality, we can find ourselves wondering at the purpose of art. The purpose of theatre. And yet, isn’t this a time when theatre might be needed more than ever?
For we in the theatre understand deeply that no human is one thing alone. Drama shows us again and again that we are made up of many selves and wear many different identities. That we can be, and indeed already are, simultaneously part of multiple groups and communities. This recognition of the complex intersection of who we are is a powerful idea, and one that allows us the empathy and compassion to see ourselves in others.
That is something worth sharing.
In professional theatre spaces, community halls, meeting rooms, school gyms and drama rooms, daycares and seniors centres, outdoor parks, streets and found spaces... indeed any place that even a single performer and a single audience member can gather, theatre can offer a potent and powerful moment of communion and connection for the performers and viewers watching the same human experience acted out before them. That is what theatre does best.
And that is something worth pursuing.
In a time when some are fighting to erect boundaries or guard the ones already in place, we have the opportunity, if we take up the cause, to use art, empowerment and solidarity, as our answer to those who would see the rest of the world live only as they do. To anyone who would stand in the way of a fellow human claiming an equal and respected place at the table. To people who would deny any one of us the opportunity to be who we were born as or who we wish to be. Who we truly are. Freedom of speech and self expression are not things we can ever take for granted.
They are worth standing up for.
But to do these things, to be needed and relevant, it will require us to look inward and confront our own biases and assumptions. To look outward and challenge ourselves to give voice to the width and breadth of all perspectives we need to move forward. The confronting viewpoints we need to push ourselves to ask the most difficult of questions. It will take conscious effort to dissolve old walls and glass ceilings. To welcome everyone in.
But we are not alone in this struggle. Each and every one of us who counts themselves a member of the Theatre family, is also a member of a universal and ancient clan of tricksters and clowns. Of singers and dancers. Of storytellers and artists. Of provocateurs and historians. Traced in a continuous line back to the very beginnings of human existence. Who have always used their voices and bodies, their ideas and stories, to entertain, divert, energize, enlighten, expose, educate, ignite, prod, criticize, provoke and challenge. A group who have used their collective power to bring people together. To change people’s minds. To transform the world.
That is something to be proud of.