ASSITEJ to inspire children through power of storytelling

The festival's director, Jaqueline Dommisse during her presentation of the 19th ASSITEJ World Congress and International Theatre Festival for Children and Young Audiences. programme

Cradle for Creativity: The 19th ASSITEJ World Congress and International Theatre Festival for Children and Young Audiences is coming to Cape Town for the first time, and will showcase a number of performances, workshops and an opportunity for Capetonians to take their children to a theatre.

The festival, themed Intercultural Dialogue, takes from place from Tuesday May 16 to Saturday May 27, with a number of productions from about 85 different companies around the world which include work for toddlers, children, tweens and teens.

The main events will take place at the Artscape, the Baxter and the City Hall, with events also taking place at hubs in Atlantis, Gugulethu, Langa and Philippi, as well as the Magnet Theatre in Observatory.

Yvette Hardie, the director of ASSITEJ, said every child needed access to the the arts, wherever they were, and the festival aimed to make theatres accessible. “This is really about the children, pupils, students, partners and inspiring teachers.”

She said the Artscape, where a third of the festival’s events would be happening, had supported the idea of a children’s festival, which tied in with the idea of making the Artscape inclusive for all.

She said there would also be a number of focus days, which would concentrate on theatre and storytelling, theatre for young audiences, healing theatre, social theatre and theatre for children by children. “This creates a space for people with a particular interest.

“There are very few productions for babies in South Africa, so this is the area that we should be focusing on.”

Artscape’s Sedrico Husselman reiterated that hosting the International Theatre Festival for Children and Young Audiences spoke to the Artscape’s idea of inclusivity.

“ASSITEJ has a good reputation of making sure children of all ages can access the arts. It reflects in the festival’s programme and the partners the organisation has build over the years,” he said.

The festival’s director, Jaqueline Dommisse, said the festival would be big.

“The whole world is going to be here,” she said, adding that putting together the festival had been challenging because there was a range of different needs for young people under 19 years old.

“For babies, you need songs and softness and pretty pictures. Then for the seven- and eight-year-olds, lots of bright colours and action. Tweens begin to explore life. At the festival, there is something for all age groups. There will be puppetry, circus, music … everything.

“Children can think. They live in the same world we live in. You just have to find a way to tell your story sensitively and innovatively.

“A six-month-old can respond to art – and they do. Parents just need to get a little nudge and try it out. And I don’t think that there is a production on the programme that adults won’t enjoy. A lot of thought went into them, and they are spectacular.”

The opening ceremony director, Thando Doni, said the festival came at a difficult time, as there was a lack of positivity in Cape Town. “Pictures from the media, social media and life in general, everything is so sad and it is bad news, so we need something positive like this. It is important.”

To register, or for more information, you can go to www.assitej2017.org.za

Tickets for children are R50 each and R75 for adults.

Ms Hardie said while they needed to sell tickets, they would rather have children experience art than to have empty theatres. She encouraged people who know of a school group who would like to come but couldn’t afford it, to contact ASSETIJ and “we will make a plan”.

For school packages, which include workshops, send an email to projects@theatre4youth.co.za These cost from R120 a pupil a day for two shows and a workshop. Sponsored opportunities for school groups are also available. Block booking discounts apply to groups of 10 or more.