March 20 is a very special day — it is World Day of Theatre for Children and Young People! Every year since 2001, on March 20, all the theatre artists and practitioners, theatre companies, theatre lovers and all who are in any way connected to Theatre for Young Audiences celebrate this day. It was established by ASSITEJ International in 2000 and in 2001 it was already celebrated all around the world.

As an ex-member of the ASSITEJ International Executive Committee (1999-2008) and ex Secretary General (2008-2014), I am very proud to be one of the founding fathers of the World Day. Being in those positions was a big honor to me, but also a big responsibility. Serving the mission of ASSITEJ, I dedicated whole my life and my work to promotion of theatre arts for children and advocate children right to participate in theatre arts.

What is ASSITEJ?

ASSITEJ (http://www.assitej-international.org/) is the International Association of Theatres for Children and Young People and its name ASSITEJ is an acronym from French “Association Internationale du Théâtre de l’Enfance et la Jeunesse”. It was established in 1965 as an international alliance of professionals involved in theatre for children and young people with the mission to advocate, promote and develop artistic work in theatre for children, to connect the artists across the globe, to help and support international exchange and mobility of artists and artistic work.   

ASSITEJ community gathers every three years at the ASSITEJ Congress and international festival. The 20th ASSITEJ World Congress & International Performing Arts Festival for Children and Young People / MIRAI 2020 in Tokyo, Japan should have been postponed due to the pandemic and will take place as a physical (‘On the Ground’) and virtual (‘Online’) event this year from March 22 to April 1. (If you want to participate in virtual event, do go to https://assitejonline.org/ . There you can find the program and all you need (including registration and tickets) to be a part of this main ASSITEJ event. )

Chinese artists and theatres are represented in ASSITEJ International by China Children’s Drama Society (CCDS), a national level non-profit social organization managed by the Ministry of Culture and registered with the Ministry of Civil Affairs. Approved by the Ministry of Culture, CCDS has joined the ASSITEJ International and became ASSITEJ China Centre in 1994. Although Chinese Centre of ASSITEJ (CCDS) is a member of international community and although it participates in international exchange, conferences and meetings (Artistic Gathering of ASSITEJ in Beijing 2018), ASSITEJ is not widely recognized and known among Chinese artists.

Why World Day of Theatres for Children and Young People?

One of the reasons of establishing World Day of Theatre for Children and Young People was promotion of theatre for children worldwide. For that reason, a slogan “Take a Child to the Theatre Today” was introduced in 2012, and later changed into “Take a Child to the Theatre”. The idea behind this slogan is that every child should have a chance to enjoy theatre and the arts. As a previous Secretary General, I must use this day to promote theatre for children and advocate children right to participate in the arts.

In many parts of the world, including China, not every child has a possibility to enjoy theatre. Special cultural environment, market orientated culture, educational system, living style, financial inability of parents to pay expensive tickets, the lack of habit of attending theatre performances, poor education of parents, low artistic quality of theatre performances … all that prevent children from exercising their right to enjoy theatre. In China, where cultural activities are held only over weekends and very rarely in the schools, kindergartens and other places where children spend their time, the possibilities for attending theatre are even more reduced. As a consequence, children in many cases don’t even know what theatre is.

As theatre practitioners we must unite our powers and work intensively to try to change this situation. Theatre art should be accessible to all and every child. It should not be exclusive right of wealthy children who can pay expensive tickets or exclusive right of intellectual and any other elite. Theatre belongs to every child and every child should have an equal chance to enjoy it. It should be a strategical goal of governmental cultural policy but also our, parents’ and artists’ concern. Let us all ask ourselves what can we, artists and parents respectively, do to bring art to every child.

After my latest post, a colleague of mine told me “You, as European, must understand Chinese culture. Change cannot be made quickly. The bigger change, the slower it must be executed.” Then she added “Chinese saying: No river goes to straight to the sea!”

I do understand! But do the children understand that too? Children have no time to wait. They are growing up so fast and they cannot wait for a change to take place. They are running into and through life and they cannot wait for us, old and tired, to make a slow change in the future. They need theatre and the arts NOW! How many generations of children are we ready to sacrifice before we start a change?

Let’s start acting now! Let’s use World Day of Theatre for Children and Young People to promote and advocate the right of every child (I mean every!) to enjoy and participate in the arts. Maybe we can start with small steps by changing the ASSITEJ slogan and adjust it to our, Chinese situation. Instead of “Take a Child to the Theatre Today” maybe we can start by inviting parents to “Take a Child to the Theatre This Weekend!”. NOW!

Maybe we can, together and with the support of governmental institutions, start building up programs for poor children who cannot afford paying expensive tickets or those who have not theatre venues in their cities, towns and villages. 

At last, but not least, shouldn’t we, artists, sacrifice something for the benefit of our children. I am ready. Are you?

Happy World Day of Theatre for Children and Young People

Yvette Hardie

Read the message of the president of ASSITEJ International Ms Yvette Hardie — http://www.assitej-international.org/en/2021/03/yvette-hardies-message-for-the-2021-world-day-of-theatre-for-children-and-young-people/

Put ASSITEJ International promotion material on your theaters, on your WeChat Moments and share it with the others. Go to http://www.assitej-international.org/en/world-day-of-theatre-for-children-and-young-people-2021/ to find all you need to know about The World Day. Download the logos of World Theatre Day. If you cannot enter the web site, you can download the logos here:

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