World Theatre Day
My apologies for regular visitors of this blog for not blogging the past couple of weeks. I have been on school holidays here in Melbourne and there wasn’t much to blog about! But now this blog is back in business, baby.
On that note, I am aware that the traditional conventions of a blog imply daily blogs. But, I liken my situation to New Zealand songwriter Neil Finn (Split Enz, Crowded House, The Finn Brothers). I once heard Finn say that you couldn’t just throw him in an empty room and ask him to write a song on demand. Something had to happen in his life in order for the inspiration to be there and the experience of life to be written about.
As much as I’d love to, I can’t just blog every single day. I have to wait for theatrical events worth writing about to happen. I’d rather write quality blogs a few times a week, than rubbish every day. I hope everyone out there understands.
Well, yesterday various countries across the globe celebrated World Theatre Day. It is my civic duty to spread the word. Unfortunately, so many of us theatre-loving people don’t even know World Theatre Day exists. But now you do!
World Theatre Day was proclaimed in 1961 by the International Theatre Institute (set up by UNESCO in 1948). The following year, French dramatist Jean Cocteau wrote the first annual International Message for the theatre world. Every year since, the International Theatre Institute has asked a theatre figure of worldwide reputation to author the annual message.
This year, Mexican playwright Víctor Hugo Rascón-Banda has written the message. Traditionally, this message is a reflection on international theatre and harmony. This year’s message is no different. With the International Theatre Institute’s permission, the 2006 International Message is posted here. It is beautiful. I encourage you to spare a moment of your time and give it a read.
The theatre has always been under threat of extinction, especially with the rise of the cinema, television and now digital media. Technology invaded the stage and annihilated the human dimension and an attempt was made to create a plastic theatre, a sort of painting in movement that replaced the spoken word. Plays were staged without dialogue, without lights or without actors, using only dummies and dolls showcased by multiple lighting effects.
Technology tried to turn the theatre into a firework display or a fairground sideshow.
Now we are witnessing the return of actors before audiences. Today, we are seeing the return of words to the stage.
The theatre has renounced mass communication and recognized its inherent limits; two beings facing each other, communicating feelings, emotions, dreams and hopes. Scenic art is relinquishing story-telling in favor of discussing ideas.
The theatre moves, illuminates, disquiets, disturbs, lifts the spirit, reveals, provokes and violates conventions. It is a conversation shared with society. Theatre is the first art to confront emptiness, shadows and silence to make words, movement, lights and life surge forth.
Theatre is a living creature that destroys itself as it is created, but always arises from the ashes. It is a magic communication in which all people give and receive something that transforms them.
The theatre reflects humankind’s existential anguish and unravels the human condition. It is not its creators who speak through the theatre, but rather the society of the epoch.
The theatre has visible enemies, the lack of artistic education in childhood that hinders discovering and enjoying it; the poverty that is invading the world, keeping audiences away, and the indifference and neglect of governments that should be promoting it.
Gods and men used to speak to one another on the stage, but now men speak to other men. Therefore, the theatre must be grander and better than life itself. Theatre is an act of faith in the value of a wise word in an insane world. It is a demonstration of faith in human beings who are responsible for their destiny.
We have to experience the theatre in order to understand what is happening to us, to transmit the pain and suffering that is all around us, but also to glimpse a ray of hope in the chaos and nightmare of our daily lives.
Long live the officiating participants in the rite of theatre! Long live the theatre!
WORLD THEATRE DAY was created in 1961 by the International Theatre Institute (ITI). World Theatre Day is celebrated annually on the 27th March by ITI Centres and the international theatre community, various national and international theatre events being organized to mark this occasion. One of the most important of these is the circulation of the International Message traditionally written by a theatre personality of world stature at the invitation of the International Theatre Institute.