To our friends in Norway,
I know that all of my North American colleagues working in theater for children and young people – whether part of ASSITEJ/USA, International Performing Arts for Youth (IPAY), or the newly-reforming ASSITEJ/Canada – will join me in extending condolences and sympathy in the wake of the terrible tragedy your country has experienced.
Events like the earthquake and tsunami that affected Japan so deeply remind us that we cannot control Mother Nature. Events like the senseless violence in Oslo and Utoya (mostly against young people) remind us that we cannot control human nature.
May I be so bold as to suggest that – even in the midst of the shock and grief – it might be helpful for all of us to remember that what we can control is our own work, and it’s at times like this that our work becomes even more important.
Those of us who do performances for children and young people are the village storytellers in our global community. It’s an extension of the most ancient ritual of civilization, where the clan gathered around fires in cave, in deserts, in forests, and the elders told the children stories. Now, on our stages, in our classrooms, we tell stories in words, movement, music, rhythm, pictures – stories of our lives as they were, as they are, and as we wish them to be. In our stories, we let our children and young people see themselves on stage and we give them tools to help them navigate the future.
It may be that July 22 is for Norway is like September 11 was for the US – a day when everything changed. What we learned then, I think, was that it was even more important than ever to be both rigorous and compassionate, to always tell the truth to our children and young people, and to always bring our best selves to our work. And we learned our greatest strength is each other.
The great poets always see the future, and these words from Tomas Transtromer, from his 2004 book The Great Enigma, might have been written yesterday.
“Thousands of people gazing
in the land of long shadows.
A bridge builds itself
straight out into space.”
Please know that you have friends all over the world.
Kim Peter Kovac
Producing Director, Kennedy Center Theater for Young Audiences
Vice-President, ASSITEJ International
Board member, IPAY