Sunday, April 21, 2019

ASSITEJ World Congress: Interview with Nina Hajiyianni

For By With

            Looking into the determined eyes of Nina Hajiyianni, the associate director of Action Transport Theatre, I can see what it takes to be successful in the theatre world. Determination and a passion for theatre make Nina an invaluable asset to ATT, located in Cheshire, England. Her interest in theatre started from a young age, coming from a country where there is a strong culture of youth theatre. Not particularly academic in school, Nina says, “ I had a strong voice and talent – my natural instinct was to follow it.” When asked if there was any particular mentor who greatly affected her, Nina remarks that people who mentor you at a certain age, at a certain time, greatly affect you. “People that make you re-learn something, changes you.”

Now the associate director of Action Transport Theatre, Nina is dedicated to the ideals of the company, primarily “for young people, by young people, with young people.” ATT is committed to nurturing young theatre artists, especially young writers, in their exploration of self and art. When asked if she prefers a certain age group, Nina says that she tries not to work with ages in mind. Each person, child or adult, should be treated with the same respect and intellect. As the associate director, Nina’s job is to lead projects, and to think about the vision and work of ATT, as well as the artistic role and strategic role of the company. She also directs professional shows of young people, by young people, for young people, constantly supporting the idea of “For, By, With.”

In addition to her work in England, Nina became involved with Next Generation, a group within ASSITEJ, dedicated to revitalizing the administrative team that organizes the festival, and bringing fresh faces and ideas into the group. There are 23 members in the group (15 of which attended the Denmark festival), from 17 different countries. A countless number of collaborations have sprung from this group, several of which Nina has been involved with. Her most recent collaboration was with Australian playwright Finegan Kruckemeyer, which resulted in an opera for children. Dark and challenging, the story is about children’s emotions, and comments on how children can lead hard lives at the hands of adults.

Nina herself enjoys shows with limited text, because they make the audience do a lot of the work. “Words pin things down, while visual language is more abstract, and can create moments and complex relationships. Don’t tell the audience what they can see. At best, tell them something that is different from what they see.” When asked if she enjoyed a certain much-debated show featured at ASSITEJ, Nina replied that she focuses on how much the show affected her, if it really moved her. “What do the characters really want? Drama is driven by emotional truth.”

Samantha Murray

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