I was so fortunate to receive the opportunity to attend the One Theatre World Conference through the Ann Shaw Fellowship. I learned a great deal about theatre for young audiences happening across the country and what kind of work is capturing the hearts of theatre professionals. I was excited and surprised to find how many theatre artists were interested in the work being done for the very young. I was even more thrilled to meet with people who had the same passion for working with the very young as I do.
As Early Childhood Coordinator at Imagination Stage, I get the unique experience of being a part of the creation and implementation of new work for children ages 1-5. I have learned a great deal from working with Artistic Directors Janet Stanford and Kate Bryer on two original works, Wake up Brother Bear and Mouse on the Move. I have been quite lucky to have the chance to explore theatre for the very young and to expand on my knowledge and experience through One Theatre World.
The highlight of the conference had to be the full day workshop with Tim Webb, Artistic Director and Founder of Oily Cart in the UK. During this seminar, theatre artists from across the country were introduced to the work Oily Cart has been doing for almost 30 years for the very young. Mr. Webb discussed the process his company goes through to create new works that are poignant and pertinent to the very young and then engaged us in creating ideas and brainstorming in small groups. In the afternoon we were able to each share our ideas of theatre for the very young with everyone in the workshop. I was inspired by the unique and fantastical themes the different groups brought to light. One in particular stood out in my mind. A small group came up with the idea of using paper as a way to communicate the sense of surprise and discovery in a young child. The sharing consisted of a strange white sculpture made of paper. As the performers moved around it, poking it and exploring it, they began to tear through the pieces. They tore slowly at first and then faster and faster until a final performer was wonderfully revealed within the paper sculpture. The simplicity and joy of this piece reminded me that the work we do for the very young may seem so simple in theme and story structure, but can provide such a valuable and splendid payout in the end for a young child. There were many other exciting themes and ideas. Groups explored the world of the kitchen, the idea of water, and the routine of waking up and going to sleep. The amount of support and excitement for one another’s ideas was overwhelming. I could see a spark going off for people and a glimpse of the future for theatre for the very young. In time, I believe that theatre for the very young will spread like wild fire across this nation’s children’s theatre scene.
One Theatre World gave me the exposure to other theatres, artists, and perspectives that I craved in this new and thrilling world of theatre for the very young in the United States. The opportunity to meet and chat with people who were at different points in their own process and journey, and the chance to learn from someone like Tim Webb, is something I will cherish always. I am so grateful that I am able to count myself among the number of young professionals who have received the Ann Shaw Fellowship. It will forever make a lasting difference in the work that I will do for children’s theatre throughout the rest of my professional career.
Julia Krebs Patterson received the Ann Shaw Fellowship in 2011 to support a trip to the TYA One Theatre World Conference in Seattle WA. She currently lives in the Washington DC metro area, where she works at Imagination Stage as the Early Childhood Coordinator and Artistic Associate.