Message on the World Day of Theatre for Children and Young People

How to even begin composing a message that would glorify theatre after an entire year that passed with almost no theatre whatsoever?

How is it possible to celebrate theatre with words, now, at a time when words increasingly fade, falter and lose momentum in the face of the very reality they attempt to describe and explain – especially to children?

This message could, therefore, quite easily turn into a message of self pity, on behalf of us theatre professionals across the planet who have, perhaps for the first time in our existence as artists, faced a fundamental question of our own purpose and that of the art of theatre, but also the questions of communality, community and solidarity that are the fundamental substance of theatre from its very ritual outset.

This message could indeed also be brimming with pathos, a cry for times past that our memory tends to transform into appearing better than they actually were.

This message could also be a warning to our fallen conscience, about the planet we devastate more and more each day whilst our lungs and those of our children inhale the rot and the toxins of our arrogant indifference and apathetic acceptance of class, ethnic, racial and social inequalities that will lead to unpolluted air and clean water becoming a privilege of the rich and the powerful sooner than we’d like to believe.

This message could easily turn into a romanticised longing for the comfort of a theatre auditorium, with stage lights colouring our on-stage worlds with loveliest of colours and filling our ears with beautiful sounds of faraway climes our imagination takes us to, inspired by the machinery and tricks of theatre.

But, this message could also be a message about the power of representation and imagination.

That is why I am now asking you to close your eyes.

Close your eyes and imagine we are no longer lonely between our oppressive walls, regardless of whether they’re built of concrete or simply prejudice.

Imagine that this calamity too will pass at some point, and when it does pass, imagine that you, happy and smiling, will embrace those who are there, right next to you, whether you know them or not. Imagine that you will get to know them.

Imagine you will embrace them with your arms and your bodies, but also with happy thoughts and faith that it is possible to do something kind for someone who will pass the kindness on to someone else, who will in turn pass it on to someone else and so forth – until the very last bad thought leading to bad deeds has disappeared.

Imagine that every person in every little part of the world is of equal worth and that their worth has nothing to do with economy – but instead solely with their humanity.

Now imagine raindrops starting to fall upwards, imagine snow tasting of ice cream, and us bouncing off the streets, as though on giant trampolines, jumping so high up as to be able to touch the stars.

Imagine being a part of a great, well rehearsed human orchestra playing the most beautiful music echoing in space.

Open your eyes.

You’ve just been to a theatre.

You can always go there again.

Theatre is not a physical location, theatre is a thought of a better world.

Anja Suša, theatre director and Professor in Theatre Direcrting at Stockholm University of the Arts

 

Anja Suša is a theatre director from Belgrade (Serbia) currently residing in Stockholm (Sweden). She received her BA in Theatre Directing feom the Theatre Directing Deparment of Faculty of Drama Arts in Belgrade in 1995. as well as a four year MA from the General Contemporary History Department at the Faculty if Philosophy in Belgrade. As a grant holder of the Herder Stipendium, she studied at the Vienna University (Theatre Studies Department). Between 2002-2011. she was active as the CEO and Artistic Director of Little Theatre Dusko Radovic in Belgrade. She also curated the main program for Belgrade International Theatre Festival (Bitef) between 2006-2016. She is currently employed as a Professor in Theatre Directing at the Stockholm University of the Arts. She directed numerous performances in Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Montenegro, Sweden, Denmark and Poland. She received many accolades particularly for the work in the field of theatre for children and young people including the most recent one Prix d’Assitej given by the Swedish Assitej in 2019. She shares time between Stockholm and Belgrade.