Theatre can transcend struggles around the globe

UVic prof brings theatre experiences to TEDx Victoria, Nov. 21

University of Victoria applied theatre professor Kirsten Sadeghi-Yekta

Greater Victoria is home to a thriving theatre scene, producing plays that entertain or educate, plays that help us escape or make us think, yet it might come as a surprise that theatre is doing those very same things in some of the most desperate communities on the planet.

From refugee camps in Texas to impoverished Brazilian favelas to recovering war-torn communities in Nicaragua and Cambodia, theatre is alive and well.

University of Victoria applied theatre professor Kirsten Sadeghi-Yekta has visited theatre communities around the globe, including children in Vancouver’s Downtown East Side, young people in Brazilian favelas, disabled women in Cambodia, adolescents in Nicaragua and students with special needs in The Netherlands. She’ll explore these and other experiences at TEDxVictoria Nov. 21.

Her journey started in Nicaragua.

About 12 years ago, the Netherlands-born Sadeghi-Yekta was travelling through Central America, including Nicaragua, still recovering from years of conflict.

“I met a young lady who dreamed of having a theatre school in her neighbourhood,” Sadeghi-Yekta recalls. Working together, “a few years later the theatre was established and it’s still going strong today.”

The reasons theatre blossoms in places that have suffered – and sometimes are still suffering – are diverse.

“It resonates. It transcends. People are happy to have a sense of ‘normal’ and I think it also gives a sense of hope, that there is something else,” says Sadeghi-Yekta, introduced to theatre as a child, when her mother took her to her first play. Then, she was struck by the fictional world unfolding in front of her. Later she became aware of the other possibilities theatre affords, such as exploring social justice issues and community building.

The forms theatre takes in struggling communities is diverse, varying from culture to culture, and with what the community is experiencing at the time – is it in the midst of violence, for example, or recovering?

In Brazil’s favelas she found “people have this enormous energy to work together and make (theatre) happen.”

The company she observed was typically adapting classical theatre, such as Henrik Ibsen’s plays or Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, and incorporating elements such as Brazilian music and capoeira to explore issues relevant to locals.

“They used that very traditional aesthetic in a traditional setting because they can see how these stories can easily translate into their daily lives.”

Seeing what people can do with theatre in these settings also pushes Sadeghi-Yekta to ask what more can be done in places that have greater resources. “If they can do it in that situation, what can we do when we have an easier life? It’s very inspiring,” she says.

Also, “I would like the audience to know there are a lot of assumptions about people in developing countries and war zones, that there is no theatre, just because we haven’t written about it.”

Looking ahead, Sadeghi-Yekta hopes to visit Texas to learn about the art Central American orphans are creating in a refugee camp, and return to Nicaragua. “It reminds me of how it all started,” she reflects.

TEDx Victoria welcomes eclectic speaker lineup

Greater Victoria is home to a thriving theatre scene, producing plays that entertain or educate, plays that help us escape or make us think, yet it might come as a surprise that theatre is doing those very same things in some of the most desperate communities on the planet.

From refugee camps in Texas to impoverished Brazilian favelas to recovering war-torn communities in Nicaragua and Cambodia, theatre is alive and well.

University of Victoria applied theatre professor Kirsten Sadeghi-Yekta has visited theatre communities around the globe, including children in Vancouver’s Downtown East Side, young people in Brazilian favelas, disabled women in Cambodia, adolescents in Nicaragua and students with special needs in The Netherlands. She’ll explore these and other experiences at TEDxVictoria Nov. 21.

Her journey started in Nicaragua.

About 12 years ago, the Netherlands-born Sadeghi-Yekta was travelling through Central America, including Nicaragua, still recovering from years of conflict.

“I met a young lady who dreamed of having a theatre school in her neighbourhood,” Sadeghi-Yekta recalls. Working together, “a few years later the theatre was established and it’s still going strong today.”

The reasons theatre blossoms in places that have suffered – and sometimes are still suffering – are diverse.

“It resonates. It transcends. People are happy to have a sense of ‘normal’ and I think it also gives a sense of hope, that there is something else,” says Sadeghi-Yekta, introduced to theatre as a child, when her mother took her to her first play. Then, she was struck by the fictional world unfolding in front of her. Later she became aware of the other possibilities theatre affords, such as exploring social justice issues and community building.

The forms theatre takes in struggling communities is diverse, varying from culture to culture, and with what the community is experiencing at the time – is it in the midst of violence, for example, or recovering?

In Brazil’s favelas she found “people have this enormous energy to work together and make (theatre) happen.”

A diverse line-up of speakers is featured in the fifth-annual TEDx  Victoria, at the McPherson Playhouse, Centennial Square and Victoria City Hall Nov. 21.

This year’s theme is “impact,” exploring not only the impact of the “Ideas Worth Spreading” featured on the McPherson stage, but also our own impact – and what spreading ideas does to make the world a better place.

The upper mezzanine of the McPherson will again become a speaker lounge, where audience members can connect directly with the speakers.

City hall will become an active space, a venue of interactive art and imagination where local artists, inventors and innovators will come together to showcase some of the region’s art and technology.

Founded in 2010, TEDxVictoria has grown from 400 attendees in 2011 to more than 750 in 2013. TED is a nonprofit organization devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. Started as a four-day conference in California 30 years ago, TED has grown to support its mission with multiple initiatives. TEDx are local, self-organized TED-style events.

 

 

 

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