Theatre and Culture for Early Years       May 16 – 23, 2016        Donate Now Through CanadaHelps.org!

Day Two of WeeFest: Serenity, Imagination and Must Sees

by Lauren Brotman

Photo by Louise Leblanc

Photo by Louise Leblanc

Day Two at WeeFest was all about babies…and great art.

I started my day at the Tarragon Theatre for Teatro do Biombi’s production of In Black and White, A Yellow Line, a show for 6-36 month olds from Portugal. The lobby full of babies and baby carriers and strollers, we all waited in anticipation of this new experience; a professional production designed for actual babies. As we entered the space, the magic began with a set of flowy fabrics, an enormous projection screen and a live guitarist entrancing us all onto the cushions laid out for us on the floor. The next 40 minutes was a journey of gorgeous creative expression during which our babes were encouraged to express as they chose, as they needed, where we could relax as parents and watch our children sparkle as they crawled onto the stage during its final moments in a bed of flowers and glow sticks. It was truly a rave for babes.

Post-performance we were invited upstairs to the play space that has been gorgeously and sensitively designed so that children can play and discover and where parents can relax in a calm and stimulating environment. (The Plays Space is open all week!)

We then moved backed downstairs for a discussion with Lynda Hill and the artists and creators of In Black and White. For as much as we struggle here in Canada to find funding for the arts, in Portugal, the home of Teatro do Biombi, the company receives no private or government funding to create their work. It is simply unavailable. They looked to companies in Madrid for inspiration to realize their dreams of making theatre expressly for babies. Lynda Hill, in selecting the company to be part of WeeFest, recognized that this was a young company and invited them into the Festival specifically for this reason; she looked for companies that were creating theatre for babies and felt the way to preserve this spirit was to have a mix of young and established artists and companies, but who were all creating at high levels of imagination and sophistication. Teotro do Biombi’s first production was not interactive at all, while this one has underlines of interaction. The aim for their next production is that it is completely interactive.

Our discussion centered around two main areas: 1) How much interaction can be allowed so that a production doesn’t cross the threshold into simply being an open play space for young children, but that it is still actually a play, that it is still actually “Theatre”. 2) How do you encourage children to follow their impulses to participate, while still maintaining the art and craft of the production being presented. This was of particular interest to me as I watched my 9 month old giggle and sit with wonder, with impulses to crawl up and engage directly with the performers, but with me as a mother, while wanting to allow him to follow these impulses, was mindful as a performer myself, that we may need to wait until a clear offering to participate had occurred. Which it did.

The answer to both these questions seemed to be in a creative structure or form which allows the piece to have windows and doors, that is, a piece which has openings woven into the form of the piece so that artists can present the pieces and that babes can follow their natural and immediate impulses to engage and participate.

To end my day, I took a walk up to the Wychwood barns (a surprising short 15 minute walk through cherry blossom filled streets) to see Waves, all that Glows Sees, by Québec based Théâtre des Confettis. The seasoned artists, one musician and one actor, created such an utter sense of peace and calm, of play and magic that the children squealed in delight, gasped in awe, and I found myself entering a state of total refreshed serenity.

My feeling so far, only two days into the festival is that Lynda Hill has gone out of her way to program high quality art that awakens its intended audience, and provides a soothing, gentle environment for their caregivers. I cannot wait for tomorrow.

MUST SEES AND DO’S THIS WEEK:

  • Make sure you catch at least one production with your child. The experience is incredibly special.
    • Get up to Wychwood Barns to see the powerful exhibition on the Charter of Children’s Rights to Arts and Culture on display all week.
    • Spend even a half hour at the gorgeous Play Space upstairs at Tarragon Theatre
    • Start planning your Holiday Monday, a day full of family activities and events, a true celebration for children.

Visit www.weefestival.ca for locations and times.

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