by Lauren Brotman
I began my day at Bedtime by Katarsis, Educacion y Teatro S.L. from Spain, developed because their own child would not go to bed. In a way it was a duet between the two actors and the children where familiar objects and images were used in unfamiliar ways. It was an imaginative journey in putting the children in the play to sleep, not because they were told to by an authoritative figure, but because they as children found their own way to play and explore themselves to sleep. For the company, the key to making theatre for babies is not to use iconic images, rather, to use more interpretive ones to allow for the child’s imaginative perception to form their own ideas about what they are experiencing, ultimately providing the opportunity for the child to go further into those ideas both during and after the show.
The rest of the day evolved into what Lynda Hill articulated as a bit of a lab day, and a digital one at that: beginning with a work in progress by Veronique Bosse from Quebec, #Digitalkids, in which a child discovers power and freedom through the discovery of digital media. The play was born out a series of questions she asked herself as a parent in regards to touchscreens and children. We were able to delve more deeply into those questions with App developer Nick Shim. For him, touch screen time is the new form of modern “play” where children are encouraged to play, not for the outcome but for the sake of play itself. He develops Apps for children to provide a rich safe world where children can explore boundaries, where a child can “be a pirate, or a café owner”, therefore developing a sense of empathy as they role play by allowing them to be different characters/people. This therefore allows them to develop a sense of seeing the world through another person’s perspective.
He also believes Apps can provide worlds for children that allow them to fail, that failure, in a way, is built into the system, but where children can also find creative ways to succeed as their level of ability increases, giving them a sense of mastery and empowerment.
Further, Apps also help develop the sense of touch in a natural and immediate way. They are not goal oriented but experience oriented, providing a world where a child and parent can talk about things outside of the everyday and mundane. The child can in fact teach his or her parent, therefore shifting their roles and often stimulating conversation outside of the world of the App, acting as a gateway into expression. While he believes there is truth to some of the negative associations with screen time, i.e. overstimulation and addiction to the screen, the same can be true of ice-cream and that it is up to the parent to regulate the amount of time spent on screen.
For me, this week has been as much about connecting with new artists and practices as it has been about connecting with my own friends and contemporaries. Every day I run into members of our community and inspired by the experiences, meetings, shows, discussions and happenings at WeeFest, are able to launch into our own private conversations. Today my highlight was reconnecting with Beth Kates and delving into the challenges and blessings of being new mothers who are interested in exposing our children to sophisticated and stimulating arts experiences, while as artists, trying to preserve our own development and identities.
Tomorrow is full of exciting shows (some of them closing), discussions with the artists and Professional Development Workshops led by Thomas Morgan Jones and Michael Lurse from Germany.
Also running all week is the Play Space for children (an utter oasis) at Tarragon, the powerful exhibition on the Charter of Children’s Rights to Arts and Culture on display at Wychwood Barns. Now at the half way mark, be sure to catch the WeeFest experience before it comes to an end.