I walked into the chapel at the university and took a seat in the back. There was a long table on the stage with a line of people seated with microphones and placards informing us what country each was representing. The delegate from Burkina Faso was standing, addressing the crowd as the executive board and council of the International Theatre Institute (ITI) Worldwide began hour three of an all-day meeting known as The General Assembly. I have never been to a UN meeting, but this is what I imagine it is like. I was overwhelmed, excited, proud and a little lost as they discussed motions and committees and voting. This was my first time attending the ITI’s World Theatre Congress, and it was a lot to take in.
The convening was held in Segovia, Spain, a lovely town just north of Madrid. I was attending as a representative of New Mexico and Tricklock Company. I was also a part of the Theatre Communications Group (TCG) US delegation. TCG is a national organization which fosters communication among theaters in the United States. TCG has partnered with the Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics to create the Global Theater Initiative which serves as the US Center of the International Theatre Institute. It is through my connection to TCG and the Global Lab that I found myself in Spain.
The congress itself is made up of 700 global theater artists. The purpose of this particular convening was to work on promoting peace and mutual understanding through the performing arts. There were workshops, discussions, panels and performances—all of which, in their own particular way, aim to better the world. I took workshops in intercultural creative development and learned new methods of teaching theater. The artists in residence here were inspiringly devoted to their work and believe in its power to bring about change. I realize some folks think of theater as simply a form of entertainment, but it can be so much more.
Through my work and gatherings such as these, I have seen how theater can be incorporated into school curriculum, helping students to read, write, problem solve and work successfully in groups. Theater education teaches courage, discipline and confidence. It promotes the exchange of diverse cultures and a certain freedom of expression. It can be used in vulnerable communities and for the development of peace in conflict zones all over the world. All of these things were discussed in Spain, and I have observed all of them back home in Albuquerque. I think about Blackout Theatre and their Wrinkle Writing program or Duke City Repertory and their Classrooms Alive! program; Keshet’s work in the juvenile detention centers; the National Hispanic Cultural Center’s year-round diverse performing arts programming. For our part, Tricklock Company is dedicated to bringing theater from around the world to our state. We believe that access to global performing arts teaches compassion. It connects us and helps us to understand one another. It humanizes global politics. If you’ve ever been to a Revolutions show, you have probably experienced this first hand.
This conference reaffirmed my belief in this work. I know that theater can open minds and elicit kindness and understanding. I know because it has happened to me. I will elaborate on this very topic at TEDxABQ on Sept. 9, at Kiva Auditorium (You can head over before you go to the Alibi Fall Crawl!) Who knows? Maybe theater really is the path to world peace. I plan to keep working on it.