4-7 y.o.8-12 y.o.teenagersadults
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What’s New? | Children & Young People Theatre Festival

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Dorota Barczak-Perfikowska



  • Age group: 4-7 y.o.8-12 y.o.teenagersadults
  • First performance: December 11 2014
  • Venue: Teatr Miniatura, all stages
  • Duration: 4 days

Implemented in the form of a biennial theatre festival dedicated to currently explored or new trends in theatre for children and young people. So far, there have been three editions – in 2014, 2016 and 2018 – during which we have hosted performances and guests from Poland and abroad. An important element of the festival is the discussions on selected issues with specialists who deal with children’s theatre, so that in addition to watching performances and performance activities, they are also subjected to reflection.

What's New? 2014 | Children & Young People Theatre Festival

From 11 to 16 December 2014, the first meeting took place around new or currently explored issues in theatre for children and young people. The programme of the “What’s New?” festival focused on three such themes: documentary theatre for children and young people, local themes in theatre for young audiences, and performances aimed at young people aged 13-16.

The festival included guest performances: “Über die grenze ist es nur ein schritt (Across the border just one step)”. Deutsches SchauSpielHaus from Hamburg, the plight of immigrants shown through the story of the African Dede Afful, the world premiere of Marius von Mayenburg’s “Martyrs” directed by Anna Augustynowicz from the Contemporary Theatre in Szczecin, the story of the teenage Benjamin who experiences a religious revelation, and “In Warmia… a long, long time ago” by the Olsztyn Puppet Theatre, a play for children aged 4 and over, set on specific lakes in Warmia, awarded at the International Puppet Theatre Festival in Zagreb. Miniatura showed three of its performances: “Baltic. A Dog on an Ice Floe’, a documentary performance for children based on a true, local story of a dog that sailed half of the Vistula River on an ice floe in 2010 and was rescued in the waters of the Gulf of Gdansk by the crew of the R/V Baltica, ‘Fahrenheit’, which theatricalises the space of a laboratory in the story of the fate of a famous scientist from Gdansk, and ‘Remus’, based on the Kashubian epic ‘The Life and Adventures of Remus’.

The performance screenings were accompanied by panel discussions with experts from all over Poland, with the aim of developing concrete conclusions, solutions and tips to inspire theatre makers. Four meetings were held: “Local stories in theatre for children and young people”, “Documentary theatre for children and young people”, “Who are we talking to? The contemporary teenager as spectator’ and ‘Youth in theatre. Forms and themes’. Participants included Anna Augustynowicz, Jacek Głomb, Michael Müller, Robert Jarosz, Mieczysław Abramowicz, Anna Jarmołowska and Zbigniew Rudziński.

What's New? 2016 | Children & Young People Theatre Festival

The second edition of the festival was entirely dedicated to theatre for young people. It is a new phenomenon in Polish theatre, there are not many representative performances. Teenagers are therefore condemned to theatre created for younger audiences or that for adults. Theatre for teenagers, on the other hand, is developing brilliantly in other countries – Germany, Switzerland, Great Britain – where even independent institutions are being established for this purpose. During WHAT’S NEW? we saw ‘Flex’ by a special guest of the review – junges theatre basel from Switzerland, which has been creating for teenagers for many years. The play is based on interviews that the actresses, aged 17-23, conducted with each other and their peers about independence and fitting in with expectations. Comedia Theater Köln from Germany brought a performance of ‘Metre Ninety or the Eyes of Stella Maraun’, a story of first love and first abandonment, based on the acclaimed German youth novel ‘The Snow Giant’ by Susan Keller, winner of the prestigious Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis in 2015. The production was nominated for the Kinder- und Jugendtheater prize in Cologne. In turn, a monodrama by the R.Bezimienni theatre came from Toruń, which is the successful theatrical debut of seventeen-year-old Weronika Walasiewicz. It is a frank and full of black humour story about her struggle with anorexia described by another teenager, Judith Fathallah, in her book Skinny.

Miniatura presented Remus, the winner of the Classics Alive competition, a modern and unobvious tale of national identity, as well as Knights of the Teutonic Knights, a compelling tale of medieval Poland told from the perspective of the teenage protagonists, the first puppet adaptation of Henryk Sienkiewicz’s novel. There was also an opportunity to see a performative reading of the youth premiere Taśmy gdańskie (Gdańsk Tapes), directed by Wojtek Zrałek-Kossakowski, which was being prepared for November and focused on family memory with the history of Gdańsk and Pomerania in the background. The script for the play was created in collaboration with a group of young people whose collected family stories were used in the performance.

The showings of the performances were also accompanied by panel discussions with experts from Poland and abroad, with the aim of developing concrete conclusions, solutions and tips to inspire theatre makers.
Meetings were held:”Theatre for young people/Theatre with young people” and “Theatre for young people in Poland – dreams and reality”, attended by, among others, Uwe Heinrich, pedagogue and director of junges theater basel, Christopher Haninger, director of the play “Metre ninety…”, Agata Drwięga, researcher of theatre for children and young people working with the Children’s Art Centre and the Animation Theatre in Poznań, Wojtek Zrałek-Kossakowski, playwright, Katarzyna Krajewska, literary secretary of the Wrocław Puppet Theatre. We also talked among marketing specialists from theatres across Poland about how to reach young audiences with new offers. The discussion was summarised by a panel entitled “Theatre for young people – in search of audiences”, with the participation of Agnieszka Grewling-Stolc, head of marketing at the Miniatura Theatre, Przemysław Staroń, a psychologist and educator who actively and successfully works with young people, Grzegorz Szczuka, director of the Social Development Department of the Municipal Office in Gdańsk, and Agnieszka Tomasik, director of the General Secondary School Complex No. 8 in Gdańsk, leader of the Creative Pedagogy project.

What's New? 2018 | Children & Young People Theatre Festival

The third edition of the festival was dedicated to participatory theatre for young people. Since the first edition of WHAT’S NEW? creation for young people has been an important part of the programme and panel discussions. Participatory theatre seems to be an ideal method of involving young people in theatre activities, thanks to which theatre is able to get teenagers interested.

During this edition of WHAT’S NEW? a special guest was Theater Strahl from Berlin with the performance ‘War. Imagine if it were here’, which is an adaptation of a book by Danish writer Janne Teller. It is a moving thought experiment – what if the war was not somewhere else, but here in Europe? The democratic system has collapsed and fascist dictatorships have taken over. You leave everything and run away. In an Egyptian refugee camp you try to start a new life with your family. But since you don’t have a visa, you can’t go to school, learn Arabic or get a job. You are an outsider and you are homesick. But where is home?

The next two performances of the review are the winners of the first edition of the nationwide competition The Best OFF. The main prize went to a monodrama by Magdalena Drab, an actress at the H. Modrzejewska Theatre in Legnica, entitled ‘Curko moja, ogłoś to. Rhythmic bulletin from the exhibition of Maria Wnęk”. The meeting during the opening of the exhibition of naïve painter Maria Wnęk becomes a contribution to the consideration of social relations and the perception of marginalised people. The actress becomes a musician who plays the noise of the gallery, the conversations of the viewers and the subsequent paintings of the painter on a turntable moving a multicoloured shadow theatre. In the second performance – ‘In the name of some mystery’ – young people, inspired by the works of Gombrowicz, talk about the transition from childhood to adulthood. Tetraedr Theatre is based in Racibórz and is the youngest group taking part in The Best OFF competition.

As part of the festival, the Miniatura Theatre presented “Revolt”, based on the novel by Władysław Reymont, the Polish “Animal Farm”, about a revolt of animals against humans, and “Mr Coach” by Wojciech Tremiszewski, a well-known improviser and cabaret performer from the Tricity, in the role of football coach Rafał Wąsik, whose love for football is immense, but not entirely reciprocated.

As always, an important part of the festival’s programme were talks with experts deepening reflection on theatre for young people and its situation in Poland and abroad. This time there were two panels: “Youth in theatre = youth on stage?” with Dorota Buchwald, director of the Theatre Institute, Romuald Wiczy-Pokojski, director of the Miniatura Theatre, Wolfgang Stüßel, artistic director of the Theater Strahl Berlin, and Marzenna Wiśniewska from the Nicolaus Copernicus University, and “How to create theatre for young people? ” with Julia Kawka, German theatre educator, Grażyna Tabor, theatre instructor for up to 25 years running the youth theatre Tetraedr, Marek Kościółek, founder and leader of the award-winning youth theatre Krzyk from Maszewo and Agnieszka Grewling-Stolc, theatre educator of the Miniatura.

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