20TH ONLINE ASSITEJ WORLD CONGRESS AND THEATER FESTIVAL FOR CHILDREN AND YOUTH
ASSITEJ World Congress passing to a digital format has made it possible to unite creative professionals, employees and researchers related to children and youth theater, by using online venue.
The 20th ASSITEJ World Congress and the International Festival of Performing Arts for Children and Youth were to be held in Tokyo in May 2020.
The International Association of Theater for Children and Youth (ASSITEJ International) unites theaters, organizations and individuals around the world who are engaged in theater and performing arts for children and youth. ASSITEJ members include national centers, professional networks and individuals from about 100 countries around the world. They meet every three years at a large-scale event held by the World Congress to exchange experiences, find new opportunities and strengthen the global sector. The 20th ASSITEJ World Congress was first postponed to March 2021 due to COVID-19, but in January it became obvious that international production companies, seminar leaders, speakers, delegates and other participants would not be able to attend the event in person due to travel restrictions and lockdowns that persisted around the world. Instead, it was decided to hold the event in a mixed format, offline and online. International delegates could virtually attend almost 200 events from anywhere in the world without leaving their homes. ASSITEJ had two partners for the online event: the National Arts Festival (South Africa) developed technical and user framework for the project, and the Performing Dialogue company from the UK ensured the success of digital transformation by providing all the resources and support for participants and viewers, including coordination, marketing and communication. As a result of the 11-day online event, 1,169 unique users registered on the platform and 906 delegates used full access subscriptions to actively participate in all the events of the program. Web site was visited by users from 75 countries, from Australia to Argentina, from Canada to China, from Mexico to Mongolia, from Russia to Reunion.
The main goal of the project is to lend support to the community of professionals practicing their activity in the field of theater and performing arts for children and youth in the times of COVID-19. Like many other branches of culture, the theater sector was struggling with the pandemic, therefore, of vital importance was the creation of a professionals' discussion forum that could give them a sense of unity and an opportunity to promote their art works. Online event being held meant that community members still have a chance to participate in it regardless of current restrictions. Introduction of online technologies has allowed for participation of an unprecedented number of people from all over the world compared to the previous ASSITEJ World Congresses, which were only accessible through international travel. Many new viewers became active participants and delegates of the virtual event, as they did not have to bear expenditures of time and money associated with the trip. Performances were available to professionals with full access subscription, as well as to the general public - by tickets. Organizers thereby sought to brighten up the lives of families and children around the world in this difficult period. 190 sessions exposing a huge variety, heritage and experience in the field of theater for young spectators from all over the world, offered a lot to do, to see and to participate in. Large sharing experience events were divided into relevant theme-based directions: "Theater for young spectators during the crisis", "Digitizing theater for young spectators" and "Beyond the pandemic". Apart from that, the International Theatre for Young Audiences Research Network (ITYARN) held its two-day conference as part of the expanded program of the congress.