Bringing Latin American Theatre for Young Audiences to the World through Amazonas Network

In a world of multicultural perspectives, I firmly believe that to bring back tolerance and empathy into our society, it is critical to work with our children. My years of being active in the field of theatre for young audiences (TYA), as an artist and producer in Germany, Brazil, and, over the last eight years, Chile, has helped me to become firmly grounded in this idea.

In the late 1980s, near the end of a successful international career as a dancer and choreographer, I had the chance to watch some of the best of Dutch theatre performances for young audiences. I was fascinated with the emotional density of the texts and the courage of all artists involved to speak to so many difficult themes. In the early 1990s, as my artistic interests began to shift, I started to work in theatre, specializing in productions for young audiences.

I was a new mother, and I began to realize that, often, children were not included in the “real” world—adults tend to overprotect their kids, not letting them be privy to so many important aspects of life. Knowing from my own experience that children would benefit from seeing work that would take them and their existential questions seriously, I began advocating for challenging TYA.

a line of actors onstage

Na Pista, Companie Urbana de Dança, Brazil.

Founding Amazonas Network

Around 2002, I created Amazonas Network, which encourages international exchange in the field of TYA and dance. The organization also acts as a tour manager for companies from Brazil and Chile, mainly, but also from Germany, Holland, Sweden, and Denmark.

For the last few years, we have collaborated with festivals, arts councils, and cultural institutions to create projects in Brazil and Chile. While some of the work we’ve done has brought European and Canadian work to these countries, we have now shifted our focus to being an advocate and voice for the internationalization of art created for children and young audiences in Latin America.

two performers balancing on poles onstage

Simbad, O Navegante, Cia Circo Minimo, Brazil.

The Impact of IPAY in Latin American Theatre for Young Audiences

An invitation to talk about Amazonas Network’s work in 2015 at the International Performing Arts for Young Audiences (IPAY) conference—which is, in my opinion, one of the most important markets dedicated entirely to the performing arts for this specific audience in North America—radically impacted my work, not only in Chile but globally. I was surprised to realize that, at IPAY, out of five hundred delegates from around the world, I was the only person from Latin America. I was equally surprised at the enormous interest from North American programmers in Chile and Brazil’s artistic production.

I returned home with the mission to circulate information about IPAY, hopefully finding work that could be presented at its showcase in subsequent years. In 2016, Teatro de Ocasión became the first Chilean company to present its work there. The company was also selected to attend the European Arts Fair for Children (FETEN), another important performing arts festival dedicated to young audiences in Spain. The impact that had on the company’s international appeal was immediate: they toured that same year for three weeks in China and travelled to South Korea for the International Association of Theatre for Children and Young People (ASSITEJ) summer festival.

Knowing from my own experience that children would benefit from seeing work that would take them and their existential questions seriously, I began advocating for challenging TYA.

One year later, La Negra María Teatro from Chile and Circo Minimo from Brazil presented their work at IPAY. Last year, Teatro de Ocasión and La LLave Maestra, both from Chile, were selected to showcase their work—all of them represented by Amazonas Network. This is quite sensational considering the short period of time that had passed since my first visit to IPAY, which confirms the existence of a world market for Latin American productions in this sector.

In 2016, Amazonas Network joined forces with the Asociación TeVeo ASSITEJ Chile, working to become the Chilean national center member, which would help to further expand its continuous work of over a decade and raise the visibility and professionalize the sector in Chile. In May 2017, I was elected as an executive committee member of ASSITEJ International, representing the national center in Chile, where I continued my work in raising awareness for Latin American TYA. Today, TeVeo ASSITEJ Chile, created in 2007, represents twenty-five companies and individual members from all over Chile.

three performers onstage

Una Mañanita Partí, Teatro de Ocasion, Chile. Photo by Lori Zarricueta.

FITA Chile

In 2017, TeVeo ASSITEJ Chile started la Feria Iberoamericana Teveo ASSITEJ (FITA) Chile,  a fair for performing arts for children and young audiences. With FITA Chile, programmers from all over the world can travel to Santiago to see a significant number of work from across Latin America, in the original cultural environment the work was created, in a short period of time. Another benefit is that it is much easier for companies, not only from Chile but from around Latin America, to present their work to international buyers.

The numbers in 2017 were impressive: around 120 delegates from thirty-one companies, representing Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Ecuador, Spain, and Chile, presented their artistic work. It was a success. Several companies have been invited to show their work abroad since then, but most importantly the fair was an opportunity for individuals to meet and get to know fellow artists and presenters from different parts of Ibero-America and the world.

The fair was an opportunity for individuals to meet and get to know fellow artists and presenters from different parts of Ibero-America and the world.

Chile as a Hub for Theatre for Young Audiences in Latin America

TeVeo ASSITEJ Chile is working towards making FITA Chile a biennial event so that there can be an ongoing exchange and presentation of work with producers and companies from around the world. Chile is well suited to becoming the Latin American country where the internationalization of the TYA sector begins because of the credibility of Chilean institutions, the country’s support for creative industries with innovative plans, and the fact that companies throughout the area share an interest in internationalization. TeVeo ASSITEJ Chile’s final goal is to position FITA Chile on the map as a major world performing arts fair.

performer onstage with large-scale puppets

Tiny Stories of the Universe, La Negra Maria Teatro, Chile.

Creating the Right Conditions for Sustainable Latin American TYA

Markets play an essential role in the sustainability of companies. Through Amazonas Network and TeVeo ASSITEJ Chile, I help create the right conditions for the internationalization of Latin American TYA work and help build partnerships with institutions and organizations around the world so we can continue to exchange ideas through performance. On top of that, I recently became a board member of IPAY, and I hope, through that, to learn more about the relationship between North American and South American TYA and intensify ties between the two continents. I believe it is vital  we grow stronger as a network within the American continent.

We want to reach the bases of society, not only in Chile but everywhere in Latin America, and influence the lives of children, their families, and educators by building permanent structures that will benefit us all. Latin American TYA offers audiences a fresh cultural vision, a greater diversity, and a broader geographic playfield.

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Thoughts from the curator

In the lead-up to the 2019 Latinx Theatre Commons Theatre for Young Audiences (TYA) Sin Fronteras Festival & Convening, I have invited Latinx and Latin American artists and scholars to offer thoughts on their own work and on the work of their fellow theatremakers. While I have attempted to include a range of voices, any group of individuals could only begin to represent the many, many distinct experiences and perspectives of those working in Latinx and Latin American TYA.

Latinx and Latin American Theatre for Young Audiences

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