FIRST IMPULSE FOR CHILDREN AND THEIR PARENTS (23. 9. – 25. 9. 2014)


Why do they tell me: Be a man, not a clown?
Gregory Corso

 

About the language at children's international festivals
What we said in 2012 remains true even now: most puppetry festivals are dedicated to children of all ages. In over 2 years, there were 110 children's puppetry festivals taking place in 20 European countries.  An interesting fact to note is that most international festivals give preference to non-verbal foreign performances. When visiting various festivals, I did not notice a single ounce of consideration whether to play for children in a foreign language as well. Is there even a way to do it? Or rather, is there a reason worthy enough for us to surpass the linguistic, cultural and social norms? All the more if the performance is unique and of a high quality? This barrier appears to be impervious. Non-verbal performances make, in many respects, the life of organizers easier. When it comes to selling the shows to parents who feel more confident if they can understand. When it comes to children who cannot read the subtitles... (Suppose, what might happen to them if they were to put a pair of headphones with a simultaneous translation on, while without any sign hesitation they play with mobile phones or tablets and we, adults, don´t mind that). There are some more absurdities like this. 
Like, troupes shall rehearse their performances in the specific national language. Maybe those are the reasons for which this challenging query is repeated over and over: why are there inter-national festivals for children? For whom and for what reason do they take place if the child does not get a chance to distinguish a foreign culture through language since its infant days? If s/he is not acquainted with the world's multilingualism since childhood? The language of the performance has the ability to light up awareness of our neighbours who live and speak in a different manner. However in practice it is the other way around. We often hear from professional festival organizers, even of linguistically related regions (among which undoubtedly belong the Czech and the Slovak scene), that children would not understand the performance, even if it comes to a particularly famous tale, e.g. Red Riding Hood, I had a dog and a cat (O pejskovi a kočičce)... and basta. Well, and enough. The end. This tale does not turn up to have a happy-ending. Although children’s festivals are international no language other than their own can be heard. And it seems normal, nay, it seems natural to us. Are we truly protecting children from misunderstanding? Or are we, just out of convenience and dominance towards other cultures, making the communication easier for ourselves? In our opinion, this scheme obstructs inspiration and discovering of the new not only for children, but also for their parents and educators. Our festival attempts to balance out this linguistic deprivation in two performances for the youngest (from 2 years) in two different ways: the Polish ensemble will be reciting short rhymes bilingually, Slovak-Polish, and in the case of the Hungarian piece we will be using for the very first time a simultaneous interpretation performed by the bilingually adroit actress Denisa Dér.  

 

About the programme
Shows introduced at the festival this year were selected in one of the following ways: theatres and troupes themselves entered their performance , through immediate presence of our organizers at another festivals (Festival of wonder, Silkeborg, Denmark; Mateřinka 2013, Liberec, Czech republic; Pierrot 2013, Stara Zagora, Bulgaria; thesis project Prague, etc.), or through a reference from consulting professionals in the given field (These were: in the field of Polish puppetry Marián Pecko, Lucyna Kozien, in the field of Czech puppetry Nina Malíková; we were discussing the state and quality of puppetry productions within the past two seasons with Mária Danadová and Lenka Dzadíková, jury members of the Slovak award Hašterica, we discussed the current situation of puppetry to the west from our borders with Lotta Nevalainen from Finland, etc.). Almost 70 productions from the USA, Israel and 11 European countries entered the selection (one third of these being shows for adults). The organizing festival committee consisted of Iveta Škripková, Marián Pecko and joining them later Monika Kováčová. Unfortunately, due to financial reasons we removed all street productions, both domestic and international. Our choice of productions addresses children of all ages (from toddlers to teenagers). Within every age group we were seeking for contemporary puppet productions breaking away from being a simplistic form of entertainment, (in)artistic deviation, simply, away from the scheme of meaningless plays.
Pieces that breach the cliché of children's productions to a varying extent and of course with a varying success, either through their content or their form. You can find out with us over the course of the First Impulse how that has worked out.

Among performances transcending cliché are four specifically dedicated to the youngest audience members (for toddlers from 10 months, others from 2 years of age). All of them seek to disrupt the notion that it is impossible to put on productions for audiences of this age category (AQUAtoddleRIUM, PTAC, Banská Bystrica, SK, A Musical Circle, Atorfi Theatre, Poznaň, PL, Hickory, dickory, Bóbita Puppet Theatre, Pécs, HU, Of a sheep fallen from heaven, The Naive Theatre Liberec, CZ), despite the fact that productions targeting the youngest audience has been around in the western Europe for almost 30 years. Two (Polish and Czech) of the listed productions have achieved a recognition of mastery supported by various awards.

To children from 3 years of age and older we would like to point out plays by the distinguished Polish children´s author Marta Guśniowska that feature some certainly unconventional heroes and themes with a profound humane message. This time we can see them as performed by Slovak troupes (Bon appetit, wolf!, PTAC, Banská Bystrica, SK, Of a horseless knight, Puppet Theatre in Košice, SK). Both thematically and professionally crisp are the other two productions that sought for their inspiration in tales of temporary children narrated by European novelists (Rover the Cuddly dog, PIKI Theatre, Pezinok, SK, REALLY or About a Boy who Drew, Bratislava Puppet Theatre, SK). To round up the selection, we introduce an unconventionally original show Circus ANPU, The ANPU Theatre, Prague, CZ that merges together traditional puppetry and contemporary drama.

For teenagers, children from 11 years of age, we have prepared two plays: Marvin, Ostrava Puppet Theatre, CZ and Alice, VŠMU Bratislava, SK. Both are original productions, working with an array of imagery and visual creativity. Among the many pieces featured at the festival, Alice is the only one reaching for its inspiration to the so-called classic literary heritage for children, to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by L. Carroll. The complete mosaic of the featured shows reveals an unusual composition that acts as a contemporary testimony of puppetry. It does not contain folk tales, neither modernist retelling of national fairy tales. Nothing against those, it all depends on the quality of the specific production. Nevertheless this sample of featured performances presents us with a proof that puppet theatre for children can progress more significantly and in much brighter colours than only through well-established replicas of oral tradition and national tales. 

 

To conclude
It needs to be noted that the First Impulse gives us a chance to enjoy pieces by many renowned personas of puppetry directing, f.e. Marián Pecko (Bon appetit, wolf!), Jacek Malinowsky (Of a horseless knight), spouses Katarína and Ľubomír Piktor (Rover the Cuddly dog), Ivan Martinka (REALLY or About a Boy who Drew), Bela Schenková (Circus ANPU) and, for the very first time! in our region, making his début will be a puppeteer, dancer and theatre maker of European importance – Duda Paivu from the Ostrava Puppet Theatre (Marvin). Beyond that our festival introduces productions by directors of the latest generations, showing promise that one day we will hear even more of their talent, f.e. Michaela Homolková (Of a sheep fallen from heaven), Ivana Macková (Alice), Monika Kováčová (AQUAtoddleRIUM), and the like.

 

We believe that Impulses of the First Impulse will spring to life several sorts of ideas, inspiration, and imagination!  (is)

 

Children have to have a lot of patience with adults.
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry