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For the International Theatre for Young Audiences Research Network’s (ITYARN) Conference and International Association of Theatre for Children and Young People’s (ASSITEJ) Focus Days at the 19th ASSITEJ World Congress and Performing Arts Festival for Children and Young People ‘Cradle of Creativity’, in Cape Town, South Africa, May, 2017.






The International Theatre for Young Audiences Research Network (ITYARN) in association with the University of Cape Town (UCT) and Drama for Life, based at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), invite you to submit proposals for the Conference “Cradle of Creativity: Examining intercultural exchange and diversity in theatre for young audiences” in Cape Town, South Africa, 2017.

The ITYARN conference will present research into theatre for children and young people, related to this theme. Presentations and workshops will be held in the Drama Department on the centrally-placed Hiddingh Campus of the University of Cape Town, in Gardens, Cape Town.

Aside from the ITYARN Conference, the ASSITEJ World Congress and Festival also includes focus-days on which additional seminars, symposia, workshops, readings and other events can take place. We invite proposals that are related specifically to the identified focus. Theatre pieces relating to these foci will also be available as part of the broader festival of theatre for young audiences.


The Focus Days :

  • Indigenous and Contemporary forms of Storytelling for Youth (18 May)
  • Music Theatre for Young Audiences (19 May)
  • Theatre for Social Change (20 May)
  • Theatre for Healing (21 May)
  • Theatre for Children by Children (21 May)
  • Dance Theatre for Young Audiences (24 May)
  • Theatre for Young Audiences in Africa (25 May) ) in association with ACYTA (African Children and Youth Theatre Arena)
  • Inclusive theatre (26 May) in association with IIAN (International Inclusive Arts Network)
  • Theatre for the Early Years (27 May) in association with Small Size Network
  • New Writing for Young Audiences (across the festival), in association with Write Local. Play Global


Call for proposals for research papers, posters, symposia, panel discussion, workshops, pecha kucha, and screenings for either ITYARN Research Conference or the ASSITEJ Focus Days.

Deadline for proposals: 15th September 2016

Apply through:

Enquiries should be directed to:

Languages: The language of conference presentations will be English, as this is the working language of the association, but for plenary discussions every effort will be made to provide live translation in French or Portuguese.


The title of the 19th ASSITEJ World Congress and Performing Arts Festival is the ‘Cradle of Creativity’, based in Africa for the first time in ASSITEJ history. Welcoming everyone back to their autochthonous home, the Cradle of Creativity will profile Africa’s best in theatre for children and youth, alongside performances from other continents.

ASSITEJ was first created because of a desire for intercultural collaboration during the period of the cold war. In the 21st century, this desire for collaboration across borders, languages, ethnicities and personal histories seems more urgent than ever. There is a critical need to address a common international trend that has seen the dehumanization of youth through different forms of identity oppression and cultural devaluation within a context of extremism and conflict across the globe. Theatre for and by young audiences could play a significant role in helping restore dignity, respect and self-worth among young people. The conference seeks to provide a platform for theatre researchers and artists to unravel the tension embedded in a theatre of “universal values” and a theatre that encapsulates “cultural heritage.” Is it possible for a contemporary theatre for youth to enhance cultural literacy, dexterity and a deep respect for the “other’?   How apt then that the 2017 World Congress is being held in South Africa, a country where this tension between ‘universality’ and ‘diversity’ is celebrated and explored through theatre.

For this reason, the over-arching theme of the ITYARN conference will be:

“Cradle of Creativity: Examining intercultural exchange and diversity in theatre for young audiences in Africa and the world”

The convenors welcome research proposals that reflect analysis and celebration of collaborations and intercultural projects about theatre for children and youth across the world.

We have developed some thematic strands below that speak to the exciting developments in research into theatre for and with children and youth, but these are by no means fixed or isolated categories. We welcome your interweaving of themes in presenting a proposal.

Theme 1: Intercultural exchange and the child/youth in the 21st Century: cultural norms and values

This theme investigates intercultural exchange in theatre. Intercultural performance has taken on new meaning in the time of globalisation, crises of identity and nationalism, and the uncertainty of contemporary society. How has the theatre responded to bridging cultures, and reviewing the expectations of children and youth in the 21st Century? How does theatre invite empathy across cultural differences? How do intercultural productions or collaborations provide powerful examples of what is possible in the world? What are concrete challenges and possible solutions to making intercultural exchange in TYA a reality?

Theme 2: Healing/reconciliation/social change/peace through theatre

There is no doubt that uncertainty and fragmentation of our society emerges from conflict, injury, wars and trauma. Theatre often mediates this uncertainty through theatre that runs the range of documenting children’s lives to finding ways to mediate for healing, reconciliation and peace. Some theatre practices have been appropriated for use in non-theatrical settings for the purposes of healing and social change. In what ways can theatre for healing and social change be enhanced specifically for the purposes of developing cultural dexterity and an appreciation for diversity among youth? What concrete examples are there of theatre as a mechanism for healing or social change? How is the impact of these interventions measured? Can impact be quantified? What are the inter-disciplinary links being developed for example in medical humanities, and what does this mean for theatre for young audiences?

Theme 3: The challenges of childhood in the 21st Century – developing creative potential through theatre.

This strand acknowledges that the expectations and role of ‘childhood’ has shifted in the last century. Amongst other things, there is far more emphasis on technology and the media than ever before, presenting both challenges and opportunities for theatre. What are the challenges of childhood, specifically within the African continent and beyond? How does theatre for young audiences address or respond to these challenges? What projects have been successful in developing creative potential through theatre and how have these been measured?

Theme 4: Resilience and arts practice.

A great deal of research has been generated by the need to understand what develops or retards resilience in young people. Some researchers have suggested that doing something like the arts for ‘its own sake’ helps develop resilience to the pressures on young people in contemporary society. What examples are there of theatre developing resilience in young people? Is this possible in ephemeral experiences where young people are the audience, or does it require young people to be involved in the theatre-making process in order for resilience to be developed?

Theme 5: Processes of Transformation, Citizenship and social justice

What does a country or the world ask of children and young people? How does the theatre help to navigate the choices and challenges of citizenship, human rights and social justice? Is a child too young to consider what citizenship means? When do young people begin to recognise injustice? In what ways can theatre engender a deep respect for the inherent human rights values embedded in the practice of democracy? How does theatre give children and young people a voice in society?

Theme 6: Interdisciplinary and integrated arts for children and youth

The spectrum of the creative, performing arts shows that there are no limits to creative intermingling of performance forms. In many parts of the world – including Africa – there are no separate words for theatre, dance and music, all are seen as one and, or one telling of a story. There have also been some compelling examples of classical performance forms being reinvented for child audiences. How does this relate to storytelling practices, to theatre for young audiences, music theatre and dance theatre for young audiences? How does this relate to inclusive and immersive theatre practices?

Theme 7: Aesthetics, ethics and education in theatre/arts for children and youth.

When is it unethical to use a child actor, what are the aesthetic choices being made in theatre for young audiences, and what is the educational impact of seeing children perform for other children? What role do educators have in what children learn in the arts, and how are national governments viewing access to the performing arts through formal education? What role does a community have in fostering the expressivity through theatre, and what is considered ‘theatre’ in different communities?

Theme 8: Theatre and Cognitive science.

Cognitive science has begun to understand how the ‘feeling brain’ responds to the creative arts, with music research at the forefront. How do Early Years theatre performances stimulate the infant and child’s imagination, what are mirror neurons and how do they work in theatre? What are the connections between theatre viewing and the development of literacy, numeracy or other cognitive skills? What is the importance of story for identity formation, particularly in intercultural theatre? How do stories create specificity in cultural identification or the capacity for cultural mobility?


Presenters will be invited to submit their research in written format for a publication after a process of collaboration with ITYARN. All submissions will be peer reviewed and are due for submission approximately 3 months after the event, i.e. end of August 2017. Where the research cannot be presented in written form, all efforts will be made to reflect these on the ITYARN and/or ASSITEJ websites. Further information in this regard will be confirmed for presenters in their letters of acceptance.

Proposals for presentations can take the following forms:

Conference Papers



Panel discussions


Pecha Kucha




Individual paper presentations allow for a brief overview of the major points / highlights of a particular project or program. Papers are limited to 20 minutes (16 minutes for presentation and 4 minutes for discussion), unless the paper is selected as a Keynote, in which case it may last 30 minutes. Paper abstracts are not to exceed 300 words.


Material for a visual display presentation is mounted on a poster board (approx. 100cm high x 200cm wide), which is staffed by the author (this is mandatory) for a designated period of time. This format provides a unique opportunity for personal ‘one-on-one’ interaction and idea exchange. Poster abstracts are not to exceed 300 words.


The symposium is a presentation during which between 3 and 5 individuals present papers that have a common focus. The value of the symposium is that the symposium chair acts as a facilitator, assisting the audience to appreciate the commonalities and differences between the papers presented. Unlike ‘stand alone’ presentations, the questions and discussion normally take place at the end with the individuals acting as a panel.

A group member who acts as the leader must submit a single abstract for the entire symposium. The submission must include an outline of the proposed symposium, details of the suggested individual authors and their papers and a clear demonstration of the added value of linking these together. Symposium submissions are not to exceed 750 words. This must include details of the individual papers and also the name of the person who will lead the symposium.

Panel Discussion

Panel Discussions are a forum for interactive discussion of a topic among a panel of experts and an interested audience. Typically, a panel of four to eight speakers makes introductory remarks. The audience is then invited to make comments and question the panel of speakers.  Panel discussions are about 2 hours. The individual wishing to lead a panel should submit an abstract of no more than 750 words.


A workshop is an interactive practical session with one or more presenters who are experts in the subject they are presenting: they can take the form of practical working sessions, skills acquisition and development, skills and knowledge sharing, and spaces to catalyse new ideas. The workshop may be pitched at introductory, intermediate or advanced levels of activity, for professional artists, for teachers or for children/young people. The individual wishing to lead a workshop should submit an abstract (maximum 750 words), which makes clear the aims, objectives, need for, and focus on how the audience will participate in the workshop session. This should include any specific requirements for interaction that will have an effect on the space, room layout and the numbers of participants who can be accommodated (i.e. equipment, room/ desk set up, materials required).

Pecha kucha

PechaKucha 20×20 is a simple presentation format where you show 20 images, each for 20 seconds. The images advance automatically and you talk along to the images. This is a more informal and fun presentation. Abstracts for Pecha Kucha are not to exceed 300 words.


We invite submissions of documentary films about the making of youth theatre, children performing, professional theatre companies working with youth. Abstracts for Screenings are not to exceed 300 words.

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