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Adolescent Identity

Since 2008, when the Schoolyard Stories (Patios del Recreo)- Theatre for Adolescents- 1st. Edition was launched, ATINA (ASSITEJ Argentina) has been interested in organizing different proposals that could encourage the development of a qualified theatre devoted to young people.

In Argentina, as well as in the rest of Ibero America, we have a large theatre production for children (3 to 8 years old, approximately) but very few proposals devoted to adolescents and teenagers.

When children are 10 years old, they stop going to the theatre with their family or with their teachers. What happens? Are they no more interested? Do they get bored? None of these reasons are reliable. The true is simpler: they do not find suitable proposals that can be enjoyable, which allow identification, where theatre talks to them about themes they are really interested in. Youngsters think that the productions are childish or boring depending on if they are for children or for adults. Productions coming from TV series are an exception, of course.

To be able to change this situation and in this way to include young people as a possible audience, artists need to go on working, to run risks and to try once and again to present new and up dated proposals.

Schoolyard Stories is a project that can promote this change, encourage artists to create for adolescents and encourage adolescents to go to the theatre.

This proposal is created in Europe in 1999, because of the need of finding new themes and new styles for an audience target particulary reluctant to theatre (young people from 13 to 18 years old), in a moment when there were very few theatre productions devoted to them.

Schoolyard Stories 1st. Edition (Schoolyard Stories in Iberoamerica) was organized by ATINA between 2008 and 2010 with the participation of Argentinian and Ibero American professionals in collaboration with “Platform 11+”, new edition of Schoolyard Stories that was being developed in Europe during those years.

The project, developed along three steps (Playwriting Contest, Directors Workshop and Staging and Festival), have as a result ten new Theatre for Adolescents texts, published by ATINA in UPB Editions and by Platform 11+ in their English version; ten productions which gave place not only to an interesting activity for adolescent groups, but also to a deep exchange (workshops, tours, encounters) among all the professional participants.

That first edition, even when it was not massive, was really successful. The plays written for Schoolyard Stories where staged not only in Argentina but also in Chile and Uruguay; the project could be reproduced in Córdoba with a great acceptance among adolescent and also adult audiences; the plays moved around and were used in adolescents theatre workshops. In short, something began to move, and this encourage us to organize the Scholyard Stories 2nd. Edition- Adolescents Identity.

We know that during the adolescence young people look for their own identity, their self image, their place in the world that allow them to recognize and affirm themselves. This process is frequently developed through important personal, familiar and social conflicts. The search for identity brings no few social conflicts, confrontations, confusion and even violence, discrimination and loneliness. The search for identity appears in different aspects of their personal and social life. Sometimes it is the result of free decisions, other to social pressure, other to confrontations. So we can recognize ethnic, religious, sexual, origin or filiation and social identity expressed by external signals, so necessary for the adolescents like fashion, music bands, tattoos, sporting teams, etc.

Adults sorrounding them are not external to this process and have also influence by pressure or by opposition in the construction of identity. The other adolescents are not external either, also by pressure, by confrontation or by sense of pertenence they have influence in the search for identity.

Schoolyard Stories- 2nd. Edition proposes to inquire, through the dialogue with adolescents, how do they live this search for identity, how do they feel, what do they think, how do they face this situation, for these realities can be reflected on the stage. That is why the previous research and the contact with young people is essential for this project.

Each one of the authors, before writing his or her play, contacted adolescent groups, talked to them, filmed videos, took pictures and only after this, they began to write. All of them sent, altogether with their texts, interesting research works which allow us to understand the background of their stories.

This starting point is, on our opinion, the root of the project: to become in direct contact with young people, to listen to their voices, their wishes, their concerns, their future perspectives and their limits so we can show on the stage a play that reflects them, that allows identification as well as reflection, humor as well as emotion.

It´s no our aim to create a pedagogic theatre, nor a social or psychological one, with the intention of being a guide of proper behavior from the stage. Our aim is to create a fiction theatre that can move our young audience and give them the possibility after the play of reflect or dialogue about the themes they are concerned about.

To sum it up, Schoolyard Stories is a new proposal that tries to build a bridge which allows us to be closer to our audience.

The jury, composed by Héctor Presa (Buenos Aires), Sonia Daniel (Córdoba) and Dewis Durán (Caracas) chose seven short plays that tackle, from different perspectives, aesthetics and styles, the situation of adolescent identity.

 “NI A NI B” (Nor A neither B) by Gabriel Fernández Chapo and Patricia Devesa faces us with the contradictions of the educative system as well as the adults in charge. It shows through the dialogue that two students have with the Psychopedagogue how they try to search and defend their place in the world, perhaps not the best one, but “their own” place.

 “NADIE MÁS QUE YO” (None but me) by Ester Catzman, inquires into the motivation for the violence that two girls let loose on their school mate only because she is different. Jealousy, envy and fantasies push these two friends to hurt to the new student in the bathroom of the school.

“FRONTERAS” (Bounders) by Carla Breslin takes us to think about immigrant´s transculturation, the effort for being integrated, the confrontation with their origin. The pressures that a young Bolivian girl suffers when, in order to be accepted at school, has to confront with her mother´s believes and values.

 “CITA CON MARTO” by Adriana Ferrari faces the relationships established through social networks, the changes of identity and also homosexuality. Can we figure out we are a different person in the social networks?

 “ALTAZORES” (Altazores) by Sergio Aguirre is base on Huidobro´s poem and face us with hope in a despair surrounding. Loneliness, actuality, scientific information alternate with adolescent conflicts and their dreams.

 “SÉPTIMO”  (The seventh one) by Pablo Di Felice talks about the difficulties to find the self image, the under valuation and the invisible things that come visible because of friendship. The seventh boy in a family, destined to become a wolf man and frightened because of this situation, finds his strength by meeting a girl from his own school.

 “AMIGOS TEMPORALES” (Temporary Friends) by Tomás Bruccella and Laura Mazzoncini  inquires about relationships at school, violence, friendship, betrayals, wishes and fears. Two schoolmates, a girl and a boy who just know each other and even despise one to the other, find mutual support the day when they are closed in a schoolroom.

Variety in the themes, quality in the texts, solid characters, deep and interesting conflicts and above all, a clear reflection of nowadays adolescent conflicts, make of these plays a valuable contribution for the theatre professionals as well as for teachers and specially for children.

The directors will work on these texts to create their productions. This will be the second step of the project: the “Directors Workshop” that will take place in October 2016.

Finally we will arrive to a good end when next year the productions can be presented to an adolescent audience. With them will have a new and intense dialogue in order to evaluate the results of our work.

Young people do not know that theatre exists. Artists, sometimes, do not know that adolescents exist either. Schoolyard Stories is a good time to meet and know each other.

María Inés Falconi

ATINA Secretary

ASSITEJ Honorary Member

Article published in the issue No. 3 of the 2nd cycle of the magazine ENTRE PATAS.

Edited by Centro Uruguayo del Teatro y la Danza para la Infancia y la Juventud CTUDIJ

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