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ASSITEJ Inspirational Playwrights Award

Highlighting the importance of playwriting in all its manifestations around the world, three persons received the “ASSITEJ Inspirational Playwrights Award” at the World Congress in Cape Town in May 2017. This was, for the first time, administered and adjudicated by the Write Local Play Global network in coordination with the ASSITEJ Executive committee.

The awardees exhibited artistic excellence of the highest order,  fulfilling the three criteria  – inspiration, excellence, and impact. They were selected amongst 15 nominations from 12 countries. 

The three winners were: 

Suzanne Lebeau (Canada) 

From nomination:

“…words are of implacable urgency for you and that, through your thought in perpetual motion, you create a territory of freedom that children perceive, recognize, and adopt. You have the soul of an explorer, always ready to discover and then to denounce the unspeakable, the unacceptable. And you're not afraid. You do things, simply, because you feel that it's normal to do them. Armed only with your words, you use the power of fiction and the splendour of metaphor to bring to light the malfunctioning of societies, the mistreatment of the weakest and most disadvantaged. Always vigilant, always uneasy, you recount that world with the serious and mutilated face, but you also tell us that it is possible to upset the established order and that hope is not in vain.

“You have been writing for more than forty years and, through your plays, you awaken artistic and social consciences. Your stories feature men, women, and children appearing in all their majesty and who, through their complexity, nuances, and depth, restore dignity to all of today’s young audiences. The contemporaneity of your words brings nobility to theatre for young audiences and pulverizes the preconceptions that some may have of the discipline. In my eyes, your engaged and activist career, the depth of your thought, and the breadth of your vision embody the epitome of struggle against ignorance and indifference, a bright light in a world in which the outlines are too often blurred.”

From assessment panel:

“Suzanne Lebeau’s impact has been far reaching. In the excerpt, I find brilliant exposition of a journey by two child soldiers. I particularly liked the juxtaposition of character and narrator complementing each other.”

“Suzanne Lebeau has really changed playwriting in her country as well as in France but specially in all Latin America. The depth of her themes, her poetry and the need of her thoughts is amazing. Her influence has expanded to Mexico, Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia and even South Africa. No doubts that she is inspirational.”

“We need more TYA pioneers such as Suzanne, her body of work is nothing less than inspirational.”

“This writer is deeply concerned with the being and position of the child in societies of all sorts, not just in her own backyard but throughout the world. Her wordsmithing and consistently interesting practice, ability to think in entirely theatrical terms, to construct worlds that are immediate and personal; as well as full of fantasy.”

“Suzanne Lebeau is a no-brainer, for the depth and breadth of her work, for her influence, for her mentorship, for her strong aesthetic and beautiful writing.”





Kevin Dyer (UK) 

From nomination:

“…central to his work is the ability to pinpoint simultaneously in his writing the fragility and resilience of young people as they experience all of the beauty and danger the world has to offer them.  His characters open their arms so wide in embracing the world that it hurts them, but in doing so they are offered the promise of hope through their sacrifices. 

“This inclusivity, this desire to embrace, encapsulate and validate the importance of varied experiences, is the hallmark not just of Kevin’s writing, but of his engagement with all he meets and his mentorship to young people as well.  At Action Transport Theatre he works as a writing facilitator and mentor with some of the most disadvantaged youth in Northern England – often with children who are excluded or on the edge of exclusion.  His work with them is not about creating the writers of the future, though some do follow this path, but rather about giving young people who have no voice to express their world a method and a place to be heard. 

“And while his local work with young people in Cheshire is of the highest importance, it is not the zenith of his horizons.  From Iran to Canada to Ireland to Korea to Soweto to Mongolia, Kevin has worked with local communities on the telling of stories in a way that respects their origins and places the sensibility of the people and importance of the story’s origins at the heart of the work while also fueling his own artistic practice.”

From assessment panel:

“Kevin Dyer’s body of work is impressive… From materials made available, his use of binary opposites and contrasts help face the struggles the young people face.”

“About Kevin Dyer, I only know what I have read about him and his playwriting but I loved the text and specially I appreciate his intention of talking about small communities and refugees.”

“I admire his giving to the many countries that he has collaborated with shows in the empathetic and rich work he’s created – an admirable playwright.”

“The writer has a complete and thorough grounding in the form with many plays produced and a strong reputation for lively and interesting work.”

“Kevin Dyer for the strength of his writing, for his mentorship, for his willingness, especially in recent years, to reach outside his community to Iran, Mongolia, Korea.”





René Fernández Santana (Cuba)  

From nomination:

“He has written and published more than forty plays for children or teenagers between 1965 and 2015… His theater plays have been showed in nine countries besides Cuba (México, Chile, Perú, Bolivia, Spain, Slovenia, Guatemala, Brazil, Argentina)…

“In his dramatic work he has recreated European and African traditional tales, parodying and updating their plots. One of his most successful plays has been Los ibeyis y el diablo (Twin and Devil). Also, he has written about tricky social problems like the solitude of children and teenagers, the lack of understanding and communication, the physical and psychological violence, and the lack of interest and expressions of disrespect to them.

“His dramatic output shows a considerable technical variety, from the classical Aristotelian structure to lyrical, symbolic and dreamlike resources and styles, incorporating also an updated version of  Greek Theater’s chorus, the music hall, where irony and Cuban humour are present  too.

“Fernández has been the first Cuban playwrights who have included Afro-Cuban myths in the children’s and teenagers’ universe through theater.”

From assessment panel:

“Rene Fernandez Santana impressed me for dealing with hard topics involving Afro-Cuban myths to establish child as a hero in every day familial situations facing violence of different kinds, loneliness, lack of understanding and even death, using varieties of techniques and styles.”

“I have to recognize Santana´s…influence in his country and his permanent intention to change, to find the way, to reflect Cuban society in his plays. I think he deserves the recognition.”

“Rene’s body of work across the years speaks to his honest heart and ability to remain in tune with the young generations of every decade.”

“A body of work from this writer has spanned decades but has never lost the freshness and painful inquiry of a writer determined to create beauty and complexity in children’s theatre.”

“Rene Fernandez Santana because of what he has done to uplift an isolated TYA community, bringing Afro-Cuban stories, for his advocacy.”

Lea el discurso de agradecimiento de René Fernández Santana.

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