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Honorary Presidents

‘Honorary President’ is a prestigious title bestowed upon a former President of ASSITEJ International. Our Honorary Presidents often continue to serve as figureheads for ASSITEJ International, representing the Association and lending their influence, expertise, and reputation to promote its objectives and values.

Yvette Hardie - South Africa - Awarded in 2021

Yvette is a theatre director, producer, educator, and cultural leader in Theatre for Young Audiences (TYA). She initiated the launch of ASSITEJ South Africa in 2007 and leads the organisation as Director. In 2008, at the 16th ASSITEJ World Congress and Performing Arts Festival for Children & Young People, she was elected to the Executive Committee of ASSITEJ International as Treasurer. In 2011, at the ASSITEJ World Congress in Copenhagen & Malmö, she was elected President. She held office for ten years until the postponed 20th ASSITEJ World Congress in 2021.

Combined with her presidency, she envisioned and led the realisation of the 19th ASSITEJ World Congress in Cape Town, South Africa (2017). The Congress was the first such ASSITEJ International event to take place on the African continent and created a significant impact on the South African and African TYA landscape. She also developed the African network of TYA by serving as Deputy Chairperson of African Children and Youth Theatre Arena (ACYTA).

During her presidency, ASSITEJ International started to organise annual events between the congresses, with the first taking place in Okinawa, Japan in 2012. Together with these ASSITEJ Artistic Gatherings, as they were later called, the ‘Artistic Encounters’ were born, becoming a major event at any ASSITEJ Artistic Gathering or Congress.

A focus during her presidency has been to increase the accessibility of the Association through developing new pathways to engagement. For example, the ‘Next Generation’ Programme was embedded in the annual event to introduce young and emerging artists to the Association. International ASSITEJ Professional Networks were created as full members to develop exchanges in specific areas of TYA. Individual membership status allowed participation from those where forming a National Centre was difficult.

During the last year of her presidency, she led the Association through the COVID-19 crisis with responses like the online ASSITEJ Coffee Sessions, the ASSITEJ Manifest, and the 20th ASSITEJ World Congress and Performing Arts Festival for Children & Young People that took place in a blended format in Japan and online. She has worked to link ASSITEJ International with like-minded international associations and serves on the Advisory Board for the UNESCO / ITI World Performing Arts Capitals.

Wolfgang Schneider - Germany - Awarded in 2011

Wolfgang worked as Assistant Professor at Frankfurt University, organising two conferences about TYA. In 1989, he founded the Kinder-und Jugendtheaterzentrum in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland. In 1991, the centre continued the work in the former ASSITEJ GDR office in Berlin and has maintained two offices ever since. The same year, he founded the first National Festival for TYA in Germany with the Grips Theater and the Theater an der Parkaue. He established two prizes for TYA, honouring dramatic literature for young people. In 2012, UNESCO appointed him as Chair of Cultural Policy for the Arts in Development.

He was elected to the Board of ASSITEJ Germany (Das Netzwerk der Kinder- und Jugendtheater in Deutschland) in 1986 and served as President from 1997 onwards. In 1991, he established the Archives of ASSITEJ International in Frankfurt. In 1999, he was elected to the ASSITEJ International Executive Committee as Vice President and was then President from 2002-2011. He initiated ‘The ASSITEJ Annual’, a yearbook about TYA in 1996. In 2011, he created a new magazine for ASSITEJ, presented at the 12th ASSITEJ World Congress and Performing Arts Festival for Children & Young People in Copenhagen / Malmö.

Wolfgang has been President of the European Network of Arts Organisations for Children and Young People, Vice President of the German Federation for Arts Education, Chair of the Advisory Board for Theatre in the State of Lower Saxony, and a member of the Advisory Board for Theatre and Dance in the Goethe Institute. He is an appointed individual member of the German UNESCO Commission and the International Theatre Institute (ITI).

Harold Oaks - USA - Awarded in 2008

Harold chaired the Theatre and Film Department for 12 years at Brigham Young University, was coordinator of the Child Drama Programme, and founded the Young Company. He directed over 40 productions for young people and adults across the USA.

He was a member of the ASSITEJ International Executive Committee from 1988 to 2002, serving as Treasurer (1993 to 1999),  and later as President (1999 to 2002). Harold was also President of ASSITEJ USA (TYA/USA) from 1988 to 1995.

He was the ‘ASSITEJ/USA International Hot Line’ editor from 1989 to 2001.

He was on the Board of Directors of the American College Theatre Festival (1974 to 1979), was Treasurer of the American Theatre Association (1972 to 1973), was President of the Children’s Theatre Association of America (1985 to 1986), was President of the American Alliance for Theatre and Education (1987 to 1988), and served on the Education Advisory Panel of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC (1986 to 1991).

Harold was awarded the Gold Medallion of Excellence from the American College Theatre Festival in 1978 and received a Presidential Citation from the American Alliance for Theatre and Education in 1993. He was elected to the College of Fellows of the American Theatre in 2002 and was awarded a Medallion for Excellence by the Children’s Theatre Foundation of America.

Michael Fitzgerald - Australia - Awarded in 2000

Michael won a number of awards in both acting and directing in Australia.

In 1975, he became an arts administrator and bureaucrat at the Australia Council, the Australian Federal Government’s arts advisory and funding body. He was the Youth / Puppetry Project Officer of the Theatre Board before becoming Senior Project Officer and finally Director.

He was a significant supporter of developing Australia’s first theatre-in-education companies.

In 1985, he became Australia’s representative on the ASSITEJ International Executive Committee. In 1987, he was director of the 9th ASSITEJ World Congress and Performing Arts Festival for Children & Young People in Adelaide. In 1990, he became Vice President of ASSITEJ International and was elected President in 1993 and 1996.

In 1989, he was appointed Member of the Order of Australia for services to youth arts and arts administration. He was Artistic Director of the Come Out Festival until 1991 and Director of Youth Performing Arts Australia (YPAA) and ASSITEJ Australia (Theatre Network Australia) until his retirement in 1999. In 1994, he was presented with the Frannie Arts for Young Audiences Award for outstanding contribution to the field of arts for young audiences from The Canadian Institute of the Arts for Young Audiences in Vancouver, Canada.

Ilse Rodenberg - Germany - Awarded in 1988

Ilse began her career as an actress at the left-wing Kollektiv junger Schauspieler in Hamburg from 1930 to 1933 before becoming Manager and Actress at Kabarett “Laternenanzünder” from 1945 to 1947. She was head of the theatre in Neustrelitz from 1949 to 1950 and at the Potsdam theatre from 1950 to 1957. In 1959, Ilse became head of the “Theater der Freundschaft” (today, Theater an der Parkaue) in Berlin.

She founded and directed the Bureau for International Questions on Theater for Children and Young People in the GDR in 1973.

She was a member of the ASSITEJ Preparatory Committee from 1964 to 1965, a member of the Executive Committee from 1965 onwards, and served three terms as President from 1978 to 1987.

In 1973 the GDR Centre for ASSITEJ was established as an independent office which she managed.

Ilse founded the bi-annual International Directors Seminar as well as the Hallenser Workshop Meeting and the Playwright’s Competition.

In 1989, she participated in the opening of the Children and Youth Theater Center of Germany in Frankfurt.

Nat Eek - USA - Awarded in 1984

Nat was the Director of the School of Drama and Dean of the College of Fine Arts at the University of Oklahoma. He was a board member of the American Theatre Association, President of their national Children’s Theatre Association, and President of the International Association of Fine Arts Deans.

Nat was the USA representative at the Founding Congress of ASSITEJ International and an Executive Committee member from 1965 to 1975. He was the USA representative to ASSITEJ International, twice elected as Vice President (from 1968-1972) and President from 1972-1975.

Nat began writing the ASSITEJ International history books in 2002 and published three volumes.

He was producer and director of the professional Southwest Repertory Theatre in Santa Fe, New Mexico, from 1988 to 1994.

Nat was named a Fellow of the American Theatre in 1985.

Vladimir Adamek - Czechoslovakia - Awarded in 1981

Vladimir was an actor and director at the Army Theatre, Realist Theatre, and Jirí Wolker Theatre. He was a professor of directing at the Academy of Arts in Prague.

Since its creation, he has been involved in ASSITEJ International, having been appointed to the Preparatory Committee. He was elected as a member of the first ASSITEJ International Executive Committee and continued as a representative until the 1970s. He hosted the First ASSITEJ World Congress and Performing Arts Festival for Children & Young People in Prague in 1966 and was elected Vice President for four terms and President for one. He founded the Czechoslovakia National Centre of ASSITEJ and served as its President from 1965 to 1973.

Konstantin Shakh-Azizov - USSR - Awarded in 1972

In 1927, Konstantin started his first theatre for children in Transcaucasia, the Russian Theatre for Young Spectators. From 1933 to 1945, he was the managing and artistic director of the Griboedov Russian Drama Company in Tbilisi. He was appointed managing director of the Moscow Central Children’s Theatre from 1945 to 1974.

He was elected Vice President upon the founding of  ASSITEJ International and was re-elected to the position in 1972. He was elected President in 1968 and 1970 whilst also being head of the Soviet ASSITEJ Centre from 1965 to 1974.

Gerald Tyler - UK - Awarded in 1966

Gerald was instrumental in forming the Leeds Children’s Theatre in 1936 and produced plays for that and many other local groups. In 1946, he began organising the Brighouse Children’s Theatre. In 1948, he was appointed county drama advisor to the West Riding Education Committee and served until his retirement in 1973.

He helped found the British Children’s Theatre Association (BCTA) and served as Secretary for many years.

Gerald was closely involved in the early meetings that culminated in the creation of ASSITEJ International and was elected Provisional President in 1965 at the Paris Constitutional Congress. He was elected President in 1966.

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