The 2020 ASSITEJ World Congress & Performing Arts Festival / MIRAI 2020 is scheduled to take place in Japan, between 22nd March 2021 and 1st April 2021. It was previously scheduled to take place between May 14th 2020 and May 24th 2020, but the dates were pushed back due to the COVID-19 pandemic. An official communication co-signed by the ASSITEJ International President, Yvette Hardie, and the ASSITEJ Japan Centre President, Katsunari Morita, read in part:

We would like to express our sympathies to all those who are suffering from the new corona virus and all those around the world whose lives have been affected by the spread of the infection.

We have been preparing for the 20th ASSITEJ World Congress scheduled for May. However, with the spread of corona virus in many countries, and measures such as banning travel and suspension of VISAs, it has become difficult for participants such as theater companies and researchers from around the world to travel to Japan. In a situation where global participation is physically impossible, we have no choice but to determine that it will also be impossible to hold the event as scheduled from May 14 to May 24, 2020…

We are worried that the younger generation, who should have been the main figures at the World Congress, have been deprived of cultural enjoyment and disconnected from other people. At times like this, we need the power of culture and art for society and children.

We hope that the pandemic of the new corona virus subsides as soon as possible and that the time for people to meet face to face and rejoice together will return soon to us again. Until then, we will postpone the congress and the festival, and we will make preparations to share the joy of the arts and culture again with you at the appropriate time and place.

A stage performance

A stage performance (Photo: @ASSITEJ)

This Time Around

The 20th ASSITEJ World Congress and Festival will be a “blended” event of online and offline activities. The physical festival entails 45 Japanese productions that will be the nucleus of the local event. Workshops, symposia and other events will also take place physically in Japan. Meanwhile, “international” and Japanese productions will also be shared virtually through an online festival. This will consist of a “main program’,” a “fringe program,” and an “innovation program.” The entire kit and caboodle will be accessible online from 23 March through to 11 April 2021.

A promotional graphic by ASSITEJ

A promotional graphic by ASSITEJ

Congress and Professional Exchange

The Congress portion will be shared through video and written reportage ahead of a series of scheduled discussion meetings which will take live via ZOOM, the popular teleconferencing platform. There will three to four sessions in different time zones every day.  These will include workshops, symposia, discussions and social events, allowing for all to participate in elements of interest to them.  The virtual event will include:

  • 30+ online “on demand” performances
  • The Professional Exchange Program with over 80 seminars, lectures, workshops, symposia, and panels
  • “Artistic Encounters” and other exchange/networking events lead by the Executive Committee and members of ASSITEJ
  • The General Assembly of ASSITEJ
  • Opening, Closing and ASSITEJ Awards Ceremony

Schedule

A preliminary schedule of the events (from Monday 22nd March through to Thursday 1st April) is available at https://assitejonline.org/day_programme/monday-22-march/

Though the world is not yet over the COVID-19 pandemic (in fact new strains of the virus have appeared in various parts of the world), the organizers seem optimistic. According to a statement on the ASSITEJ website:

We are delighted to announce that we are working with two partners on the “Online Festival,” Congress and Professional exchange programme; National Arts Festival in South Africa will be providing the technical and web platforms for the programme, while Performing Dialogue will be providing all contributor and attendee resources and support, including liaison, communication, and bridging the gap between the “On Ground” and “Online” events.

We believe that with this approach we will see an unprecedented participation in an ASSITEJ World Congress, since many people will be able to be part of the global virtual engagement, who did not previously have the opportunity, while simultaneously ensuring that for those who can, the magic of the live experience is protected and celebrated.

We look forward to meeting you in Japan in March 2021, whether in person or online.

Videos

For more sights and sounds concerning this global cross-cultural event, here are some YouTube videos:

This post was written by the author in their personal capacity.The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of The Theatre Times, their staff or collaborators.