Theatre for Youth
If you’ve driven past the Long Center this week, you’ve seen the giant inflatable sculptures set up along Riverside Drive, along with the accompanying crowds of excited onlookers.
Families are lining up for their chance to see the whimsical luminarium maze first hand, mostly unaware that the interactive art show is the handiwork of British theatre artists Architects of Air. These cosmopolitan community artists have taken their work all around the globe, setting up their luminariums in 37 countries on five continents.
This international team of artists brings their latest show, Mirazozo, to the Long Center as part of the 12th annual International Performing Arts for Youth (IPAY) conference showcase, taking place this year right here in Austin.
During the five-day conference, theatre troupes from countries like Australia, Canada, Scotland and the Netherlands will be mounting productions of their latest creative works that appeal to young audiences. Their intended audiences are the booking managers and agents in the U.S. who are looking for new shows to include on their upcoming performance calendars.
“It’s a very exciting opportunity for Austin to host this event whose sole purpose is to present theatre for young audiences in America,” says Paramount Theatre Education and Outreach Director, Jennifer Luck. “Theatre for young audiences is not always valued at the same level as traditional theater, but it’s definitely a vital part of the industry and for actors and audiences worldwide. This conference is a great reminder of that fact.”
To many theatre attendees' surprise, Austin was chosen to host the 2012 IPAY conference because our city is a thriving hub for theatre for young audiences. UT's Drama and Theatre for Youth and Communities (DTYC) graduate program is one of the top incubators for emerging scholars in the field thanks to the significant achievements and efforts of its accomplished professors such as Coleman Jennings, Suzan Zeder and Amarente Lucero.
Luck, herself a UT DTYC graduate, explained that most of the presenters are staging shorter showcase pieces, while some are mounting full-scale productions complete with sets and costumes that they’ve shipped across the globe. These performances will take place over five days at The Paramount Theatre, The Stateside Theatre, The Long Center and The University of Texas Department of Theatre and Dance.
“This is actually the first time multiple organizations have come together to host this event,” explains Luck. “In past years, all of the events have been coordinated within a single large facility. That says something great about the cohesiveness of the theatre community in Austin.”
Surprisingly, no individual tickets will be sold to any of these international caliber world premieres. “There are complications with the international exchange of money and performers’ visas, so the shows are only available to registered conference attendees,” says Luck. Instead, the seats will be packed with the agents, companies and fellow TYA artists who are seeing what new work their peers have developed.
“There are also a few special guests of the conference joining us this year,” Luck teases. Lucky students from Austin’s ACE Academy and the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders will be in attendance at the Paramount for a couple of the major TYA productions.
UT Department of Theatre and Dance graduate students in the DTYC program are also excited to be a part of the conference. Many of them are volunteering their valuable time for the trade-off of attending the conference panels and seeing some of the productions that will define their industry in years to come.
Big names in the TYA field, like UT's Zeder and Lucero, will also be in attendance at the educational development panels to be held at the downtown RadissonHotel. These panels are often talk-back workshops about the larger productions and discussions of trends in the TYA field.
“IPAY panels are great opportunities for students directly from the industry experts who are on the cutting edge of their art,” says Luck. “Plus, it’s a cool opportunity to schmooze with professional theater makers from around the world.”
While the Architects of Air exhibit may be one of the few public pieces to emerge from the IPAY conference this week, it's nice to know that Austin once again ranks as a go-to destination for international advancements in creativity.