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The Sydney Morning Herald


Author: Jeremy Eccles
Date: 10/12/1986
Words: 563
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: News and Features
Page: 16
"THE world is ready for us, and we are ready for the world," declared an ebullient Michael FitzGerald on a flying visit to Sydney recently. But, the former director of the Australia Council Theatre Board might equally have been saying the same thing in Stockholm, Lima or Hanoi ... parts of the world where he's recently been carrying and receiving that message.

Not that the world wants all of us. "They're interested in our films, our Aboriginal arts, our literature and our young people's theatre," amended FitzGerald. He's in the process of bringing 500 actors, writers and directors of young people's theatre from all round the world here to see ours, and talk about Staging the Future.

That's the title of next April's Assitej Congress in Adelaide. Assitej is the UNESCO-associated organisation that attempts to propagate theatre both by and for young people around the world. Its current 43 members are predominantly European and American, and so it's something of a triumph that Australia has brought this congress both east and south of anywhere that it's been before.

Australia is taking the opportunity (assisted for once by the falling dollar), to expand the Assitej horizons with invitations to 19 non-member countries in our Asia-Pacific region. China and Thailand will certainly be sending delegations for the first time, and South Korea and Hawaii are the only two foreign territories that will be offering productions by their own companies at the congress.

All the other performances will be Australian - with companies from around the country taking part in Adelaide's regular Come Out Festival, which coincides with the congress. Such recent classics as No Worries, Honeyspot and Dags - all seen this year in Sydney - will be performed. The works of young Australian playwrights will be showcased by Adelaide's Troupe Theatre. And companies like Sydney's Sidetrack and Toe Truck will be visiting.

It was Toe Truck, FitzGerald believes, that put Australia on the Assitej map. We'd been a member of the organisation for some years, but it was Toe Truck's production of its plays Year 9 Are Animals, and Kasparjack at the Assitej Congress in Lyons that opened a few "Atlanticocentric" eyes.

"It gave us high credibility, because of the distinctive flavour of the work, and its energy. We're doing young people's theatre as well as anybody. In fact, tastes are jaded in Europe in particular, and cultural tourism to Australia is ripe for happening in many arts. There's no doubt that both government and private sponsors should be backing overseas arts ventures by Australians to the hilt at the moment," said FitzGerald.

As well as the expert seminars and performances, FitzGerald is confident that many exchanges will result. There's already the probability of Adelaide's Magpie Company doing a swap with Shandong in China, and discussions are underway for directors and writers to go to California, Mexico and Peru. Perhaps the concerns of young people are more universal than those of their parents.

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