The chronicle of ISTA’s origins: ISTA’s cosmic eggs
By Mike Pasternak
The mid 1970s… Elton John and Kiki Dee top the UK and US charts with Don’t go breaking my heart … the classic American musical A Chorus Line takes first Broadway, then the West end by storm… across Europe three seeds of an artistic movement in international schools theatre education – a trio of ISTA eggs, embryonic parcels of creative energy which will lead to our present day vibrant ISTA community, are artfully, nascently stirring.
One London ISTA egg is brooding in the American School of London where Patricia Zich had escaped one cultural revolution in Iran to lead an arts education grassroots struggle in Europe. Her dedication to creative drama activities and her driving belief of the power of collaborative theatre making would foster ISTA foundation elements.
Concurrently, in the Frankfurt American HS system of DODD Schools and their regular dramatic forensics speaking and theatre competitions, Richard Smith nurtures a Frankfurt ISTA egg by bringing together emerging young theatre thespians to cooperate and celebrate the essence of making theatre at ISTA events – ‘the marvel of being one’ (P. Brook The Empty Space).
Around the same time, a Zurich ISTA egg is incubating with Bev Meyer, the American International School Zurich, Ted ‘Milty’ Miltenberger, a theatre specialist at the American School of Milan and Mike Pasternak, an arts dominie from La Châtaigneraie campus of the International School of Geneva, are holding two mini-fests, in 1976 and 1978, to collaborate in the making of theatre through the concept of working ensembles. These small theatre groups, brought together in harmony students from different schools and were to become a bedrock of the ISTA theatre learning model.
The simultaneous hatching of these three ISTA eggs happened at an event at the American School in London in 1981 which began as an international theatre festival and finished as an ISTA festival. During an informal meeting of teachers, during the event, a set of parameters were drawn up. The basic precepts of the association moved that ISTA events would be non-competitive and nurture collaborative drama and theatre creativity between students, teachers and, later, artists through small inter-school working groups dubbed ensembles. This formed the basis of the future, official ISTA articles defining our community and way of working. The International Schools Theatre Association was born.