The chronicle of partnerships
By Michael Ludwick
I discovered ISTA in 1998 at ASW in Poland as a first-year drama teacher. My mentor teacher was Mhairi MacInnes, an ISTA artist and embodiment of the ISTA spirit. Mhairi not only took me to five ISTA festivals in two years, she showed me what it meant to engage with young people in the ISTA way. I experienced the potential of theatre education as a haven for the dreamer, a way to engage with one another as humans and a place to explore worlds.
In December of 2014, during my 8th year in China, I founded Near West, an organisation dedicated to ‘Bridging China and the West through Entertainment, Education and the Arts’. In 2015, Near West established a global partnership with ISTA to make ISTA resources, artists and experiences more accessible to Chinese students and the educators who serve them. We began by taking small groups of local Chinese students and educators to ISTA festivals in the region. The impact was profound and immediate. The educators were inspired by the way ISTA artists empowered their ensembles, and amazed at how their own students were able to quickly join the group creation and emerge more curious, confident and connected.
On 23rd January 2018, I spoke at the opening session of the inaugural Near West/ISTA festival, the first ISTA festival with a mission to encourage participation from local Chinese students and educators. ISTA in partnership with Near West began the process of inspiring a new generation. The NW/ISTA festival represented the culmination of several years of committed work to first build coalitions with Chinese educators, and then to navigate the intricacies of the Chinese educational system to enable local students to attend. The festival is not only a major milestone but also a strong base from which we can further the objectives of the partnership in the coming years.