Introducing ISTA’s global challenge

31 October 2019

What is a Global Challenge and how does it work?
We’re excited to announce an initiative that we believe will enhance our festivals as an international learning experience through theatre. The Global Challenge (GC) will unite all festivals, throughout the year, across the globe, ensuring our offer is coherent, relevant and authentic. Each year ISTA will identify a Global Challenge and for 2019-2020 our GC is Identity. The GC will become the overall starting point for all festivals so that over the course of the year all students attending ISTA festivals will engage in different ways with one umbrella area of focus. As the teacher experience lies at the core of our mission, it also enables us to develop significant resources for teachers to use in their classrooms – beyond the festival experience.

Each festival host/community develops their own area of inquiry specifically related to the GC. This will be specific to the school, its community, location and culture. The collation of these different perspectives across our 45 festivals offers another potential resource for all our member schools and is a wonderful demonstration of the way global issues are considered by young people in different locations.

Why Identity?
– Many young people face key questions and challenges regarding identity. In a world of shifting borders, reconfigured ethnicities and growing nationalism, questions of national and cultural identity seem paramount. For many young people, who they are and where they belong are complex questions that they face whether they live in the community of their birth or in another country.

– World conflicts have become issues of identity, not just issues of territory. In many countries migration has led to fears about national identity and the displacement of people from their own communities has led to dilemmas regarding cultural identity, safety and home.

– Issues regarding sexuality and the growing awareness of the fluidity and complexity of gender requires many schools to now consider this to ensure the well-being and safety of all their students.

– Gender is a subject of much debate regarding inequality, access to education, opportunity and pay. This is an area where in many places and cultures, your gender identity disadvantages you.

– Identity is often considered in performance terms as something that is essentially performed through our clothes, gestures, attitudes, language etc. Young people engage with this performance to communicate who they are and as a result are often judged for the identities they adopt in their search for who they are.

– We live in a world where one’s identity can determine whether someone is persecuted or has opportunities, whether an individual is accepted or considered an outsider.

– But identity doesn’t only refer to the individual. A nation, a society, a neighbourhood and a culture also develops an identity. This is developed and communicated through its art, architecture, political systems and its relationship to its history and its visions for the future. The study of who we are or who we consider ourselves to be, both as individuals and as groups, is very much a contemporary issue and challenge.

Aspects of our Global Challenge and examples of areas of inquiry
GeneralThere is no such thing as identity – only identities.
CultureArt is an expression of identity.
EconomyYou are what you can afford.
Ethnicity – Ethnic identity is what defines our place in the world.
GenderOpportunity is determined by gender identity.
GeographyFood and food production are an expression of cultural and economic identity.
HeritageHeritage is the preservation of lost identities.
NationalBorders are designed to define and protect our identity.
SexualityIdentity sometimes needs to remain hidden.
SocialLabels are useful to keep social order.

Some examples of what’s in store for our 2019-2020 festivals…
…considering the unique areas of inquiry developed by hosts