Covid-19 updates

2 June 2020

Update #3 – 2nd June 2020
from ISTA’s Executive Director, Sally Robertson

Event updates

It is with a heavy heart that I inform you that we are cancelling all our TaPS events for September/October 2020. While a number of you have remained optimistic about attending the TaPS, it has become clear to us in the past month that an overwhelming number of schools will simply not be allowing any travel for students until after 2020. With data from all our schools who have booked and with the above knowledge to hand, we cannot proceed with these events. We wanted to make a decision at the end of May in order to give schools plenty of notice and also to reduce risk for ISTA with regard to event production time and costs. I’ll be writing to all those of you who have booked onto the events in the coming days.

We are now well underway with the process of moving all autumn festivals to the spring of 2021. For updates on festival date changes please click here. A heartfelt thank you to all teachers who have replied to our emails on date changes and I have been overwhelmed by the positivity and eagerness of teachers to embrace the new dates. Thank you so much. It is clear that remaining flexible on dates and being open to change is a priority for teachers who are keen to give their students the festival experience next year. I have written a letter urging heads of schools and athletics directors to work with us on these changes. If any of you would like a copy of this letter to pass onto your senior leadership team, please email me directly.

IB workshops
There are currently no updates here, save to say we are continuing with our plans to run our October Category 1 workshops in New York, London and Bali. More details can be found on the individual webpages here.

We will be moving our 3 Studios in Antwerp, Bangkok and Mumbai to the spring of 2021. New dates will be confirmed on the webpages shortly. We’ll email those of you who have already registered as soon as new dates are confirmed.

Many teachers may not be aware of this but a number of AiRs are now happening online. It is a natural shift that teachers and artists have been taking to ensure students get exposure to the wonderfully talented pool of ISTA artists and it’s working like a dream. I love a Facebook post I saw this morning from ISTA artist Greg Ruhe, who has just delivered an AiR with Helen Szymczak at Marymount School in London on puppetry. A friend asked Greg if he was in London and the reply, of course was: ‘No, I’m in Houston!’. If anyone would like more details of how an AiR can be booked and delivered online please email

ISTA responds – new ways of working

TaPS online
In lieu of our autumn TaPS events, I’m delighted to announce the new TaPS online experience. An overview of this offer can be found here. The development phase of this ISTA e-learning experience is going well and we’ll be ready to launch on Monday 17th August 2020. In the meantime if you would like to submit an expression of interest, we can keep you on our mailing list and let you know as soon as we are ready to go. Please log your expression of interest here.

Professional development and learning
Monthly online workshops

Having successfully run online workshops and discussions since the beginning of the year, we are now moving to a more permanent offer of PD&L for all theatre teachers. Over the summer we’ll be producing 3 one-hour workshops as part of our summer season. Please refer to the KiT bulletin for member teachers for dates and focus. We’ll then be taking time over the summer to create a structured offer for teachers – monthly online workshops that will run from September through to December 2020. We’ll announce details of this offer in August.

We’ll be piloting a new Concept based learning for the middle school theatre teacher online course over the summer and will roll out this offer in the new school year. This will shortly be followed by a Developing the middle school curriculum Studio online.

ISTA e-learning
These new courses are an obvious response to COViD-19 and to the fact that for the remainder of 2020 it is highly unlikely that schools will be able to organise trips to ISTA events. As soon as it is safe to do so we will resume our event based work – this lies at the heart of the organisation and we do not intend to replace live events with e-learning. Having said that we do recognise that in the next 12 months, and into the future, some teachers may well prefer the e-learning experience option over the live event for various reasons.

We know some of you find attending TaPS difficult due to the timing of our events, or the cost, and so we believe it’s a good thing to not only offer these for the coming year but also to keep them available for those schools who cannot attend our events. With the PD&L, of course, we will always offer event based workshops as we understand the importance of connection and working face to face with colleagues. But the same is true as with TaPS. We recognise that in the coming year(s) some of you may not be able to travel, some of you may not have the same access to PD&L budgets and so the Studios online and monthly workshops will ensure we can continue to fulfil our mission and provide opportunities for world class professional development via a range of platforms.

ISTA neighbourhoods
Our development work continues to map our membership into ‘neighbourhoods’. Clusters of schools in close geographical locations as a way of reframing how our programming may work in the future. It is time to embrace the challenges of our carbon footprint and the post-COViD world, and organise events in a way that is more realistic in terms of travel and cost for our members. Member schools would, of course, still be welcome to travel further afield but the underlying principle on which we produce events would be described as ‘locally international’. We are also mapping the geography of our artist pool to facilitate artist in residencies for the future. This is a work in progress, not as great a priority as establishing e-learning opportunities for members for the new school year, yet something we are both committed to and excited about.

Thank you for your time in reading this latest COViD-19 update. It remains of great importance to us to be transparent and timely in our communication to our community. More updates soon.


Update #2 – 29th April 2020
from ISTA’s Executive Director, Sally Robertson

I hope this latest message finds you and your families safe and in good health. We continue to discuss and respond to the impact of COViD-19. Thank you to all members of the ISTA community who have shared their particular circumstances and thoughts about how we proceed after the summer holidays and into the future. The dialogue is both appreciated and essential to ISTA’s future. Expecting the unexpected, ‘sitting’ with the unknown and engaging in both the reactive and proactive conversations that are necessary right now, are the mantras of our time.

Event updates
We are now leaning towards the idea of very few or no events until early 2021. There will obviously be some exceptions, please see details below.

IB workshops
Category 1 DP Theatre workshops will now take place in October, rather than June. Venues and dates below (linked to event webpages):
London: 1st – 3rd October 2020
Bali: 2nd – 4th October 2020
New York: 22nd – 24th October 2020

— For the New York and London TaPS we will make a decision on whether to proceed with these events in early June.
— For our Asian TaPS we are currently still planning to proceed with the Singapore and Bali TaPS. The Beijing TaPS is now cancelled. We are considering offering an additional TaPS in Hong Kong in October/November 2020.

— Due to schools being closed and teachers working remotely, we have now suspended all planning for 2020-2021 festivals until August.
— We are in the process of moving most September-December 2020 festivals to spring 2021.
— For those of you booked onto autumn festivals we’ll be in touch directly.
— We’re keeping a record of date changes for you here. If you have not yet booked onto a festival for next year, please do have a look through our new dates.
*If you are having problems viewing the live document please contact

— The Mumbai Studio scheduled for 29th – 30th August 2020 is now cancelled. We’ll make a decision in August as to whether to move the workshop to a spring date.
— The Antwerp and Bangkok Studios scheduled for September 2020 will be moved to spring 2021. Dates will be confirmed in August.

ISTA responds…
As well as considering the most likely scenario for our autumn calendar we are now engaging in conversations about how we respond to the impact of COViD-19 both in the short and long term. Given that we are unlikely to be able to gather large groups together in the same place, possibly until 2021, how can ISTA best provide support for teachers and continue our unique body of work for artists, young people and teachers through the ISTA experience? These are, in equal measures, challenging and exciting conversations. In short, how do we carry the ISTA experience and its magic into an online or ‘in-house’ platform. Some of these new ways of working could be seen as a direct response to COViD-19 for the immediate future; yet some may well be additional ways of working to complement our current programme of work in the longer term. So much of the discussion right now is about ‘What will we learn…?’ and ‘What will be our new normal…?’. We have time which is a gift and while none of our ideas are yet finalised in the form of offers for you I thought I’d share our thinking. As always, if you’d like to be part of the discussions, email as we’d love you to help us shape our future.

Thanks to ISTA teacher, artist and board member Anne Drouet for sharing with me the SAMR model from Ruben Puentedura. Developed as an approach to improving models of teaching this framework is so helpful when considering how a global organisation like ISTA can respond to the current challenges we face. How can we Substitute, Augment, Modify and Redesign?

An online and/or ‘in-house’ TaPS experience. Lasting 10 sessions to be followed over the course of three days or spanning over 4 weeks. To include live master classes, online theatre performances AND collaboration with peers from another DP Theatre school via Zoom. Also the opportunity, in cities where this is possible, to invite one ISTA artist to come into your school to deliver the TaPS experience.
A series of pre-recorded master classes focussing on a practitioner, genre or style.
Live master classes where schools would book one practitioner for a one hour live session with their students. Discussion with the teacher prior to, to ensure goals and expectations are clear and following for Q&A and resources, plus follow up work for the classroom. We are also discussing a series of master classes on the same topic for students and teachers to go more in depth.
— We are also developing models for online professional development as well as online AiRs…

If any of you would like to express an interest in booking an online master class do let us know. And if you are interested in our online/in-house TaPS experience, again, do get in touch.

A more ‘local’ ISTA?
Even beyond 2020 we may well be looking at prioritising the ‘local’ over the global, in terms of travel. We’re currently mapping out our membership and freelance artist pool to see where schools are placed with regard to working with other members on a more local footing. And which ISTA artists may be close by to come and work with you and your students. Obviously in a number of Asian cities this is easier as we develop city wide ‘hubs’ but in Europe this is often not possible. So we’re looking at who your ‘partner’ schools may be within a 2-3 hour train ride.


Update #1 – 3rd February 2020
from ISTA’s Executive Director, Sally Robertson

I wanted to let all members of our community know how, as an organisation, we’re responding to the Coronavirus Outbreak.

Events in China
We have taken the decision, together with the host schools, to postpone the Yew Chung partnership festival to May 2020 and to cancel the NearWest partnership festival until next year. All decisions are being made collaboratively after detailed conversations with the relevant teachers/schools. We will continue to monitor the situation regarding our proposed MS festival in Shanghai, in May 2020.

Events in Asia
I am working closely with the heads of schools, hosts and visiting schools for our planned MS festival in Bali and HS festival in Bangkok. In the case of the Bangkok festival, Keriann, the host and I are working to adjust the size of the festival and we will continue to monitor.

A number of you have been asked to step down from events due to the shift in size or cancellation of festivals and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for your cooperation as we manage this challenging situation. Emmy is keeping a record of all artist team changes and we will keep this ‘disruption’ in mind as we begin to create teams for next year. For those of you travelling through China on your way to other events, I understand your event coordinators and/or Emmy are in touch with you to change plans. Artists based in China have been asked to cancel trips to events outside of the region (taking place in the next month) and we thank you for your cooperation in this.

The event coordinators are your first port of call should you have concerns or queries about the state of play of any given event. A number of ECs are travelling this week to Chennai, so if you receive an out of office or do not receive a reply immediately, please do feel free to email me directly on

Jo, Tom and I will continue to meet regularly to ensure that decisions are made in a timely manner and that, in all cases, these decisions are taken with the safeguarding of young people at the fore. We thank you for your patience. There will inevitably be disruptions to the ISTA calendar and the nuances are plentiful; we are responding to the outbreak on a case by case basis and have been overwhelmed by the care, consideration and generosity of all those we have spoken to.

Thank you

Sally Robertson
ISTA executive director