This is the state of OISTAT. We are alive and well and we are maturing nicely. Yes, we are a mature organization. We are moving toward our half century mark and that makes us one of the older international professional arts organizations. While many people may roll their eyes when they consider professional artists and technicians forming any kind of an organization, the fact remains – as a group of women and men, we are hardworking, we as individuals and as an organization have and often use good common sense, we know how to collaborate, we are sensitive to society’s needs, and we are concerned about theatre arts, crafts, and technology of today and the future. We are alive and well and ready for the long haul – after all our organization is maturing nicely.
We are a mature organization. While that thought may conjure up images of a room filled with grey haired old men, that would be oversimplifying the idea of maturity.
A mature organization is concerned about its members, both current and future. It concerns itself with looking forward in an effort to plan and build not just for the present, but for the future. A mature organization elects good leaders and concerns itself with cultivating new leaders. Our election provides good evidence of the health of OISTAT. In economics we hear of the “trickledown theory,” OISTAT seems strongest when the “trickle up practice” is at work. The whole is made stronger by the vigorous work and creativity of the parts, while the organization provides the encouragement, network and framework for the work of the parts – the commissions, working groups, and projects.
Our maturity is also tested by our willingness to review and test our corporate guidelines – our Mission and Goals. Are we fulfilling our goals that move us to the dreams and aspirations we have for ourselves? Are we being active in this endeavor or are simply expecting someone else to do the heavy lifting that keeps us on track? In our mission statement we have said that OISTAT is formed to stimulate the exchange of ideas and innovations, and to promote international collaboration in professions which support live performance; and further, we are to encourage life-long learning among live performance practitioners; and we are to respect the integrity of all cultures and celebrate the diversity as well as the similarities of those who work in support of live performance.
One way we can test the validity of our Mission is to review recent accomplishments:
A number of these projects began as small projects within an OISTAT Commission, they have now taken on a “life of their own,” and are now considered organizational projects. That is not to say that Commission members don’t still provide the primary inspiration and vitality to the project.
The project that seems to have reached the greatest international audience is Scenofest. The newest edition of Scenofest is well underway and will undoubtedly reach even more young designers, technicians and budding architects than previous iterations of the project. While nearly every Commission is involved, the core effort still grows out the efforts of the Education Commission.
Another OISTAT project that engages designers from throughout the world, is the second edition of World Stage Design. This edition of WSD is under the guidance and auspices of the Korean Centre of OISTAT, KTAA and its principle leader, SungChul Kim. Exhibitions that focus on the work of designers from throughout the world presented in traditional gallery displays as well as in digital format are an excellent way for OISTAT to bring colleagues together and reinforce international networking. The key organizational force for a WSD is an OISTAT Centre. Needless to say, this is a two way street. While the designers benefit may be obvious, the benefit to the host Centre and its members, as well as non-members who have an interest in the theatre, are truly enriched by such an exhibition.
Another Commission based OISTAT project that has existed for about 35 years, is the OISTAT Theatre Architecture Competition. The 7th edition was held at the last Prague Quadrennial. During the course of the competition, there were 5 significant lectures and workshops presented by the Commission. The PQ venue provides OISTAT with a large and vital audience of professional colleagues and students. Like Scenofest, the Architecture Competition enriches PQ and provides extraordinary opportunities for OISTAT members and guests.
In 2008 our Executive Director, Wei-Wen Chang, with the support of the OISTAT Executive Committee developed and produced an exciting summer workshop, Ghost Festival: From Ritual to Theatre. The aim of the project was to promote multi-lateral cultural exchange. The project attracted international scenographers, folk scholars, and live performance artists. The success of this OISTAT project has engendered a second project: Asian Ritual Festival Workshop: From Ritual to Theatre: Workshop for Ritual Inspiration in Korea. The project is sponsored by SangMyung University and the project’s director is HyeSook Chang. Both of these projects are good examples of OISTAT’s presence creating a win-win situation. The host country provides an international workshop, hosts foreign designers and scholars, and also invites designers and scholars from their own country. No one leaves the workshop empty handed or without new friends and colleagues.
In addition to these remarkable events, we have several publications that are ready or are currently in production. Chris Lievaart with the support of OISTAT has completed another chapter in the history of OISTAT: 40 years of OISTAT: the Dutch Years. A testament to the post Prague years of OISTAT and the many people who made things happen during that period. In addition, Peter McKinnon and Eric Fielding with help from an impressive list of associate editors are preparing the first volume of a new three volume series, World Scenography 1975-1990. This remarkable new series will provide a global view of the best of Scenography.
While OISTAT’s involvement in printed documents is still in evidence, its work on something new, Digital Theatre Words, is well underway. The up-to-date listing of theatre words and the comprehensive collection of languages will set this new theatre tool apart from previous theatre dictionaries. Jerome Maeckelbergh has diligently shepherded this project. The launch date for the project is PQ 2011.
Since the last World Congress there have been Commission and Working Group meetings in Europe, Asia, Africa, and North America. The newly developed “low cost” meetings have helped Commissions and Working Groups hold meetings in locations that previously may have been overlooked. There have been a number of Centres that have truly stretched their resources to the breaking point to offer OISTAT potential meeting locations and more importantly, the opportunity for OISTAT members to network with the professionals of the host country.
This sounds like nothing but good news to me. It seems to me that we have fulfilled the Mission and Goals statement that I read to you a few moments ago. So – we must be doing our job and doing it well. But wait, there is one line in the Mission Statement that I forgot to mention:
OISTAT is to promote the formation of centres in each country in order to achieve these aims. This is a goal that may be harder to achieve, but this is a goal that may be at the heart of OISTAT’s future. Once again, the whole is enriched by not just the quality of its parts, but by the number of people that participate. It is wonderful that we have encouraged individual members and associate members to join with us, but our Mission can only be fulfilled when more Centres (and their members) are brought into the network. We can only accomplish this by making use of our existing strengths. Our Commission and Working Group members need to continue proselytizing groups from other countries. Our Centres need to invite groups of designers and technicians from other countries to their meetings, and other events. Many of you have been tireless in your efforts to tell the world about OISTAT and its accomplishments. I know our president, Michael Ramsaur has spent the last two years of his life on the run from one continent to another, from group of professionals and educators to another, preaching the value of being a part of this professional network. I applaud his selfless and tireless efforts on our behalf. While we have many workshops, publications, exhibitions, and academies to demonstrate the value of OISTAT, the true value of OISTAT can only be gained when new Centres are formed and their members engaged in this vibrant network of professionals.
With the guidance, perseverance, and great creative energy of our member Centres and their members, OISTAT has accomplished great things. Like a good theatre, we need to engage larger audiences, for like the theatre, we cannot be complete without that special symbiotic relationship (performance and audience --- OISTAT and Centres). It is time to put our individual and collective “thinking caps” on. We need to begin building Centres and by building Centres, we build OISTAT and increase its value to our network of theatre professionals.
OISTAT is alive and well. Its future is in its hands.
OISTAT Executive Committee member (2005-2009)