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World Theatre Day – Message from NEATA

Sofia Wegelius

Today we celebrate World Theatre Day, and as the president of an organization like NEATA (North Amateur Theatre Alliance, I will take this opportunity to talk a little about why I find it so important to work with amateur theatre in an international context. 

NEATA is a network of North European amateur theatre organizations that collaborate to create opportunities for our members and for all of you out there who make theatre out of passion for the art. NEATA also offers a possibility for us who work with amateur theatre to meet, to share experiences, and to support each other. For many of us, the work can at times be quite lonely, and we have found through NEATA we have a lot to gain by supporting each other. No one knows everything, but our collected knowledge is a force to be reckoned with. This support is what helps people stay in a demanding and at times stressful job. We all need someone to support us, be that from within our own office or from a neighboring country.

This is such a vital part of what I find important with international work. When working with creativity and art, we continuously need inspiration and new influences to evolve. In the meetings created in an international environment, we can investigate our differences but also find what binds us together, what we share and how we can help each other. We have a chance to investigate our own cultural heritage through the eyes of others and even foster our own group dynamic just by sharing an adventure together. Meeting each other fosters understanding, respect, self-confidence, and new inspiration for the future.

I have never met anyone attending a international festival or theatre workshop who felt they got absolutely nothing out of it. Even if they wouldn’t have learned something new, they made new contacts, found new confidence, and perhaps made new friends for life (not to mention the ones who fell in love with someone at such an event… yes, we even have NEATA babies!).
In a world where it seems like polarization, self-interest and controversy are growing, learning about each other and spending time together, can even be seen as peace work. Theatre has a way of reminding and showing us what is important, both in the way we practice theatre, through collaboration, respect, and common interest, but also through the stories we can tell on stage. Theatre in an international context is about exactly that. It can facilitate a meaningful dialogue in a diverse cultural environment, which helps dispel stereotypes and counter prejudices. Theatre and art were not created as something that should or even could stay within one nation’s borders; They are built upon influences from different cultures and different people. 

My hope is that every theatre group would get at least once the chance to visit an international event, to meet other groups and see how they work with theatre. I truly believe it will be an experience to remember, so go spread your wings and learn to fly! I hope to see you soon at an international event somewhere in the world. 

To all the amateur theatre enthusiasts and to all the wonderful friends around the world that I personally have gotten to know through theatre, I wish you all a happy World Theatre Day!

Sofia Wegelius

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