[Will’s Blog 1. March 29]
And so it begins—The International Community Arts Festival 2023!
In March of 2020, a certain uncertainty that was unfolding around the planet meant that Edition 8 of the festival could not be the traditional full-on gathering of artists coming to Rotterdam. Nevertheless, our intrepid crew of producers managed, as we say in Canada, to deek the pandemic. In the face of the lockdowns, they navigated around obstacles to find creative and unconventional approaches that would allow them to carry on elements of the work in small but significant ways. And that is why we properly celebrate the start of ICAF 2023: The Sound of Change, as Edition 9.
Let me take a moment to introduce myself. My name is Will Weigler. I am a community-engaged theatre maker, writer and storyteller based in in Vancouver Canada. I feel humbled and grateful to have been asked by our friends at ICAF to serve as a rapporteur for this year’s festival. It is the responsibility of a rapporteur to be witness to the events at a gathering and tell the story of what happened, both for those who were there and for those who were not. A rapporteur listens, watches, and asks questions:
What are the common concerns and aspirations here? What are some of the compelling stories that might help to express what has meaning for the people who are here?
What are the hard questions these people are asking, and what significant insights emerge from the time they spend together?
My contribution is only one part of the planned documentation series at this year’s festival.
Obviously, I am not some omniscient, unbiased narrator in this story. My perceptions will inevitably be limited by my position as a white, North American, cis-gendered man (see “humbled and grateful” above). Still, through my daily blog posts I will try to bring out what insights I have learned over years of personal and professional dedication to community arts.
There is a general understanding that the heart of our work is about building, sustaining, and expanding relationships and I will be looking for how this is manifested in the performances, workshops, events, conversations, happenings, and the in-between moments that make up the festival. For my part, whether I am taking on the role of teacher, steward, stage director, or witness, I am always curious about two additional significant questions: What makes this work beautiful? and What makes this work emancipatory? By “beautiful” I don’t mean “pretty”, I mean it in the way that James Thompson describes the powerful “call” of beauty in the broadest sense that invites us into a felt understanding—a felt experience—of the performers’ worlds. By “emancipatory” I mean that I am keen to characterize how it is that art can succeed in dispelling stigma, can evocatively reveal stories long ignored or prohibited, and can magnificently amplify different people’s ways of seeing and knowing the world. These are the lenses that I will look (and listen) through as I reflect on the questions being asked at this year’s festival and as I engage with the aspirations of the those who are doing the work and are documenting it. As always, there will be multiple layers woven together as we move through the week. Along with the main festival theme, “The Sound of Change”, this community will be exploring aspects of: Health and Care, Silence and Censorship, Inclusivity and Participation, & Women’s Experiences.
As a storyteller by nature, I look forward to sharing with you what I see, hear, feel, and learn this week in the form of stories. Through them, I will offer my personal reflections on what makes this work beautiful and what makes this work emancipatory.