Watershed – Keynote – Baba Israel

Today (April 11th 2013) is the opening day of Watershed, the second National Theatre Summit for Young and Emerging Artists happening over the next few days in Canberra.  Coinciding with both National Youth Week and Centenary of Canberra Celebrations and in the lead up to the Australian Theatre Forum, Watershed has brought togther 50+ young artists (under 30) to connect/inspire/challenge/interrogate/consider/share.

After a very brief registration period and welcome from the implementation committee here in Canberra we launched straight into Baba Israel’s keynote.

A google search for Baba Israel reveals all kinds of interesting things. Links to various youtube videos (many well worth checking out) and various articles and profiles about his life and work.

None of them are as interesting as the man himself in the flesh. Baba fills the space and his interactions with an openness of spirit, a deeply caring masculinity that is refreshing and very special me thinks. Right down to his endearing orange tee and cap and improvised spoken word response to our desires for Watershed (#watershedACT on twitter in case you’re wondering).

At the heart of it, Baba is a storyteller and his keynote shared the story of his artistic life starting from his earliest years as the child of deeply artistic parents (raised by parents who were core members of The Living Theatre), Baba was present in the rehearsal room as a baby, being held by Directors and other creatives in room as his parents worked. Like many young people, he had a period of rebellion,  attending a science high school – that didn’t work out – but the arts remained an integral part of his life and way of engaging with the world.

Baba touched on the value of this early exposure to the arts, which I really agree with, although my own road into the arts was quite different, much later in life and more accidental. I wonder how much this early exposure and immersion in an artistic life/community shapes the confidence to explore/experiment/fail that I often struggle with. Thought for another day perhaps

Anywho – Baba honed his skills as a street performer with a lens on creating and reclaiming space (a nice link to my recent adventures at Creating Spaces). Baba spoke a lot about the power of improvisation in this early days and as his career continued to develop. The importance of enjoying and being present in that moment – responding to what is actually happening around you. Again this repeats themes from Creating Spaces and leads into a deeper discussion about having a willingness to try and fail and try again. Yes, universe I know. I know.

I don’t need lights and a stage. I can explore and express anywhere – Baba Israel

Through travel, accidental discovery and connections with others Baba discovered hip hop and hip hop through theatre as a tool for community development and education and from what I can find on the interwebs, this is *some* of what he’s best known for now (as a hip hop and spoken word artist).

Baba also spoke at length about play back theatre, which dovetails quite closely with fourm theatre/theatre of the oppressed and I am interested to learn more about play back theatre myself over the next little while.

There was so much shared actually that my notes are a little bit of a mess. I will curate this blog post a little better tomorrow when I’ve had some sleep but in the meantime…..

Some of the key questions/ideas I took away:

  • Creating spaces where people have agency is where the youth sector shines
  • As an artists you are constantly ’emerging’ and rediscovering yourself
  • We are all resources for each other. How can we best connect and tap into those resources. #tapthat
  • I (Alysha) really do love spoken word.
  • What are the reasons that a particular community doesn’t or can’t connect with theatre/performing arts
  • Professional doesn’t always involve money. It can be about commitment
  • Diversity doesn’t always happen accidentally (in fact it rarely does). Diversity often needs to be deliberate.
  • How do you maintain longevity in a company context – the importance of developing a shared language
  • Research can deepen one’s practise. It’s okay to have a break from ‘making’
  • A lot of theatre spaces usher young people in and then usher then out. How do we create spaces that young people can own?
  • Local. International. National. Instead of Local. National. International.
  • I should learn more about tele presence

You can find Baba here and here.

Also – YES, YES and YES to Contact’s board hearing the veto of their youth panel on choosing the next Artistic Director. If it’s a youth theatre company, all the major decision should absolutely be informed by and made with the young people of the company. So glad to finally find someone else that gets this and can articulate it the way it feels to me.

One response to “Watershed – Keynote – Baba Israel

  1. Pingback: Lost in Abundance Panel – #watershedACT | creating art in the desert

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