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Created in 1961 by UNESCO, World Theatre Day is celebrated annually on March 27 by theatre communities around the globe. The impetus behind World Theatre Day is to honour and further the goal of UNESCO’s International Theatre Institute (ITI) to celebrate the power of theatre to serve as an indispensable bridge-builder for mutual international understanding and peace as well as to promote and protect cultural diversity and identity in communities throughout the world.

Since 2011, PACT, together with l’Association des théâtres francophones du Canada (ATFC) and the Playwrights Guild of Canada (PGC), has commissioned a message each year to promote and celebrate World Theatre Day from a distinctly Canadian perspective.

In 2018, this message has been written by Nina Lee Aquino and translated into French by Djennie Laguerre.

  • Click the links below to download printable versions of the message in English, French, and other languages.
  • Scroll down to read the full message online in English.
  • Use the tabs to download this year’s international messages and read about ways to participate in the day.

Nina Lee Aquino is an award-winning director and dramaturge. She is the current Artistic Director of Factory Theatre.

Nina is the editor of Canada’s first Asian-Canadian 2-volume drama anthology love + relasianships and the co-editor of the award-winning New Essays on Canadian Theatre Volume One: Asian Canadian Theatre (Playwrights Canada Press).

Awards for her work include: the Ken McDougall Award 2004, the Canada Council John Hirsch Prize 2008, and two Dora Mavor Moore Awards for Outstanding Direction.

Nina Lee Aquino’s message has also been translated into the following languages:

A Different Kind of Heart Surgery

By Nina Lee Aquino

World Theatre Day, Canada
March 27, 2018

When I am asked why I do what I do, the answer I always give is: to make the world a better place. This is because I fundamentally believe that theatre can change the world. Maybe that belief is – to some – too facile, even foolhardy or cliché. But this is the marathon I run; the long-distance race I ask all the artists I align myself with to run alongside me.

For me, it really is as simple as that.

Theatre has survived and thrived despite all that would threaten its existence or relevance. From radio, cinema and television, to sporting events and the ubiquity of streaming technology. It is the only art form that, by its nature, absolutely requires an audience. It needs us all together, watching an event that happens in space. And when you think about that, it’s really quite miraculous. We put something on stage and people come. Could be a group of friends on an adventurous night out, could be family members wanting to see their loved ones perform, could be out of obligation… doesn’t matter. When the lights go to half and then out, they rise again on a united community, bound by the story about to unfold.

On our stages (traditional or non-traditional) the audiences become not just witnesses to, but active participants of:

stories that show us the wounds
stories that show us the medicine
stories that allow us to forget about the world outside
stories that remind us there is an outside
stories that punch us in the gut
stories that make our insides go fuzzy
stories that teach us something
stories that make us un-learn everything
stories that throw us back to the past, reminding us how far we’ve come
stories that catapult us into the future and make us imagine

All of these are vitally important – from seat-filling crowd-pleasers to theatre about hard truths, from theatre that comforts to theatre that disturbs.

I’ve seen my fair share of productions – big houses, small houses, no houses – and for all my theatrical adventures, I know this much to be true: I walk in one person and walk out someone different. Every. Single. Damn. Time. That’s what theatre does; it opens up something inside of us or re-confirms something essential we’d forgotten about ourselves or others or the world. Whether we realize it or not, we come out of it changed, transformed, re-arranged. It’s breathtaking, if you think about it. We hold so much power to change the world.

Maybe this makes it easier to understand why it’s so important to rally for a more inclusive and diverse theatre ecology… why some of us have dedicated our entire careers to this cause. The belief goes beyond a hashtag or quotas or getting more funding from government bodies. It goes beyond the standard reply of “…reflecting the city and country we live in…” Diverse stories present diverse solutions; imaginative ways of telling stories unlock answers to seemingly impossible questions, can lead to innovative ways of solving problems, infinite new perspectives and a renewed capacity to dream bigger than we have before.

That is, after all, the job that is tasked to us as theatre artists: to ask our people, our community, our citizenship, to experience something together; something immediate and visceral and necessary. We remind people how big and important and complicated of a thing it is just to be human. And while we are sometimes beset by the trappings of ticket sales and reviews and awards, we trade in something much more valuable. It’s a different kind of heart surgery.

The work that we do on or behind the stage; we are communicating something, expressing something important. We can remind or help forget. We can rally, call people to action. We can influence and illuminate. We can provoke or calm. Theatre has, historically, played a big role in our civic lives. It can play an even bigger role if we can all collectively agree to allow it to. If we ascribe that value to it.

In the face of current struggles of which we are all very much aware, I maintain a steadfast belief in the power of my profession; in the power of theatre and its vitality to all of us humans. It is so clear that our job as theatre artists is nowhere near done.

Whether it’s an audience of 10 or 100 or 10,000… we can, and we will, change the world.

Nina Lee Aquino is an award-winning director and dramaturge. She is the current Artistic Director of Factory Theatre.

Past Canadian World Theatre Day Messengers

  • 2011 – Michel Ouellette
  • 2012 – Daniel David Moses
  • 2013 – Micheline Chevrier
  • 2014 – Mélanie Léger
  • 2015 – Mieko Ouchi
  • 2016 – Sky Gilbert
  • 2017 – Gilles Poulin-Denis
  • 2018 – Nina Lee Aquino

The International Theatre Institute (ITI) commissions an international message each year in celebration of World Theatre Day. Since 1962, World Theatre Day has been celebrated by ITI Centres, ITI Cooperating Members, theatre professionals, theatre organizations, theatre universities and theatre lovers all over the world on the 27th of March. This day is a celebration for those who can see the value and importance of the art form “theatre”, and acts as a wake-up-call for governments, politicians and institutions which have not yet recognized its value to the people and to the individual and have not yet realized its potential for economic growth.

To celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the International Theatre Institute and to underline the cross-cultural and international aspect of theatre, ITI has selected five message authors to write a message – one from each of the five UNESCO Regions: Africa, the Americas, Arab Countries, Asia Pacific and Europe.

2018 International World Theatre Day Messages

Ram Gopal Bajaj, India

Sabina Berman, Mexico

Wèrê Wèrê Liking, Ivory Coast

Simon McBurney, United Kingdom

Maya Zbib, Lebanon

Visit the International Theatre Institute’s World Theatre Day website for more information and materials, including translations of these messages.

Join the Conversation!

From Tuesday, March 20 (WDTCYP) to Tuesday, March 27 (World Theatre Day), PACT wants to share stories around the following themes:

  • the power of storytelling
  • the joy of connecting with audiences
  • the breadth of voices and artistic practices in Canadian theatre
  • the importance of theatre in our communities across the country

Whether as a company or as an individual, we encourage you to join the conversation on social media. You could share PACT’s posts, create a post around one of the themes above, or mark the celebration in your own way!

Our World Theatre Day Engagement Toolkit (pdf download) has some social media tips to help you get started. At the end of the document, you’ll find printable sheets with questions that you could ask staff members, artists, or even audience members to answer for you. Or you can download them here:

We created these promptsheets as a quick and easy way to participate. Simply:

  1. Choose a prompt to print out.
  2. Write your answer on the sheet.
  3. Take a selfie holding up your answer, or even film a short video of yourself answering the question.
  4. Post to your social media account any time from Tuesday, March 20 to Tuesday, March 27. Don’t forget to tag us!
  5. That’s it! Time to take a break and check out what your colleagues are posting…

These celebrations are also great opportunities to connect with elected officials and other arts advocates in your community. Visit our Advocacy Toolkit for resources and ideas.

As well, there are plenty of ways to take the celebration into your theatre! Some companies read the messages from the stage or post them in the lobby. You could also offer special events such as artist talks or backstage tours, or link your ongoing engagement events to the occasion.

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