I attended Acting Out – The Challenges of Childhood Collaboration in Creation of Drama for Life today at the Cradle of Creativity. The panel was facilitated by Cedric Wembe, a member of Drama for Life, which is based at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. I was struck by his passion when referring to participation in Children’s Theatre and caught up with him afterwards to find out about his work and experience of Cradle.
You can hear an interview (7 minutes) with Cedric here:
Or, if you would prefer to read the interview, please find below the full transcript:
CEDRIC WEMBE (CW): My name is Cedric, Cedric Wembe, I’m a Master’s graduate from the University of Wits, in Johannesburg, in Drama for Life. I am currently busy with my PhD on Children’s Theatre. My Master’s work was focusing on participation, the role of participation in educational theatre for Young Audiences. And my PhD work is looking into Children’s Theatre, framing Children’s Theatre for the 21st century African child. What is it that African kids, or kids in general, see when they are sitting in a Performance venue? What is Theatre for them? Is there anything called Theatre for Kids? So this is what my PhD work is looking into. I’ve been in South Africa for four years, this is my fourth year. I came in 2012, on the 4th of February, to do a Master’s.
JOSEPHINE LANE [DIALOGUE] (JL): Excellent. So what do you think, based on what you’re doing for your research, what has ASSITEJ’s conference, the Cradle of Creativity, given you?
CW: The conference has just made me more determined to do the work because for the past three days I’ve realised how much we tend to assume in the work we do, how much we tend to lose focus of who we are doing work for and I’m trying to bring my humble contribution into this field so that practitioners, like myself, and future practitioners could maybe look into my work and say, there’s someone who did research on what kids value in a Performance. And it is important that we understand how the people we do work for think and view a Performance, rather than assuming that because we have so and so in a Performance they will definitely identify with them. I’ve heard a couple of discourses during the conference and they are just motivating me to do the work of my PhD.
JL: And have you seen positive examples of work here that you think are doing what it is you are looking to find?
CW: Yes. There is quite a good amount of, I mean all the papers that I have listened to were very rich, but, like I said, my fear and my concern was that I felt that some of the issues developed in those papers were coming from an assumption point of view. And this is why, and I think this probably why Theatre for Young Audiences is still very complicated to define by scholars because it”s – and this is my personal thought – I think it’s because of the various assumptions that researchers, practitioners have in mind. For instance, you have a situation where an organisation is asked to do a production for kids and actually, like the last speaker, the last question, about how long do you prepare for a production for Young Audiences, and you have a situation where Theatre for Young Audiences becomes a quick way of making easy money. Where you can raise a production overnight. You actually design a whole production in four hours and then go and perform […] Are we doing work for money or are we doing work for the kids? I understand that as artists we need to be sustained and this is very important but, at the end of the day, we cannot compromise the quality of the work. We cannot compromise the nature of our work because we need to feed ourselves. You understand what I am saying? So, there is value in every single paper that I have listened to. There’s quite a good number of presenters that I am definitely going to quote in my work and that I have decided to keep the contact for the papers of my PhD research.
JL: Who are you looking forward to seeing? What shows?
CW: In terms of show?
JL: Yeah, anything that you’re excited about here.
CW: I don’t have the titles of the shows now but I have ‘Animal Farm’ that I definitely have to watch. Not only because I know the Producer and the lead cast but simply because I’ve heard a lot of positive feedback about the play. I also came into this space with the intention to engage with the Young Audience in preparation with my research. I’m not here to collect data but I’m simply here to just have a pre-conversation with young audiences.
JL: And do you think you’ve achieved that?
CW: I’ve not done that yet and I’m going to start doing that from tomorrow. But I’m sure that I’m going to have a pre-conversation with Young Audiences and I’m definitely sure that I’m going to have a few ideas of what kids value as Performance. So, I’m going to engage with the kids, not for the purpose of the research but as a curious being, as a curious practitioner who is simply trying to ask Young Audiences what their experience was like.
JL: Do you feel supported by ASSITEJ to be able to do that?
CW: Definitely. To be honest with you, quite frankly, I was amazed when my abstract was accepted for the Congress. And I was double time amazed when I was informed that, instead of a poster, I was doing a paper presentation and a poster presentation. I was like, woah!
JL: You shouldn’t be [surprised]. It sounds really interesting!
CW: ASSITEJ has really, really, this platform for me is priceless. I did not anticipate this and I’m very grateful for that.
JL: Tell us when your talk is so that people who listen can come and see it.
CW: I’ve presented already. Unfortunately it was yesterday. I presented a poster and on Tuesday I presented a paper.
JL: Next ASSITEJ [Congress]. Next time I’ll make sure I see it.