World Theatre Day is here. For a second World Theatre Day in a row, Broadway and West End theatres are eyeing reopening dates. Yet in some countries, theatre is already open. In a few, it barely closed. So, to celebrate World Theatre Day 2021, we’ve been around the planet to see which countries are already welcoming audiences. Some of them might surprise you!
What is World Theatre Day?
World Theatre Day began in 1962, the idea of the International Theatre Institute (ITI). The theatre community celebrates it worldwide, annually on March 27th. Each year, an international message of peace and culture is shared by a leading figure. French poet and playwright, Jean Cocteau wrote the first. Since then, the message has been delivered by the great and the good of world theatre. They include Arthur Miller, Vaclav Havel, Edward Albee and John Malkovich. From British theatre, contributions have come from Dame Judi Dench, Richard Burton and Sir Laurence Olivier. This year’s World Theatre Day message is from Dame Helen Mirren.
“Human beings have told each other stories for as long as they have been on the planet. The beautiful culture of theatre will live for as long as we stay here. The creative urge of writers, designers, dancers, singers, actors, musicians, directors, will never be suffocated and in the very near future will flourish again with a new energy and a new understanding of the world we all share.
I can’t wait!”Helen Mirren – World Theatre Day 2021
Just last month, the London Theatre Reviews website reported Theatres in Sydney and Melbourne were operating at 75-85% capacity. That’s great news, not only for Australian audiences, but also for the rest of the theatrical world. It shows what is possible where well thought out, well observed measures are in place. Audiences can enjoy a choice of shows, from Harry Potter and the Cursed Child to the newly opened Hamilton. Masks are required, but ticket holders can even buy drinks and merchandise (so vital to help theatres break-even). What’s helpful to producers is clear, consistent communication of rules, for example by the New South Wales government.
Plenty of people wish Jacinda Ardern could be leader of the whole world, not just New Zealand. Ardern is passionate about the arts – she was Minister for Arts, Culture & Heritage before becoming Prime Minster. Even her surname, Ardern, has links to Shakespeare – William’s mother was Mary Arden. Auckland Theatre Company is about to begin performances of The Haka Party Incident. Audiences in Auckland can also currently enjoy Bill Bailey, on tour at the Civic Theatre. Next month, the Jersey Boys arrive in style! Jealous? Us? You bet!
A major tour of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats recently celebrated its 200th performance in South Korea. The production is touring the peninsula and recently spent a month at the Sejong Center of the Arts, Seoul. Currently in residence at the Dream Theater, Busan, the production will soon welcome Kerry Ellis to the role of Grizabella. After that, the tour continues in Taiwan, crossing the sea in June and July. That’s got to be encouraging news for producers of tours planning their UK schedules.
Another beacon of light in the past year has been the success of the Taiwanese Government in controlling the virus. While the rest of the theatre world was to a juddering halt, Taiwan got it’s act together fast. In January, the Financial Times reported on the continued opening of the beautiful National Kaohsiung Center for the Arts. Taiwan was the first country to resume live performances after Covid-19 hit. The fact that this is the largest arts complex under one roof anywhere in the world, just makes that all the more impressive. This may be more classical music than pure theatre, but there’s no getting away from the fact that The Arts in Asia are in great shape.
Madrid’s Teatro Real has remained open since last summer with performances at a reduced capacity, including masks and temperature checks. From 13th April they’ll be performing the Benjamin Britten Opera, Peter Grimes. A report in Euronews from November 2020 explained how this world famous opera house had made staying opening possible. It certainly wasn’t easy, but again it shows what can be done in the face of adversity, with enough planning.
The New York Time published an article ‘When Europe’s Theatres Reopen, Will Fans Return?‘ This features interviews with theatre fans from seven European countries. Their responses differ greatly, but there are common themes. Many have enjoyed being able to stream theatre online, but the overriding theme is this: people miss live theatre. They miss the intimacy. To paraphrase the great musical Hamilton, they miss being ‘in the room where it happens’.
Theatre Quizzes for World Theatre Day
While you’re waiting for Theatre to return where you live, try these fun theatre quizzes! See how well you know Theatre Moms with our Musical Mothers Quiz! Check out which Les Misérables Character you are! Finally, brush up your Shakespeare with our brand new lyrics quiz, Shakespeare or Jake Shears!
Are you missing being in the room where it happens? Can’t wait for live entertainment to return? Check out the best UK Attraction tickets: Perfect family days out while you wait! Theme parks, castles and drive-ins across England are set to reopen from 12th April. You might be surprised how close you are to one of the best days out in the UK!