MANILA -- When the International Theater Institute (ITI) was created in 1948, the world was still recovering from the devastation caused by World War II. Sadly, the conflict among nations would continue for decades because of the start of what was dubbed the Cold War.
The ITI founders were the first United Nations Educational Scientific Cultural Organization (UNESCO) director general, Sir Julian Huxley, and playwright-novelist JB Priestly, whose aim was to build “a cultural organization for the performing arts that was aligned with UNESCO’s goals on culture, education, the arts, mutual understanding and peace.”
Seventy-five years later, the ITI has grown to be the world’s biggest organization for the performing arts, having established 90 ITI centers in all continents.
In the Philippines, the ITI carries the missions and visions of providing Filipinos the opportunity to perform regardless of one’s social status. The ITI-Philippine Center, over the years, has been reaching out to indigenous peoples, the differently-abled, prisoners, economically challenged communities and other marginalized groups.
The ITI members would usually convene every year for its World Congress to personally build and renew ties. The founding Congress was held in Prague in 1948 and has been conducted 26 times in Europe, four times in Asia Pacific and five times in the Americas.
Though it started as an annual event, it became biannual and eventually has been held every three years. The Philippines proudly hosted the event in 2006.
For 2023, the ITI announced that its 36th World Congress will happen in Fujairah City in the United Arab Emirates, from February 20 to 25.
The theme is “Reunite, for the Performing Arts and Humanism” because this will be the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic that members from all over the world would gather together on-site.
Under the patronage of UNESCO, it will be hosted and co-organized by the Fujairah Government, with the support from H. R.H. Sheikh Hamad bin Mohammed Al Sharqi, ruler of Fujairah and the Supreme Council Member of UAE, and H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad Al Sharqi, Crown Prince of Fujairah.
And like in 1948, the world is still recovering from devastation, though not physically but emotionally, economically and psychologically, caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The president of the ITI-Philippine Center is former senator and local government secretary Joey Lina and recently, he announced the list of the eight-member delegation.
Lina, who is also known as a tenor and award-winning broadcast journalist-columnist, said the delegates will collectively provide a panorama of the Philippine “culturescape” during the pandemic.
Leading the participants is Cecile Guidote-Alvarez, Earthsavers Dreams Ensemble and the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) founding artistic director.
Among the distinguished theater and dance artists who will join the delegations are veteran actor Frank Rivera, who is also vice president of the ITI PHL Center; Shirley Halili-Cruz, chair of the dance committee; Norbs Portales of PETA, chairman of the forum for theater training of ITI PHL Center; Tanghalang Banyuhay founding artistic director Roderick Alo, who is also secretary general of ITI PHL Center; Jorgina Velarde-David, secretary of the festival committee; veteran director-playwright-actor Anton Juan, chairperson of International Playwrights Forum; Benedict Balagot, secretary of the Music Committee; and Anthony Cruz, artistic director of Malabon National High School Tanghalang Bagong Sibol Theater and Dance Company.
Guidote-Alvarez, who is also president of the ITI Social Change Network, will moderate a panel that will talk about the topic “The Artists as Game Changers: A Global Modeling of UNESCO SDGs ResiliArt Cross-Cultural Lifelong Learning for Healing Trauma and Creative Empowerment.”
Guidote-Alvarez is also director of the Earthsavers UNESCO Artist for Peace and was Magsaysay Outstanding Asian Laureate 1972 for founding PETA and pioneering a Third World Committee in the ITI. Recently, she was 2022 Global Artist Awardee at La MaMa Theatre, New York.
She said, “Artists have a vital role in confronting the existential crisis of the COVID 19 pandemic, climate catastrophes, conflict and collapsing economy through a techno-arts caregiving services bringing hope through capacity and confidence building.”
Selected artists from different continents will collectively share inclusive best practices. From Zimbabwe, there’s artist-life coach Getrude Vimbayi Munham. There’s also Nazaret Vazquez from Spain, Pooja Sengupta from Bangladesh, Jahir Rivera from Colombia and the techno cultural hub connectivity of La MaMa in New York with Seoul Institute of the Arts.
At the forum, they will collectively feature their resilience and passion in overcoming obstacles joined by the inspiring transformative experience of those in difficult circumstances.
“Not by force of arms and missiles but by the power of arts and media, we can collectively secure freedom from poverty and pollution, ignorance and injustice, disease and drugs, terrorism and tyranny to help stop violence against mankind and Mother Earth,” Guidote-Alvarez added.