The History of ASSITEJ, Vol. I

      Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schneider
      President of ASSITEJ
      “Children Need Theater
      and Theater Needs ASSITEJ”
            What is ASSITEJ? Who is ASSITEJ? What does ASSITEJ do? These are questions that are constantly being asked. They are not always easy to answer. They are questions that reveal the tasks and goals of ASSITEJ. One should first explain the meaning of the Acronym, what its mission statement declares, and who, what, and where it is supported.
            ASSITEJ has a website on the Internet for these answers. Also, one can learn through “The ASSITEJ Book” published every two years, or one can subscribe to the quarterly Newsletter. In addition ASSITEJ publishes a Festival Guide that lists hundreds of events all over the world where one can see many theater performances for young audiences in just a few days. On 20 March every year ASSITEJ also celebrates the International Children's and Young People's Theater Day with a prominent message and multiple activities. ASSITEJ holds a world congress every three years with an international program of theater performances and discussions.
            In over forty years ASSITEJ has established an international network of more than 80 national centers on six continents devoted to the support of theater for children and young people. ASSITEJ is a youth, educational, and cultural-political initiative. It is about making theater for children and young people possible; it is about the art of theater for a young audience; it is about social communication, aesthetic education, the right to art and culture--just as the United Nations declared in Article 31 of the Children’s Rights Convention.
            ASSITEJ is an association of community users, and an association that has declared such honorable goals that it needs honorable members. ASSITEJ needs people who are voluntarily engaged in the subject: such people, with a convincing idea, with clever energy, with a great devotion to children, youth, and theater, are thankful for the establishment of ASSITEJ. These kinds of people have laid a foundation for an international organization that, in the era of the cold war, in times of north-south and east-west conflicts, and in times of political silence, came together, discussed together, and remained together. The adhesive was not politics--their common interest was the young audience. The theater was and is the world, in which much is possible--including the impossible.
            The history of ASSITEJ is a success story: that artistic and cultural exchanges are the best politics, that cooperation and co-production require that the partners want to meet each other, want to know each other, want to to learn from each other; because they have become acquainted with each other. This mutual interest demands infrastructure, knowledge must become experience, and cooperation wants to be organized.
            A few people found each other, worked together, and established ASSITEJ. It is time to document this story. Dr. Nat Eek, Honorary President of ASSITEJ, was there from the beginning. He has written his history of ASSITEJ. Painstakingly collected, chronologically organized and benevolently formulated, it was written with the assistance of Honorary Member of ASSITEJ Dr. Ann M. Shaw and Mrs. Katherine Krzys, Curator of the ASSITEJ/USA archives at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona. They are to be thanked for their great work, for the research that recalled important memories, for the larger story that through the telling of the smaller stories becomes understandable.
            On the way to the first half century of work for ASSITEJ, we hold the documentation for the first decade in our hands. Now we all as participants in ASSITEJ know where we have come from, what is behind us, but also what the responsibility is to shape the future before us. A future without a past is unthinkable. “Here we go” is only possible when you pay attention to what has been.
            Dr. Eek is our historical biographer and our biographical historian. In the name of the Executive Committee of ASSITEJ, I offer him my heartfelt congratulations, and for all people who feel the call and the connection to ASSITEJ, I express my gratitude, and I close my thanks to Dr. Eek particularly as one of those who served in the founding years of ASSITEJ. And I would like to express a wish: Dear Nat, let’s read more from you very soon: In Volume 2 & 3, the history of ASSITEJ from 1975 to the present.
      Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schneider
      President of ASSITEJ
      The above is a translation from the original German (below) by Erik Eek and edited by Eckhard Mittelstaedt and Nat Eek