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International Schools Theatre Association Festival
By Vikkii Allen, Drama & English Teacher

The High School drama department was excited to welcome 101 students from 9 schools to the International Schools Theatre Association (ISTA) Festival last weekend. ISTA brings together young people, artists and teachers from different countries in different settings to experience, create and learn about theatre and this was the second time ISZL has hosted one of its festivals. The visiting students from Germany, England, Turkey, and as far away as China joined our own for three days of workshops and group activities culminating in a final day of performances.

This year’s theme was ‘Holding a mirror to nature’, and students were able to take inspiration from visiting local landmarks including the Glacier Garden and the Bourbaki Panorama in Luzern. Throughout the festival, students were divided into 5 ensemble groups, led by the very experienced ISTA artists: Pete Benson, Alessandra Fel, Emily Jane Grant, Desta Haile, and Chris Salisbury. Each ensemble devised a performance based on the theme, using poems, pictures, stories and lyrics. Students explored, role-played, and devised small scenes which acted as building blocks for their final performance. It was exciting to visit each ensemble during the process to see the different takes on the theme and the various styles used to explore it. What was particularly fascinating to witness, was how much material was created which didn’t make the final performance; it was truly only a snippet of all the hard work which the students put in over the three days.

As well as working in ensembles groups, students had the opportunity to participate in workshops, led by ISTA artists and past ISZL drama teacher, Raschid Kayrooz, current Middle School drama teacher, Alexis Dahl, and performing arts teacher, Michaela Albright. Students explored Viewpoints, the world of shadow theatre, partner yoga, 7 levels of tension, and Theatre of the Oppressed. Although the workshops were not directly related to the theme, it was clear that students found ways to incorporate their new learning into their ensemble performances. Furthermore, all students were led through a 5 Rhythms workshop by practitioner Bea Hüsler, freeing the body and letting movement lead the way.

There is something very special about an ISTA festival. Sometimes it is hard to put into words and must be experienced to fully grasp the impact that it has. Students from all over the world come together with a common goal. They arrived on Thursday afternoon and the excited yet nervous tension could be felt throughout the whole-group warm-up. Over the course of the weekend, they played, collaborated, shared personal experiences, learned to trust each other, created, critiqued, and discussed cultural differences. By Sunday afternoon, friendships had been formed by the journey which the students had taken together. There was a sadness in the air, as the students waved each other goodbye and departed for the airport, yet hopefully, as the students continue on their life’s journey, wherever that may lead them, they will look back with fondness on the truly unique experience which an ISTA festival provides – the feeling of empowerment to engage with the world and change it responsibly.

Thank you to all those who hosted students and visitors during the festival, your warm welcome was much appreciated.

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