Explain Europe! – Europe, explain!

12.-17.4.2019 – Education Center Retzhof Castle (Stmk. / A)

The 22nd International Conference „Drama / Theater in Education“ took place between 12th and 17th of April 2019. It was taken under the motto: „Explain Europe – Europe, explain!“ The topic was already important in November 2017 but to that time it was not clear how highly topical it would become around the event in April 2019.

The federal seminar took place in cooperation with the ÖBV Theater – specifically with the management of the Vorarlberg regional office (Dagmar Ullmann-Bautz) and the board of IDEA Austria, both parties responsible for organisation and implementation. In addition, the event could run as a „federal seminar“, which was handled by the NCoC (= „National Center of Competence for Cultural Education“; formerly „Center for School Cultural Work“) located at the University College of Teacher Education of Lower Austria. The entire conference – workshops and supporting programme – took place in the Education Center Retzhof Castle (Styria, near Leibnitz). AITA/IATA was also a partner, but for the first time in many years they did not hold a meeting during the conference days and hardly interfered with the programming.

60 participants from Germany, Slovakia, Spain, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Italy, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Sweden, South Africa, Ireland, Turkey, the Russian Federation, Canada and Austria were present. Among the participants were about 30 teachers from Austria who attended a federal seminar with international participation. The opening speech was given by a well-known theatre and movie director Bernd Liepold-Mosser; his key-note dealt mainly with the European idea in the ancient theatre tradition. The participants of the conference were divided into four groups, as is usual in this format; each group went through the workshops together over four days. They visibly enjoyed every single day and every single workshop.

The four lecturers were excellent this year; on the one hand they dealt with working methods from classical drama pedagogy and beyond (Allan Owen, University of Chester), on the other hand there were workshops which could be held in Austria for the first time (Maike Plath, the theatre pedagogical mixing board). Harald Volker Sommer, who had kept the Europäisches Theaterhaus in Lingen for several years, works primarily on the concept of the choral expression; Michael Judge was fortunately able to replace Kjell Moberg who had to cancel his participation. He showed how acting was a major inspiration for the development of the play. All workshops were excellent and offered the participants a lot of stimulation and inspiration; looking for a path through theory and practice is a tradition for the Austrian conference, but unusual in an international context.

In addition to the workshops, there was an extensive supporting programme: dancing, singing, drumming and the formats „Best Practice“ and „My favourite Game“. The international WAAE Conference (World Alliance for Art Education) was presented. Richard Finch (participant from South Africa) presented a 90-minute drama unit with themes from his home country.

The keynotes of the speakers complemented their drama/theatre pedagogical work in the workshops in different ways. The introduction to individual aspects of the topic was formulated in questions by the organisers; after all, the topic could really be rounded off in the concluding panel discussion (on Tuesday evening).

The many enthusiastic responses to the pleasant, personal and work-intensive atmosphere were very pleasing. The IDEA Austria board is very satisfied with the organization and realization of the congress, thanks all cooperation partners, helpers and assistants and is looking forward to the constructive continuation of the work.

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