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World Theatre Day for Children and Youth 2024

Updated: Mar 17

Dearest You, 

I write ‘You’ with the utmost respect and simply because I am not sure if we know each other. 

On this World Theatre Day for Children and Youth, I simply wanted to share with you my Top 5 favourite theatre anecdotes related to youth. They’re not written in order of preference. Here we go! 

1 - Christmastime in Notre-Dame 

I couldn’t share my experience with theatre without first talking about my own childhood. I grew up in a small predominantly French-speaking Acadian community in SouthEast New Brunswick; Notre-Dame de Kent. Even though we did not really have access to professional children’s theatre, community theatre was a big part of the village's traditions. Around the holidays, every year, the school organized a Christmas play (in the 90’s it took the form of a sort of retelling of the Nativity). I will always remember, little small me, 4-5 years old, walking in the school that had been transformed with the help of music and people dressed in costumes to greet the crowd. And I remember being immersed in this world 100% even if these characters were played by older kids I knew. I remember the buzzing and bubbling feeling of pride among the families/spectators in the gym that also transformed with the help of a stage and set made with love by people of the community. I also vividly remember the emotions I experienced during the play, being scared of the King and the Three Wise Men, feeling a great, big emotion when the little baby was born and the chills running on my arms when the school choir sang beautiful songs that accompanied each scene. 

2 - Standby, Cultural Reference 

This anecdote is also from my childhood. OK, so le Pays de la Sagouine is a tourist attraction in Bouctouche, New Brunswick, about 30 minutes from Notre-Dame. It’s a pretty magical place where you could see the character of La Sagouine telling her stories on stage. In summertime, my grandmother and my great aunt, who were big big fans, always took me with them. I think it was the only place where we could hear stories that sounded like us. Stories that made us laugh so hard because we could picture every character and situation she described so perfectly. I remember telling myself that her stories must have been very important because the spectators always stood up in applause even before the show started, as soon as the Lady Sagouine entered the space. And once again, remember the chills running down my arms as the theme song of this mythical character played. 

3 - Going Back Home 

After completing my bachelor’s degree of Drama at l’Université de Moncton, I often found myself doing theatre workshops in schools. At one point, my old school (the one with the Nativity plays) asked me to help a small group of students who were very motivated to put on a play. Of course I accept! Together, we chose a short play, explored the joys of creating a character, discovered that ‘Yes, we can sing a song and invent choreography if that is what our hearts desire.’ One day, after rehearsal, the accompanying teacher for one of the students in the group wanted to talk to me (I’ll call the student Max for anonymity) : ‘I have to tell you, Max never liked reading, it’s always been a challenge for him. But since he started working on this play, he LOVES it! I think he realized that the characters in the book are like characters in a play. He can act them out and have fun with it! It opened up a whole world of possibilities for him!’

4 - This One is Short 

In my career, I also had the chance to teach weekly theatre classes at the Capitol Theatre Academy in Moncton. For quite a few years, I was in charge of the Tuesday night bilingual class for teenagers. The first class of every semester, I always asked the participants what they liked about theatre or why they were interested in it. One answer that will stay with me forever : 

‘When I’m on stage, I feel like I have the right to exist.’

5 - The Wolf That Needed Help 

A little context : when our company Théâtre La Cigogne was still active (hello to my colleague/friends!) we wrote a children’s puppet play called Ronnie: The Tale of a Misunderstood Wolf. It was the story of a little vegetarian wolf who needed help finding his family. But everyone was afraid of him because of the Wolves reputation of being Big and Bad. The play was self-supporting, we could fit everything in my car and play practically anywhere (libraries, parks, parking lots…) During an outdoor performance in a park in Moncton, while Ronnie the wolf was in a moment of distress, he proclaimed in a melodramatic way : ‘I ran without really knowing where to go, I asked myself, WHY is it that no one wants to help me. Life is sometimes so cruel!” And without skipping a beat, no hesitation, a child in the crowd yells out : ‘I want to help you!’ 

Well, there it is, I hope that this letter will inspire you to also remember beautiful memories of children’s theatre or maybe even memories from your own childhood. Perhaps it will lead you to think about the importance of this aspect of theatre, which to me often seems neglected, as if people were expected to suddenly develop an attachment to theatre in adulthood. For me, theatre is the ultimate art of empathy. It’s where people can share their stories, their point of view. Theatre is where I have felt the most pride, the most joy and the most sadness with loved ones and with complete strangers. This is what is so magical about theatre. 

Well, I have to admit that I don’t like finishing letters or saying goodbye. 

So I say to you Happy World Theatre Day for Children and Youth, and I am looking forward to meeting you in a theatre at some point and creating new memories. 

Take care! 

Bianca Richard

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