You know what? There’s a world theatre day… and why shouldn’t there be?

It sounds a bit poncy – even a bit quaint – or even unbelievable when I say ‘I work in theatre.’ And sometimes, when at bars, or parties with scientists or dentists or on buses the question that bounces back is ‘which one’ and I respond ‘all of them.’

There are some that would say that to claim you “work in theatre” means that you are paid by a company – or that you have attended a drama school.

I am not one of those people.

I don’t believe a pay-packet at all indicates the depth or quality of work or significance of contribution. I believe the work does – and perhaps outrageously, in addition to the work – is the impact you make on your community when you are making exceptional work. It is my belief that poor/aggressive/selfish behaviour when making theatre rubs off on the work. I don’t believe in anyone suffering for their art – life is too full of suffering, for the process of making art to be tumbled up messily in the object/event made. And besides, suffering is unsexy.

I think there is a tendency for theatre folk to be, well, dramatic. Perhaps its because we work in a transient artform? Perhaps because theatre is a very ancient artform, and competes with very contemporary immediate/cheap/accessible forms of entertainment? Perhaps it is because it takes a lot of practice and failure and time and money to develop skills? Perhaps its because we are a nomadic community – all fluxing and growing and developing at different rates in different ways? Perhaps because there is a lot of energy expended in this on going endurance race?

Sometimes theatre folk cause conflict because they feel invisible, unappreciated, unimportant, exhausted, illegitimate, financially stressed.

Sometimes theatre folk cause conflict without realising it, or meaning to.

Sometimes its just because, like in all professions, some folk are a bit weird.

Now I think it’s important on this WORLD THEATRE DAY that we remember that theatre is essentially about people.

Theatre is made by people, about people, for people.

People who are doing their best.

And I firmly believe people are the most important thing in our lives. We go to the theatre to commune with one another – to learn of others, or ourselves, to receive guidance or be subjected to transformation. To encounter our own fear, or prejudice, or ugliness or strength. We go so we may dream of a better life, a better self, a better future. We go for reassurance. We go to be inspired to right our wrongs. We go because we want to feel connected to something bigger than ourselves, something more than the some of it’s parts. We go because when we are in the theatre we are reminded of the transience of life – the instantaneous, the spontaneous and the ever evolving. We go to be entertained and engaged.

So in the spirit of celebration and reflection that such wide-reaching labeling of days inspires: I am writing this to remind myself why I think what I do is important. Why I think theatre is important. I also want to remind myself of all the exceptionally talented and passionate people I have in my life – and name some I have spoken to/written to/ emailed with today: Anthony Skuse (one of Sydney’s finest, most intelligent theatre gentlemen), Melita Rowston (playwright with a heart of gold), Jane Howard (Adelaide’s fearless lady blogger), Dave Harmon (director), Niall Tangney (Sydney’s voracious theatre enthusiast), Scott Selkirk (newly proclaimed as a producer), James Waites (critic/guru/historian/hero/friend), Donna Abela (playwright and my current 7-on spokeswoman), Erica J Brennan (emerging artist of nearly too many talents), Nick Atkins (newly appointed Crack Theatre Festival Producer/ artist/ emerging playwright/ arts business strategist), Tim Allen (long time actor mate), Bel Delia (actor and producer shortly to relocate to the States), Amanda Macri (PWA’s lady at the helm handling my panic about lodging play assessments via a fickle server), Georgia Symons (emerging playwright/WriteHereWriteNow playwright), Michal Imielski (Director/composer/ Artistic Director of SHH Centre for Hybrid Arts/ visionary/pancake maker & my love interest), Libby Ahearn (actor from BSN 2010)….

And that’s just today, and that’s just a small cross section of the people I have had contact with today…

We are a fascinating, developing, fluxing, evolving, making, crumbling adventurous, passionate, poorly paid, sometimes ignored and deeply philosophical community. A community I am very proud to be a part of. A community which, this year, turns their ears to John Malkovich who delivered his international message at UNESCO in Paris who offers us a wish…

I’m honored to have been asked by the International Theatre Institute ITI at UNESCO to give this greeting commemorating the 50th anniversary of World Theatre Day. I will address my brief remarks to my fellow theatre workers, peers and comrades.

May your work be compelling and original. May it be profound, touching, contemplative, and unique. May it help us to reflect on the question of what it means to be human, and may that reflection be blessed with heart, sincerity, candor, and grace.

May you overcome adversity, censorship, poverty and nihilism, as many of you will most certainly be obliged to do. May you be blessed with the talent and rigor to teach us about the beating of the human heart in all its complexity, and the humility and curiosity to make it your life’s work.

And may the best of you – for it will only be the best of you, and even then only in the rarest and briefest moments – succeed in framing that most basic of questions, “how do we live?” Godspeed.”

And now I turn my ears to the music of world languages via my friend/colleague in new play adventures Doug Howe who is a part of The Internationalists (find out more about them here)

World Theatre Day Message 2012 from Jake Witlen on Vimeo.

Happy World Theatre Day, all… and thank you for your work, and thank you for your passion, your patience, your generosity. I’m very proud to know you.