Curious and inquisitive audience

"Though the most be players, some must be spectators.," said the English playwright, poet and actor Ben Jonson. And since we are spectators, it would be preferable to be as good as possible at that. This is why "Young critics" were formed as part of the accompanying program of this year's "Novi Sad Theater Festival". The workshop brought together preschoolers and younger elementary school students to learn basic theater concepts that help them watch, understand and discuss the play. Through the workshops, the Youth Theater – Pozoriste mladih also took on an educational role in a broader sense, becoming, in addition to being a place for performances, a space for discussion, reflection, learning and exchange of opinions. From a long-term perspective, Pozoriste mladih forms and nurtures its audience in this way.
During the seven festival days, after watching the play, young critics would gather and start a conversation about their first impressions and then try to explain why they liked the play, why they found it funny or boring, how they understood that the hero is brave... As the meaning always depends on the context, we talked with the workshop participants about the beginnings of film as a medium and the work of Charlie Chaplin (in relation to the play "Charlie Chaplin"); we shed light on the use of sign language, the meaning of empathy and inclusiveness (regarding the play "The Quiet Boy"); we discussed the creation and animation of various puppets (after the plays "The Three Musketeers" and "Charlie Chaplin"); defined what is the task of the director, and what is the set designer and costume designer (with reference to the play "The Emperor's New Clothes"). After the discussion, the workshop participants filled out a "theatre analyzer" questionnaire - a list of questions that helps them present and analyze different elements of the plays.
During the workshops, the children had a valuable opportunity to ask questions to the authors of the plays. It is interesting that the children were most interested in the technical solutions of the actions on the stage, that is, how the actors on the stage or the technicians managed to perform some movement, change the scenography or the costume, without the audience noticing at any time how it happened. For me, the special joy were the moments during the panel when some of the workshop participants, feeling empowered to verbalize their opinion, would argue their positive or negative opinion to the actors. These conversations were equally beneficial to the actors as they very rarely have the opportunity to receive criticism and opinion from the target audience of their play.
During the workshops, we also talked about the accuracy of the data for which the play is intended. Thus, children sometimes had a problem following the translation of a play loaded with text in a foreign language, or they did not consider the topic and approach to the topic to be close to their age.
"Philosophers, and with them Shakespeare, said that the world is a stage on which we all have to play our roles. But if the world is a stage, not everyone can play, someone has to watch," said our writer, essayist, critic and interpreter Jovan Hristic. Although the participants of the "Young Critics" workshop mostly dream of becoming actors, if one of them one day chooses the role of critic, based on this workshop, it is clear that they will be great in that role as well."
Divna Stojanov, educator and workshop leader