This morning marks the beginning of the Bibu/ ASSITEJ Artistic Gathering 2022 in Helsingborg and whilst performances and seminars begin, I sat down with Paulo Merisio to talk about his practice and connections to the festival.
Merisio is a permanent counsellor of ASSITEJ in the 2021-2024 term and works in relation to ITYARN (The International Theatre for Young Audiences Research Network). As well his directorial practice in theatre for young audiences (TYA), Merisio also holds a PhD in Theatre with a post-doctoral research at Université de Paris Ouest/Nanterre.
You would think that juggling all of these elements of practice and research would feel like a big challenge for one person to achieve, however Merisio believes that ‘everything is connected’- from his practice, to his research, to his teaching. Not only does he feel this connection in his own work, but Merisio expressed his excitement for the Bibu/ ASSITEJ Artistic Gathering, as it brings collaborators together from all over the world. He said that the international aspect of this festival is, ‘very renewing’ and said that he had already promised his students back in Brazil that he would tell them everything that he gained from the experience when he gets back.
‘Everybody is talking about something, it’s renewing! So you go back with many ideas.’Paulo Merisio
Merisio’s practice encompasses ideas of melodrama and this is carried through both his research and directorial work. He said that the young people find melodrama particularly engaging because the performances can be so heightened, that they become humorous and fun to engage with. Something I found particularly beautiful as part of our conversation, was Merisio’s mentioning of the poetic nature of TYA in Brazil, stating, ‘we have the perspective to give stories in poetry’. As well as imbedding humour and imaginative story-telling in the work, Merisio explained that, ‘we need to make the experience for children- a moment to breathe’, almost as a way to disconnect from reality for a brief period of time.
‘We need to make the experience for children- a moment to breathe.’Paulo Merisio
Through eradicating gender definition and using powerful metaphors and images, it seems as though the young people Paulo Merisio works with are able to experience striking moments of compelling theatre and are therefore offered the chance to widen their creative imagination and to express their own experiences through art.