'WLPG Playwright Slams at the 2011 ASSITEJ World Congress: 31 playwrights/20 countries/15 languages' by Abra Chusid and Jenny Anne Koppera

A four-part event, with thirty-one playwrights from twenty countries reading from their plays in fifteen languages



For newbies, what we call a ‘playwrights slam’ is an event where 8-10 playwrights read five minute excerpts of one of their pieces in a relaxed and informal setting.  

For the 2011 ASSITEJ World Congress and Festival, there were four slams, two in each of the host cities, at the Stadsteater Studion in Malmoe, Sweden, and the Odd Fellow Palace in Copenhagen, Denmark

The slams were curated by Kim Peter Kovac, working with the Congress organizers, and coordinated, wrangled, and hosted by Kim and US Festival Interns Abra Chusid and Jenny Anne Koppera, who were also invited by ‘Write local. Play global” to serve as roving reporters for the events.

Jenny: As an ASSITEJ newcomer this year, I am ever so pleased to be invited to help organize and participate in the Playwright Slams.  These experiences welcomed me into the world of ASSITEJ, and I am so very grateful.   The Playwright Slams opened my eyes even further to the diversity, budding potential, and stunning global energy of the World Congress in Copenhagen, Denmark and Malmoe, Sweden. 

Abra: I remember the 2008 ASSITEJ congress in Adelaide, enthralled by the playwright slams: voices from around the world, languages and images tickling my imagination. Flash forward three years, to the Copenhagen/Malmoe Congress - my 2008 self would never believe that this time I'd help to coordinate and host the slams, and even read on behalf of a US playwright who also happened to be a friend.  Thanks to all the writers for sharing their words.  Now I eagerly await what the 2014 slams will bring in Poland, and I look forward to seeing you there!

Opening Night, May 21st - Odd Fellow Palace, Copenhagen, Denmark

Jenny:  What a way to start the slams!  The beautiful room of the Odd Fellow Palace is more full than we imagined – hold the start!  More chairs!  Make more room!  It is my first time at a Playwright Slam as an observer, with the added excitement of being a ‘proxy reader’ on behalf of a US writer. It’s amazing to hear the languages and voices of playwrights from around the world together and sharing in this atmosphere…


Abra:  When I arrived at the Odd Fellow at five past eight, just off the train from Malmoe with half a dozen others, (including ASSITEJ president Wolfgang Schneider – luckily if I had to be late, I’d at least be with him) I was amazed to see an already packed room listening to the sharp wit and poetry of Angela Betzein's dialogue.  As she read, we made our way into the audience, with doors opening and closing, tables and chairs shifting to make room for us all; Angela, meanwhile, didn't flinch, and just continued to draw us in.  Looking around the room at the playwrights and artists in attendance that evening, I felt a chill - here we are, together, again! While the focus of ASSITEJ may be the productions and the General Assembly, it is so much more - it is artists gathering to hear each others' voices, to celebrate our work and our cultures, and to build new bridges.

Jenny: My first playwright slam memories folded into poetry:

Quick tastes of play worlds:

Splashes of languages mingling

Farsi, German, Spanish & English

Cultures greeting

Danish  Australian

Protagonists facing loss & life - mystery and love

Documenting, preparing, & seeking attention

Winning and losing and melting…

As the audience listens and tastes this glimmering opportunity.

2nd Night, May 23rd - Malmoe Stadstheater Studion, Malmoe, Sweden

Abra: This is another great theatre space for our 2nd Playwright Slam of 2011, but this time we’re across the bridge in Malmoe, Sweden!  Theatre lights and the beautiful red carpeting on the stage of the Stadsteater's (City Theatre's) Studio Theatre give the space an added magic.  A group gathers and fills in the seating. 

Jenny: It’s amazing to begin to feel a part of it all: coordinating with the playwrights and readers, getting my M.C. face on, getting filled in by Kim on the playing order - is he improvising the order on the spot, I wonder, perhaps irreverently; later I find out yes, and realize the flow is best discovered with all the writers in the room.   Eagerly repeating names to the playwrights to make sure I pronounce them correctly.  It’s inspiring to be a part of this experience - this global theatrical sharing.  Highlights from tonight include the great variety of languages and musicality in the plays, along with the inclusion of three student writers, representing a new generation of international playwrights.

Tonight’s slam brought us spirited energy in English and Russian; gentle certitude in Farsi; seeing Marcelo’s daughters and hearing the piano light up in our imaginations; spoken-word with attitude and rhythm; Jingju, traditional Chinese opera; repetition in English and Dutch; a series of memories, painful and beautiful.

3rd Night, May 25th - The ‘concert hall’  at the Odd Fellow Palace, Copenhagen, Denmark

Abra: Once again there is a bubbling energy in the Odd Fellow Palace, with the ever-festive and wildly-popular ASSITEJ Asian party downstairs, and our 3rd Playwright Slam upstairs in another regal room (and the site of the next day's ‘General Assembly’ – the business meetings, sort of like the United Nations of Children’s Theatre). There is an intermingling of sensations as the building buzzes with energy.  Our audience continues to grow, as party attendees find their way upstairs, guided by signs.   Japanese drumming echoes its energy, and smells of the sake and fish downstairs fill our minds each time the door is opened. 

Jenny: This Playwright Slam is something to behold, with beautiful Korean gestures full of meaning and emotion; playful and imaginative approach to youth tribulations with gender and sexual identity - complete with a spicy Latina imaginary goat; poetic playfulness of language in a profound prologue; darker stories of themes and images; an original Mariachi song, a voice echoing off the walls and into our hearts; comic seriousness, separation, family, humor and humility; and intertwined poetry and song in a spirited sensation of Zulu and English.

WLPG: It’s logical that a room called the ‘Concert Hall’ would have terrific acoustics, and Roxanne and Chantal's singing sounded divine, but it’s not until long after the Congress that ‘Write local. Play global’ co-editor Tony Mack tells us that this hall was the site of some great jazz recordings including ‘Monk in Copenhagen’ and a bootleg called ‘Astral Weeks’ (not the Van Morrison) by one of Charles Mingus’ great ensembles with Eric Dolphy.

4th Night, May 27rd - Malmoe Stadstheater Studion, Malmoe, Sweden

Abra: Our last slam brought us back to Sweden.  In the foyer, the Festival Center was being transformed for Awards and Presidential receptions; but inside the Studion, an intimate audience gathered to continue the celebration of international voices.  While the audience started small, it continued to grow, and by the end of the evening, formerly empty seats, and even the stairs, were filled with bodies experiencing five plays, and five languages.  

The final slam resounded with cultural mythology from the soul of a storyteller; a heartbreaking personal story turned poetry; a mysterious telling of Hiroshima’s history; social media stories; and hiding under the stairs to listen to a house’s nighttime sounds with the four year old in us all.


Comments from some of the playwrights after the slams:

Cristina Gottfridsson, Sweden: It was so fun to read and to LISTEN - we were five, all fantastic of course - but so nice and so amazing listening to languages I don´t understand the words of, but lovely melodies, wonderful voices, wonderful atmosphere.  I really enjoyed this - and hope there will show up some more slams where I can let my odd characters out in company with my darling worldwide colleagues´ odd characters. 

Berta Hiriart, Mexico: I am also grateful for the slams experience. As many of us, I return to my country with new ideas for my unfinished play. It was very stimulating to hear the diverse voices and to add my own one to that mosaic addressed to children all over the world. 

Jim Lawson, Australia: It is unlikely to hear so many writers from so many different countries in one place anywhere else.  May there be many more slams ahead.

Chantal Snyman, South Africa: It is great to hear the voices of the playwrights and the breadth of subject matter.  What an opportunity to sound out new work among other writers and encourage the creation of excellent work for children and youth...It really did, in a real sense, 'build bridges and cross borders" for me...the variety of accents, cadence, emphasis and expression was like being in the best kind of sweet/candy store in the world...yum!  

Roxanne Schroeder-Arce, USA: It was indeed quite an experience all the way around.  Thanks to all who are encouraging, connecting, supporting playwrights all over the world! 

Toyoko Nishida, Japan: Thank you for having invited me to the Playwright Slam where I met many interesting people. It has been a very special event.

Ayla Schneiders, The Netherlands: Thank you all for two of the four very motivative playwright slams. My 'five minutes of fame' gave me an incredible feeling. At ASSITEJ and the slams it was very encouraging to be with people and to talk to people who understand the importance of theatre for children and art in general.

Anna Panduro, Denmark: It was a real pleasure participating in the slams. Wonderful to listen and wonderful to be listened to.  I finished my play the 1st  of June. It was a great help in the finishing process to read it aloud to an audience.  Thank you all for coming to my hometown Copenhagen. I hope you all had a nice stay.  I hope to see all of you in the future!


May 21, 2011 – Odd Fellow, Copenhagen

Martin Baltschelt, Germany - Nur Ein Tag

Methe Bendix, Denmark - Winner Takes All

Angela Betzien, Australia  - Where in the World is Frank Sparrow?

Georgina Escobar, USA  - The Ash Tree  (Read by Jenny Anne Koppera)

Adriana Ferrari, Argentina - La Casita Feliz (Read by Omar Alvarez, Maria Ines Falconi, Carlos de Urquza)

Hosein Fadai Hosein, Iran - Snow Doll

Thomas Howalt, Denmark - The Secret

Anne Rabe, Germany - Sunflower House

May 23, 2011, Malmoe Stadsteater, Malmoe

Koen Caris, Netherlands - That you think you're thinking of yesterday

Ksenia Dragunskaya, Russia - All Boys are Idiots

Hasan Erkek, Turkey - Princess Flower

Amauri Falseti, Brazil - Com o rein a barriga  Read by Bebe de Soares

Nkosinathi Garr, South Africa - HOTT

Marcelo Katz, Argentina Los Fabulosos Singer!

Chris Matragos, UK - Stuck in the Middle

Ayla Schneiders, Netherlands - Exchange of Letters

Xiaoxin Wang, China Monkey King thrice beats the White-Boned Succubus

May 25, Odd Fellow, Copenhagen

Gabriel Jason Dean, USA - The Transition of Doodle Pequeno  (Read by Abra Chusid (USA), Ernie Nolan (USA), and Solange Perazzo (Argentina))

Ashish Kumar Ghosh, India - Aesop’s Wolf and the Lamb

Mi-Jeong Kim, Korea -

Finegan Kruckemeyer, Australia  This Girl Laughs, This Girl Cries, This Girl Does Nothing

Krishna Kumar, India -Kingdom of Joomba  Read by Surangana Chatterjee

Suzanne LeBeau, Canada Le Bruit des os qui Craquent (Noise of Cracking Bones)

Anna Panduro, Denmark - Me and Callas

Roxanne Schroeder-Arce, USA - Mariachi Girl

Chantal Snyman, South Africa The Green Revolution

May 27, 2011, Malmoe Stadsteater, Malmoe

Cristina Gottfridsson, Sweden - #slimmad//slajsad:)softad_störd/:D

Berta Hiriart, Mexico - What do You Understand by Love?

Toyoko Nishida, Japan - A Little Flame Fantasy

Sophia Mempuh, Cameroon - Bonganyi

Susan Mulholland, UK - The Little Boy Who Lost the Morning