INTERNATIONAL EXCHANGES

APB Membership criteria proposal 2013


“MEMBERSHIP”

Here follows a discussion paper from Aubrey Mellor, Lasalle College of the Arts with additions by Ricky Abad, Ateneo Uni, Philippines.

In Taipei a group was formed to look into membership criteria, as we need this before we can consider applications from more schools – to my knowledge there are four more schools seeking membership and our Toho colleagues waiting on our ITI decisions.

The following can serve as a discussion paper and needs current members to feed into it. There will be I’m sure many pros and cons that other members know about – and should be included here. It is quite possible to agree to much by email so we can move fast to embrace or deny the applicants (whom we have kept waiting since the Taipei meeting).

Depending on the changes re ITI the definition of APB might need to be changed on the website, but I don’t think our aims and objectives are yet fully decided. We need to focus on criteria for membership, but that is difficult without clear definition, aims and objectives.(However, we all presume them; and have not been hindered in creating events)

Of the top of my head, here is a start:

The Asia Pacific Bureau of UNESCO’s International Theatre Institute is a body of vocationally-focused theatre training schools in the region, and a sister bureau to Europe and the Americas.

APB aims for collaboration and mutual support to increase quality and quantity of performance activities in the region and to share resources to ensure best traditional and contemporary training is available to all.

Criteria for membership:

Member schools hold a number of principles in common. (1) Dedication to training future theatre, film or performing arts practitioners both on-stage and off. (2) Trains students primarily in practice but also in theory, to graduate as employable in one or more performing arts streams. (3) Aims to excite students’ imagination and critical abilities so as to bring positive future change to the art forms.

Shared curricula, or training in common, includes training of body and voice to best communicate to audiences, as well as training of minds to conceive, interpret and create. The contemporary preference is for trained thinking practitioners, knowledgeable artists and autonomous empowered individuals.

Preference for memberships is for schools with the most shared elements in their curricular; however, APB acknowledges that some Asia-Pacific schools are in early development and/or culturally operate differently, with a focus more on academic achievement than skills acquisition. There are no strict criteria to rule out membership of any dedicated drama training group; however, participating schools tend to get more out of the skills-based sharing. Further, there are other organisations that focus more on the academic side of theatre/performance.

Membership is by nomination by a member school, and seconded by another, and then agreed by a vote. A majority of support opens up membership immediately and in the case of a minority vote, APB will give advice on what to address to better achieve membership. Applying schools are welcome to attend an APB event and to bring information about their school and to answer members’ questions.

MISSION STATEMENT

APB exists to further the quality and quantity of theatre and performing arts in the Asian Pacific region through mutual support and collaboration. It is committed to information sharing and skills sharing and, where possible, is supportive of staff and student exchange.

APB is democratic in principle and in operations and values the views from all member schools. It recognises that for all member schools the student and the training of the student is the prime focus; thus all APB activities keep in mind the students’ current and future needs. APB does not offer on-going training or credits, but only supplements or enhances the training given by member schools. It also offers a regional network, thus expanding the students’ social and cultural capital. All APB schools teach a mix of local and international theatre and respect differing proportions and variants in cultural reasoning.

ABP currently seeks to include membership of all important or significant theatre schools in the Asia Pacific; and is therefore active in special invitations. It also seeks to have at least one theatre school from every country in the region and to include significant others within a country or region. It does not set itself up as a quality control body and is equally supportive of traditional as of contemporary training; however, it knows where its strengths lie and seeks primarily to be a mutually supportive mechanism for its member schools.

APB shares equality values with UNESCO, denying discrimination in gender, age, race, religion, sexual orientation and other potential divides. It shares educational and cultural goals with UNESCO and aims for increased opportunities for employment, for personal and artistic expression, for the pursuit of happiness, and emotional and financial fulfilment. Importantly. APB consists of educationally focused schools; and, though always connected to professional performance, is primarily concerned with preparing future artists to reach their full potential. APB thus offers regional and international context that can enhance staff and student potential.

APB favours decentralisation, empowerment of all members, and financial viability. It resists any levy of fees and any suggestion that some schools are more important because of size, wealth, reputation or age. It is a not-for-profit body that also resists definition as an organisation. It seeks not greater strength or prestige to the body as a whole, but the increase of smaller collaborations between its members’ schools.

To date APB has worked to avoid the levy of any fee for membership, either a joining fee or annual recurring fee. It lacks a financial report, and finance officer as it has no funds of its own. Host schools cover internal costs of any events and depend on guest schools to offer their staff as teachers in any workshops and classes programmed in an APB event.
Should the APB in future decide to invite any outside specialist needing payment, the participating schools would share such expenses.
The APB might have other expenses in relation to its future connection with ITI - and if we invite ITI guests for example. There are other continuing expenses, such as maintaining the website, currently covered by STA; but such costs have never yet been an agenda item of APB meetings. It is expected that APB will have costs in future, but in principle the aim is to keep them minimal.

APB meets once a year with a meeting of leaders from each member school (Heads, Directors, Deans, or their representatives. Though often more regularly, every second year it formally includes student activities – classes, workshops and performances. It also rotates its meetings so as to ensure leaders are better acquainted with the school of the host. The host plans and delivers a schedule of activities as well accommodation, food and ground transport for all participants. In the past the costs have been prescribed by limiting the biennial event to four students and two staff from each school – one staff member being expected to teach during the gathering. Extra participants are possible and are charged a fee to pay for costs, if necessary. The host school is free to also extend invitations to other schools, in its own country, its region or also to international schools with which it may already have partnerships.

As APB was set up as regional to a larger body, it is also open to visits from other international schools outside of the region. Though requests from leaders of international schools are welcome, APB hosts do not actively look outside of the Asia Pacific. Similarly APB member schools enjoy the opportunity to participate globally if their travels accord with the various other international gatherings of theatre schools.

Under current discussion is APB’s official relationship with other international arts bodies and members seek to keep many options open and will be expected to always prioritise the needs of their students and school. APB is a network and as strong as its activities and the willingness of the staff and students of its member schools.

MEMBERSHIP.

With the above helping define membership and aims, the following seeks to outlay some of the pros and cons in the debate surrounding membership mix and size.

In Taipei last year APB members voted to relax membership criteria of interested schools in the Asia Pacific, provided that a theatre school does not already represent their country. in other words, APB currently seeks a member school from all counties in the Asian Pacific – though Asia Pacific is not yet specifically defined. (Arguably membership could include the Theatre Departments of University of Hawaii and Cal Arts, for example: both being on or in the Pacific)

The issue of more than one member school from any country has only partly been discussed and some members have not articulated their views. Previous statements on the memberships have not all agreed and that issue has never been put to a vote. They include the following:

“APB is already a good size and ideal for its usual activities”
“APB should be much more active in a more diverse range”
“APB should be inclusive and not exclusive”
“We might offend current/founding member schools if we invite other schools from their country”
“APB is not a prestigious organisation and there is not a lot of kudos attached to membership anyway”
“The UNESCO link adds value to Boards, funding bodies and to parents and recruitment.”
“The ITI link is of little prestige value” - “But ITI activities are of potential interest to our schools”
“Larger membership puts a greater strain on host institutions – if all want to attend events”.
“Too many from one country could be a problem. Some countries have more theatre schools than other countries. So theoretically, a few countries can dominate APB simply because of its larger representation in the organization. Should there be a maximum number from any one country?”

ADVANTAGES IN INCREASED MEMBERSHIP:

This the case FOR increased and non-exclusive membership could argue:

It is impossible to expect all member schools to participate in all APB events – especially if the numbers of smaller collaborations continue to increase, as is desired. The pressure on every member school to send students to every schedule gathering is unfair; and schools should be more free to be more fully or less engaged with APB as suits their own schedules and finances.

Therefore it is advantageous to APB if other schools can step in to ensure the scheduled events are always attended by worthwhile numbers.

China and Australia already have more than one member school - and both were never voted on by members, but were personal invitations from the previous ‘Chair’. So there is no precedent to break with – so, provided we are always aware of balance in approving new membership, why should we not have more members from the same countries?

APB could seek to keep lists of all non-member schools in the region and use it for occasional invitations, or augment events from time to time. There may be a case for having non-voting memberships, or Associate Memberships.

Some APB events might like to focus on their own area and will need more of their own country as members. In the past NSD in Delhi invited a number of regional Indian schools to its APB festival - and that was welcomed by all. TNUA also chose to invited non-member schools that added much value and distinctive elements to that particular festival.

To be fully as named, APB should ensure membership from more Asian and Pacific counties and should define for itself where the boundaries are (especially in regard to ‘Middle’ and ‘Near East’ (Eurocentric words) and why it has so few schools from the Pacific anyway (we have yet to debate Uni of Hawaii and Cal Arts, both very focused on Asia, the latter engaging with Korea).

There is a case for APB to target schools within our region - eg Laos, Cambodia, Papua New Guinea – for assistance; thus following UNESCO and ITI principles of advocacy and support. Such developing schools might become AOB members in the future.

Aims of APB include support for smaller and developing schools and the best way to do this is by recognising their existence and networking with them.

It is impossible for APB to be strict in applying membership criteria and seeks to recognise new ways to educate and schedule as well as new principles, skills and theories. Thus it is highly likely that inspiration might come from the most unassuming of schools – eg the performance from Burapha University Thailand, last year at the TNUA event.

We all worked well with the guest schools at the TNUA and there is no obvious reason why they should not be members; shall someone nominate and second accordingly - so we can vote on them in Vietnam?

We need to first vote to open the gates; but that can still happen also in Vietnam – especially if we think on these issues before arriving.

ABP maintains that it follows UNESCO) principles - and inclusivity is one of them.

Any fears about any school can be discussed before membership becomes available – as membership must be by recommendation of at least one member school, and supported by at least one other before it is even discussed and voted upon. APB has (historically) already turned down one application for membership.

If by chance many member schools want to attend a particular event, control can be by first-come, first-included or by other limiting criteria – eg by a participation fee. And if some schools miss out, they will most likely be the first to apply for the next event. – or might like to hold their own, which will also be good.

We need more Korea and Japanese schools to benefit from the advances in theatre in those countries

DISADVANTAGES

The case against increased membership includes the following:

With many members the meetings and events might become cumbersome and impossible to afford to run. This particularly applies to the host of a student event. We would need to create new sets of guidelines.

New guidelines might force us to sub-divide the large membership.

Making decisions might become protracted, or resolutions by a large majority might go against the wishes of the founding members.

With many schools joining from any one country, there comes the possibility of ABP being dominated by one country - eg as ATEC is.

With membership extended to small schools there is the probability that teachers and students will be of a lower standard of quality, especially in our current shared curricula.

Increased membership might push the APB more towards academic rather than practice-based. (If new membership is not carefully scrutinised)

Currently commonality is that members are primarily government funded and are primarily educationally qualified. Members schools have the current prestige of mostly speaking for their own country.

More private schools might not have any quality controls.

The original criteria concept of “best of Asia” will be lost.

Colleagues in other non-members schools are mainly unknown to us, so how can we trust them to vote sensibly for the common good?






End
AM – updated 22 July 2013, incorporating Rick Abad’s suggestions and comments.