Come Out and Play! An Inside Look at the PLAY Symposium

This spring the 14th World Festival of Children’s Theatre will take place for the first time on North American soil, and in addition to showcasing performances from children around the world, it will provide the educational community with its own event: the PLAY! Symposium, taking place from 10-12 June, 2016 at the University of Waterloo Stratford Campus.

“We wanted a place where not just teachers, but theatre artists, social workers and health workers could come together to address issues related to children, the arts, and play around the world,” says WFCT Artistic Director Ron Dodson.

The symposium brings 70 international presenters that include well-known names in drama education such as David Booth, Jonothan Neelands, Patrice Baldwin and Belarie Zatzman, and will feature an innovative blended format different from traditional conferences. In addition to workshops, panels, and a Resource Fair, the PLAY! Symposium will feature nine “playspaces” where participants can continue workshop discussions and activities, network, and listen in on interviews with authors such as Juliana Saxton, Carole Miller, and Kathy Gould Lundy. 

“We want people to forget boundaries and definitions,” says Co-Chair Glenys McQueen-Fuentes. “If you are working in kindergarten, high school, social work; if you are a novice or an experienced person; if you are a teacher, researcher, or anyone who works with the public, you will want to come.”

The weekend event has been made possible with generous support from ETFO, OSSTF, and OTF; in fact, ETFO will be launching its new play-based learning initiative for grades 5-8 and 7-9, as well as showcasing presenters such as Larry Swartz, Debbie Nyman, and others for extended workshops on drama and literacy and art applications across the curriculum.

The symposium will also feature innovative “Panel Plus” presentations that cross formats, showcasing approaches from multiple practitioners in the same learning space. In this way, the symposium is fully embracing the concept of play—not only for children, but for grownups too.

“Too often adults think that they are directing the children and somehow they are not involved,” says McQueen-Fuentes. “The theme of play is stunning because it is like a kaleidoscope: the pieces are the same, but it is turned. When adults are involved in play, when the boundaries between play and work are blurred, it makes the dialogue richer. When we put ourselves in the equation so that we can benefit from play as well as children, we become a part of the picture.”

The PLAY! Symposium is a wonderful learning opportunity for the broader educational community to connect, learn, and “play” with one another. It promises to be an event not to be missed! Learn more about presenters, schedule and registration information at