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Past Events

  • Writer's pictureNear West


The inaugural Near West / ISTA Festival hosted by NCPA was held from January 24-27, 2019, in Nansha, Guangzhou.  60 students from 7 Guangzhou area schools and one Suzhou area school attended the festival, which was facilitated by 7 spectacular artists from the International School’s Theatre Association (ISTA).  Among the artists was Dinos Aristidou, global Theatre Arts curriculum leader with the International Baccalaureate (IB), and Fenella Kelly, one of 4 head examiners world-wide for IB Theatre Arts.  The festival was inspired by the Tin Hau temple complex, located near the NCPA school grounds, and the event culminated with a student sharing which followed the life story of Mazu, who lived on Meizhou Island in Guangdong during the 12th century and has become a revered figure in China as a nautical protector.  

All of the dramatic work from the festival was co-created by the artists and students through a powerful collaborative process called “devising,” in which ideas are explored with body, voice, and imagination, to produce a totally original performance rooted in the creativity of the participants.  Students were grouped together into teams called ensembles, along with students from different schools, and in these groups collaborated with an ISTA artist to develop material for the sharing.  In this way, the festival was completely non-competitive, and the focus was on helping each student unlock his or her creative potential within a supportive group of peers.  This method is one of the most powerful ways for students to experience authentic teamwork, creative expression, taking risks, supporting others, finding their voice, and communicating meaningfully with the outside world.  

While the students were working with the ISTA artists, the attending educators were also engaged in professional development.  Educators were encouraged to observe the ISTA artists working with their student ensemble groups, and were also able to attend their own workshops, led by ISTA artists.  The festival is a vehicle to share drama education concepts and methods, create a network of drama educators, and help educators develop more drama education skills that can be applied in their classrooms.  

The result was 4 days filled with joyful exploration, powerful personal growth, exciting creative discoveries, and life-affirming lessons.  This first Near West / ISTA Festival has created a very successful model which we plan to replicate again and again throughout China in the coming years.    

We are grateful to the sponsors and collaborators whose generous support made this event possible:  Thank you to U-link and host school NCPA, the LN Hospitality group (specifically the LN Garden Hotel, Guangzhou, and the official festival hotel, the LN Garden Hotel, Nansha), the ISTA artists, rep and administrative team, the participating schools (NCPA, ULC, HuaFu Middle School, Taihu Great Learning Center (Suzhou), Shimen Middle School,  Alcanta International College, Nansha).  

Near West is committed to “Bridging China and the West through Entertainment, Education, and the Arts” by fostering meaningful collaboration between Chinese and Western people.  Near West’s global partnership with ISTA is dedicated to making ISTA resources more accessible to local Chinese students and the educators who serve them.  For more information, please visit


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