John Ytteborg has passed over to the eternal theatre fields

14 March 1943 - 18 January 2020.

It is with great sadness that I have learned and am having to inform you that John Ytteborg has died from cancer at 76 years of age in Nakskov, Denmark, where he had lived for many years. He will be buried on Friday in Norway. John was the General Secretary of AITA/IATA 1977-92.

He and I were travel companions in international amateur theatre 1993-2002, and during latter years I spoke with him on telephone once a year or so, updating him on developments within AITA/IATA. He was always very keen – as he wrote in our 50 years Anniversary Book of 2002 – that we should only look back to his years if “we can perceive a pattern that leads into the future” and stressed again to “a change of mind that that destils “the old” to make space for “the new” …”

After having educated as an actor as well as a director from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in Glasgow, Scotland, John – who was a Norwegian but who had also grown up abroad– returned to Norway 1971 to take up the job a theatre director for the North-Norwegian Amateur Theatre Centre (HATS) in Tromsø. Then, 1977 he became the General Secretary of AITA/IATA, first at the office in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and from 1982 in Copenhagen, Denmark. 1992 he felt there was a new tide and he left AITA/IATA to become employed as international advisor for the Danish Amateur Theatre Association (DATS) for the next 10 years until he took an early retirement to concentrate on his philosophical and spiritual interests and to take care of his mother.

Of course, he did look back in the 2002 book on his 15 years as ‘Mr. AITA/IATA’: “Those years … [u]nusal years even from a historic point of view … were exciting years. The post-1968 vibrations generated a terrific amount of idealism, new thinking and artistic experimentation. Born out of idealistic visions emerged a fighting spirit that pervaded so much of “the new theatre” (now intensely nostalgic!), with its roots in the student theatre and (young) amateur theatre movement of the time. A fight for freedom, of course – what else is there to fight for?”

He then added that it “would be impossible to speak about the years 1977-92 without a mention of TIP – the then annual Theatre International for young People, which perhaps more than any other ongoing AITA/IATA activity reflected “the spirit of the time”, as well as changing theatrical trends … sure, images of early TIP evoke “flower power” and longhaired youngsters madly involved in street theatre and creative improvisation”. But through “the 1980’s workshops focused more on acting techniques and culminated, approaching 1990, in two visual performance projects. TIP had gone from “passionate” to “cool”. However, then he added: “The hot news was that in 1990 the children of the world were given their own platform within AITA/IATA. That year the 1st World Festival of Children’s Theatre was inaugurated in Lingen, Germany.”

John was always passionate when it came to theatre but as the leading figure of the international amateur theatre movement for 15 years and later on during his 10 years representing Danish amateur theatre internationally, he was a classic diplomat of international co-operation. And the same should be said about his contribution to many international festivals as an adjudicator where his focus was never on criticism or stringent ‘theatre rules” or genres or other limiting borders but always on development of the theatre groups and individual performers as well as the art of theatre.

He was a great colleague and friend. I shall miss talking to him. May he rest in peace!

Villy Dall

AITA/IATA Councillor & Treasurer since 2013

Former President of DATS 1995-2003