Saturday, March 5, 2011

Experience International Theatre…Without Leaving Home


Contributed by guest blogger of the week, David J. Diamond.

Fortunately, here in New York, we can see some of what is happening on stages around the world. La MaMa E.T.C. is dedicated to presenting experimental works from all over the world. During the next few weeks, there will be some of these opportunities to peek into the theatre world outside of the U.S. Check out these cutting-edge performances.

Next week, they begin the Perforations Festival New York, a week and a half of groundbreaking performances from the Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Macedonia and Slovenia. Perforations is a huge annual event in Croatia, which focuses on independent artists in performance art, theatre and dance, whose approach to creating art blurs the borders between these genres, according to its artistic director Zvonimir Dobrovic. Now we have a chance to experience it here. Dobrovic says, “The Festival will offer the audience insight into contemporary lines of artistic thinking from some of the most provocative and influential artists fro the region who are shaping a wider artistic and cultural landscape.”

Ellen Stewart’s commitment to presenting work from this region has been longstanding. According to La MaMa artistic director Mia Yoo, “These artists working independently out side the state subsidized institutions, are creating compelling and powerful art. La MaMa is proud to present this work. Continuing our artistic dialogue with these countries is a deep commitment of La MaMa.”

La MaMa is teaming up with The Public to present the return to New York of Belarus Free Theatre. I wrote about them in a previous post. They will be in residence at La MaMa for 5 weeks, performing three of their productions in repertory including Being Harold Pinter, which played during the Under the Radar Festival, Discover Love, which had one showing at the Theatre Without Borders Conference last September and Zone of Silence, which explores Belarussian taboos. It is still unclear when they will be allowed by the government of Belarus to go home to Minsk. At least they have been able to use their exile to share these important plays with audiences in other countries on their unintended world tour.

A particularly ambitious production from Ireland comes to La MaMa later in March. A dance performance, Fall and Recover, emerging from workshops with clients of Centre for Care for Survivors of Torture located in Dublin, Ireland mixes two outstanding Irish dancers with a cast of 11 torture survivors from nine countries. Celebrating the power of the human spirit, their dignity and determination will have live music by Rossa O’Snodaigh of the Irish world music band Kíla. As is often the case when presenting works from abroad, it can be challenging to get visas and funding to make these exchanges possible. It can take considerable political will and tenacity to help artists come to the United States.

International exchange was a major topic of the NoPassport Conference that just concluded at Nuyorican Poets Café. Caridad Svich has been organizing these convenings for five years. This year, the topic was Dreaming the Americas: Global Change in Performance, co-curated by Caridad, Catherine Coray (NYU) and Daniel Gallant (Executive Director, Nuyorican Poets Café). Among the provocative discussions were Activism in Performance, Genocide and Political Atrocity in Theater, Global Playground and Sundance Institute Theatre East Africa. Playwright Jose Rivera, gave the thoughtful and poetic keynote address.

Other conferences and performance venues around the country also take a global perspective on theatre. Erik Ehn’s Arts in One World Conference, which used to be occur at Cal Arts, where he was Dean of the Theatre Program, now also has a home at Brown University (where he heads the Playwriting Program). The International Theatre Institute, now housed at Theatre Communications Group, plays an important role in the annual TCG Conference (the next one coming up in Los Angeles in June,) with visitors from many countries (including two exceptional Iraqi artists) participating in the discussions, workshops and performances.  Under the Radar, a performance festival curated by Mark Russell and produced by The Public Theater includes many lesser known performing groups from abroad, while The Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival provides a venue for larger works of better known companies such as those of Robert Wilson, Ivo van Hove and the late Pina Bausch.

There are lots of resources out there for artists interested in working abroad and learning more about international opportunities. Some of my favorites are Kadmus Arts, for everything to do with international festivals, On-the-Move for information about conferences, workshops, performances and other opportunities, Theatre Communications Group, which houses the US Center for the International Theatre Institute (ITI). Excellent lists of resources are also available on the Theatre Without Borders website.

It has been a privilege and a pleasure to have had the opportunity to blog at you this week. Thanks to the Innovative Theatre Foundation, Shay Gines and all of you who faithfully followed my ramblings for the past few days. If you’d like to keep abreast of my doings, please visit my website and sign up for my mailing list:


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