Friday, March 28, 2008

World Theatre Day at The Zipper

Tamilla, Saroj, Jeremy, Jake, Doug
Cathy, Ashley, Lauren, Esther
The Zipper Theater
27 March 2008
World Theatre Day

Thursday, March 27, 2008

International Message by Robert Lepage

There are a number of hypotheses on the origins of theatre but the one I find the most thought-provoking takes the form of a fable:

One night, at the dawn of time, a group of men were gathered together in a quarry to warm themselves around a fire and tell stories. All of a sudden, one of them had the idea to stand up and use his shadow to illustrate his tale. Using the light from the flames he made characters appear, larger than life, on the walls of the quarry. Amazed, the others recognized in turn the strong and the weak, the oppressor and the oppressed, the god and the mortal.

Nowadays, the light of projectors has replaced the original bonfire, and stage machinery, the walls of the quarry. And with all due deference to certain purists, this fable reminds us that technology is at the very beginnings of theatre and that it should not be perceived as a threat but as a uniting element.

The survival of the art of theatre depends on its capacity to reinvent itself by embracing new tools and new languages. For how could the theatre continue to bear witness to the great issues of its epoch and promote understanding between peoples without having, itself, a spirit of openness? How could it pride itself on offering solutions to the problems of intolerance, exclusion and racism if, in its own practice, it resisted any fusion and integration ?

In order to represent the world in all its complexity, the artist must bring forth new forms and ideas, and trust in the intelligence of the spectator, who is capable of distinguishing the silhouette of humanity within this perpetual play of light and shadow.

It is true that by playing too much with fire, we take a risk, but we also take a chance: we might get burned, but we might also amaze and enlighten.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

World Theatre Day '08

The Ilkhom Theatre Festival at ACT

A Contemporary Theatre of Seattle hosts the Ilkhom Theatre of Tashkent, Uzbekistan. They will perform two works: White White Black Stork (March 14-April 6) and Ecstasy with the Pomegranate (April 9-13).

"One Thursday night six months ago, a 52-year-old theater director named Mark Weil was murdered in the entrance of his apartment building in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Neighbors say they saw two men with baseball caps waiting for the director, who was to premiere a high-tech version of The Oresteia the following night. The two men hit Weil over the head with a bottle, stabbed him several times in the stomach, and ran. They didn't take his money; they just wanted him dead."

Read more of this article about Weil at The Stranger .
And here is another article from the Seattle Times.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Lincoln Center Festival 08

Once again Lincoln Center has put together an eclectic line-up for their annual summer festival from July 2-27. Actual performances are down to 57 this year compared to 93 last year. This is mostly due to the RuhrTriennale’s production of Bernd Alois Zimmermann’s 1960 opera, Die Soldaten. Apparently, it is one of the most complex and expensive contemporary operas to mount (it’s got a 110-piece orchestra). It will take Lincoln Center over a month to load the production into the Park Avenue Armory.

As for theatrical offerings, the festival will open with the National Theater of Scotland’s production of The Bacchae starring Alan Cumming and directed by John Tiffany. The festival closes with the Gate Theater of Dublin’s triptych Gate/Beckett. The evening consists of three one-man shows of Beckett pieces not conceived for the theatre. Liam Neeson stars in Eh Joe (a TV piece), Barry McGovern stars in I’ll Go On (adapted from three novels) and Ralph Fiennes stars in First Love (a novella).

Other offerings include Laurie Anderson’s new piece, Homeland, William Forsythe’s Impressing the Czar performed by the Royal Ballet of Flanders and Sarajevo-born composer Goran Bregovic returns with his Wedding and Funeral Band, which was at the festival 2 years ago.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Open Skies

Air travel between the U.S. and Europe is about to change, which will mean more flights and, hopefully, cheaper tickets. Starting March 30, the Open Skies Treaty between the U.S. and the European Union goes into effect, allowing airlines to fly from any U.S. airport to any E.U. airport and vice versa.

The result will be a lot of new service options, especially to London's Heathrow, which is expected to increase its U.S. business by 31 percent. Until now, only two U.S. carriers, American and United, have had flights to Heathrow, but soon they’ll be joined by Delta, Continental and Northwest Airlines. European carriers will have greater freedom in flights to the U.S. as well. British Airways is launching a new subsidiary airline with routes outside the United Kingdom.

The new competition should put pressure on airlines to reduce fares. A 2002 study by the Brattle Group, a consulting firm, estimated that an open-skies agreement between the United States and the European Union would generate a 10 percent increase in passenger traffic in formerly restricted markets, which could reduce fares 4 to 10 percent.

But none of this will happen immediately. Demand continues to be incredibly strong on transatlantic routes and it will take a while for supply to catch up. That, and record prices for oil, will keep fares up through 2008. But added capacity should help to lower fares in early 2009. Here’s to hoping.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Bridge Project

The postponed collaboration between BAM (Joseph V. Melillo), the Old Vic (Kevin Spacey) and Neal Street Productions (Sam Mendes) is back on track. Originally Mendes was supposed to work on Hamlet & The Tempest with actor Stephen Dillane in 2007, but, due to illness in Dillane’s family, the project was delayed.

The Bridge Project will now begin in the autumn of 2008 with rehearsals for Winter’s Tale and The Cherry Orchard. It was announced that Simon Russell Beale will play Leontes and Lopakhin, and that Sinead Cusack and Rebecca Hall will join the ‘Anglo/American’ company. The plays will open in January 2009 in Brooklyn, with several international stops along the way, until settling in at the Old Vic during the summer of 2009.

Caro Newling, Mendes’s partner, insists that the creative team and acting company will truly be transatlantic. “Half-American and half-English.” She also promised that the roles will be performed by actors with proper stage chops.

The model for the Bridge Project was Mendes's final season as the artistic director of the Donmar, where directed Twelfth Night and Uncle Vanya, which were also presented at BAM.

The name 'Bridge’ came about when Newling was walking across Waterloo Bridge one night and had a eureka moment. "Brooklyn Bridge, Waterloo Bridge and bridging the Atlantic ... oh, you get it.”

Friday, March 21, 2008

Belarus Free Theatre

This is the first and second article in a three part series written for IETM by the Belarus Free Theatre. It serves as an introduction to the contemporary performing arts scene in Belarus, Ukraine and Russia.

[On a personal note, I am happy to know Natalia Kolyada and Nikolai Khalezin, and had the unique pleasure of, after three years over the internet, finally meeting them in person while they were here in NYC for the 'Under the Radar Festival'. The Internationalists are honored to consider them, and for them to consider us, theatrical associates. - DH]

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Going to the Dogs

A proposed law, submitted to the Tuscan regional parliament, would allow pet owners in Tuscany to take their cats, dogs and other animals to any sort of public place - including museums, cinemas and theatres. If approved, it would open up new possibilities for millions of tourists who visit the museums of Florence and Siena each year, as well as Tuscany's famed countryside, which includes the Chianti area. The bill's sponsor, Fabio Roggiolani, predicts the bill would be law by this summer. "The majority [of regional lawmakers] are in agreement", he told the newspaper, Corriere della Sera.

Some well-known Italian animal lovers expressed misgivings at the prospect of people watching Pirandello or Puccini with their poodle. Cristina Acidini, the government official responsible for the museums in Florence said: "I adore animals. But I don't think a museum is the best place [for them]." And the film, theatre and opera director, Franco Zeffirelli, whose Rome villa is packed with dogs, said: "I'd never take them to La Scala."

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Rubicon International Theatre Festival

Ventura, California's Rubicon Theatre has announced plans for an annual 10-day International Theatre Festival to launch its inaugural season in July 2009. The nonprofit festival, estimated to cost $1 million annually, will present a preview this summer between July 17-27. The program includes the American premiere of the French production Imagine-Toi performed by former Cirque du Soleil clown and mime artist Julien Cottereau, and an Ivory Coast production of Luis Marques' war drama, Eye of the Cyclone. Tickets average $38.

The stated vision of the fesitival is to be "a forum where citizens of the world can come together, immerse themselves in multiple productions over a concentrated period of time, and viscerally experience 'the road not taken'. They savor new adventures, discover new vistas, and examine their perceptions of the human condition. The personal experience of theatre illuminates universal themes and stimulates social dialogue, deepening human connections and fostering greater understanding between individuals and cultures."

Monday, March 17, 2008

St. Patty's International Drunk Dial Contest

Montréal brainchild and infamous drunk dialer, Dups, has set up a phone number for you to call and leave your funniest St. Patrick's Day drunk dial. Dups came up with the idea a few years back while celebrating in Edmonton, Alberta. He started a competition with his friends where, with Dups as the judge, he would determine which of his friends was the drunkest. Word spread and now, four years later, it's gone public and global. In honor of this wonderfully green holiday, be sure to visit Dups Site. Just store the number in your cell phone, get drunk on Irish Car Bombs and give a dial. Saves you the trouble of calling up your ex.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Latvian Festivals

Homo Novus - International Festival of Contemporary Theatre
The most significant theatre festival in Latvia, taking place once in two years since 1995 - in September. The Latin meaning of Homo Novus is - the new, as yet unknown man. The aim of “Homo Novus” is not only to provoke the theatres of Latvia and the spectators to advance forth but also to expose the Latvian theatre on an international scale and to encourage purposefully a long term international cooperation. “Homo Novus” is a non-commercial festival that allows to see innovative and diverse theatre and dance performances from other countries for accessible prices. The foreign guests are offered to see the most distinguished performances of the Latvian theatres. -- Organizer: New Theatre Institute of Latvia.

Homo Alibi - Festival of Experimental Performing Arts
An international theatre festival that is organized with an aim to activate an unpopular or missing still potentially significant issues in the scene of the Latvian theatre. In the framework of the festival usually lectures, master classes, public readings of plays and other parallel activities are organized. The title - Homo Alibi has originated from a game of words based in Latin language, alibi meaning other, different, alternative, in legal terms - a justification. -- Organizer: New Theatre Institute of Latvia.

“Theatre Methods” International Festival
“Theatre Methods” is the annual professional festival-fair of contemporary methods in performing arts inviting representatives of various directions in stage work from all over the world. The main objective of the festival is to demonstrate various theatre methods, to share and exchange experience in professional theatre education and methods of rehearsal process. The program includes workshops, demonstrations, lectures, performances and discussions. -- Organizer: International University Global Theatre Experience.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Russian Theatre Life In Brief

The latest edition of Russian Theatre Life In Brief newsletter is now online. Published quarterly by the Theatre Union of Russia, it "presents news, announcements, reference information and current trends and problems of the Russian Theatre to the International theatre comminuty".

Friday, March 14, 2008

Turkmenistan Lifts Opera & Circus Ban

Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov, the president of Turkmenistan, says he will now permit operas and circuses to be performed, reversing a decision by his predecessor to ban those forms of expression. The president says his country is becoming increasingly developed and should, therefore, welcome such artistic performances.

"Our flourishing nation should not stand separate from the world," Berdymukhamedov told a group of leading intellectuals. "It absolutely should have a worthy operatic theatre and a worthy state circus."

The ban was imposed in 2001 by then-president Saparmurat Niyazov. Niyazov criticized opera and ballet as being foreign to Turkmen culture, and allowed funding for state-sponsored circuses to dry up. Niyazov, who ruled for 20 years and died in 2006, crushed dissent and instituted an immense personality cult.

Berdymukhamedov has since eased some of Niyazov's draconian policies. He has welcomed outside investment and allowed the exchange of foreign currencies. In his televised comments, Berdymukhamedov estimated the first opera would be performed in six or seven months but he did not mention whether ballet would also be part of the new policy.

Dubai's Cultural & Art Authority

His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai, has issued a decree creating a Cultural and Art Authority in Dubai.

The aim of the authority will be to enhance the international status of Dubai, which will participate in developing and forming the cultural scene of the 21st century in the region and around the globe.

The launch of this authority is part of Dubai's 2015 strategy which aims to place Dubai on the international cultural and heritage map. Omar Bin Sulaiman, said that the authority will strive to boost Dubai's position as one of the world's most diverse cultural cities, where East meets West.

The authority will supervise the establishment of a developed culture and art infrastructure in Dubai. It will also concentrate on establishing a creative atmosphere in visual arts, theatre, music, poetry, arts and heritage.

Among other responsibilities, the authority will take on the task of merging culture and art into Dubai's daily life and making use of art to create a suitable environment where all cultures will interact in Dubai, where a distinguished cultural identity will be established.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Client 9

As New York State governor Eliot Spitzer inevitably prepares to resign his office for being a client of a high-priced prostitution ring, I just wanted to point out the international angle of the story.

According to prosecutors, the 'Emperor’s Club V.I.P.' provided women to clients in London, Paris, New York, Washington and Miami, charging between $1000 and $5500 an hour.

I ask, if even the hookers are global now, why aren't more theatres?

Sunday, March 2, 2008

No Passport conference

No Passport Conference

Dreaming the Americas/The Body Politic in Performance—February 22, 2008 in New York City, initiated by Caridad Svich.

The need for a functional dialectic in the field of performance becomes even more pressing as artists and intellectuals examine performance’s concrete place in global society and ability to mobilize for social justice. The semantic and ideological bodies of anthropology, theatre, social performance, and history converge overwhelmingly at conferences such as No Passport. However, as I sat in the little auditorium at the Martin Segal Theatre Center, which was overflowing with people who had braved a very real February blizzard, issues seemed to crystallize rather than melt into confusion and generality. If any generality can be made about this conference, it is that political action through performance has adapted to the 21st century and moved far beyond the imaginations of our triple “B’s” Boal, Blau, and Brecht.[1]

Stephen Duncombe, who teaches the history and politics of media and culture at NYU, urged theatre artists to use PR and political analysis tools (as well as basic observation) to determine the “success” (efficacy and accountability) of political art by articulating the work’s intention in terms of categorical effect. Duncombe spoke to ten direct influences that political art can strive for and, in some categories, use to determine efficacy. I feel that these ten categories are the ideal frame in which to reflect on the information and emotion proliferated by the conference as a whole.

1.) Direct material results (i.e policy change, bills passed.) in this category I am reminded of Ralph Nader’s push for a consumer rights bureau under the Carter administration, and the thousands of nickels that citizens sent in to demonstrate their willingness to pay for it. Direct material results were the least addressed by this conference, as the actual ills that the US and other American countries face during this regime of rampant corporate control, illigitimation of the arts, and the mimetic shrinkage of public “space” even as homogenized cultural values colonialize everday lives seemed to fill the air with a collective desperation for change that provided the context and mood rather than the (major) subject matter for the conference.

2.) Direct ideological change (public opinion and short-term worldview shifts). I feel that one of performance’s primary roles is to move effects in this category into the next one. To this issue, the panel on Accents spoke directly to changes in casting, honesty about role-playing in theatre, and difficulties faced by performers of color in the US’ theatre industry but quickly uncovered needs for:

3.) Indirect or Long-term ideological change, which includes processes of critical thinking and shifts in notions of possibility, in terms of cultural identity, and multi-lingual transnationalism. The translation panel also addressed ideological change on both “direct” and “indirect” levels, describing and expressing relationships between private/subjective issues and public/social issues which act rather like Russian nesting dolls, beginning with signification in syllabic rhythm (in terms of translating words) as the tiniest doll and cultural symbology and patterns of transmission and expression as a doll so large it takes up the whole room.

4.) Redistribution of the Sensible, a term from Jacques Ranciere and his incredible “Politics of Aesthetics,” about which I welcome any and all discussions but can’t possibly explain in blog form. Basically, redistribution of the sensible positively ruptures systems of self-evidence and qualified sense perception, that assign parts and positions to subjects and objects alike (Politics of Aesthetics, p. 12). This concept, which can easily be applied to verfremdukseffekt and phenomenology’s theories about the value of generally “shaking things up” was expressed by the Dramaturgy, Design, and New Technologies panel. Ping Chong spoke to the idea of reinvention, and shared the view that technology strengthens mythological communication and forces us to engage with technology’s huge implications with Kevin Cunningham of 3LD and Jay Scheib.

5.) Transformation of Experience. The panel on reconfiguring the classics in new writing and the technology panel overlapped to provide distinct and jarring clarity (not unlike the floating bodies conjured by the Eyeliner). What is most interesting to me, is the absolute dedication to defining the politics of our field that has emerged. Erik Ehn spoke briefly to his experience in Rwanda and how traditional narrative structure, when touched by horror, twists, breaks, redistributes, and regenerates to express and describe. Performance is mandatory to human survival for a plethora of reasons, but not least of all because it mirrors humanity’s very adaptability. But performance is not merely an art form that we can use to clarify and change our experiences, rather it IS experience, spatially, temporally, psychologically, socially, emotionally, and politically.

6.) Creation of Counter Cultures and 7.) Preaching to the Converted/Education of the Converted. Duncombe’s presentation legitimized these as desirable results of political artmaking. In my mind, they serve the same purpose as church worship, or the weekend training of a homegrown militia. We must rehearse rhetoric in order to use it, agree on terminology (what does the word “sublime” mean in a political art context someone at the conference asked) etc. But I do think that these categories, however useful this conference was, mesh best with Categories 8.) Experimentation and 9.) Art that doesn’t “work” or “Art for Art’s Sake.” which includes powerful discussions of aesthetic innovation, field theory itself, beauty, sublimity, form, craft, and technique. I don’t call that “not working,” I think that art about art or for artists is essential, especially if it encourages more people to BE artists and for artists to unite as a community, etc. Let us not forget Joseph Beuys and his theories and actions on social sculpture. Experimentation, Randy Gener reminded us during the technology panel, is a model for existence. Svich, in her opening presentation of a fantastic paper called “Healing the Body Politic” talked about facing the world, and how paths for confrontation and healing rely on sustainable and constant experimentation, searching for new paths to truth and new paths to action.

10.) Reinforcement of Old or New Order. Personally, the exhilaration I felt throughout this conference was due both to the content of the panels and the ideas being expressed and to the fact that such a conference—a free and public conference—was being held. The field of performance is hungry for intellectual and artistic spaces like No Passport; a place for academia and working artists to engage in public discourse, co-creation, and mutual stimulation. Our greatest obstruction perhaps is not the lack of audiences or the lack of government funding, the lack of space, the lack of time, or the lack of great new young playwrights, actors, directors, theorists, designers, and producers, but rather the lack of community and public forums such as this one. In terms of judging efficacy by Duncombe’s standards, this conference was effective in all ten of his categories and I encourage anyone involved in politics and/or performance to attend next year.


[1] (a side note: artists seem to adore alliteration: when the phrase “bludgeoned by the banal” was bandied, every note-taking pen scribbled simultaneously.)