Just what is global citizenship? By definition, it should apply to all of us, right? Global citizenship is one of the core values of Theatre Communications Group, the publisher of American Theatre, and our annual May/June international issue is one manifestation of that institutional focus. But if we can all count ourselves among the globally certified—if we’re all signed-on citizens of a world community—what are the implications? Is this a badge you get handed at birth, or does it come as an acknowledgment of grown-up values you hold, perspectives you embrace, actions you take?
“Members of our national theatre community,” TCG’s boilerplate statement on the subject declares, “are citizens of a worldwide theatre community,” a community that (among other things) “promotes international and cultural exchange in order to enhance our art form, while also deepening peace and understanding.” That’s global citizenship in a nutshell, all right. But as you delve into this issue’s special section, “Three Scenes in Africa”—and into the conflict-driven, high-stakes creative lives of the artist/activists featured there—the concept will take on a flesh-and-blood vividness, a deeper, more perturbing connotation. The global citizens at work today in Egypt, Uganda and Senegal face challenges we’re unlikely ever to confront in our own backyards. Their commitment to “enhancing our art form, while also deepening peace and understanding” comes, in many cases, in the wake of political violence and at the risk of freedom or personal safety. Their stories turn bland definitions into manifestos.
Steering past the international Special Section—which also features AT’s exclusive, comprehensive listings of world festivals on tap this summer season—this issue wheels into classic American territory, where our reporters coax such major theatrical figures as iconoclastic playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, prolific composer Jeanine Tesori and company-focused director Jim Simpson to talk uninhibitedly about their lives and work. Our reviewers cast critical eyes on a revamped cult musical, Side Show, and on books about the Broadway debacle that was Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark and the lens through which Americans have traditionally viewed Shakespeare. Under the label Antecedents, where we revisit significant moments in theatre history, playwright and author Jeffrey Sweet recounts the bumpy first convocation of the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, 50 years ago this month.
Let this issue’s expansive purview—stretching from the turbulent theatrical topography of three African nations to a U.S. landscape alive with new work and vigorous debate—serve as a mirror of sorts, in which your own identity as a global citizen is reflected. Who are you now?