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May/June 2014 In Theatre News

Theatre news from all over the nation, from California to Washington D.C.

SAN JOSE, CALIF.: Two kinds of participants have signed up for his new summer institute on the literature and theatre of immigration, notes director/playwright/professor Matthew Spangler, who will lead “The Immigrant Experience in California through Literature and Theatre,” July 13–27. “One group are those teaching a hegemonic group of students who want to introduce stories outside their experience,” says Spangler, whose own adaptations of The Kite Runner and The Tortilla Curtain will figure into the class work. “Then we have applicants who teach at schools where students are almost all or all immigrants.”

A total of 150 school teachers from California and elsewhere applied, and 25 were accepted into the institute, which is supported by a $162,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. At San Jose State, they will be guided by Spangler, associate professor of performance and communication studies, and his co-director, David Kahn, professor of radio, TV, film and theatre arts, through both analytic and practical work. The first element looks at how works of theatre have represented the immigrant experience over the past 20 to 30 years, and the second is a “creative practicum” with Ping Chong, whose Undesirable Elements provides a model for a documentary theatre approach that participants will use to create work for a public performance on the institute’s last day. Guest workshops will be led by Luis Valdez and Kinan Valdez of El Teatro Campesino; Maxine Hong Kingston, whose novel Woman Warrior was adapted at Berkeley Repertory Theatre by Sharon Ott, will also be on hand, as well as immigration scholars Donna Gabaccia, Kelly Lytle-Hernçndez, Judy Yung and Glenn Gendzel.

The idea of the institute, says Spangler, is to inspire and equip participants to use theatre as a teaching tool about these issues. “A lot of immigrant stories are about marginalization, the voice of the subaltern,” Spangler explains. “And live theatre is especially fertile ground for those kinds of stories—it’s able to create an empathetic relationship between performer and audience that I think exceeds film.” Go to

INDIANAPOLIS: How does the annual Indy Convergence converge? On three concentric tracks, as this annual spring arts workshop, now in its seventh year, brings together a dozen or so local and national artists to develop at least one personal side project, teach a workshop in their field of expertise, and collaborate with the entire group on an “Umbrella Project.” The dates are May 7–16, the hub is Wheeler Arts Community, and this year’s Umbrella Project plans to use the American and Canadian eugenics movement “as a lens to examine the ascension and potential obsolescence of the human condition through neo-evolution and trans-humanism.” All workshops and performances are free and open to the public.

This year’s convergers include founders Ashley Benninghoff, a dancer and choreographer, and actor/playwright Robert Negron, who will direct the Umbrella Project, along with makeup artist Anna Bratton; Ian Garrett, a professor of ecological design for performance at Toronto’s York University and co-founder of Center for Sustainable Practice in the Arts; composer Josh Morris; dancer Caitlin Negron; choreographer/performer Stephanie Nugent; vocalist Sarah O’Brien; painter/designer Hiromi Okumura; all-around theatremaker Andrew Simon, of Mohawk Arts Collective; and installation artist Peiyi Wong. Let the converging begin. Go to

WASHINGTON, D.C.: Exploring the shifting dynamics between audience and artist is never an easy task. But that’s the challenge taken on at the fourth annual Zeitgeist International Festival and Symposium, May 10–12, where the focus will be “Participatory Theatre: The Intersection of Theatre and Social Action.” The three-day event, scheduled to take place at the Goethe-Institut, partners with the Zeitgeist Literary Group, Georgetown University’s Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics, Shakespeare Theatre Company and Studio Theatre.

While the symposium features such speakers as Sojourn Theater artistic director Michael Rohd and managing director Sabine Heymann of the Center for Media and Interactivity at the University of Giessen, a number of performances are also on tap. Coffee & Prejudice, by the Swiss group MerciMax, invites participants to test their judgment in a one-on-one interaction: Audience members sit alone at a table and await a series of four performers, who enter and talk about their values and moral misdoings. In 15’000 Gray, by the German group machine eX, uses a familiar video game approach, as small groups of audience members work together to solve a mystery in the office/laboratory of the fictional Professor Hovel.

Participatory theatre and the curious relationship between audience and artist is further explored in Love Club, an amorous twist on Fight Club. Created by the Austrian collective God’s Entertainment, Love Club features pillows instead of guns and a pair of joysticks for the avatars, creating a particular tension between controller, avatars and audience.

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