In some of the surveys TCG conducts on behalf of the theatre field, the topic of cultural exchange comes up. How important is it for TCG to track theatre internationally and facilitate opportunities for cultural exchange?
In aggregate, the responses to our surveys suggest it is a lower-priority concern for many theatres. Issues like ongoing sustainability consistently rank closer to the top. It makes sense that many resident theatres would prioritize a focus on local communities and keeping things ship-shape at home. Or perhaps it’s the case that internationally active theatres have their cross-border projects well in hand, and place the topic in a less urgent category for TCG’s attention. There’s also the possibility that the folks who are interested in international exchange just don’t fill out surveys!
But regardless of who’s filling in survey blanks, there’s a powerful and growing interest in our global theatre community that is verifiable in other ways. TCG receives upwards of 50 requests annually for visa consultations, on behalf of theatres bringing artists from other countries. In the four years we’ve conducted the Global Connections program, there have been a whopping 833 applications for cultural exchanges.
These projects are wide-ranging and fascinating. If you have questions about the possibilities for exploring a new artistic or audience-development landscape through global partnerships, take a look at just a few of this year’s Global Connections recipients and their undertakings:
- César Alvarez of Yonkers, N.Y., will collaborate with Danish artist and game designer Nina Runa Essendrop to create a new participatory theatre work that combines Alvarez’s interest in physical interaction and sensory play with César’s interest in musical and theatrical storytelling.
- Artistic leaders Dic Wheeler and Marcella Trowbridge of ARTFARM in Massachusetts will travel to Sri Lanka and work with Sri Lankan artists Ruhanie Perera and Jake Oorloff of Floating Space Theater, observing and sharing strategies for new-work development and creating original performance works with underserved and stressed populations.
- Julie Rada of Salt Lake City and Serbian theatre/film artist Saša Perić will construct/reconstruct performances, hold salons and pop-up happenings, and conduct research into the art movement known as Zenitism, in order to reawaken conversation about a vibrant moment in art history that has been lost to time. Like the Beat poets, Zenit artists traveled through the former Yugoslavia, and Julie and Sasa will do the same—their road trip through the Balkans will involve performances, interviews, and cultivating collaborative relationships with artists along the way.
- Adrian Michael Blue of Philadelphia will research, create and produce a 45-minute production in American Sign Language, Mexican Sign Language and spoken Spanish for the theatre company Seña y Verbo, based in Mexico City.
For more information on the remarkable projects taking place across borders through Global Connections, go to www.tcg.org/grants/global_connections. There you will also find details of a new program, On the Stage, which complements our On the Road and In the Lab exchange grants.
And there are other ways of getting involved globally. TCG’s international delegations, for example—which have taken groups to places such as China, Armenia, Chile and Cuba—are always enthusiastically attended, with years of payoff afterwards in the form of collaborations, exchanges and lasting friendships. What practitioners come to realize is how much we have in common worldwide as theatremakers—regardless of the economic and producing systems we work under. Topics such as aesthetic development, audience engagement, financial sustainability and diversity and inclusion are at the forefront of the minds of theatremakers everywhere. When we meet each other, our chances of finding creative new approaches to old problems grow exponentially.
Case in point: TCG’s pre-conference border crossing, from San Diego to Tijuana at last year’s conference, led to a new relationship with Tijuana Hace Teatro, an organization that holds an “Audience School” in order to help theatregoers and potential theatregoers learn more about theatre and dance, and about what artists are trying to accomplish through their work.
In this issue, the article “The View from Santiago” by Henry Godinez and Yolanda Cursach talks about the prevalence of artistic projects focusing on the Mapuche indigenous peoples of Chile, and bringing about greater awareness of the need for equitable treatment in the Chilean system. Those of us who traveled to Cuba in 2013 also learned a great deal about diversity and inclusion in that country, where the practice of equity with respect to women and people of color—specifically the Afro-Cuban population—is much stronger than in the U.S. How has the existing Cuban system supported that equity, and how might it change as that country changes?
In a recent visit to Spain, I spoke with officials at the Teatr Nacional de Catalunya, who explained the difficulties of balancing budget and mission following a major cut in government funding. While the European system has in the past favored public funding to cover a high percentage of artistic organizations’ expenses, that system is changing as some nations face economic distress and others face policy shifts. We can be a sounding board to each other as we probe difficult questions about mission and artistry in these times of financial flux.
Consider the advantages of dipping into the vast pool of shared experience among theatre people around the globe and how it might improve our sustainability locally and globally. Then remember that TCG is here as a resource and a connector. We can help you help you get beyond your borders.