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Moving Forces

Television’s “Today” show has gotten a lot of mileage out of a travel segment called “Where in the world is Matt Lauer?” in which the amiable newsman shows up—surprise!—in a remote part of the world to alert viewers to sociopolitical or cultural happenings they’d have otherwise never known about. That TV catchphrase adapts handily to this month’s special section, “Moving Forces,” devoted to the varied work of a influential quartet of theatrical internationalists—Philip Arnoult, Cynthia Cohen, Allen Nause and Meiyin Wang—and a trio of U.S. theatre organizations whose international exchanges are yielding exciting, culture-bridging results for their audiences at home.

Where in the world is Philip Arnoult? The answer, at the moment, is Russia, where the Baltimore-based impresario is completing phase two of his “Beyond the Capitals” exchange between emerging theatre artists in cities like Omsk, Ekaterinberg or Moscow with their counterparts in San Francisco, New Orleans or Austin; in past years, the answer may have been the Netherlands, Eastern Europe or East Africa. Where in the world is Allen Nause? The Portland, Ore.–based director has most recently been busy in Pakistan, where he staged a sold-out production of The Odd Couple in Islamabad and plans to mount West Side Story in Karachi; his larger itinerary has included Northern Africa, India, Vietnam and Palestine.

Peace-builder Cynthia Cohen? From her offices at Brandeis University, Cohen monitors the artistic response to conflicts in Northern Ireland, Sri Lanka, Serbia, Peru and other world hotspots, and confers with courageous colleagues active in those conflict zones. The Under the Radar festival’s Meiyin Wang? The New York City–based performance specialist might as easily be spotted at a festival in Beijing or Singapore as one in Dublin or Santiago, Chile.

Where in the world, for that matter, are the artists of Pennsylvania’s People’s Light & Theatre, Massachusetts’s Shakespeare & Company and the West Coast–based Post Natyam Collective? Having opened themselves to the perspectives of their counterparts in Scotland, Bulgaria and India, respectively, they’ve proved that art can both celebrate differences and, sometimes, erase them.

Where in the world is this month’s American Theatre? All over the map. Welcome to the journey. You’re in good company. —Jim O’Quinn

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