Georgetown’s Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics and the Theater Communications Group launched the Global Theater Initiative Feb. 12, a program to increase internationalism in the U.S. theater community.
The Initiative will be headed by Teresa Eyring, executive director of TCG, and Professor Derek Goldman, co-founding director of the lab.
Georgetown’s Davis Performing Arts Center will host the inaugural gathering of the Global Theater Initiative in June, a conference that will bring together performing artists from around the world to discuss challenges they face in spreading their art.
The initiative will work to connect the performing arts community with resources, advocate collaboration and strategize ways to help internationalize the U.S. theater community. The initiative will also help lead the U.S. Center of the International Theater Institute with the TCG in assisting international theater professionals looking for work in the United States.
Informed by past collaborations with groups such as Belarus Free Theatre, who operate in secret in their home country, and the Syria Trojan Women, who were prevented from coming to the United States by the Bureau of Consular Affairs, conference attendees will discuss how the spread of performing arts is largely determined by diplomacy.
“Very often theater becomes a pawn in international disputes,” Georgetown adjunct professor Cynthia Schneider, former U.S. Ambassador to the Netherlands, said. “We may have a discussion about the challenges of theater being a prisoner to political tensions while at the same time trying to humanize those tensions and show them in a way that people can relate to and understand.”
In the past, Schneider and Goldman have co-taught a course at Georgetown entitled “Diplomacy and Culture: Performance, Film, Media,” which examined the intersection between theater and diplomacy. The course covered a variety of topics, including drama, ethnographic poetry and the exploration of the ways in which arts and culture inform how people and nations interact. Many of the ideas taught in the course will be essential for the initiative.
Goldman said that the arts can play an important role in raising awareness, something the lab has focused on.
“The success of the lab has been that it’s tapping into an awareness,” Goldman said. “Culture, and performance in particular, has a really important role to play in humanizing, creating empathy and making it impossible to deny the humanity of other human beings.”
Devika Ranjan (SFS ’17) who took the course, said art can represent the state of international politics and can inform citizens about its implications.
“International politics is a field in which you have to represent yourself and where you come from.” Ranjan said. “Art is a very good tool for politics. [It] can transcend language and cultural barriers in order to understand other people: understand other cultures.”
Alex Prout (COL ’19), a theater and performance studies major, stressed the importance of diversity in theater.
“Diversity is so important. Exclusion is not what the theater’s about at all. American theater is fantastic, but acting as a profession can take on a whole other level in other countries,” Prout said.
In conjunction with TCG’s annual conference in Washington, the initiative will arrange a pre-conference entitled “Finding Home: Migration, Exile, and Belonging,” which will explore the issue of international migration through a series of performances, dialogues and conversations with theater companies from around the world.
“Xenophobia is something that exists all the time for migrants,” Camille Bangug (SFS ’19) said. “Knowing that the cultures [of migrants] are beautiful and that they can produce beautiful art in ways that we can all appreciate can create a powerful conversation.”