New York-As America ushers in a new age of political and cultural diplomacy, Theatre Communications Group (TCG), which serves as the US Center of International Theatre Institute (ITI-US), is bridging divides and creating dialogue between the Americian not-for-profit professional theatre and its international counterparts.
"TCG became the official home for ITI-U.S. in 1999," said Teresa Eyring, TCG Executive Director. "Our trustees understood the critical importance of international relationships among theatre artists to not only advance the art form, but also act as a kind of under-the-radar diplomacy."
Created in 1949 by UNESCO, the mission of the International Theatre Institute is to "promote international exchange of knowledge and practice in theatre arts in order to consolidate peace and friendship between peoples, to deepen mutual understanding, and increase creative co-operation between all people in the theatre arts."
"It is so encouraging to know that the new President of the United States understands the value of theatre to American life," said Emilya Cachapero, Director of ITI -U.S. and Director of Artistic Programs for TCG. "I hope, in this new era, that theatre will be recognized as a powerful tool that has and will continue to help us move forward as a global community."
Since 1962, ITI has celebrated World Theatre Day by engaging notable international theatre
artists to craft and deliver the annual International Message. Previous honorees include Arthur Miller (1963), Ellen Stewart (1975), Vaclav Havel (1994) and Ariane Mnouchkine (2005) and Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi (2007).
This year, ITI chose Dr. Augusto Boal, renowned Brazilian theatre director, writer, and politician, to create the message that will guide the network of 90 ITI Centers around the world for the next year. Boal is the founder of Theatre of the Oppressed, a theatrical form originally used in radical popular education movements and now used worldwide to engender social change and personal empowerment. In 2008, Boal was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize and his seminal book, Theatre of the Oppressed, is published by TCG Books.
Boal delivered his International Message on March 25, 2009 to over 400 artists, cultural and political leaders at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, France. ITI Centers, theatres and communities around the world will continue their celebrations on the official World Theatre Day– March 27, 2009.
As with previous International Messages, Boal's statement has been translated into more than 20 languages, distributed to tens of thousands of audiences prior to performances and featured by hundreds of daily newspapers, radio and television stations.
In his message for the Annual World Theatre Day, Augusto Boal writes, "We are all actors: being a citizen is not living in society, it is changing it."
Increased Participation from American Theatres
This year, thanks to social networks, online resources, and an expanding awareness of belonging to a global community, World Theatre Day is receiving greater attention and involvement in North America. TCG and ITI-US, in collaboration with the League of Chicago Theatres, encourages its members to:
- Share Boal's timely message with their audiences and colleagues on March 27;
- Register with the Performing Arts Alliance and Arts Advocacy Day;
- Contact their elected officials regarding the need for:
- Improved visa processing for international guest artists (Issue/Letter);
- Increased support for the Cultural Programs Division of the State Department's Office of Citizen Exchanges (Issue/Letter).
Mayoral Proclamations Issued in NYC and Chicago
Last week, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg issued an official proclamation declaring March 27, 2009 World Theatre Day. In his proclamation, Mayor Bloomberg acknowledges that New York Cityhas long been considered the theatre capital of the world and how, "New York City respects and admires the cultural diplomacy that is evolving through cultural exchanges and collaborations as TCG and ITI work with national and international colleagues to celebrate World Theatre Day." He continued to note that, "TCG and member theatres are major contributors to the American theatre sector, which employs more than 113,000 artists, administrators and production staff, and produces over 172,000 performances each year, reaching 30 million people and contributing over $1.6 billion annually to the U.S.economy."
Similarly, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley issued a proclamation citing Chicago's thriving theatre community as one that continues to engage with the national and international communities.
Major International Theatre Collection Announced
After a five-year cataloging project, the International Theatre Institute/Martha C. Coigney Collection is now accessible to the public at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. This comprehensive research collection details 60 years of theatrical activity in 116 countries and regions, beginning in 1946. The archive includes 250 periodicals, 7,000 books, 13,000 scripts and 12,000 playbills-as well as posters, brochures and other ephemera. Material from the collection is available upon request via the Billy Rose Theatre Division. Details about how to access the holdings can be found in the INTERNATIONAL section TCG's website or via the New York Public Library's online catalog, catnyp.nypl.org.
Advancing Cultural Exchange in Washington, D.C.
Just prior to its National Conference (June 4-6 in Baltimore), TCG and ITI-US will host a pre-conference titled ACTivate Change: Bridging Creativity and Cultural Exchange in Washington D.C. on June 3, 2009.The goal for the pre-conference is to unite theatre practitioners, policy makers, and cultural leaders with the diplomatic community and government agencies to share knowledge and seek ways to increase support and demystify the process for cultural exchange.
It has just been announced that celebrated author Jeanette Winterson will speak at the 2009 TCG Pre-Conference. The author of Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, Winterson is the recipient of numerous literary awards as well as the BAFTA Award for Best Drama. She frequently writes and speaks about the importance and power of the arts in society, most notably in her book of essays, Art Objects.
As the world has become increasingly interconnected in every sphere, artists are playing active roles in shaping a clear understanding of what this new world culture can and will be. US theatre professionals now, more than ever, must renew efforts to connect and collaborate with colleagues outside of our borders.
TCG is a national organization with global reach that is taking proactive steps to unite the field of professional non-profit theatre with this new world culture. To learn more about these efforts, including grant programs, publications and World Theatre Day, please visitwww.tcg.org.