Theatre Without Borders (TWB) began in November 2003 when American theatre director Roberta Levitow returned to the U.S. from a Fulbright Senior Specialist residency at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Following attendance at the Cairo International Festival for Experimental Theatre and theatre workshops in East Africa and Poland, she was searching for artists, theatres and organizations in the U.S. that shared her interest in international exchange.
She soon discovered other friends and colleagues who were infused with the spirit of internationalism: Erik Ehn, playwright (former Dean of Theatre at Cal Arts & presently Chair of the Theatre Department at Brown University) who had traveled to Rwanda in order to write his theatrical response to the 1994 Genocide of the Tutsi’s Maria Kizito; Catherine Filloux another Fulbright Senior Specialist and playwright, who had been creating theatre pieces with artists in Cambodia; and Deborah Brevoort, also a playwright, who had done playwriting in Denmark, Mexico, Australia and Canada.
Together, this small group started meeting to talk about ways to activate and expand international theatre exchange in the U.S. They began a series of conversations with Joan Channick (former Deputy Director of Theatre communications Group & Director of the International Theatre Institute/US Center and now Associate Dean of the Yale School of Drama), as well as with Todd London (formerly of New Dramatists and now Head of the Theatre Program at the University of Washington.)
On May 10, 2004, Catherine organized an informal “theatre without borders” gathering at New Dramatists to discuss international exchange. Expecting no more than 15 people to attend, they were surprised to find the theatre packed with 70 theatre artists who had heard about the gathering via word of mouth and had shown up to the part of the conversation. Before we knew it, our e-mail list of 6 names had grown to over 400 worldwide.
Morgan Allen (playwright and now General Manager at New Dramatists), offering to help us create and maintain our original website (with enormous thanks to technical advisor Randy Paris) Daniel Banks, a director and NYU performing arts scholar, offered to help us design and implement our symposium in New York City. Directors Sarah Cameron Sunde and Marie-Louise Miller of The Translation Think Tank offered to collaborate on a pilot international translation project. Ellen Kaplan, artist and Smith College professor, offered to edit a book featuring essays on international exchange.
The eventual April 2005 two-day symposium at New Dramatists in New York City, entitle THE FUTURE OF INTERNATIONAL EXCHANGE: CHALLENGES, REWARDS, RESPONSIBILITIES, POSSIBILITIES, drew over 100 theatre artists and administrators from throughout the United States and around the world. Director and producer Marcy Arlin (Immigrants Theatre Project), playwright Ruth Margraff, director and dramaturg Daniel Brunet (German Theatre Abroad) and theatre artist & web designer Greg Beuthin were some of the participants who joined the ever expanding and evolving TWB working group.
Between 2005 and 2015, Theatre Without Borders continued to grow in community and in influence.
Early and valued advisors included international theatre veterans Martha Coigney (former Excecutive Director of the I.T.I. US Center, Phillip Arnoult (Center for International Theatre Development, Towson, Maryland) Bill Reichblum (Kadmus Arts), Michel Fields (Dell’Arte Theatre Company), Emilya Cachapero (I.T.I US Center) and Melaine Joseph (The Foundry).
In 2005, TWB began a 7-year relationship with Dr. Cynthia Cohen and the Co-Existence Program at Brandeis University. With the goal of exploring the intersection of Theatre and Peacebuilding, Dr. Cohen led an inquiry that resulted in a 2-volume anthology, a 50-minute documentary and the ongoing ACTING TOGETHER PROJECT (www.actingtogether.org.)
The ACTING TOGETHER PROJECT work culminated in the September 2010, ACTING TOGETHER ON THE WORLD STAGE Conference at La MaMa, where over 400 artists from over 30 countries spent 4-days together examining theatre practice in conflict zones. Today TWB artists continue to provide insights into theatre and peacebuilding practice world-wide.
On January 7, 2015, TWB celebrated a partnership with Marie Le Sourd of On the Move (the European Union cultural mobility website) and Dr. Frank Hentschker of the Martin E. Segal Theatre Center, The Graduate Center, CUNY to create the first-ever Cultural Mobility Funding Guide for the USA: Theatre, Dance and the Performing Arts. The Launch Symposium was attended by over 300 guests from over 25 countries.
January 28-February 1, 2015, TWB partnered with Tricklock Company and their Revolutions International Theatre Festival in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to create a Symposium weekend discussing in-depth questions about inter-cultural practice.
The partnership with Tricklock Company has continued. Co-organized symposiums have included focus on youth, education and most recently the climate crisis. Caused to close during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, Tricklock is in the midst of re-birthing as Revolutions Company, continuing their focus on international exchange.
Since 2017, TWB has worked in active partnership with The Arctic Cycle (Arts & Climate Change) to create The Climate Change Theatre Action as global arts-activism each COP/Conference of the Partners meetings 2017, 2019, 2021.
Today, TWB continues to inspire and to be inspired by the passion and creativity of the international performing arts community.