Theaters & universities in 4 U.S. cities collaborate on National Civil War Project

Brett Zongker, The Associated Press, 2/28/13

Four major universities are joining theater companies in Boston, Baltimore, Washington and Atlanta in the National Civil War Project to commission new plays, music and dance compositions about the Civil War and its lasting legacy 150 years later. Beyond commissioning new works, organizers plan for university faculty to integrate the arts into their academic programs on campus. Under the program, Harvard University will partner with the American Repertory Theater; University of Maryland's Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center will join CENTERSTAGE; George Washington University is working with Arena Stage; and Atlanta's Alliance Theatre will join Emory University. Choreographer Liz Lerman helped in developing the partnerships between theaters and universities during a semester spent at Harvard. She said artists can help professors animate their scholarship as more traditional lectures move online, and the Civil War is a good subject to connect art and academics. "It's something about the fact that we're still trying to understand it," Lerman said. "There are enough civil wars still going on in the world, I myself am trying to understand what it must be like." Harvard president Drew Gilpin Faust, a Civil War historian, has been leading the university to integrate the arts with academic pursuits, through theater, exhibits or other art forms. "Engaging students through art and art-making is one of the ways in which universities prepare young women and men for life in a world that is far better connected and far more complex than at any other point in human history," she [said]. GW president Steven Knapp said tackling such a subject between academia and theater could provide a new model for learning. "It's an experiment," Knapp said, "to see how far we can go in bringing together the strengths of the university and the strengths of the theater company."


Online partnership links University of Iowa with theatres in Shanghai & Moscow

Ashley Davidson, Iowa Now, 2/27/13

The Book Wings project will link up the University of Iowa International Writing Program (IWP) with the Shanghai Dramatic Arts Centre and with the Moscow Art Theatre for collaborative theatre performances on March 12 and 14, respectively. Using the latest videoconferencing technology, theatre arts professionals and new media specialists bring together actors, playwrights, directors, dramaturges, and stages to produce two unified performances known as Book Wings China and Book Wings Russia. Working in conjunction with the UI Department of Theatre Arts, the Virtual Writing University, Information Technology Services, and UITV, these ambitious literary and theatrical events will connect stages 5,000 (Moscow) and 7,000 (Shanghai) miles apart. Both performances are free, open to the public, bilingual (translation provided), and accessible worldwide via live Internet stream at Audience members and Internet viewers may send comments and questions via Twitter for the live talk-back sessions following the events using the hashtag #bookw. Building on the success of the Book Wings model for collaborative, digitally connected theatre pioneered in 2012 by IWP and the Moscow Art Theatre, Book Wings 2013 commissioned 10-minute plays from 12 distinguished young playwrights -- six English-language, three Chinese, and three Russian -- who collaborated with translators to refine translations of their counterparts' work for the stage. Student actors in Iowa City, Moscow, and Shanghai will perform the plays. 


Is a small NYC theater's new university partnership a formula for longevity?

Gordon Cox, Variety, 2/28/13

Naked Angels, the theater company that has developed plays including Broadway's Next Fall, has partnered with The New School to become the academic institution's producing partner for its M.F.A. and soon-to-launch B.F.A. programs in theater. The two sides anticipate a mutually beneficial arrangement that will help The New School professionalize its legit training programs, while at the same time aid in stabilizing Naked Angels and its producing initiatives in a tough time for fundraising. In recent seasons, Naked Angels has maintained its series of new-work developmental programs but produced full mainstage productions more sporadically. Naked Angels will incorporate students into its developmental programming -- including readings and workshops presented under the banners Tuesdays at Nine, First Mondays and Angels in Progress, as well as the recently launched Naked Radio - and the company will be housed in a New School building in downtown Manhattan. Troupe will nonetheless remain an independent nonprofit with a separate board. The partnership reps one potential formula for longevity for the smaller [New York City theaters] that have been battered by the economic slowdown in recent years. To a degree, it matches a template forged by pacts between pro theaters and academic institutions in other cities, including Harvard/A.R.T. in Cambridge, Yale/Yale Rep in New Haven and U.C.S.D./Old Globe in San Diego. With an embedded link to a pro producing org, the New School aims to distinguish itself from a crowded local pool of legit training programs at institutions including New York U., Columbia, Pace and Fordham.


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  • Last Thursday, I linked to an story that said the sequester would cut t
    he NEA's budget by 8.2%, or roughly $12 million. Apparently, the cut will be somewhat smaller, according to The Washington Post: "The National Endowment for the Arts will incur a 5% reduction, totaling $7.3 million of its $147 million budget, a spokeswoman said. The 5% will be pro-rated equally between grants and the administrative budget."
  • Last Friday, I linked to a NY Daily News story that reported The Living Theatre was shutting down after 66 years. Yesterday, The New York Times interviewed Brad Burgess, the theater's executive producer, who said that the esteemed experimental company was "definitely continuing" and that its founder, Judith Malina, was not retiring -- despite a move to an assisted living facility. "She is writing a new piece for us," Mr. Burgess said, "and she is writing a piece for the actors who are living at the Lillian Booth home, which they are buzzing about."

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