The Sundance Institute Theatre Program provides a unique catalytic process of artistic engagement for independent theatre-makers in the U.S. and globally through a range of artist-driven developmental opportunities that connect, support and sustain artists across their careers.
Led by Artistic Director Philip Himberg and Producing Director Christopher Hibma, the Sundance Institute Theatre Program emphasizes intensive and limited-time interactions with high-level artistic mentors within the context of retreat settings removed from commercial pressures and other demands of contemporary life. The result is Lab experiences that are transformative on both personal-artistic and project-specific levels.
The Sundance Institute Theatre Program provides a unique catalytic process of artistic engagement in the world of theatre development programs. Labs provide artists an isolated retreat setting of soul-nurturing natural beauty, removed from the demands of contemporary life. They balance the self-directed freedom of an artistic retreat with a series of carefully calibrated interactions with select artistic mentors within a supportive community. The Lab process is not tied to any particular methodology or “how-to” of “one size fits all” new work development. Rather, Sundance Labs are artist-focused and artist-led.
While many programs provide time and space for development, Sundance Labs are distinguished by:
Lab experiences are transformative on both personal and project-specific levels. These catalytic experiences enrich and strengthen artists to move projects toward production, and memorably impact artists throughout their careers. As The Space Between, Theatre Labs engage the complex spaces between idea and performance.
At Sundance, dramaturgy is the how and the why of new play development, a process of inquiry and exploration into dramatic works practiced not only by Sundance dramaturgs, but by all of the artists in the room. Sundance dramaturgs, who have wide experience in the support of new work, provide engaged, considered, and empowering guidance to each project’s artists, and offer fresh perspectives on the work. They recognize that each individual artist/project brings a unique set of intentions, aesthetics, content, language and process. Once a project is accepted to a Lab, there is opportunity to discuss the kind of dramaturgical support that best suits it. For the Middle East and North Africa Initiative, where work is often in Arabic, dramaturgs from both the US and MENA region work collaboratively.
Labs prioritize, whenever possible, a day-on/day-off rehearsal rhythm. Rehearsals with collaborating artists one day alternate with days for reflection and writing/re-writing. This offers artists refreshing opportunities for experimentation and discovery.
Sundance founder Robert Redford’s early awareness that beautiful natural surroundings enhance creativity means that Lab artists are housed in a calm bucolic setting, sharing meals and artistic journeys, thereby building community amongst the participants. Final showings of the works in progress are open rehearsals solely for the Lab community. Chosen experts in the field are brought to the Lab as Creative Advisors to attend final showings and offer fresh eyes. By respecting the intimacy and trust established through the Lab process, generative artists leave Sundance Labs with a collection of sculpted feedback and new possibilities. Potential commercial producers, the external public, and paid audiences are purposefully not part of the final readings.
1 - THE SETTING AND EXPECTATIONS: In a beauty-filled landscape, where generous hospitality is provided by a gracious staff, artists discover an empty space - an open field for dream time and creativity discovery, relieved of external pressures and internal expectations.
2 - ARTIST-DRIVEN PROCESS: Lab Fellows guide their own experiences, first by introducing themselves to the community, describing their project and work plan goals, and often reading their work out loud. The artist-driven process is encouraged throughout the Lab process, as is respectful deep listening and interaction from dramaturgs, mentors and fellow participants.
3 - DRAMATURGY AND REHEARSAL: Carefully selected dramaturgs assigned to each artist/project begin with pre-Lab conversations. At the Lab itself, the Artistic Director and dramaturgs move between project rehearsals, entering into an ongoing dialogue with Fellows, encouraging artists to engage with the impulses that inspired their writing. Open rehearsals are encouraged to allow the Lab community to quietly observe the working process of fellow artists. Informal conversations may evolve outside of rehearsal, over a meal or a walk. Dramaturgical “check-ins” are scheduled for the dramaturgical team to learn and consult about all Fellows/projects.
4 - WRITING: With comfortable spaces provided for writing, Fellows determine their own rhythm of writing and/or re-writing. Feedback is managed between the Fellow, core collaborators, the dramaturg and other mentors, with the guidance of the Artistic Director.
5 - FINAL OPEN REHEARSALS/PRESENTATIONS: Fellows and their collaborators balance continuing development with the need to temporarily solidify choices for an informal presentation to the community. The Lab process culminates in a sharing that typically takes the form of readings or partially staged readings.
6 - FEEDBACK: A small gathering is convened for each Fellow, with his/her key collaborator(s), Creative Advisors and the Artistic Director. Fellows are encouraged to formulate questions to guide conversations that are moderated by the Artistic Director the day after a presentation, when possible.
7 - AFTER THE LAB: All participating artists are welcomed into the Theatre Program’s Alumni community. A limited amount of Post-Lab support funds are made available when requested and as approved by Theatre Program staff. While staff may involve themselves in advocacy or follow-through for specific projects, Sundance does not function as a producer of plays.
The Sundance Theatre Lab process is not tied to any particular methodology or “how-to” of “one size fits all” new work development. Rather, Labs are artist-focused and artist-led to offer generative artists refreshing opportunities for experimentation and discovery. Labs reflect Sundance founder Robert Redford’s early awareness that beautiful natural surroundings enhance creativity. Artists spend focused time in a range of Lab configurations, all placed in isolated settings of natural beauty, within a nurturing community of fellow participants and mentors.
Sundance “deepens the resolve of artists by bringing them together in a creative community so that they know they are not alone.” -Robert Redford
Since 1997, the Theatre Program’s international activity has grown from a handful of international observers at the Theatre Lab in Utah to over 14 years of deep peer-to-peer intercultural engagement in six East African countries and, currently, in the Middle East & North Africa. Exposure and exchange foster the pursuit of artistic freedom, a celebration of diversity, a commitment to transparency and openness, and an appreciation of differences.
The Theatre Program serves as “the space between” the conception of a work and its eventual production by providing artists time for reflection, experimentation and mentoring within the context of an intimate peer-level artistic community. In 2016, the Theatre Program expanded this notion to describe not only the complex space between idea and production, but also to open up new spaces of aesthetic, cultural and geographical exploration.
IDEA ← (Sundance) → PRODUCTION
OUR GOALS IN THE MIDDLE EAST & NORTH AFRICA
Creative Tensions, a unique live event series where participatory theater meets collective conversation. Devised in collaboration with IDEO, Creative Tensions explores the opposing forces that inform our daily lives and is a collective conversation expressed in movement, wherein participants reveal where they stand on an issue by virtue of where they stand in the room. Guided by a moderator and provoked by speakers (we call them protagonists) who approach the topic from different perspectives, Creative Tensions is an eye-opening, reflective, and inspiring live experience. Click here for the Creative Tensions website and to find out about future events.
The Sundance Institute Theatre Program is supported by an endowment from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, with generous additional support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; Time Warner Foundation; the John and Marcia Price Family Foundation; The Shubert Foundation, Inc.; LUMA Foundation; National Endowment for the Arts; The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust; Karen Lauder; Joan and George Hornig; The Carrie Louise Hamilton Foundation; The Tony Randall Theatrical Fund, Inc.; and USA for Africa.
THEATRE PROGRAM STAFF (R-L): Christopher Hibma, Producing Director, Iyvon Edebiri, Producing Coordinator. Ignacia Delgado, Literary Manager. Ana Verde, Intern. Philip Himberg, Artistic Director. Jumana Al-Yasiri, MENA Manager.
THEATRE PROGRAM STAFF
Philip Himberg, Artistic Director
Christopher Hibma, Producing Director
Ignacia Delgado, Literary Manager
Jumana Al-Yasiri, Middle East & North Africa Manager<
THEATRE PROGRAM ASSOCIATES
Roberta Levitow, Senior Program Associate-International Janice Paran, Senior Program Associate-Labs Alex Barron Mame Hunt Anne Kauffman Hadi Tabbal Liesl Tommy
Elliott Breece, Google Music Luis Castro, Producer Maria Cuomo-Cole, HELP USA Jeanne Donovan Fisher, True Love Productions/Sundance Institute Trustee Roshi Givechi, IDEO Joe Machota, Creative Artists Agency Georgiana Pickett, Baryshnikov Arts Center Zeenat Rahman, Aspen Institute Jon Reinish, SKDKnickerbocker Liesl Tommy, Director