New York, NY — The artists and Creative Advisors selected for the second Sundance Institute Theatre Lab on Manda will soon be traveling to the island off the coast of Kenya in East Africa. The two-week (July 17-31) exchange and development program provides East African artists with guidance in their creative development toward final production and is modeled on the annual Sundance Institute Theatre Labs. Under the supervision of Philip Himberg, Producing Artistic Director of the Sundance Institute Theatre Program, Christopher Hibma, Associate Director, and Roberta Levitow, Artistic Associate, the Lab in East Africa is a core component of the Theatre Program’s year-round efforts.
Deborah Asiimwe, Specialist for East Africa, administers the East Africa Initiative under a grant from the New Generations Program, funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation/The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and administered by Theatre Communications Group. The Sundance Institute Theatre Lab on Manda is supported by LUMA Foundation, USA for Africa, and the United States Embassy, Nairobi. Wayne McGregor CBE generously provides his Manda studio, Akili, as rehearsal and convening space for the artists. Additionally, the Theatre Program gratefully acknowledges the support of Cristina and Thomas Bechtler. On Manda, Theatre Lab participants reside at Diamond Beach Village, an eco-resort in the Lamu Archipelago.
“For 25 years, Sundance Institute’s Theatre Program has been discovering and developing new work, always with a focus on richness and diversity of storytelling,” said Keri Putnam, Executive Director of the Institute. “Now in its fifth year, the East Africa initiative reflects our commitment to connecting with the stories and histories of other cultures, and supporting artists who can share them with global audiences.”
“The insight and feedback we received for last year’s charter Theatre Lab on Manda affirmed our belief that cultural exchange informs arts and artists on a deep level,” said Himberg. “We look forward to working with the projects and artists selected for this year’s Lab and to contribute to appreciation for East African theatre artists.”
In addition to the Fellows, participating artists from the region include: Andnet Dagnew (Ethiopia), Philip Luswata (Uganda), Mumbi Kaigwa (Kenya), Schollarstickar Luwi (Tanzania), Pili Malundila (Tanzania) and Angel Uwamahoro (Rwanda).
Creative Advisors for the Lab are: Hope Azeda (Rwanda), Lynn Nottage (USA), Stew (USA), Indhu Rubasingham (UK) and Liesl Tommy (USA/South Africa).
The projects selected are:
Desperate to Fight
By Meaza Worku Berehanu (Ethiopia)
Marta has been divorced three times, and now she’s not sure if she wants to give marriage a fourth try. Tormented by a the sounds of a newly and seemingly happily-wedded couple living next door, she wrestles with her past and the memories of her former husbands. How can Marta reconcile her principles and justify those extreme feelings of love and fury that come with marriage? Desperate to Fight is a sophisticated, witty and paradoxical story about relationships, love and marriage from the heart of the gender-struggles in contemporary Addis Ababa.
He is Here He Says I Say
By Margaret Namulyanga (Uganda)
Ruth is a young woman who throughout her life has listened to the advice of others to guide her in her role as a woman. After all, in different Ugandan cultures, there are norms that clearly state what a good woman should be like! Marriage, pleasing men and being subservient to men top the list. In this poetic meditation, Ruth decides to do what is not expected of a woman. She counters the orders of others with a candid personal voice and her belief that the time is right for women to stop following societal norms blindly. He is Here He Says I Say asks us to answer honestly: what is “a good woman”?
By Eric Wainaina (Kenya)
DJ Lwanda’s voice rings out daily on local radio, leading and inspiring the Nairobi community of Kwa Maji. But Anna Mali, an avaricious real estate diva, craves the land beneath their slum. She seduces the fiery young DJ away with a job at a top nationwide station, and organizes a violent campaign to terrorize the people of Kwa Maji. When the government and media turn a blind eye to the decapitated bodies in the streets, DJ Lwanda must return home to expose the truth. But at what cost? Well-known Kenyan musician Eric Wainaina is composer, lyricist and book writer of this dynamic work of musical theatre.
Safari Ya Mwandale/Mwandale’s Journey
By Irene Sanga (Tanzania)
This project takes you on the journey of a young Tanzanian girl to become who she believes she can be. Having been denied many privileges and opportunities because of her gender, Mwandale, now a woman, recounts the story of the sacrifices she made and her crucial struggle with her father to transform limitations into challenges. In Kiswahili using a combination of narration and music, the Sanga looks at the effects of a patriarchal society that keeps the African continent “a continent of beggars” in spite of its enormous resources – particularly women. Mwandale speaks on behalf of the independence of all African women and their potential role in social transformation.
Wayne McGregor CBE / Akili
Akili is the private home and studio of British choreographer and director Wayne McGregor CBE. Created in 2006, Akili has played host to over 60 international artists from a diverse range of artistic disciplines in small scale residencies and retreats. Akili affords artists the time, space and inspiring location to stand back from their usual practice and simply ‘breathe’ re-energizing their personal creativity. Wayne McGregor is a multi award-winning artist, renowned for his physically testing choreography and ground breaking collaborations across dance, film, music, visual art, technology and science. He is the Resident Choreographer of The Royal Ballet, Covent Garden and Artistic Director or Wayne McGregor | Random Dance, a resident company of Sadlers Wells Theatre, London.
Sundance Institute Theatre Program
The Sundance Institute Theatre Program is a program of the Sundance Institute. Through its developmental activities at the Sundance Institute Playwright’s Retreat at Ucross, the Sundance Institute Theatre Lab at White Oak, Sundance Institute East Africa, and two new pilot theatre programs at Mass MoCA and Governors Island, the Program identifies and assists emerging theatre artists, contributes to the creative growth of established artists, and encourages and supports the development of new work for the stage. Under the guidance of Producing Artistic Director Philip Himberg, more than 85% of the work coming out of the Program’s labs has found professional production at theatres across the United States, Mexico and Europe. Recent productions of Sundance Institute-developed work include: Passing Strange by Stew and Heidi Rodewald, which won the 2008 Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical, Circle Mirror Transformation by Annie Baker and The Lily's Revenge by Taylor Mac. www.sundance.org/theatre
Sundance Institute East Africa is a program to support the work of theatre artists in East Africa, as well as to create exchange and exposure opportunities between U.S. artists and East African writers, directors, and performers. In the spirit of this exchange, Sundance Institute East Africa engages with East African artists in Africa as well as East African artists sharing their work with artists in the U.S.
Sundance Institute is a global nonprofit organization founded by Robert Redford in 1981. Through its programs for directors, screenwriters, producers, composers and playwrights, the Institute seeks to discover and support independent film and theatre artists from the United States and around the world, and to introduce audiences to their new work. The Institute promotes independent storytelling to inform, inspire, and unite diverse populations around the globe. Internationally recognized for its annual Sundance Film Festival, Sundance Institute has nurtured such projects as Born into Brothels, Trouble the Water, Son of Babylon, Amreeka, An Inconvenient Truth, Spring Awakening, Light in the Piazza and Angels in America.
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Casey De La Rosa