“It is a good thing to place different civilizations in contact with each other;
that whatever its own particular genius may be,
a civilization that withdraws into itself atrophies;
that for civilizations, exchange is oxygen.”
-Aimé Césaire, African poet and political theorist
Our Philosophy – Exposure & Exchange
- International activities promote Sundance Institute core values to support “independent artistic voices that are risk-taking and socially aware.”
- International activities focus on regions of the world where artists living in the midst of fundamental social change seek innovative and urgent artistic expression
- Roughly 1/3 of Theatre Program activities relate to international exposure & exchange
- Focus is “meaningful exchange” with international artists
- After over 10 years focused exclusively on East Africa, African artists are now a part of a triangle of exposure & exchange that includes artists from other regions
- International activities occur both in identified countries as well as at US Theatre Labs
- International activities are not restricted to English-only, but accommodate other languages as well (e.g. Amharic, Kiswahili, Kinyarwanda, French & Arabic)
What We Value
Sundance Institute Theatre Program U.S.-based artists contribute reciprocally to this intercultural conversation through advocacy of excellence in artistry; a commitment to transparency, curiosity, and openness; a practice of pluralism, diversity, and inclusiveness; and a tolerance for differences as seen in artistic practice, content, and identity – all of which represent the highest level of U.S. arts and culture.
To What End?
In practical terms, the aims of the current international initiatives are to build connections between the U.S., East Africa and the MENA countries by exposing international work to U.S. artists (and eventually to audiences) and by providing the artists from outside our borders with an opportunity to network and work with top-level U.S. theatre practitioners; to provide international artists with the time & space to interact and create across national and regional boundaries and to foster a growing regional and global artistic identity; to redress a pervasive lack of knowledge in the U.S. about the cultures of East Africa and MENA countries by providing these artists with a forum to speak about the challenges of modern identity in their own voices through the medium of theatre.
Together we build our Ubuntu, our Humanness.
What’s Been Accomplished So Far
In 1996, with the arrival of Artistic Director Philip Himberg, the Sundance Institute Theatre Program opened its doors to international artists. The impetus for this transition from an exclusively national focus was Himberg’s concern about a growing insularity in the U.S., politically and artistically. He believed that American artists grow and expand possibility when exposed to the vision of foreign artists. Notable examples include the ever ambitious work of Mabou Mines, the Wooster Group, Robert Wilson, and Richard Foreman, all of whom traveled extensively. He proposed that not only would American work transform upon meeting and interacting with counterparts from abroad, but that within the exchange there also lay the opportunity for artists from outside the U.S. to find resonance with and be impacted by the Sundance Institute practice around new play development.
The first opportunity to venture in this direction was provided by the Center for International Theatre Development (CITD) under the leadership of Philip Arnoult. Through a series of CITD organized visits to Eastern and Central Europe (Hungary, Romania, Russia, Poland) and East Africa (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania), the Sundance Institute Theatre Program began to identify a generation of emerging artists in cultures undergoing vast social change.
Since 1997, the Sundance Institute Theatre Lab in Utah has welcomed artists from the Czech Republic, Poland, and Romania (former Soviet Bloc nations), as well as Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda (fragile East African democracies) - regions where artists continue to endure enforced and/or circumstantial artistic and political isolation. Originally, the artists came as observers to the Lab process. Progressively their involvement deepened and most recently international artists have engaged fully as Fellows, bringing projects and collaborators to the rigorous Lab experience.
The Eastern/Central European initiative culminated in the support of Krystof Warlikowski’s Krum (which later debuted at the BAM), reciprocated by the Krakow, Poland, production of I Am My Own Wife with the original Broadway star (Jefferson Mays), directed by Moisés Kaufman. Invitations for additional collaborations with this region (notably in Russia) continue and the CITD is developing an expanding range of U.S. partners. Meanwhile, the focus of the Sundance Institute Theatre Program’s international efforts has turned solidly towards artists working in the countries of East Africa and MENA countries.
For general information about the Theatre Program’s work internationally, please email Roberta Levitow (Senior Program Associate, International) at email@example.com.