Sunday, November 30, 2014

NEWS: Swedish ITI Newsletter

OUR FRIENDS at the Swedish section of ITI have just sent along their December newsletter, which is viewable as a web page here. The publication includes news of interest to theater aficionados everywhere, with special focus on Scendatabasen, which compiles thorough listings of productions of theater, dance, and opera beginning in 2007--data collection began in 2006--and includes productions opening this month. It is a superb resource for researchers, critics, artists, and the public.

The newsletter also links to information about Swedstage 2014, the second edition of this exciting festival. The recent edition of Swedstage featured eleven perfomances including a Mats Ek production of The Emigrants, based on the classic novel by Vilhelm Moberg and dramatized by Irena Kraus. One particularly interesting event of Swedstage is the "Pitch of Swedish Playwrights" during which playwrights pitch their ideas to an assembled group and present new scripts aimed at all types of audiences. Fifty persons from nearly thirty nations were represented at the festival. The next edition is scheduled for 2016.

According to the newsletter, Teaterunionen – Swedish ITI
is the forum for co-operation and information within Swedish performing arts and the center for contact and exchange across borders. We are a member organization for Swedish institutions and organizations within Swedish performing arts and arrange the Swedish Biennial for Performing Arts, which is the largest Swedish national festival and meeting.
Teaterunionen also handles various national and international theatre projects such as improving the international knowledge of Swedish plays, showcase Swedish performing arts for the international market and co-operations across borders. We also arrange national and international seminars and conferences.
Moving: The Emigrants, directed by Mats Ek, Swedstage 2014.
Photo: Sören Vilks

Saturday, November 22, 2014

CALL: Jan Kott Our Contemporary

Our Contemporary: Jan Kott

IN CELEBRATION of the centenary of Jan Kott's birth, an international conference is scheduled for February 19, 2015 at the Rose Theatre, Kingston-Upon-Thames, London. "Jan Kott Our Contemporary: Contexts, Legacies, New Perspectives" borrows its title from Kott's influential work on the bard, Shakespeare Our Contemporary.

Conference organizers welcome inquiries from prospective speakers who will deliver twenty-minute papers on the role of Kott in Shakespeare and theatre studies, as well as his contribution to the intellectual life of the twentieth century. The conference is aimed at scholars, students, practitioners, reviewers, and the members of the general public for this free event. There will also be evening performances of Songs of Lear, which will be performed at the Battersea Arts Center, London. The acclaimed production was created by Song of the Goat Theatre, a Polish company.

Sweet Smell: Rose Theatre, Kingston-Upon-Thames

The organizing committee, which includes International Association of Theatre Critics (IATC-AICT) honorary president John Elsom, suggest a wide range of topics for discussion to include:
1. Jan Kott as academic critic. How has Shakespeare Our Contemporary shaped the development of Shakespeare criticism and theatre studies?  
2. Kott and the art of the essay. What made Kott’s essays influential; and do we still need them?
3. Kott and ancient Greek drama. How has the critic influenced classical studies? 
4. Kott and Existentialism. What was the importance of Kott’s work as a translator of Sartre?
5. Kott and the theatre of the absurd: the critic’s response to Beckett, Ionesco, and Gombrowicz.
6. Kott and global theatre. What was the importance of the critic’s interest in Kabuki and Noh?
7. Kott’s and the anthropology of theatre. What was the extent of Kott’s interaction with Jerzy Grotowski, Tadeusz Kantor, and Peter Brook?
8. Kott and Modernism. Can the critic be read as a Modernist writer?
9. Kott and religion. What were the critic’s views on Catholic doctrine on morality and sexuality, particularly in light of his writings on androgyny in Renaissance art and literature?
10. Kott’s politics. What were the critic’s reactions to Marxist and post-Marxist political theory, and to their impact on Polish theatre, international theatre, and theatre theory?
11. Kott and Jewish ethnicity. What is the significance of the Shoah on Polish and world theatre?
12. Kott, Polish emigration, and émigré culture. How do exiled artists and intellectuals like the critic shape the societies in which they work?
Abstracts of approximately 200 words accompanied by a 50-word bio should should be sent by December 5, 2014 to Aneta Mancewicz and Richard Wilson: Postal address: Aneta Mancewicz and Richard Wilson, Kingston University, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Penrhyn Road, Kingston-Upon-Thames, Surrey KT1 2EE. Speakers will be notified of acceptance by December 8, 2014.

Tickets for Songs of Lear at the Battersea Arts Center, February 20 and 21, 2015, will be available at a special rate. Organizing committee: John Elsom (Kingston Shakespeare Seminar), Anna Godlewska (Polish Cultural Institute), Anna Gruszka (Polish Cultural Institute), Aneta Mancewicz (Kingston University), Aleksandra Sakowska (British Friends of the Gdansk Theatre Trust), Richard Wilson (Kingston University).

Thursday, November 20, 2014

WORLD CONGRESS: Beijing and Beyond

En avant: Global participants of the IATC-AICT World Congress in Beijing 
IT HAS BEEN a very busy 2014 for members of the International Committee. We continue to make additional opportunities for American Theatre Critics Association members to participate in international events. Beginning with the 2012 Warsaw World Congress, when ROBERT COHEN joined the delegation, seven different members of ATCA have represented the United States at IATC events.

BRAD HATHAWAY was invited to represent ATCA in India, for an established critics' seminar. Hathaway, long of the Washington, D.C., area and now a resident in the San Francisco Bay Area, made a case for critical advocacy regarding the interests of the larger theater community amid the ongoing struggle over intellectual property issues in the digital age. Hathaway reports:
The India Section of IATC convened a Critics' Symposium as part of the Sixth International Theatre Festival of Kerala in Thrissur, India from January 30 to February 1. Moderated by the section's founder, Deepa Punjani of Mumbai, the symposium examined what it means to be a critic in the 21st century. Presentations from Indian critics included Punjani's "The Transforming Force of Theatre Criticism in the Age of Digital and Satellite Technology," observations on three examples of theater arts as a tool for social change by Ajay Joshi of Pune, Vikram Phukan of Mumbai's "Getting Theatre the Coverage It Deserves: Beyond Press Releases and Hype" and two presentations by Kerala-based critics, Renu Ramnath and CS Venkiteswaran. Participants from around the world included Romania's Alice Georgescu, who spoke on "Critics in Transition: With Special Reference to the Work of Two Romanian Directors," Poland's Konrad Szczebiot who discussed "Polish Theatre of Form – Between Puppetry and Visual Art," and Sweden's Margareta Sörenson, recently elected IATC-AICT President at the Beijing World Congress, who discussed the stages of transition in the arts.
PATRICK DYER, a new member from Chicago, attended a Young Critics Seminar in Debrecen, Hungary, and WENDY ROSENFIELD attended the spring 2014 International Executive Committee in Caen, France, as the delegate for the committee chair. (While in France, Rosenfield saw JEAN LAMBERT-WILD's production of Waiting for Godot, which you may read about here.) Delegating is a practice that the current chair has employed regularly for the past two years: JAY HANDELMAN attended the spring 2013 International Executive Committee in Jönköping, Sweden, that May. Of his attendance at the Performing Arts Biennial (Biennalen Scenkonst), Handelman wrote for the Herald-Tribune in Sarasota:
Attending one of these festivals as an American accustomed to a certain style of performance is like walking into a different world, as I've discovered over the years at other festivals in Rotterdam and Warsaw.
Theaters around the world have their own way of creating performances that is nothing like what the vast majority of Americans think of as theater. [. . .] What is exciting for an outsider is seeing how collaborators try to break down the traditional walls that separate performers from audiences, and how stories or ideas are shared.
The most "traditional" piece I saw was From Sammy with Love, a two-man tribute to the life and career of Sammy Davis Jr., and to his eight-year marriage to Swedish beauty May Britt. In America, it might easily become a standard biographical look at the singer, but it becomes a pointed and entertaining story that deals with racism faced by Davis, Britt and the two talented Swedish song-and-dance stars — Karl Dyall and Rennie Mirro — who recall his dynamic style.
Hey, Babe: Karl Dyall, left, and Rennie Mirro, frame a photo of
Sammy Davis, Jr., in From Sammy with Love, at the Performing Arts
Biennial in Jönköping, Sweden. PHOTO: Biennelan Scenkonst
[. . .]
At each performance and with each post-show conversation, I wondered what it would be like if theaters across the United States could send productions to a central location every couple of years, not for prizes and awards, but to celebrate our own national culture, and see what’s happening elsewhere.

There are lots of obstacles, beginning with money, because it's costly to send shows and sets to other cities, or to resurrect appropriate plays a year or two after they were first presented. How would theater companies be chosen, and where would it be held? Lots of questions to be answered, but everything has to start with an idea.
Quiet Americans? Jay Handelman, Jeffrey Eric Jenkins, and Jonathan
Abarbanel just before the General Assembly of the Beijing World Congress
JONATHAN ABARBANEL, JAY HANDELMAN and JEFFREY ERIC JENKINS attended the 2014 IATC-AICT World Congress in Beijing, China. Jenkins attended as a member of the IATC-AICT Executive Committee, and Abarbanel and Handelman served that the official delegates from the American section of IATC-AICT. Abarbanel spoke on the impact of social media in criticism from his experienced perch as a multitasking theatre critic in Chicago. The goodwill built by the presence of the three in meetings and other events of the congress led to the re-election of the American section with an overwhelming number of votes. Ninety percent of the international ballots cast included the United States as one of the ten members of the Executive Committee. Only Serbia, which bid to host the 2016 World Congress in Belgrade, received as many votes. Also elected was the first African nation, Nigeria, and India, also a first for that country. Jenkins was elected Vice President of IATC-AICT, he is the first ATCA member to serve as an officer of IATC-AICT.

SAVAS PATSALIDIS, of Greece, has been selected as the new editor-in-chief of Critical Stages, the international web journal founded by IATC-AICT that is now in its tenth volume. The American section received much gratitude during the World Congress for financial support ($5,000) of the journal, which was provided through the Department of Theatre at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. DON RUBIN of Canada has joined the editorial team as managing editor. He will work with Patsalidis and executive editor Jenkins on strengthening the journal's business model. The journal welcomes visitors to the open-access website: Members are encouraged to consider suggesting possible submissions.

The Assembly of the World Congress voted to request additional, much-needed support from individual national sections. The suggested base-amount is $100. Larger sections are encouraged to give what they can on an annual basis.

STAY TUNED: News will be shared here and via the ATCA e-blast as soon as IATC-AICT has firm plans for 2015 seminars. More than a half dozen were proposed during the Assembly, but these proposals have not been fully developed. When the seminar directors make an announcement, the ATCA chair will issue an e-blast to the entire membership. Do not delay when these opportunities arise, we have had ATCA members denied when seminars fill quickly.