May 19, 2016

Expanding Global Performance at Georgetown

In February 2016 Georgetown’s Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics (the Lab) launched the Global Theater Initiative (GTI) in collaboration with a national organization for non-profit theater, the Theatre Communications Group.

The new theater initiative will combine the Lab’s experience in using the arts to humanize global politics with the Theatre Communications Group (TCG)’s breadth of international programming, enabling the initiative to draw on a wider community of theater practitioners and audience. 

Georgetown Professor Derek Goldman, who co-founded the Lab with Ambassador Cynthia Schneider and now serves as the Lab’s director, and Teresa Eyring, executive director of TCG, will lead the initiative. 

Global Politics and Performance at Georgetown 

According to Goldman, the Lab draws on Georgetown’s dual strengths in culture and politics in the School of Foreign Service (SFS) and theater and performance studies in the College to communicate and analyze key issues from global politics through performance. Goldman and Schneider co-teach cross-listed courses within the SFS and the theater program.

“It’s very distinctive, what we’re able to do at Georgetown, largely because of students and colleagues who share this kind of dual passion for global politics and performance,” said Goldman, who helped to found the Lab in 2012.

“The Global Theater Initiative really grows out of the distinctiveness of the Lab and our relationship with the TCG as we think about global citizenship in the broader U.S. theater community and beyond,” added Goldman.

The Lab: Making Voices Heard 

Over the past few years, the Lab has used performance to deal with themes of identity and understanding relevant to global politics.

The Myriad Voices Festival is one example. The project explored Muslim identity and the diversity of Muslim populations with the aim of deepening understanding and questioning prevalent stereotypes.
In 2014, the festival’s first performance, Syria: The Trojan Women, was cancelled when the actresses, all Syrian refugees, were denied visas to the United States. Instead, “Voices Unheard: The ‘Syria Trojan Women Summit” took place, which featured a discussion with the actresses via a live-stream from Amman.  

“On this occasion, what was to have been an artistic facet of the festival became a conversation across continents,” wrote Peter Marks in the Washington Post. Marks quotes one of women at the event as saying, “I see now our voices are heard.”

Student Engagement with the Lab: the Arts and Human Rights 

Much of the Lab’s work is fueled by student involvement. Devika Ranjan, a CULP major within the SFS, was drawn to work with the Lab by her interest in how art and human rights intersect.

“I became involved with the Lab through my independent research interests,” said Ranjan. “It has certainly influenced my understanding of arts and politics, the exploration of theater as a means of resistance, and the ways in which we use theater to reconstruct and influence society.”

The Global Theater Initiative

The Global Theater Initiative is planning its first event for this summer: the Global Pre-Conference to the 2016 TCG National Conference. The Pre-Conference, to be held June 22 at Georgetown’s Davis Performing Arts Center, will launch a range of programs dealing with global citizenship and exchange under the theme "Finding Home: Migration, Exile, and Belonging." Both partner organizations look forward to the initiative’s first event.  

“GTI will empower both organizations to expand our reach and deepen our impact at a time when alternative models of cross-border exchange are urgently needed,” said TCG co-chair Eyring in a Broadway World
article publicizing the launch.

“I think the Lab as part of this Global Theater Initiative is uniquely positioned to be a part of strengthening those relationships across artists, policymakers, students, faculty, who are working in these areas,” concludes Goldman.

You can learn more about the Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics here, and learn more about the Theatre Communications Group here.