Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Notes on Curation: Conversations with Kansas blog on the international value and ripple effect of mega-exhibitions

Postcards from the Inge, the blog of the William Inge Center of Independence, Kansas, recently interviewed me about my work as co-creator and curatorial adviser of a national exposition of US design in Prague, as well as Editor-in-Chief of PQ MAG, the official newspaper of the 2011 Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space in the Czech Republic

Conducted by Amanda White Thietje, this three-part interview with me describes the four-year process of curating and creating a USA national exposition in Prague; the value and international impact of mega-art exhibitions; and my work as editor of an art-based publication in the Czech Republic.

Here are the links to my conversations with the Kansas-based blog on the international value and ripple effect of mega-exhibitions:
  1. Interview – Part 1: "From the Edge"
  2. Interview – Part 2: "Active Searching & The Value of the Prague Quadrennial"
  3. Interview – Part 3: "A Ripple Effect."

This USITT national exhibition has returned from Prague and will be a feature exhibit in Long Beach, Calif. It will be on display March 28 to 31, 2012 at the USITT's 52nd annual Conference & Stage Expo, held at the Long Beach Convention Center (situated in downtown Long Beach, adjacent to the Shoreline Marina and The Pike shopping and entertainment center).

Here is an excerpt from the interview:

AW: What does the PQ mean for Kansas?  That is, how do you feel this international symposium for theatre design can ripple out into the world from when/where it happened?
RG: For me, the real question is: What does Kansas mean for PQ?  If designers in Kansas, Missouri and other parts of the Midwest are not willing to play in an international art environment such as PQ, then they will be seriously left behind the curve.  They might as well be mice trapped in someone else’s art experiment and running in circles.  Exhibitions are a scene and marketplace for reinvention.  The discussions and international projects at PQ raise new questions about the relationship between scenography and performance in dramatic activities, in the art world and in everyday life.  They will impact, over the long haul, the look and feel of the theater productions Kansans see onstage.  They will affect the design curriculums of colleges and universities everywhere.  Because of rapid globalization, they will show up in the blockbuster art shows where Kansans like to party and network.  At PQ, the designer is acknowledged as a creator of the spatial or theatrical event.  The future is increasingly becoming hyper-local and immersive.  The designers of the future will have to provide valuable insights into how, why and where we create new performance environments.  They will determine the shape of theatre architecture to come. What’s the matter with Kansas if it cannot see that the techniques of illusion shape our reality, and not the other way around?
Taking the architectural form of a beat-up performing garage with graffiti of President Barack Obama on the wall (designed by William Bloodgood), "From the Edge" mirrors and re-stages the socio-political issues consuming American performance makers today.  

My volunteer work as part of the curatorial team on this project spanned four years. I also led a series of daily gallery talks (with artistic director Susan Tsu) featuring renowned U.S. directors and designers whose works were exhibited in From the Edge.

The curatorial team that created "From the Edge" recommends that people experience the exhibit more than once while at the Long Beach Conference & Stage Expo, promising the interior collage will be different every time they stop by. Gallery talks at the exhibit will provide an opportunity to learn about the exhbit from those intimately involved in its creation.

Unlike previous USA national exhibits, "From the Edge" wears its impish unconventionality on its sleeve. Designer William Bloodgood’s pavilion is an arrestingly iconic structure — a disheveled old garage space in a grubby section of a city in Nowheresville, USA. With its brick walls, concrete floor, metal trusses, and industrial lighting, the mode is beat-up realist.

With a tongue firmly in cheek, it delivers the hard news: this is how American theater artists irreverently wrestled with art, politics, and imaginative design during the dramatic unraveling of the Aught Decade. The period in consideration coincided with the tumult of a worldwide economic recession and a political transition in the White House — a wrenching reevaluation of core American values that brought about the rise of an African-American as our country’s forty-fourth president.

The 2011 Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design & Space had more than 40,000 visitors during 10 active and inspiring days in June 2011.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

American theater under the sign of Obama: “From the Edge,” USA pavilion from Prague, debuts in North America

LONGBEACH, CALIF.: The American pavilion, a national exposition of American sociopolitical theater under the sign of President Barack Obama — my pride and joy from the 2011 Prague Quadrennial — is making its USA debut.

From the Edge, the USA-USITT Design Exhibition, has returned from Prague and will be a feature exhibit in Long Beach, Calif. The 2011 Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design & Space had more than 40,000 visitors during 10 active and inspiring days in June.

The American pavilion, From the Edge, will be on display at Stage Expo, one of the Special Exhibits on display during the USITT Long Beach conference.

The USA-USITT Design Exhibit team recommends people experience the exhibit more than once while at the Long Beach Conference & Stage Expo promising the interior collage will be different every time you stop by.

Gallery talks at the exhibit will provide an opportunity to learn about the exhbit from those intimately involved in its creation.

USITT USA National Pavilion at Prague Quadrennial: "From the Edge" | Photo by Randy Gener

After an eight-year absence, USITT returns to Long Beach, Calif., on March 28-31, 2012, for the 2012 Annual Conference & Stage Expo. Situated in downtown Long Beach, adjacent to the Shoreline Marina and The Pike shopping and entertainment center, the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center will serve as the site of USITT's 52nd annual conference.

As with the past three Long Beach conferences (in 1998, 2001, and 2004), the proximity of southern California's entertainment industries, including film, television, live music, and themed entertainment, gives conference planners many excellent opportunities to develop a very special conference for USITT members.

Artistic director Susan Tsu conceived the socio-political theme and invited curators Chris Barecca, Linda Cho, Allen Hahn, and Don Tindall to work with her to identify uniquely American designs from compelling theatre ensembles. Randy Gener was appointed Curatorial Advisor. Out of 360 submissions, the curatorial team had the difficult task of identifying the most seminal works to take to Prague.

What surfaced were 37 unique viewpoints from theatre artists reflecting on those issues consuming Americans today: issues of identity, healing and obsessions with death and loss after 9/11 and hurricane Katrina.

The pull of conscience is inevitable when engaged in war; anger directed toward the obliviousness of many to the destruction of our planet; rising political polarities and ambiguities in reaction to our first African American president; tensions relative to race and gender; anxieties about technology; the role of religion in society; challenges of the differently-abled and finally, a nod to Americans at play, while eating, and while re-envisioning classic work and performance as we know it.

USITT USA National Pavilion at Prague Quadrennial: "From the Edge" | Photo by Randy Gener
Some of the featured works include Paul Chan’s Waiting for Godot set in New Orleans, Nancy Keystone’s Apollo and America PlayBrian Sidney Bembridge’s design for The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity, Rob Roth’s Screen Test, and Basil Twist’s Arias with a Twist.

Special recognition was given to The Builder’s Association, Cornerstone Theatre,  Ping Chong and Company, Theatre de la Jeune Lune, Siti Company, and The Wooster Group for the inspiration and leadership they have provided through the years. Tribute was given to two American theatre greats: August Wilson and Ellen Stewart.

Scene designer Bill Bloodgood designed the exhibit space, which reflects the garage home bases of so many of the represented ensembles.  It is topped with two of Pat Oleszko’s inflatables -- the WarUSaurus and Miss-ills of the USA. Inside, in addition to models and photographs, videos edited by Jason Lindahl, soundscapes by Don Tindall and lighting by Allen Hahn pulse in a five-hour loop of ever-changing material.

The exhibit was built by the University of Montana team headed by Mike Monsos and Alessia Carpoca. R. Eric Stone contributed immeasurably to all aspects of exhibit installation. Cosmin Chivu and Carolina Conte were videographers. Randy Gener conducted interviews. Daniel Denhart was the Managing Producer while Alexandra Bonds headed up the entire venture as our International Liaison.

Inside "From the Edge" exposition | Photo by Randy Gener

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Montreal playwright Suzie Bastien's "The Medea Effect" ... and our hotINK conversation on March 23

NEW YORK CITY: I first met the Montreal-based playwright Suzie Bastien in Limoges, France, in 2005. At the time, she was developing a new work, Après. 

Her second play, LukaLila (Éditions Comp'act, 2002), had just received an award from the Journées de Lyon des auteurs de théâtre in 2002 in France. It also won the SACD de la dramaturgie francophone prize in 2004. Translated into Italian, the play was first produced in Rome in 2005.

For the first time, Bastien makes a U.S. appearance as part of hotINK at the Lark, a series of free public readings of 10 new plays from around the world, which takes place March 22-26 in New York City.

Bastien's play, The Medea Effect (L'effet Médée), will be given a public reading 3:00 p.m. Friday March 23 in a new English version translated by Nadine Desrochers and directed by Giovanna Sardelli. The original play was produced by Théâtre Blanc (Québec City) in March 2005. 

I have the pleasure of facilitating a post-performance discussion with Suzie Bastien; we will talk about her play, her career and her body of work.

The reading and discussion will take place at Lark's BareBones® Studio, 311 West 43 Street, Fifth floor
(bet. 8th and 9th Avenues). To RSVP, visit or call 212-246-2676 x224. (Subway information: A, C, & E to 42nd Street/Port Authority | 1, 2, 3, Q, R, N, S, & 7 to 42nd Street/Times Square.)

Arguably Bastien's best known work in Canada is Le désir de Gobi (LUX Éditeur, 2003), first produced by Théâtre de Quat'Sous (Montreal) in January 2000, then in Québec City, Ottawa, and Sherbrooke in 2004. Born in March 23, 1963, Bastien is member of the Playwrights Center of Montreal, Quebec.
Bastien is also the author of Le sens! Le sens!, Ceux qui l'ont connu (written at the Chartreuse de Villeneuve lez Avignon colony in 2004) and L'enfant revenant (also written in part at writers’ colonies, this time in Québec City and Lennoxville). This last piece was read at the Tarmac de la Villette (Paris) in 2008 and again in 2010 in Orléans as part of the Text'avril event. 

Her short plays L'effritement 1 et 2 (Les éditions de la Gare, 2007) were first produced in Paris in July 2007. Her work has been funded by the Conseil des arts du Québec, the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Centre National du Livre (France). Suzie Bastien was also the 2009 resident of the Québec Studio in Rome.

The Medea Effect is one of two plays from Canada represented in hotINK, New York's premier reading series of new plays from around the world.

The entire schedule is listed below. For more information about the plays and playwrights, visit

hotINK at the Lark 2012 

March 22nd 3pm
From Scotlandstrangers, babies by Linda McLean
A poetic exploration of the effects of a childhood crime on a woman's capacity to love and nurture, revealed through encounters with the five men in her life.

March 22nd 7:30pm
From Israel: In Spitting Distance by Taher Najib
Translated by Ros Schwartz
An Israeli-Palestinian-Actor-Playwright leaves his beloved Paris to accept a role at the National Theatre in Tel Aviv—but it’s September 10, 2002, and his dual nationality raises questions at Roissy-Charles De Gaulle Airport…a very personal story in a very political moment.

March 23rd 3pm
From Canada: The Medea Effect by Suzie Bastien
Translated by Nadine Desrochers
Reaching deep into the heart of Medea’s loss and responsibility, a very contemporary and richly felt story from Québéc, exploring two tragic and convincing voices joined in their search for forgiveness. 

March 23rd 7:30pm
From Canada: Credit by Michael Mackenzie
A hedge fund manager on the brink of losing billions, looks to his prized genius mathematician to make the numbers add up-- but she's got an agenda of her own.

March 24th 3pm
From Cyprus: DNA by Giorgos Neophytou
Translated by Rhea Frangofinou
By turns poetic, lyrical, forceful and funny, DNA explores loss and commemoration, and navigating the delicate balance between them in this rich drama from Cyprus.

March 24th 5pm 
Special event:
Panel on Translation, collaboration w/with PEN American Center; moderated by Cobina Gillitt

March 24th 7:30pm
From Bulgaria: The Eyes of Others by Ivan Dimitrov
Translated by Angela Rodel
Two ordinary men discover, through their everyday routines and the people they meet, the true nature of their friendship and the need, deep in each of them, to be seen by another.

March 25th 3pm
From Belarus: Thanksgiving Day, by Nikolai Khalezin
Translated by Yuri Kaliada and Rory Mullarkey
A Belarusian immigrant in the U.S., caring for an elderly American man, learns, through their relationship, what he wants and where he truly belongs.

Following the reading, special event: 
A conversation with Aleksey Scherbak and Nikolai Khalezin, moderated by Barbara Lanciers

March 25th 7:30pm
From Singapore: The Shape of a Bird by Jean Tay
A young woman attempts to resurrect the memory of her brother in this surrealist reimagining of the story of Antigone, infused with tales from the Chinese Cultural Revolution.

March 26th 3pm
From Ireland: Grace and Elizabeth, by Jessica Cooke
A richly imagined dramatization of the historic meeting of two larger-than-life characters: Irish pirate Grace O’Malley and England’s Elizabeth I—and a wise and witty commentary on women and power.

March 26th 7:30pm
From Latvia: Colonel Pilate, by Aleksey Scherbak
Translated by John J. Hanlon
A morality tale for every era, and every foreign occupation: a Russian officer in Afghanistan, uncomfortable with the role of occupier and skeptical of his troops’ distrust of locals, is dubbed “Colonel Pilate” by his subordinates and held accountable for his humanist inclinations.