Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Making the Political Personal



In celebration of World Theatre Day,
hotINK hosted a panel discussion entitled Making the Political Personal.

Moderated by Kevin Bitterman, Associate Director of International Programs at TCG the event was held at the Lark Play Development Center and featured some very well traveled and well versed panelists: Elmar Maripuu, Canadian Playwright to be featured at HotINK festival of New Plays from Around the World; Barbara Lanciers, Program Officer at Trust for Mutual Understanding; Nilaja Sun, Actor/Playwright/Activist and Solo performer and writer of the Off-Broadway hit No Child; Melanie Josesph, Artistic Director, The Foundry Theatre.


The event began as Bitterman and the panelists posed some thought provoking questions:
How can theatre artists be good citizens? How can you serve your community?

How can your art help your community?

Since theatre is a form of communication and can provide understanding between cultures, does a lack of these kinds of arts breed intolerance?

Does government funding of the arts give it the right to make decisions about the art created and the message communicated?

Does you organization produce art AND artists? (Do you also nurture the development of both established and new artists)?

As they discussed these and other questions the panel sometimes found themselves agreeing with one another and sometimes their varied backgrounds and experiences found them at odds with one another.

Here are some of the most poignant quotes of the event:
"We [theatre] don’t need the same sized audience as movies or monster tuck rallies to make a difference. It's one at a time."
- Melanie Joseph


"Working with kids is the best audience development that there is."
- Barbara Lanciers

“If commercial theatre strives to entertain the audience, independent theatre strives to challenge the audience."
- Elmar Maripuu

“Creating effective political theatre is about making the work accessible.”
- Nilaja Sun

“There has to be an exchange between art & political action. We have to show up.”
- Melanie Joseph

"If you are serious about changing the world, you have to be politically active"
- Elmar Maripuu

"Oppressive governments are threatened by artists – they are imprisoned or punished and they try to silence them. And how is that different from what is happening to the NPR?"
- audience member

"One of the best forms of political theatre is getting people of different cultures sitting next to each other sharing the same experience."
- Nilaja Sun

How do you see the role of theatre in advocacy & the political arena?