Archive for March, 2006

Going to a Ball?

Monday, March 27th, 2006

Looking for a reason to celebrate? March 27 is “World Theatre Day.”

The idea for a simultaneous international celebration came from the Finnish representatives to the International Theatre Institute (ITI) in 1961. ITI had been established by UNESCO in 1948 to promote “international exchange of knowledge and practice in the domain of the performing arts, to stimulate creation and increase cooperation between theatre people, to make public opinion aware of the necessity of taking artistic creation into consideration in the domain of development, to deepen mutual understanding in order to participate in strengthening peace and friendship among peoples, to join in the defense of the ideals and aims of UNESCO.”

Why March 27th? In 1962, the date was the opening of the “Theatre of Nations” festival season in Paris, France.

What happens? ITI centers in each country coordinate festival events, open new theatre buildings, invite special performances, provide symposia, create parades, or - my favorite - host balls. (It’s my favorite only in imagination; I’ve read about balls - Prus, Richardson, and Tolstoy come to mind - but I’ve never been to one. Do they really still exist? Are there still lots of military uniforms? What music do they play?)

ITI’s main contribution for the day is the selection of a well known theatre artist to write a “World Theatre Day International Message.” Beginning with Jean Cocteau (1962), message writers have included Fathia El Assal (1994), Peter Brook (1969/1988), Vaclav Havel (1994), Pablo Neruda (1971), Wole Soyinka (1986) Mikhail Tsarev (1984), and Hélène Weigel (1967). (For a complete list, as well as some messages from previous years, see the ITI website.)

This year’s writer is Víctor Hugo Rascón-Banda of Mexico. (As he tells it, with a name like that he knew he would become a writer.) He has written over fifty plays (including Voces en el Umbral {Voices on the Threshold}, Los Ilegales {The Illegal}, Contrabando {Contraband}, La Mujer que Cayó del Cielo {The Woman who Fell from the Sky}, Sazón de Mujer {Woman Seasoning}, and Apaches), as well as screenplays, in addition to teaching and serving as the President of the Writers of Mexico, Consultant Council of the Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, Treasurer of the Academia de Artes y Ciencias Cinematográficas, President of the Authors Societies, and Vice-president of the International Confederation of Authors and Composers Societies.

His message, A Ray of Hope, reminds us of the power of theatre and the possibilities of expression: “Gods and men used to speak to one another on the stage, but now men speak to other men. Therefore, the theatre must be grander and better than life itself. Theatre is an act of faith in the value of a wise word in an insane world. It is a demonstration of faith in human beings who are responsible for their destiny.” (The complete message can be read in Spanish, English, and French.)

I am an ITI-baby. Throughout my career and travels, ITI has been a great resource - everything from helping to facilitate meetings, to getting tickets, to being a friendly face in a cold place.

So, happy World Theatre Day! What will you wear to the ball?

- Bill Reichblum

Preparing to Spring

Monday, March 20th, 2006

When we began the beta testing process in December, we knew that this process would stretch over the winter with an “opening” in the spring. The beta period established a test on three levels: online, offline, and in the studio.

The online level is, obviously, the one you have been looking at for the past three months. The user pool has grown from only our most intimate friends to casual acquaintances to I-know-I-haven’t-been-in-touch-for-last-seven-years-but-look-at-this! to festival and artist colleagues to thousands in countries all around the world. From each category, we have received feedback, advice, ideas for the site. Most important, festivals and artists have started to add to the site.

Offline, we have been developing the infrastructure of the site. These are the kinds of things that make it look the way it does, work the way it does, and provide platforms for new possibilities. (For example, soon you’ll see our new photo slideshow available on festival pages.)

The third level has been testing how well we all work through this process here in the studio. In some ways, this has been the most fun — coming together to work through easy and those more challenging issues. Sure, it wasn’t a great day when one colleague put me into the same category as one of the twentieth century’s most grotesque tyrants. (Coincidentally, my son was studying the tyrant’s life that week in school so he was able to provide his class with a modern day equivalent. Imagine my pride.) Or, when a huge storm was making the studio building shake so hard we took a vote on whether to keep working or evacuate immediately. (Worker bees won. Building survived. Although I did notice that Ann has pretty much kept her coat on since - ready for a quick exit.) With each challenge, we have learned how to collaborate and work towards the center: the web site you experience.

We know the site will continue to develop, continue to adapt, continue to transform. From each level of the beta testing we are getting ready and looking forward to continuing this process of creation.

So when will the beta testing end?

Our studio is in the southwest corner of the state of Vermont - a state known for its beautiful mountains (yes, they are green in the summer), rural lifestyle, multicolored leaves in the fall, maple syrup — and really long winters!

- Bill Reichblum

On the Road

Thursday, March 2nd, 2006

I’ve been on the road… if only like Kerouac. The New York Times Travel Show was an international gathering of national tourist bureaus, travel companies, travel agents, and tourist service organizations, or as they headline: “25,000 travel enthusiasts; 5,000 travel professionals; 500 top exhibitors.” (Obviously, they were lucky that each category happened to end at a multiple of 5.)

On the first morning, the Show offered panels on issues facing the travel industry. There were a number of really interesting points of view presented on travel and web integration; cultural destination promotion; and partnership models for web-based and on-the-ground services. (Of course, each of these areas is directly relevant to what we are trying to accomplish here at KadmusArts.)

If that’s all a bit too inside-info for you, here’s something: a session on airport security was moderated by the Associate Dean of the Tisch Center for Hospitality at New York University. (Did you even know there was a graduate school for hospitality?) Listening to the panel review the approaches and practices for screening of passengers at airports, the Dean said, “In my experience, you can see more body parts at the security checkpoints than you can in porno films.”

Kind of makes you wonder what airports she has been to. Or, what films she has seen. Or, if the students get to go on field trips.

The floor of the travel show was filled with booths offering booklets, foods, and little logo saturated trinkets such as pens, plastic bags, and magnets. Given that none of these items is what draws one to travel to a place, it raises the question: what makes you travel?

Don’t you think traveling is about “meeting” (in the best Gurdjieffian sense) or someone new? Isn’t it about opening one’s self to a new experience; an experience different from one’s day to day life? Isn’t it about discovery? Isn’t it about no longer being in one’s routine, being on one’s firm ground? Isn’t it about being unbalanced?

In other words, traveling is the exact same state of being as being confronted with good art: a meeting, a new experience, a discovery, a different ground, an unbalancing.

At a festival, these kinds of experiences happen at every step, every day, every night, every trip.

You see where this is going? This site has the opportunity to combine both of these activities for you: traveling and art.

Of course, one can use the site to travel vicariously. You can still discover and experience art through the site. In fact, not too far down the road, we’ll be bringing more opportunities to hear and see the art taking place all around the world.

We are starting to get more stories about the festivals (in the forum and on festival pages). Check them out, and then add your own.

As I began with Kerouac, his friend Ken Kesey gets the last word: “To hell with facts. We need stories!”

- Bill Reichblum