May 2011

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May 2011


Live Session Crosses International Boundaries

Jan Chambers

Kingdom of Dreams Theme Park in Guragon, India (inset - production of Zangoora the Gypsy Prince)

The Scene Design Commission hosted a panel at the Charlotte 2011 Conference & Stage Expo that may become a conference staple: live international video exchange. The topic was Exploring World Design – Teaching and Designing Abroad.

Video conferencing from the University of Pretoria, South Africa. (inset - Heidi Hoffer leads the discussion with the Charlotte audience on the monitor behind her).

Anita Tripathi Easterling spent several weeks last fall as a guest artist and teacher at the National School of Drama in New Delhi, India. Heidi Hoffer is traveling South Africa for the year on a Fulbright Award. They came together in a session at the conference with Ms. Easterling chairing the panel in person and Ms. Hoffer joining in live from Pretoria via satellite video. Alongside Ms. Hoffer were students and faculty members from the University of Pretoria, The University of the Witwatersrand, and Tshwane University of Technology. All were eager to hear and see Ms. Easterling’s presentation on Indian theatre, as well as Ms. Hoffer’s description of her experiences in South Africa. With the Charlotte audience added into the mix, it truly was a global experience.

Ms. Easterling noted that the primary difference between theatre in India and in the United States is the presence of folk theatre in most aspects of Indian performance and the integral component of movement and dance. Whether the production is an ancient Sanskrit drama, a contemporary experimental piece, or a blockbuster musical, extensive training in Indian theatre arts is fundamental. The National School of Drama in New Delhi is one of the foremost training institutes in the world, but is the only one of its kind in the country. The program is a three-year conservatory, and its applicants are Indian citizens, fluent in both Hindi and English, who have already completed studies (in any subject) on the university level. Admission to the school is highly competitive and only 20 of the most serious students are accepted each year. While it is possible to specialize in either acting or design in the second and third years of study, the curriculum immerses all students in every aspect of classical, folk, and modern forms of Indian theatre as well as contemporary world theatre.

Repertory Production at the National School of Drama, New Delhi, India

Ms. Hoffer’s presentation drew clear parallels between the theatre cultures of the two countries in terms of diversity of offerings. She recounted a variety of theatrical events that she is participating in including Winnie the Opera, a new work based on the life of Winnie Mandela; devised experimental theatre on the sex trade; and the nine-show season of apartheid plays staged by the University of the Witwatersrand Department of Drama. Wits University, as it is known, was host for the first semester of Ms. Hoffer’s Fulbright year; the University of Pretoria is host for the second semester. Ms. Hoffer’s responsibilities at these institutions are a range of teaching of design classes, mentoring student designers, and conducting workshops in addition to designing several shows for each host university. Read more about her Fulbright Award experience.

Both Ms. Hoffer and Ms. Easterling inspire those wishing to expand their knowledge and experience of theatre to other countries. Ideas for international guests or panels for USITT’s 2013 conference (or beyond) can be submitted via online proposal forms.