Faculty Views: Human truth found in the performance

Going abroad sometime soon? Good for you. In the meantime, why not let foreign culture come to you? But not through cyberspace. Even as Yale reaches out globally, expanding its cultural horizons from China to Abu Dhabi, Yalies can connect with performing arts and artists from around the world right here on campus — live.

This year and next, the World Performance Project, under the guidance of artistic director Emily Coates and in partnership with the Yale Repertory Theatre and the Whitney Humanities Center, will bring a series of international soloists and companies to Yale.

The work of these artists is high-profile, and it is controversial. And why wouldn’t it be? Deep suspicions and fears threaten peaceable life on the planet we all share, and at this moment of danger the edgiest artists need to step up. Speaking across boundaries of language, nationality and religion, they can address the most urgent issues live and in real time. They not only can act up, but they will — coming to you soon on Chapel and York.

You can check out the whole schedule at www.yale.edu/wpp, but highlights include Adelheid Roosen’s “The Veiled Monologues,” first-person confessional accounts of Muslim women in Holland, negotiating between their Islamic heritage and their European identities. The Whitney Humanities Center will host a companion symposium, “Cultural Dislocation, Universal Human Rights & Theater,” on Oct. 25.

In January, WPP will bring you Peru Negro, the Afro-Peruvian traditional dance and music company, accompanied by a symposium on UNESCO’s recent proclamation of “Intangible Heritage,” a pressing issue in the world today that hits close to home with Yale’s recent announcement of the repatriation to Peru of culturally significant objects from the Peabody Museum. In April, WPP will bring you “Sclavi/The Song of an Emigrant” (Czech Republic) by Farm in the Cave Studio Theater, a company at the cutting edge of the European avant-garde, supported by a symposium on “Interdisciplinary Performance and Criticism.”

The performances of Peru Negro and Farm in the Cave particularly emphasize physical performance — dynamic dance-theater evocations of otherwise inexpressible feelings that come from the mastery of embodied practice.

With your participation, these events will help us toward our goal of realigning the relationship between the performing arts and scholarly research at Yale, including scholarship in the classroom, under the interdisciplinary aegis of performance studies.

This year and next, we are funding a new curriculum for the Theater Studies Program, including courses in dance composition and theory, design, and West African dance. We are also accepting proposals from students and faculty members seeking funding for performance studies-related projects in 2007-2008.

We have previously supported the world premiere of Suzan-Lori Parks’ 365 Days/365 Plays, the presentation of new choreography by Yale dancers at the Baryshnikov Art Center in NYC, field trips to Merce Cunningham at the Joyce Theater and Buenos Aires in Translation at P.S. 122. We welcome imaginative uses of new media and travel to exciting events, but in the end, everything we do happens live, and most of it happens here. What are you working on?

Speaking of one of the pressing goals of the World Performance Project, Coates has said: “We want to remind a youth culture reliant on phenomena such as Facebook and Second Life, to appreciate LIVENESS. The tangible. The body. We aim to remind this generation to appreciate human interaction in the physical, touchable, embodied sense, and to think about what real bodies and embodied practices possess and communicate that cannot be communicated in any other way.”

The point is that we want to put you in the same room with the world-class performing artists who not only have the nerve to face the hard questions, but also the skill. Are there such things as universal human rights? Who owns world heritage? Is there a common language in which we can communicate even our most frightening ideas?

And the scariest one of all: Who cares?

Joseph Roach is the Charles C. and Dorathea S. Dilley Professor of Theater and the Principal Investigator of the World Performance Project.

Comments

  • katieann

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