The International Voices Project Launches the 2011 Series

Feature and Images by Venus Zarris

It is both an anomaly and a given that the theatrical arts inspire so much passion in so many people. It seems incongruous that productions continue to flourish against seemingly insurmountable odds. The self-sacrifice of the creative artists is incalculable. They are driven by an intrinsic need to tell stories and in so doing create change. This inherent and intangible drive is the catalyst for creations that shift paradigms. That alchemical magic makes it a given that the work created is both seductive and imperative for both the creators and their audiences.

Chicago is an international city for both cultural diplomacy and for the arts. Theater in Chicago is as vastly diverse and remarkably rewarding as the diversity that makes up this global melting pot of people and ideas. Yet vacuums can occur in even the best communities. The International Voices Project was conceived in 2009 as a way to build lasting and meaningful bridges between diverse populations and our urban community.

In the summer of 2010, Premiere Theatre and Performance launched The International Voices Project by presenting five U.S. Premiere staged readings of five plays from five countries directed by five distinguished Chicago theater directors in theatrically unconventional and diplomatically impressive venues. This was a brilliantly creative undertaking that broadened not only the scope and depth of plays produced in Chicago but also broadened the milieu for theater itself and in so doing broadened the parameters of its impact.

On Tuesday, November 30th, 2010, at the Alliance Française de Chicago, Premiere Theatre and Performance’s Artistic Director Patrizia Lombardi Accera announced the grand and extraordinary plans for The International Voices Project 2011 Series. Next year Premiere Theatre and Performance doubles the pot by producing ten U.S. Premiere staged readings of ten plays from ten countries directed by ten of Chicago’s most distinguished theater directors.

Accera began the IVP 2011 reception with an inspiring overview of last year’s series. Introductions of representatives from affiliated international Consulates, participating theater companies, contributing organizations and IVP staff members followed the overview.

Along with Accera, directors Anna Bahow and Marti Lyons will be the curators of IVP 2011. Together they represent a tipple-threat of theatrical innovation and expertise that is sure to realize an amazing series. The presentation concluded with a pledge to roll up sleeves and dive into the Herculean task ahead of Premiere Theatre and Performance and finally a toast to launch the 2011 International Voices Project.

More so than simply acknowledgments, pleasantries and formalities; Accera beautifully articulated the essence of storytelling that is at the heart of theater and the soul of the IVP. “Every day in the United States, there are 311 languages being spoken. We use our language to tell stories to one another. We tell stories of love, rage, of our quest to know the world and explore the divine. When we tell a story, it becomes our own. We shape it to express our ideas, our ideals, our statement about the world in which we live. When we tell our stories, the also become a gift to the listener. In the sharing of a story both the teller and the listener are transformed, they are both changed in some way by the experience.”

Through the theatrical telling of stories we experience so much more than just entertainment. Theater is the quantum wormhole that links us to alternate realities and possibilities. The mere creation of theater is transformative. At Tuesday night’s reception, Consulate Generals from six countries came together in conversation for the first time under one roof. On the heels of this week’s WikiLeaks international diplomatic scandal, Premiere Theatre and Performance created an event that proves that art is the unifier where and when all other social and political institutions fail us.

Theater creators from several prestigious companies including Rasaka Theatre Company, Teatro Luna, Trap Door Theatre and UrbanTheater Company also came together for the first time in a thrilling impromptu networking session that is sure to inspire exciting collaborations in the seasons to come. All of this before the first reading of The International Voices Project 2011 Series was even staged.

I spoke with Patrizia Accera at the conclusion of this extraordinary event to get her thoughts on the evening.

If theatre can create opportunities for dialogue  – if, for example, it is the means by which the Ukrainian and Japanese consulates meet and greet – then we have served a powerful purpose.

I overheard the Swiss representative sharing the plot of last year’s Canadian play, and what she has learned. She was powerfully moved by that experience and it transformed her. Where else might that happen? If we can create those opportunities for dialogue, how incredible.

As I walked out of my presentation the first person I met was the Consul General of India. She later spoke with the Consul General of Ukraine. I was so honored to be a part of that connection.

We are a major international city. IVP will continue to foster those international connections.”

The mission phrase for Premiere Theatre and Performance’s International Voices Project 2011 reads “TELL THE STORY. CHANGE THE WORLD.” and they are well on their way to accomplishing just that!

* For more information on Premiere Theatre & Performance and the International Voices Project go to: International Voices Project

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