The Columbia College Chicago Theatre Department will be represented in the prestigious international NEU/NOW Festival 2015, sponsored by the European League of Institutes of the Arts, the primary independent network organization for higher arts education in Europe. Two theatre projects created by Columbia College theatre majors have been selected for inclusion in the festival, which offers, in ELIA’s words, “an innovative international platform for talented graduating artists (or those who have recently graduated)–coming out of Higher Arts Education Institutions and Universities across Europe and beyond–to present themselves to a wider international audience within a professional arts context. The Festival features the most excellent new artists now entering the professional arts arenas and is an international showcase for emerging creative talent.”
One project, United States of Amnesia, was accepted for the NEU/NOW Live Festival, which takes place in Amsterdam Sept. 9-13. The other, The Wonderers and Other Stories, was selected for the NEU/NOW Online Festival, and will be presented online beginning in August, for viewing by an array of artists, presenters, and arts organizations around the world.
United States of Amnesia was created by the Room | 916 Collective, a group of Columbia Theatre Department acting students. The group focuses on devised, experimental theatre that is (in their words) “fearless, physical, charged, and truthful.” The piece was created for the Spring 2014 Chicago Home Theater Festival, which sponsors transformative art presentations in individuals’ homes and nontraditional performance spaces. The performers–some now alumni, some still in school–have been working together creating physical theatre pieces for several years: Hannah Burt, Travis Coe, Will Green, Will Greenburg, Charlie Haumersen, Emma Ladji, Rachel Minkoff, and Dior Stephens.
United States of Amnesia was originally presented in the home of Chicago professor and activist William Ayers. Taking inspiration from his life and activism, the piece was created as a response to growing up in an uncertain American society, examining “what it means to be, among other things; a servant, a child, a soldier, a consumer, and an intellectual in an increasingly violent, paranoid and uncertain American society.” The performance incorporated dance, improv, Plastique work, and original writing.
The Wonderers and Other Stories was a collaboration facilitated by artists from the Double Edge Theatre in Ashfield, Massachusetts, as part of a residency and long-term collaboration between Double Edge and the Columbia College Theatre Department. Created by the ensemble utilizing Double Edge’s pedagogy of physical theatre training and research, The Wonderers and Other Stories mixed circus and spectacle, vaudeville and clowning, live music and poetic narrative to transport the viewer into the colorful, vibrant world of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo and her contemporaries. Images, text, music, and dance coalesced in a 30-minute pageant vibrating with sound, color, movement and magic inspired by Latin American Magic Realism.
The Wonderers and Other Stories was created during a January 2015 residency by Double Edge members Matthew Glassman and Hannah Jarrell and presented in the Columbia College Chicago Theatre Center’s Classic Studio Theatre on January 27-28 as part of the Theatre Department’s Fresh Ink Play Festival. The performers included Hannah Burt, Travis Coe, Will Green, Will Greenburg, Charlie Haumersen, Sarah Cohen, Rafael Hernandez-Roulet, Leslie Keller, and Sean Marburger. The production team included set designer Allison Kozik, lighting designer Michael Joseph, costume designers Meagan Beattie and Benjamin Will, and sound designer Jacob Brown. All are Columbia College students or alumni.
“This is the first time that the Theatre Department has submitted work to be vetted by an international panel of arts experts,” notes Theatre Department associate professor and Acting Program coordinator Jeff Ginsberg, who facilitated the student projects and then submitted them for consideration by ELIA, “and to have both of our submissions chosen is a big honor.”
The European League of Institutes of the Arts (ELIA), based in Amsterdam, is the primary independent network organization for higher arts education. With over 300 members in 47 countries–including Columbia College Chicago–it represents some 300,000 students in all art disciplines. ELIA advocates for the arts on the European level, creating new opportunities for its members and facilitating the exchange of best practices.
ELIA’s many activities include a variety of student-centered projects reflecting the level of excellence and achievement at member institutions. The annual NEU/NOW Festival showcases graduating students across all creative disciplines, both live and online. The online component of the festival promotes artistic excellence through cutting edge presentations and activities, offering an opportunity for selected emerging artists to show their work, meet each other, and create new international partnerships.” It also offers a forum where informed audiences, producers, and curators can see the most excellent artists and innovative projects coming from art schools and universities across Europe and beyond, and where artists, producers, curators, cultural operators, and policy makers can discuss future developments in the arts and share views on the cultural role of higher arts education institutions.” Most important, the NEU/NOW Festival is a means of presenting a new international generation of upcoming artists to the attention of a wide audience.
“This is a major achievement which demonstrates the high quality of our students’ work as artists and entrepreneurs,” says John Green, Interim Dean of Columbia College’s School of Fine and Performing Arts. “It confirms the Theatre Department’s ongoing commitment to providing international opportunities for students and faculty.”