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Forging international partnerships and healing wounds with theatre

David Lan, artistic director of the Young Vic. Photo: Simon Annand
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Just the other day the programme for this year’s International Festival of Theatre was announced, promising 30 productions staged across 15 venues, including a car park opposite the National Theatre, and others stretching from Stratford East to Brentford, and Battersea to Finchley.

That’s one way of spreading the theatrical word – and world – beyond the West End and our established fringe. LIFT may only happen every other year, but it offers different perspectives and influences that bring another world of theatre to us.

But the world is increasingly looking to British theatre people to bring the world of theatre to them. Last year, Alex Poots – who founded and still runs the Manchester International Festival – took over the programming of New York’s Park Avenue Armory, formerly the home of the volunteer Seventh Regiment that became an arts space in 2006.

In an interview in the New York Times last year, he spoke of applying the same approach to the work he planned to programme there as he does at Manchester. “I think we need to be valiantly ambitious and brave in who and what we support. New York has no need for polite entertainment.”

And when he was offered the job, he made one of the conditions of his acceptance that the two venues undertook at least two joint commissions, with production costs shared. “There had to be something in it for Manchester. This way, Manchester gets the New York connection and New York gets the European connection, and we can create projects that are made for both spaces.”

Now today comes news that the Young Vic’s David Lan has been appointed consulting artistic director for the new Performing Arts Centre at New York’s World Trade Centre. According to the press release,

The PAC will be a global center for the creation and exchange of art, ideas and culture. The new leadership envisions an institution that will produce and present new work, primarily by New York and U.S. artists, often in collaboration with artists, companies and institutions in other parts of the world. The PAC will premiere works of theater, dance, music and
opera, including productions that span multiple disciplines.

Stephen Daldry, who has also been appointed a board member of PAC, declared in turn, “David Lan runs the most interesting theater in London, and I have no doubt that the PAC will
benefit from his extraordinary theatrical vision, intellect and community-building skills.”

But it is the press release statement about the parallels between the Young Vic and the new WTC venue that is the most striking and moving:

Perhaps the most meaningful parallel between the two venues is the hallowed ground on which they are and will be situated, respectively. The Young Vic is built on a former bombsite where scores of lives were lost in World War II—collateral damage from the targeting of nearby Waterloo Station. In Lan’s words, “Where there was violence and destruction, art is now made. It’s as if theater has helped to heal the wound

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