Peacebuilding documentary to premiere after six years

Discussion and reception to follow 'Acting Together on the World Stage'

For nearly six years, Brandeis students and faculty have conducted research, interviews and transcriptions with artists and ritual leaders working in violent conflict zones - Argentina, Serbia, Uganda, Peru and even the United States - in an effort to spread their message of peace through arts to a larger audience.

The fruits of their labor will be realized Tuesday, April 12, when the documentary "Acting Together on the World Stage," premieres on campus in the Shapiro Campus Center's Carl J. Shapiro Theater at 4 p.m. A discussion and reception with filmmakers Allison Lund and Cynthia Cohen, as well as several of the artists and peacebuilders featured, will follow.

"We hope that it will be very accessible resource for people who are practitioners, students, educators, to really learn from the conversations we've been having for years," says Cohen, who is the director of the Peacebuilding and the Arts, a Brandeis program that teaches creative approaches to bridging differences and mediating conflicts. "Also, that it invites many more people into those conversations."

The feature-length film tells the stories of artists, peacebuilders and activists who use creativity to improve their communities - often at great personal risk. The initial  filming was at a 2007 conference at Brandeis.

Moderated by Scott Edmiston, the director of the Office of the Arts, the discussion will include faculty members Gannit Ankori, Thomas King and Adrianne Krtsansky; and Acting Together participants Roberto Varea, director of the University of San Francisco program in Performance and Social Justice, Polly Walker, who is affiliated with the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, and Erik Ehn, director of Brown University's playwriting program.

"It's been transformative to come to a deeper understanding of the power of performance and how many of these peacebuilding performances have been, and are, taking place around the world, transforming conflicts in situations of violence," says Walker. 

Varea echoes her sentiments, adding that the process has not only made him more aware of efforts, but taught him a new way of seeing.

"When you're taught to look a certain way, you see things that were always in front of you but you didn't know how to look for them," Varea says. "When you know the trick to see the right way, things appear."

A print anthology, "Acting Together: Performance and Creative Transformation of Conflict," will be published by New Village Press in 2011 in two volumes. It includes 14 case studies, new theoretical frameworks and policy recommendations that address both artistic excellence and political effectiveness. In addition to the regions featured in the film, the anthology includes case studies from Afghanistan, Ghana, India, the Middle East, the Netherlands, South Africa and Sri Lanka.

Acting Together is a project of the Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts of the International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life at Brandeis University, in collaboration with Theatre Without Borders. It has received support from the Nathan Cummings Foundation.

Following the events, anyone interested in continuing the conversation on arts and peacebuilding can visit EthicsTalk to participate in an online dialogue.

For more information on the screening and related events, visit the project's website.

Categories: Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, International Affairs

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