'Acting Together' to Achieve Peace

October 11, 2007

International theatre artists and peacebuilding experts explored the contributions of theatre and ritual to sustainable coexistence, social justice, and reconciliation during "Acting Together on the World Stage: Setting the Scene for Peace/Actuando Juntos: Trabajando Por la Paz en el Escenario Mundial," a conference presented by the Slifka Program, Coexistence International, and Theatre Without Borders on October 4 through 8 at Brandeis University.

The event included a symposium, performances, open class sessions, and workshops in which participants addressed problems in a particular community or conflict region. The conference was part of Coexistence International's ongoing work on an anthology of case studies examining the contributions of theatre and ritual to peacebuilding and coexistence.

At the symposium, titled "Art vs. Politics and Other False Dichotomies," a panel of international theatre artists and cultural workers discussed the connections between their artistic work and the social and political circumstances of their communities. The panelists reflected on the experiences in the United States, Serbia, Uganda, and The Netherlands that led them as artists to engage with the political lives of their communities.

The event also featured performances from Grupo Cultural Yuyachkani, an independent theatre group from Peru that accompanied the country's Truth and Reconciliation Commission. A highlight of Yuyachkani's visit to Brandeis was a workshop the group led for Latina women in Waltham. In several different venues at Brandeis, Yuyachkani members Ana Correa and Augusto Casafranca performed works, shared documentaries, led workshops, and discussed the contributions of Yuyachkani to Peru's Truth and Reconciliation process. In a discussion following a performance of "Rosa Cuchillo," Correa spoke about the artists' role in the aftermath of violence in her native Peru: "We feel it's important for us citizens to be able to bring forth these rituals for healing."

In six problem-solving workshops, titled "Pieces of the Coexistence Puzzle: Part II," theatre artists, coexistence/peacebuilding practitioners, and sustainable development workers developed action steps and recommendations for how to apply creative approaches to issues such as inter-ethnic relations in post-war Serbia, safety among immigrant communities in Waltham, improving understanding between Tamil and Sinhalese artists in Sri Lanka, and transitional justice in West Africa.

The knowledge generated and creativity mobilized by "Acting Together on the World Stage" will also inform an anthology on performance and peacebuilding in global perspective, scheduled to be completed in summer 2008. The event's primary organizer, Cynthia Cohen, said: "The reverberations from this event will be felt for months to come, in the immigrant communities in Waltham, and at Brandeis in collaborations between artists and peacebuilders from several regions of the world."