Over the years, we've worked with a variety of artists and theatres to ask important questions about today's society.
Social commentary programing
The Great Game: Afghanistan
In 2010, the British Council supported the US premiere of 'The Great Game: Afghanistan', a series of 12 half-hour plays dealing with 170 years of foreign intervention in Afghanistan.
The content of these plays ranged from 1842 to 2010 - including the Anglo-Afghan wars, independence, the Russian invasion, the CIA arming of the mujahideen, the arrival of the Taliban, Operation Enduring Freedom, reconstruction, Western aid programs and the continuing insurgency.
Highlighting politics, social affairs and the history of a country that has long been a focus of British, European and American foreign policy, the production premiered in 2009 at the Tricycle Theatre in London, UK. It toured the US, which included several performances at the Pentagon, where it was seen as an educational tool for US soldiers and officials. This production showed U.S. troops, military planners and aid workers a new perspective on the country’s history and culture that many knew very little about before being deployed; it demonstrated the frustration and helplessness of successive outsiders trying to do good and creating an emotional connection. 'The Great Game' achieved what news articles, lectures, and country reports were unable to do.
The British Council supported the US premiere of 'Grounded' in Washington DC, written by George Brant and directed by Christopher Hayden.
The British Council proudly supported the official US premiere of the Gate Theatre (London)'s production of Grounded, written by George Brant and directed by Christopher Haydon, from June 10-29, 2014 at the Studio Theatre in Washington, DC.
In addition to the play, there were also three post-show panel conversations on drone warfare. Part of Studio Theatre's New British Invasion Festival and Plays in Context series, the panel series was produced in partnership with the British Council.
SYNOPSIS AND AWARDS
When a hot-shot fighter pilot's unexpected pregnancy grounds her, she is reassigned to fly drones in Afghanistan from a trailer outside Vegas. This gripping solo show explores the screened-in, greyed-out, hyped-up world of remote warfare.
Grounded won a Fringe First Award at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2013, and landed on the Top Ten of 2013 lists for the Guardian and the London Standard. The play also won the 2012 Smith Prize for Best Play on American political themes and was recently long-listed for the James Tait Black Prize for Drama in the UK.
We supported Kaleider's The Money at the International Festival of Arts and Ideas in New Haven, CT from June 17-25, 2016
Become a Benefactor by donating as much as you can. Work with other Benefactors to decide what to spend the group’s money on. You have 90 minutes to come to a decision. If you don’t decide unanimously in the allotted time you relinquish your privilege to spend the money and the money rolls over to the next group of Benefactors.
If you’re the quiet observing type you can become a Silent Witness and watch as the group of Benefactors attempt to decide how to spend the money they’ve donated. And if you want to voice your opinion you can always become a Benefactor and buy your way in.
Spend the money on whatever you want. Be as creative as you like. Just keep within the law.
The British Council supported six performances of David Greig's 'The Events' at the International Festival of Arts and Ideas, and a panel discussion as part of the Festival's Ideas Program Talks.
We supported the tour of 'The Events' to the Festival of Arts and Ideas in New Haven, Connecticut; the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio; and the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 2014.
'The Events' is a play by renowned Scottish writer, David Greig. It was commissioned by the Actors Touring Company, featuring a local choir, and it premiered at the Edinburgh Festival in August 2013. It deals with the major issues of community, understanding of the other, and how to cope in the wake of major traumatic events. Together with our partners, we created bespoke public programs to expand the conversation on these issues.
'The Events' tells the story of Claire – a right-on, left wing female priest who leads a choir in a community setting. Claire experiences something terrible – a young man she vaguely knew turns a gun on those who ‘aren’t from here’ in an attempt to make his mark on society. The play follows Claire’s attempt to understand how someone could do such an awful thing, and how this leads her on a path to self-destruction. It focuses on the reaction of communities to acts of aggression and how hard it can be to move on. Ultimately, Claire finds peace, and retakes her place in the community.
We partnered with the Middle East Institute to present 'Gardens Speak', an interactive exhibit exploring the stories of Syrian activists by Tania El Khoury.
Across Syria, many gardens conceal the dead bodies of activists and protesters who adorned the streets during the early periods of the uprising. These domestic burials play out a continuing collaboration between the living and the dead. The dead protect the living by not exposing them to further danger at the hands of the regime. The living protect the dead by conserving their identities, telling their stories, and not allowing their deaths to become instruments to the regime.
Gardens Speak is an interactive sound installation containing the oral histories of ten ordinary people who were buried in Syrian gardens. Each narrative has been carefully constructed with the friends and family members of the deceased to retell their stories as they themselves may have recounted it. They are compiled with found audio that evidences their final moments.
Gardens Speak has been touring since 2014 to Melbourne, Birmingham, Bucharest, Munich, Lancaster, Edinburgh, UK, and London. It was selected for the Artraker Award on art and conflict.
Gardens Speak and the accompanying program of talks was organized by the Middle East Institute in collaboration with the National Building Museum, with a generous grant from the British Council.
The installation made its USA debut from April 7, 2016 through April 12, 2016 at the National Building Museum.
Culture and Conflict Initiative
Art can play a role at the local level in areas of conflict, including resolution and rehabilitation. This initiative explores this idea in partnership with other major thought leaders.
Creative Approaches to Urban Violence (Sept 2016)
Following our Culture and Conflict Summit held in September 2014, there was a desire by facilitators and artists who work directly with urban communities confronting violence for an opportunity to critically reflect on these issues and for continued cross-cultural dialogue between US and UK artists working in this area. In partnership with the NEA, Arts and Peacebuilding Program at Brandeis University and the University of Manchester/In Place of War, we gathered 16 professional artists from the US and UK committed to creative conflict transformation and social action to reflect on the aesthetic, practical and ethical dimensions of their work.
Role of an Arts Presenter in a Community in Crisis (January 2016)
With the generous support of the Ford Foundation and Doris Duke Foundation, in January 2016 the Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP) and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in collaboration with the British Council, Brandeis University and Theatre Without Borders convened an interactive forum with arts presenters and other arts and community stakeholders from the US and around the world to focus on how our field can play a greater role at the local level in this critical area of need. We came away with a better understanding of options and opportunities, as well as recommended strategies, to initiate and support arts-led approaches that effectively develop and sustain community cohesion in times of crisis.
Culture and Conflict Summit (September 2014)
In partnership with the United States Institute of Peace, in September 2014 at the Newseum in Washington, DC we organized a summit to discuss arts and cultural programs in conflict scenarios, and how to apply them in US diplomatic, policy, and higher education agendas.
We brought together international policy experts, cultural leaders, funders and educational organizations to examine models of cultural relations in conflict settings. They discussed current approaches to arts and culture within peace-building efforts and systems to measure the impact of a cultural intervention. The conversation aimed to better understand the UK and US's shared responsibility as global leaders in addressing conflict prevention and post-conflict rehabilitation. Together, the delegates examined the most effective and appropriate ways to apply the arts in conflict scenarios within foreign policy, to help achieve international development goals.
The summit also included a performance of 'Closed Circuit' by UK artist Rod Dickinson, which explored the historical form of press briefings and political speeches during times of conflict.