The Lab at Georgetown Brings Together Global Artists for ‘The Gathering’

We speak to three participants in this week's 'The Gathering,' the culmination of The Lab at Georgetown's CrossCurrents Festival.

The Lab program at Georgetown University occupies an interesting space in the DC performing arts world, existing at the intersection between art and international affairs. Georgetown’s Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics (The Lab) embraces theater’s power to bridge divides. This is never more apparent than in their biennial CrossCurrents Festival, which is currently taking place from March through May 2019, with events being staged around Washington, DC.

The CrossCurrent Festival culminates this week in a four-day event called The Gathering from May 8-11. The Gathering will feature performances: full-scale productions like the May 7-9 performances of Renegade Theatre’s The Chibok Girls, as well as smaller-scale concerts and workshops. Global leaders from a variety of backgrounds, including Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka and Pulitzer Prize-Winning Playwright Martyna Majok will be on hand for invitation-only discussions. The entire event can be viewed on HowRound Theatre Commons at this link.

The Gathering is also an opportunity for visionary artists from around the world to gather and learn from each other. Over 200 such artists are attending The Gathering as either Resident Artists or Lab Fellows, two Lab-sponsored programs designed to foster international communication among artists. We spoke to three of these artists to learn what they hope to get out of (and contribute to) the festival.

Ana Margineanu and Philipp J. Ehmann are attending as members of the European Theater Residency Project, developed by The Lab in association with the Network of European Union National Institutes for Culture (EUNIC Washington) while Velani Dibba is participating as a Lab Fellow, a program developed by The Lab in 2017 to offer networking opportunities to professionals around the world through monthly virtual meetings and annual in-person meetings.

Meet Ana Margineanu, EUNIC Resident Artist from Romania:

Give us a short description of yourself and your art.

Ana Margineanu, Resident Artist in The Lab's Resident Artist Program. Photo courtesy of the artist.
Ana Margineanu, Resident Artist in The Lab’s Resident Artist Program. Photo courtesy of the artist.

I am a Romanian born and raised – currently living in Brooklyn- a theatre director and co-founder of PopUP Theatrics. We do immersive intimate productions in dynamic collaborations with artists around the world (so far we have worked with over 300 artists from more than 20 countries), always keeping the audience in the center of the work. We have created shows on bridges, streets, in parks, stores, hotels, museums, virtual spaces and even theaters. We love blurring the line between fiction and reality.

How do you think international cooperation between artists can help improve global problems?

Empathy can improve global problems. The self doesn’t stop at the edge of your skin. When artists from different cultures come together new bridges of understanding and enrichment can be created, and people may start embracing this self that lives outside the skin.

What does it mean to you to be a EUNIC Resident Artist?
It’s an opportunity to learn and get inspired. It’s an opportunity to connect with other artists and to reconnect with friends I haven’t seen in a while. It’s also a break from daily life and a chance to focus for 6 days only on art and ideas. It’s a treat and a luxury.

What skills/knowledge do you have that you hope to share with the other artists in the program while you are all gathered in DC?
I specialize in intimate immersive theatre centered around audiences. I hope I can share some of my explorations in how to approach an audience and make them feel welcome, special and open. With my company PopUP Theatrics, I’m currently working on a new immersive called “Liar.” It explores our intimate relationship with lies and truth in a fun game format. We are going to present some fragments of it in a workshop and I’m looking forward to other artists feedback.

What would you like our American readers to know about you, your country, and your art?
Oh, that’s a tough question. About my country, I would like them to know it exists, but I won’t hold it against them if they don’t. Same goes about me!

About my Art – Whenever I say I’m doing interactive or immersive art people tend to express concern ( “I would rather not get involved” or “I like just to watch”). I would like them to know that there is no way not to get involved while participating in a theatre performance, even if you are “just watching”. You are alive breathing in a space, that is involvement already. Magic things can happen when you let go and open up.

Meet Philip J. Ehmann, Austria

Give us a short description of yourself and your art. 

Philipp J. Ehmann. Photo courtesy of the artist.
Philipp J. Ehmann. Photo courtesy of the artist.

I make mostly playful and immersive theatre work. I use play as a form to try and tackle issues we face as societies. I think play can offer a safe space and the possibility to try out different opinions, options, thoughts, and ideas.

How do you think international cooperation between artists can help improve global problems?

Meeting other artists from all over the world, who are tackling similar issues, but in their own style, helps us to inspire each other with new working methods. At the same time, finding similarities in how we work, can help us find a pathway through these complex problems of our times. I think that connecting and knowing how other people work already makes us stronger, as it lets us know that we’re not alone in this and that other people are tackling similar issues.

What does it mean to you to be a EUNIC Resident Artist?
For me, the residency means the possibility to share our artistic practice with each other and at the same time to reflect on my own practice. I feel in our daily work time to reflect on what you’re doing simply isn’t possible. So for me, the opportunity to take some time out of my daily work in order to get together with other artists in order to broaden my horizon is very important.

What skills/knowledge do you have that you hope to share with the other artists in the program while you are all gathered in DC?
I have the hope that we can broaden each other’s horizon in what it means to make political art. I hope that my skills in playful and immersive approaches to telling stories and facilitating discussions can help others in their own practice.

What would you like our American readers to know about you, your country, and your art?
Each project I do is different. What they have in common is the idea that through play and art, we can maybe find collective ways of changing our societies together, for the better. Austria often gets associated with Mozart and Opera, but there is an excellent contemporary off-theatre scene and multimedia arts scene there. So I hope people get to know that side of Austria too.

Meet Velani Dibba, Lab Fellow, USA
Give us a short description of yourself and your art.

Velani Dibba. Photo courtesy of the artist.
Velani Dibba. Photo courtesy of the artist.

I am a theater and film director, designer, and performer who was raised in a partially-Tongan, partially-Gambian household. The combination of Polynesian and West African cultures in my home served as an important early lesson for me on how different mindsets can coexist within a single space, and I think the same goes for international artistic collaboration.

How do you think international cooperation between artists can help improve global problems?

My favorite thing about art is that it offers you a glimpse into another person’s perspective, and artistic collaboration goes even further. By co-creating something with an individual who experiences the world differently, it forces you to acknowledge where your experiences overlap and where they differ. I believe the more we do this, the more we are able to accept the multiplicity of the human experience, and I believe the art we create out of these exchanges furthers that cross-cultural dialogue for all those who experience it.

What does it mean to you to be a Lab Fellow?
For me, being a Lab Fellow means getting the chance to exchange performance knowledge with artists who represent a huge range of cultural and performance backgrounds. As a Fellow, I have the privilege of representing the artistic legacies from which I descend, and learning from the other Fellows the influences that have inspired them. I believe that we are all made better artists and individuals by this sharing of knowledge.

What have you learned during your time in this program?
I learn more about what art is capable of every time I talk with the other Fellows. Some of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned as a Lab Fellow are centered around performer-audience relationships. For example, a Fellow named Faisal does a lot of clowning work in Palestinian hospitals, and it’s been such an insight to learn how he juggles (no pun intended) the responsibilities of entertaining children, sensitive circumstances, and creating empathetic characters. He has completely revolutionized the way I understand performer vulnerability, and how embracing one’s own oddities can open a door for others to embrace their own. This, among other lessons, has really affected how I approach my work.

What skills/knowledge do you have that you hope to share with the other artists in the program while you are all gathered in DC?
I’m excited to see how everyone has changed since we last saw each other in August! I feel as though I’ve learned so much in the past several months through working on more immersive theater and multi-media work, and I’m just as excited to hear what everyone else has been up to as I am to share the new insights I have.

What would you like our American readers to know about you, your country, and your art?
As an American, I think I represent a way of looking at theater that many Americans might consider to be universally ubiquitous, but I think it’s important for American artists to understand the ways in which Western theater is not the universal norm, and how that can be both humbling and fortifying. I believe when we settle too quickly into believing there’s a way art “should appear” or “should function”, we lose sight of how radical seemingly-normative choices can be. All of that to say, I think American artists can stand to consider why we create art the way we do, interrogate our own limited perspectives, and also revel in the uniqueness of that perspective.

For a complete listing of events in the CrossCurrents Festival, go online.

The Gathering events will also be available to the public via live stream on HowlRound.com.

Magic Time!: ‘The Chibok Girls: Our Story’ at Georgetown University

Previous articleMagic Time!: ‘God of Carnage’ at Keegan Theatre
Next articleHelen Hayes Videos: Get To Know Your Hosts!
Nicole Hertvik
A reformed child actor, Nicole got her B.A. in English Literature before wandering the globe for a decade, writing and teaching English in Prague, San Francisco, Buenos Aires, and Paris. She eventually landed in NYC where she received a Master’s Degree in International Affairs from Columbia University and dabbled in theater as an actor, script reader and dramaturg. Thrilled by the strong and diverse theater community she discovered in DC, Nicole wakes up every morning excited to contribute to DC Metro Theater Arts. Nicole is currently working on a master's degree in journalism at Georgetown University. Email: nicole@dcmetrotheaterarts.com, Instagram: @nicolehertvik, Twitter: @nicolehertvik, Facebook: Nicole Hertvik.

1 COMMENT

  1. Thank you for giving us the poetry of the piece. It is much more evocative than a straightforward review.

Comments are closed.