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Exchange at California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) Fosters Understanding Between Russia and the United States

Young theater artists unite for an unprecedented international collaboration.

February 3, Los Angeles—On February 17, students from the Russian Academy of Theater Arts (GITIS) will arrive at California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) in Valencia, California to create a collaborative production scheduled to premiere in Moscow in June.

This on-going exchange is one of the key activities under the Bilateral Presidential Commission established by President Obama and President Medvedev in July 2009. It is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, with the goal of fostering a new cultural understanding and respect between Russia and America.

For the project, Russian and American students will make the most of their differences—working cooperatively on a joint production, rehearsed in both countries, with a bi-national cast and equal artistic input.

Created in association with the CalArts Center for New Performance (CNP), this series of exchanges was designed by Mirjana Jokovic, Director of the Performance Program of the CalArts School of Theater, whose stage and film work is highly regarded in Russia. GITIS faculty member and deputy director of Moscow’s Fomenko Theater, Evgeniy Kamenkovich, will accompany his students on the exchange.

The project initially emerged from a conversation between David Siefkin, Press Attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, and Carol Bixler, CNP’s Producing Director. “At the Embassy we knew that CalArts was famous for creative innovation and for its theater program,” commented Siefkin. “So, we put them together with Evgeniy Kamenkovich, one of Russia’s most dynamic theater directors. We’re sure that something magical and new will come out of this combination.”

Although, this is the first time that theater students from Russia and the United States have created a substantive theater project together, the goal is to forge enduring artistic relationships. “This is the beginning of a very long adventure," said Kamenkovich.  “These inaugural exchanges between CalArts and GITIS are intended to make an ongoing template for the future,” Jokovic commented, “and inspire meaningful engagements for generations of Russian and American students, artists, and educators.”

In addition to working with Kamenkovich at GITIS, CalArts and the CalArts Center for New Performance are generating creative partnerships with other Russian theater schools including Anatoly Smeliansky’s acting program at the Moscow Art Theater School (MXAT).  In May 2010, aspiring young actors from CalArts and MXAT met virtually, via an online video conference. “When we saw each other for the first time on the screens,” Smeliansky recalled, “the roar of excitement reminded me of the historic moment when American astronauts landed on the moon.” 

Please see links below for Anatoly Smeliansky’s video, an article about the on-line video exchange, Mirjana Jokovic’s biography and additional information about CalArts, GITIS and MXAT.

Building a Classroom without Walls (includes video)

Russian and American Theater Students Collaborate Virtually

Video: Introduction to Skype Exchange by Anatoly Smeliansky

Biography: Mirjana Jokovic

Russian Academy of Theater Arts (GITIS)

The Moscow Art Theater School

California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) School of Theater

California Institute of the Arts (CalArts)

Last edited by dthatt on Feb 04, 2011
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