Anton Chekhov and Samuel Beckett. Two giants of world theatre, one from Russia, the other from Ireland, both on our stages this month. And in our screening room, films from Senegal and Portugal. March is a perfect month to explore ArtsEmerson: The World On Stage And Screen.
So, dobro pozhalovat! Failte! Aksilen! Bienvenue! Bem Vinda! Welcome!
I write from a bus headed to Quebec City from Montreal, where I am part of an international conversation about contemporary performance. From this small distance, reports of our presidential primary season throw into stark relief the urgency of ArtsEmerson’s commitment to bring you the world. From inside our borders, we can easily forget we are part of an interdependent and fragile global community. And in times of such deep change, it is no trick to convince people that “We” are under siege from “Them,” and the best way to protect “Us” is to assert “Our” exceptionalism.
Culture reminds us of our true place in this global community. Not only through the stories on stage and screen—stories that transcend language, borders and ethnicities—but also through the audiences who gather to listen to those stories. In Boston there is no longer an ethnic majority population and over 140 different languages are spoken in our homes. So who is “Us” and who is “Them,” exactly?
ArtsEmerson aims to bring exceptional stories and artists from around the world, letting art light the way toward the understanding that, as The Beatles put it, “I am he as you are he as you are me, and we are all together.”
In the Cutler Majestic, the Maly Drama Theatre’s production of Three Sisters is a perfect example of this illuminating power of art. Performed in Russian, directed by Lev Dodin (a premiere interpreter of Chekhov) and starring some of the most renowned Russian stage actors of our time, this production gives a peerless glimpse into the heart of the play. It is a human heart. These longings are in each of us, no matter our own language, no matter our own Moscow. We are we.
In the Paramount, we find a different glimpse into the same mystery of “We.” Ireland’s Lisa Dwan performs three quintessential Beckett monologues that use the ruthless precision of poetry to peel back the curtain on the human condition. She plunges us into complete darkness, and as a result, shines light on our inescapable connectedness. Beckett has never seemed more rooted in his Irish culture than he does in her hands and yet he seems to be speaking directly to you. You are He.
In the Bright Family Screening Room are two films that expand our intercontinental journey. From Senegal, there’s the Sundance and Cannes hit Semberne!, a documentary about Senegalese filmmaker Ousmane Sembene, the African American freedom fighter who used stories as his weapon. From Portugal comes the just-announced U.S. premiere of The Consul of Bordeaux, the story of a man who during World War II assured safe passage for some 30,000 people, one third of them Jews. Two very different cultures, one undeniably interconnected experience.
Your world, on stage and screen. Entirely ArtsEmerson, indeed.