SYRACUSE, N.Y., and PRAGUE: Out with the retrospective — and in with the cutting edge. That, in a nutshell, will be the curatorial approach for the U.S. national pavilion currently being organized by a group of leading U.S. theatre designers for the 12th Prague Quadrennial (PQ), which will run for 10 days in June 2011 in the Czech Republic.
The U.S. national pavilion, which will be exhibited at the Veletrzni Palace (the building of the Czech National Gallery) in Prague from June 16 to 26, 2011, will then tour the U.S. until December 2012.
Theatre companies, boundary-defying collectives and theatre designers across the U.S. are strongly urged to submit online their designs from up to three productions, visually and aurally striking works that embrace all elements of design, including scenic, costume, lighting and sound and video.
In a radical break from U.S. national exhibits of the past decades, including the encyclopedic survey approach used for recent editions of the PQ, the committee of five U.S. curators appointed by the Syracuse, N.Y.-based United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT) — which has funded and realized the project since 1983 — will rally around a specific theme for 2011: “Courage from the Edge.”
USITT’s new theme — an exploration of non-traditional approaches to theatre in the U.S — reflects PQ 2011’s request that national pavilions present a strong curatorial concept and that explore the field of scenography as a discipline in-between the visual and performing arts.
USITT’s official letter of invitation to U.S. designers reads: “We define ‘courage’ with the words bravery, will, daring, fortitude and also the ability to confront fear, pain, risk/danger, uncertainty or intimidation. ‘Courage’ may be artistic or sociopolitical or both. ‘Edge’ may refer to a leading edge, the pinnacle of artistic achievement, the edge of danger or the boundary that defines theatre as we know it.”
Specifically, the curators, headed by Susan Tsu, aim to represent the U.S. through works that forge definitive or life-altering paths, incorporate practices for social and artistic change, and empower designers in the collaboration process.
“We are particularly interested in younger collectives and entire productions,” says Tsu. She adds that PQ offers a unique perspective on the state of contemporary theatre design — it was a bridge of cooperation and mutual understanding during the Cold War. “I hope our nation’s artistic directors will come to PQ and see a range of approaches to plays that are non-Stanislavskian in derivation, nonlinear and visually challenging in ways we rarely see in the U.S.”
Working with Tsu are Christopher Akerlind, curator for lighting design; Chris Barreca, for scenic design; Linda Cho, for costume design; Don Tindall, for sound. William Bloodgood has been tapped to design the exposition itself, with support from the designer Eric Stone.
Considered productions must have opened between June 2006 and April 2010. Submissions will be selected by a jury at the USITT national convention in Kansas City which takes place March 29 to April 2, 2010. All entries must be received before March 15.
To submit works for consideration, U.S. designers are asked to visit http://2011exhibit.usitt.org/ or to click directly to this submissions page.
Organized by the Arts and Theatre Institute of Prague, PQ recently changed its official name to Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space. The new name, it is believed, will break down the “often imaginary differences between the performance fields,” explains Sodja Zupanc Lotker, PQ artistic director.
A PQ 2007 winner from Slovakia, the scenographer Boris Kudlika, was appointed to be the new general commissioner. Visit http://www.pq.cz/. About 57 countries have officially signed up to exhibit in PQ 2011. See the list of countries and regions that have applied for the PQ.