Iraq Theatre Book Donation for World Theatre Day

by August Schulenburg

in Global Citizenship

Post image for Iraq Theatre Book Donation for World Theatre Day

(Photo by Alissa Moore. Pictured: Theatre Communications Group staff members Sandra Nance, Zach Chotzen-Freund, J.P. Smith, Jessica Lewis, Abby Lynch, Jacob Lasser, Kevin Bitterman, Laurie Baskin, Caroline Saudek, Amy Dorman.)

As part of the World Theatre Day celebration, TCG partnered with Theatre Without Borders, Martin E. Segal Theatre Center, the Peacebuilding and the Arts Program at Brandeis University and Georgetown University to donate theatre books to universities and cultural organizations in Iraq. What follows is the letter that was submitted along with the books, and pictures from the participating organizations:

Robert Mearkle and Janet Deutsch, U.S. Embassy in Baghdad

Dear Dr. _____

We, the undersigned organizations, respectfully make this gift of theatre books to the (Iraqi cultural institutions) as part of the 51st annual World Theatre Day on March 27th, 2013. World Theatre Day was created by the International Theatre Institute (ITI) to celebrate the power of theatre to strengthen cultural exchange and mutual understanding across borders, and is now celebrated by over 90 ITI centers across the world. We make this gift to honor that spirit of mutual understanding, and to strengthen the relationships between Iraqi and U.S. theatre artists.

Books arriving at Salahaddin University.

As Syrian playwright Saadallah Wannous noted in his 1996 World Theatre Day address, theatre is “the ideal forum in which man can ponder his historical and existential condition….where the spectator breaks out of his shell to contemplate the human condition in a communal context.”  We hope this gift of theatre books will help foster Wannous’ call for “multi-lateral, multi-faceted and comprehensive dialogue among individuals as well as among societies.”

Pictured: co-founder and director Roberta Levitow, in front of the TWB logo and examples of representative books from TCG and MESTC.

This gift builds on pre-existing relationships between U.S.and Iraqi theatre artists. What began as a single inquiry about books in 2010 has blossomed into meaningful relationships sustained at conferences and learning exchanges in both countries.  In January of 2013, Roberta Levitow of Theatre Without Borders reached out to Rob Mearkle, Assistant Cultural Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, to request Embassy assistance to ship donated theatre books, and received generous donations from: Theatre Communications Group, which serves as home to the U.S. Center of International Theatre Institute; the Martin E. Segal Theatre Center, The Graduate Center, CUNY/City University of New York; and the Acting Together Project, a Theatre Without Borders collaboration with the Peacebuilding and the Arts Program at Brandeis University. The books were then shipped to Georgetown University, where students prepared the books for shipment to Iraq.

Pictured: Professor Derek Goldman and students of the Georgetown University Theater & Performance Studies Program packing books at the Davis Performing Arts Center, on Georgetown's main campus in Washington, DC.

Each book bears the following stamp: This book is a gift from theatre artists in the United States through a donation organized by Theatre Without Borders in honor of World Theatre Day, March 27 2013. May these books advance cultural exchange and mutual understanding between Iraqi andU.S. theatre artists, our two countries, and across the world.

Pictured: MESTC Scholar-in-residence Asmaa Yehya, Dr. Frank Hentschker, Dr. Marvin Carlson, MESTC Scholars-in-residence Safi Mahfouz and Zane Radzobe.

In solidarity,

Emilya Cachapero, Kevin Bitterman and Teresa Eyring, Theatre Communications Group; the U.S. Center of the International Theatre Institute
Roberta Levitow, David Diamond and Jessica Litwak, Theatre Without Borders
Dr. Frank Hentschker and Dr. Marvin Calrson, Martin E. Segal Theatre Center, The Graduate Center, City University of New York
Dr. Cynthia Cohen, A Brandeis University Peacebuilding and the Arts Program & Theatre Without Borders Collaboration
Dr. Derek Goldman, Theater and Performance Studies Program, Georgetown University


August Schulenburg is the Associate Director of Communications at TCG. He is also the Artistic Director of Flux Theatre Ensemble, winner of the 2011 Caffe Cino Fellowship Award. He is a playwright whose produced plays include Riding the Bull, DEINDE, Carrin Beginning, The Lesser Seductions of History, Dream Walker, Rue, Jacob’s House and Other Bodies. He is also a director (most recently Ellen McLaughlin’s Ajax in Iraq) and actor (the recent film, The Golden Scallop and the play Hearts Like Fists). Learn more here.