In Search of a Global Literary Department

by Patrizia Acerra

in Artistry & Artistic Innovation,National Conference

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(This post is a part of the Artistic Innovation blog salon curated by Caridad Svich for the 2013 TCG National Conference: Learn Do Teach in Dallas).

My company, the International Voices Project, produces readings and productions of plays in translation and original language performances.  Access to contemporary plays in translation, in an age when I keep every important document I have on my smart phone, should be a simple, direct and efficient process.  But that access does not yet exist. There are databases of Finnish plays, German plays, Canadian plays and Russian plays but nowhere is there a network that crosses between them.

I am writing this in Chicago. Chicago was once the railway hub of the US, connecting a settled East coast and an emerging West coast. I think about that distinction often. I think it would be an amazing thing to see an open source database of plays in translation come out of Chicago, to be the crossroads of translated plays.

The premise is fairly straightforward: create a site at which one can find information about or access to any published play in any of its published translations.  The site would bring into dialogue playwrights, translators, dramaturges, and artists. On the main page, we envision articles contributed by major critics and reviewers from around the world. A producer following the work of a playwright might be able to see how a play is being received worldwide. Agents can champion their writers to a global audience.  You might clips of one play performed in different languages and see how the work evolves as it crosses over cultural and linguistic borders.

I have an agenda. I want to see more global theatre on American stages. I want to see more American college theatre students read more contemporary plays from voices outside the US. I want to see more American work – the work of some of my favorite playwrights – on stages abroad. But access – connection – is, a this moment, frustrating, tedious and time consumptive.  But it is only now, in this time of incredible and accessible technology – that this might be realized.

While the premise is straightforward, the task is monumental. We’ve met with great web designers and we’ve looked at budgets for ongoing staff. We’ve interviewed agents, playwrights, dramaturges and directors. We can see it, and we know we can do it.

So, is there anyone out there that would like to join us on this adventure?


Patrizia Lombardi Acerra is a Chicago-based stage director, devisor, and producer. She is the founding Artistic Director of Premiere Theatre & Performance, and creator of the International Voices Project. In 2000–2001, she resided in Rome, Italy, working with The English Theatre of Rome, and created an ensemble of actors for the then newly formed International Theatre of Chicago From  2000 to 2002, she resided in Rome, Italy, working with The English Theatre of Rome,  where she formed The International Theatre of Chicago (now Premiere Theatre & Performance).  Ms. Acerra holds Masters Degrees in Theology and Directing. Favorite projects include Iphegenia In Kingman , Immaginalo! with the English Theatre of Rome,  Right!(adapted from Pirandello’s Cosi e’ (se vi pare!)), and the original performance pieces Ocean Sea/ Oceano MareEinstein’s Dreams and The Quiltmaker’s Gift (in collaboration with Dawn Arnold and The Moving Dock Theatre).  Locally, she has directed for and collaborated with Silk Road Theatre Project, Clock Productions, Moving Dock Theatre Company, Rasaka Theatre and the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs.