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Letter from the Artistic Director

Global Exchange
headshot of John Clinton Eisner

Happy Friday, and Happy First Public Event of The Lark's 2017-18 Season! We are thrilled to welcome audiences back to The Lark tonight for the first reading of The Russia/ U.S. Playwright Exchange. This festival, a staple of our Global Exchange programs, is aimed at creating stage worthy English translations of new plays from Russia, while also maintaining the larger goal of helping artists from our respective countries to learn more about their own cultures through the lens of another's. Lark's Artistic Director, John Clinton Eisner, shared the following letter to be included in the program for this event. His words speak to the heart of why The Lark considers our Global Exchange programs core to our mission of creating a more relevant and culturally inclusive theatrical repertoire, and for this reason we wanted to share them beyond the inside cover of a printed program. More globally (if you will). One of the reasons The Lark created this blog was to bridge distances, and at a time when many are feeling the strain of those distances seeming to widen, we hope this letter conveys how much we value having a space to converse and learn together. And, as always, thank you for being a part of the process.

Welcome to the Russia/U.S. Translation Exchange!

At a time when the world seems increasingly divided, we’re delighted to kick off our season with a program that brings people together. Just a few weeks ago, two of the three Russian playwrights we’d invited to New York City for this translation residency had their visa interviews cancelled as a result of mounting political tensions. Ironically, these are the very tensions we’ve worked for many years to alleviate by creating a platform at The Lark for stories that open our eyes to others’ lives and reveal our shared humanity. Thanks to some incredible advocates, our guests all obtained their visas and are here with us! We are excited about opening our home and hearts to three playwrights, Mikhail Durnenkov, Rinat Tashimov, and Yulia Tupikina, as well as our program partners Evgeny Kazachkov of The Lubimovka Young Russian Playwrights Festival and Katya Alekseenko of the Meyerhold Theatre Center, who have, in recent years, welcomed U.S. playwrights Robert Askins, Olivia Dufault, Rajiv Joseph, Arthur Kopit, Dominique Morisseau, and Andrea Thome to work on translations as reciprocal guests in Moscow.

Though we are ostensibly working on creating new translations, the real purpose of our time together is to begin to see a complex world through each other’s eyes, form lasting relationships, and experience the joy of making art together. I’ve come to believe the translation process is a metaphor both for creativity and fostering healthy human relationships. Whenever a small group of people spends a day agreeing on language to adequately describe a specific experience, across a cultural divide, they inevitably grow closer through their shared commitment to careful listening. Every time I’ve traveled abroad and had this experience, I’ve unfailingly come home with new, often dramatic insights about how I relate to people. Translation, in this sense, has changed me.

America’s connection to Russian theater extends way back, to Chekhov and the Moscow Art Theater, but the need for our cultures to connect has never been more urgent. As communications between our countries have become strained, and cultural exchange programs have been put on hold, we feel it is critically important for us to stay connected on the most grassroots level possible—through our artists, who celebrate the important things in life that we all share.

Our global exchange programs—with Mexico, Romania, the Middle East, and Chinese-speaking countries as well as Russia—bring playwrights from many backgrounds together to connect us all to a wider world of ideas and experiences. I hope you enjoy your time with us as much as we value your presence! We are so glad you are here!

-John Clinton Eisner