Notes from International Society for the Performing Arts 2014

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

I was able to attend this congress for the fifth time now. I have taken great pleasure in  presenting my notes to you afterwards and this time is no different. Once again ISPA supplied my trip to New York with the most striking statements, meaningful moments and fruitful interactions, some of which I share with you here. This year the conference focus was on “Imagining a New Economy for the Arts” Here’s a quote from their website:

“In 2014 we viewed the performing arts from a holistic perspective, looking to funding, partnerships, new models and other elements that comprise the entire ecology of the field. These wide-ranging discussion points provided us with the opportunity to explore the global performing arts through the broadest possible lens. Over 400 delegates from a record 52 countries and 185 cities participated in the exploration over the course of three days.

I hope’ll you enjoy this quick dip into some the conference sessions, I only wish I could have documented them all. If you’re an artist, a student or otherwise “in the biz” and in the big apple in January of next year, ISPA 2015 should be on your radar of things to check out.

Peace and love.

Rebecca Singh for Theatre Local

New York Congress 2014


FACILITATOR |Alicia Adams (John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, United States)

Tan Dun discusses creating new work in Shanghai.

tweeted this one out:

Tan Dun “Find a way to carry complexity by honouring simplicity. That’s what I tell artists all the time, honour simplicity.” ‪#ispany14

Tan Dun “Government people understand we all have children. So, support young artists. We have to.” ‪#ispany14

Tan Dun “We are trying to make Shanghai a young peoples place; we have to make it more international.” ‪#ispany14

Tan Dun “When I was young I wanted to come to New York. Why NeYork? Because that’s where young people can have their voices be heard.” ‪#ispany14

Tan Dun “I think foreign artists have a great opportunities of working in China” ‪#ispany14

Alicia Adams “I want you to leave us with one word, what would it be?” Tan Dun “PLAY‪#ispany14


SESSION I | The Art of Business

Are the arts like any other business or are there special considerations in managing a performing arts organization? Over the past number of years, every region of the globe has experienced paradigm shifts. Together we will explore some of the most innovative models of today.

Moderator|Steven A. Wolff (AMS Planning & Research Corp., United States)

Speakers | Jim Beirne (Live Theatre, United Kingdom) Matias Tarnopolsky (Cal Performances, United States) and Louise Herron (Sydney Opera House, Australia)

The moderator: Steven A. Wolff starts things off, “Let’s think about Value differently, let’s think about Public Value. He talks us through some of the systems used to asses value and project and organizational success and opens the discussion up to the panelists who give background on innovative projects they are involved with.

Panelist #1: Louise Herron helmed a major Capital project at the Sydney Opera House “You’ve got to have the building in proper shape before you can do the art.” Multidisciplinary Australian Danish Exchange, or MADE by the Opera House, a fascinating project was born by looking to make  a “future-facing” statement. In addition the Australian Arts Council is reporting funding increases. Funders relieved to have no cut off point for projects slated for support.

Panelist #2: Matias Tarnopolsky runs Cal Performances and started a popular accessible festival called Free For All. Background here.

Panelist #3 Jim Beirne from Live Theatre in UK describes his service:  www.beaplaywright.comover 100 artists from around the world taking part. They also created their own beer. Research needed. More here.


PERFORMANCE | Nu Shu: The Secret Songs Of Women

Tan Dun introduces his latest work Nu Shu: The Secret Songs Of Women “It is the only known language that is gender specific, used and understood only by women.” –


Tan Dun introducing new project ‪#ISPANY14 ‪


SESSION II | In for a Penny, in for a Pound

Accountability. What used to be a buzz word is now the standard in today’s world. Whether revenue comes from a ticket sale, donor, sponsor or government funder, we are engaging with a stakeholder who has an expectation regarding their investment. In a sector where much of the gain is ephemeral, how do we measure and communicate our successes (and failures)? We will speak with a variety of distinct funding organizations to explore the concept of accountability and how it relates to our own strategies.

Moderator |Nancy Maasbach (Yale-China Association, United States)

Speakers | Collette Brennan (Australia Council for the Arts, Australia), and Stephanie Pereira (Kickstarter, United States)

Nancy Maasbach led an energized session about stakes, stakeholders and what and who they are in a new economy for the arts. The panelists spoke to innovative strategies of getting art made, typically by the artists themselves, through means that diverge from traditional funding and political structures dominant in mainstream arts ecologies.

Nancy Maasbach”Bringing the conversation about arts funding into the public imagination is so important right now, it’s a game changer.

Stephanie Pereira “It’s important to remind people that creating things is not hard

Collette Brennan on accountability; “When people call us if they feel like we are doing something we shouldn’t be, we feel like we are doing our job.


In for a Penny in for a Pound session – Kickstarter director shares some stats- ie almost $1B raised ‪#ISPANY14 ‪


PERFORMANCE| Monica Bill Barnes & Company


Hasna EL Badaoui, ISPA Legacy Program Participant delivered the following exceptional Regional Update. I have reprinted it here with her permission.

Ladies and Gentlmen good afternoon,


I would like to thank ISPA for giving me the opportunity to deliver this address in order to give you some insight into the condition of culture and of intellectuals in my country, Morocco, from my position as a woman artist and artistic director of El BADAOUI Theatre, which was established in 1952 by my father, Abdelkader El Badaoui, a playwright, actor and director.  Our theatre group attributes its popularity and  longevity to its outreach touring inside Morocco and abroad, performing in theaters, schools, camps, prisons, hospitals and on the streets.   The company has an actor training center from which has graduated generations of artists that have contributed to the richness of the artistic scene in Morocco. It should be noted that our theatre company is a touring theatre, not out of its own choice, but due to a cultural reality that does not provide patronage for professional theatre groups.


As of now, Morocco has no cultural policy with long term vision.  Instead, we have cultural and artistic events planned to address day-to-day issues, which offer no development perspectives for the medium or long term in the absence of the necessary infrastructures such as movie theaters, artistic institutes and theatre buildings even though  five decades have elapsed since the independence of our country. Furthermore, the currently available buildings managed by elected council members and the Ministry of Culture have not yet reached the required levels to accommodate the artistic and cultural needs, due to the severe shortage of specialized staff and the insufficient management budgets. The budget allotted for the Ministry of Culture is very small compared to other ministries and has even decreased drastically in the recent years despite Morocco’s population growth and the increasing proportion of youth.


Concern for culture and arts is the least of the worries of the successive governments. Most of our political parties lack a cultural project, though it is generally well known that culture and arts, constitute safety valves against the evils of crime, drugs and terrorism, and is a key element for our country to meet the challenge of modernization, social advancement and the achievement of growth and progress. Unfortunately, the cultural and artistic performances funded by the various governmental financial backers and elected councils are limited to occasional events that are marked by extravagance, and electioneering, which deprive the artistic act of its effective impact in shaping the conscience and the soul of the citizen. Furthermore, there is blatant neglect in the minds of some politicians as to the connection of culture, and arts, as a national duty, and as one of the rights of citizenship and national belonging and considering it mere entertainment.  


The perfect example of the vulnerability of art and culture lies in the present situation of intellectuals and artists. And here I have to make a distinction between the artist, who is a public servant and has the guarantees and rights of public service and the professional artist, whose sole source of income is his art. In this context, I would like to focus on the second type of artists, who have no guarantees. They are artists who live and die in destitution and poverty, in the absence of a legal union to defend their rights, while others suffer exclusion, marginalization and media blackout because of their critical attitude of the cultural policies.


All these factors have led to the regression of the Moroccan culture and arts in favor of an elitist francophone culture, with heavy funding to dominate the Moroccan cultural scene. A francophone model which ignores our language, diversity, specificity and great history and is becoming a threat to our Moroccan cultural identity.


Our rejection of the attack on Moroccan culture, does not mean our rejection of others and it in no way suggests that we desire to be secluded or isolated or wish to confine our nation within its borders. We are for openness to the experiences and cultures of others, as we believe in the cross-fertilization of cultures and the interaction of ideas in the best interest of man.  But this should be done within a Moroccan culture, which respects our identity and is in consonance with our references and historical specificity. A Moroccan culture, which  primarily seeks to instill the values of constructive citizenship, freedom, dignity and social justice; a culture aimed at building a society which calls for the rejection of terrorism and fanaticism; a culture that calls to constructive dialogue and instilling the values of tolerance and solidarity.


Despite the difficult cultural and artistic reality in which we are living, we are very optimistic in the new era of Morocco after the Arab spring. This is an era of democratic change and we are aware that change and reform in the cultural and artistic sector will take time, since it is linked to fighting corruption, reforming the educational system, and promoting the values of human rights. 


Thank you.



Wednesday, January 15th, 2014




SESSION III | Beyond the Classroom: Arts Education As Social Enterprise

Arts as a tool of diplomacy, art therapy, arts education…are the arts effective vehicles for these purposes or is it window dressing to justify an investment? With a focus on public education and the arts, we will focus on two very different and unique projects that strive to develop and educate the participants.

Moderator |Sir Nicholas Kenyon (Barbican, United Kingdom)

Speakers | Mina Girgis (Nile Project, Egypt) and Marshall Marcus (European Youth Orchestra/Sistema Europe, United Kingdom)

The person who knows how to pay 3 notes is the teacher to the person who plays 2 notes.


SESSION IV | New Tools for a New World

Carrots instead of tickets? Does Google Glass have application for the arts? Find out the answers to these and other questions in ISPA’s first PechaKucha style panel. Presenters will get 10 minutes to share their new exciting tools and discoveries in 2013 with the ISPA delegation. Join us as we take a quick tour of some of the latest tools that may help us navigate this new economy.

Host |Laura Flanders (GRITtv, United States)

Presenters | Bernhard Kerres (HELLO STAGE, Austria), Quim Marcé (Theater of Bescanó, Spain), Nora Rahimian (Hip Co Accountability Network, Liberia), and Thomas Rhodes (Google Glass Explorer, United States).

tweeted the links to this one out, well worth exploring; Hello Stage is a system that connects classical musicians and presenters and acts as a programming database. The Theater of Bescanó but up a wildly creative fight against a tax hike imposed on it’s tickets by the government by selling carrots as entrance to their show. With a rooster that includes and anti-rape ambassador, Liberia’s Hip Co is changing lives and minds through the language that needs no translation-music, and Google Glass is front line in the future of accessibility for audiences and eventually, for creators alike.

‪@theatrelocal‬ New Tools for a New World has begun, first up ‪  ‪#ISPANY14 ‪


Teatre des Bescano sells carrots as protest read more here… ‪ 


Hip Co presentation, fascinating anti- rape movement including ambassador and social justice music  videos ‪#ispany14 ‪  Here’s the music video: ‪ …

@theatrelocal‬ Next is Google Glass and performing arts applications ‪#ispany14 ‪  Read the full paper





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