[Badger Herald] UW Group Headed to International Festival

Badger Herald, April 12, 2010

First Wave hip-hop theater ensemble only U.S. act invited to participate

By Ann Coplan

As the only performance group from the U.S. to be chosen to participate in this year’s international Contacting the World theater festival in England, the University of Wisconsin’s First Wave hip-hop theater ensemble hosted competition partners from Switzerland last week.

Contacting the World 2010 is a global theater collaboration connecting troupes from around the world to promote the creation of theater, which can transcend the boundaries between geography and culture.

Every two years, 12 theater companies comprised of artists aged 15 to 25 are selected by an intensive application process to collaborate on a project, which helps transform the understanding of artistic practice, Assistant Coordinator for First Wave Contacting the World Vanity Gee said.

Gee added this year, the project will welcome 150 young people from countries throughout the world to Manchester, England in July for a weeklong program of performances, workshops and street theater.

“Contacting the World allows UW to have international exposure at a different level,” Gee said. “We are already known for being a top research university, but being known for having one of the best performing arts groups in the world reaches an entirely different kind of audience.”

During the seven months prior to the festival, each group is assigned an international partner, a “twin,” with whom group members use social media and international visits to create a new piece of theater, Gee said.

By being paired with an international troupe, the members of the ensembles are challenged to open their minds more than ever to gain a greater curiosity of the world and to find inspiration, UW sophomore and First Wave member Gabriel De Los Reyes said.

Aside from collaborating with its assigned partner, Basel, Switzerland’s Junges Theater, over the internet, First Wave hosted a member of the Swiss troupe last week and will send an ambassador to visit Basel in early May, Gee said.

A Swiss member of the group, along with the director of the Switzerland project, spent last week touring the university, conversing with UW faculty and staff and working with First Wave members on the theater piece.

They also attended several campus events, such as Baaba Maal concert and Just Bust, OMAI’s monthly open microphone night.

The program not only possesses the ability to expose young artists to the unique forms of international art and culture, but also challenges every artist to deconstruct his or her identity as a global citizen, UW junior and First Wave member Alida Cardos Whaley said.

The international effort put forth by the various partner ensembles will culminate once the troupes are able to interact in person during the days leading up to the festival.

“I think the heart of this entire project will be born again come July 17 when we will all be able to truly build with these artists we have been asking random questions to on virtual networks,” Cardos Whaley said.