Book Wings is a three-year collaborative bi-lateral exchange and performance initiative designed to bring together writers, actors, directors, and new media professionals from the United States and partner countries in a virtual environment. Its aim is to foster cross-cultural conversation, spark new literary and dramatic ideas, and create an enduring body of work. In the long term, Book Wings also hopes to provide a blueprint for other institutions to produce innovative collaborative theatre projects that bring creative professionals—and nations—closer together.
Made possible by grant funds provided by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, Book Wings is a first in the world of theatrical performance and represents a breakthrough in the leveraging of technology for the purposes of artistic cooperation, exchange, and engagement.
Here’s how it works: Book Wings commissions writers to produce new works on a common theme, translates these works, and then uses high-definition videoconferencing technologies and projectors to digitally connect sister stages at theatres thousands of miles apart, creating a single collaborative bilingual performance, open to the public and accessible to viewers around the globe via a live stream.
In 2012, a historic partnership between the International Writing Program and the Moscow Art Theatre (the home stage of Stanislavsky and Chekhov), in collaboration with the University of Iowa’s Department of Theatre Arts, the Virtual Writing University, Information Technology Services, and UITV, brought us the first installment of Book Wings, which featured poetry. For 2013, Book Wings has expanded the initiative to include both Russia and China, commissioning a series of 10-minute plays for performances that will take place in March 2013. In 2014, Book Wings will focus on fiction from writers in the U.S. and Iraq. At the end of the project, all commissioned works will be published as an e-book.
The Book Wings website includes details about the performances and accessing the live stream, instructions on how to partner with IWP to host a viewing party, as well as a growing archive of information about the Book Wings initiative: videos of past performances, editorial content, biographies of participants, information about the collaboration process and the new media technologies employed, along with many other resources.
Book Wings Initiatives for 2014:
2014 will mark the debut of 12 new short plays commissioned by the Moscow Art Theatre, the University of Baghdad, and the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program from accomplished American, Iraqi, and Russian writers. Commissioned playwrights include best-selling Chechen author Herman Sadulaev, twice short-listed for the Russian Booker, David Kranes, who served as artistic director of Robert Redford’s Sundance Playwrights Lab for 14 years, and prominent Iraqi journalist and playwright Hassab Allah Yahya.
In March 2014, the University of Iowa will link up with the Moscow Art Theatre and the University of Baghdad to present Book Wings, two separate live bilingual (1 English/Russian and 1 English/Arabic) collaborative theatre performances that use the latest new media technologies to bring together actors, writers, directors, translators, and stage spaces more than 5,000 miles apart to produce one unified theatre experience, and present 12 specially commissioned plays.
The performances will be live-streamed (free and viewable by anyone with an internet connection), with a 20 minute talk-back session featuring Moscow Art Theatre School director Anatoly Smeliansky, Alan, and participating playwrights, immediately following the Moscow performance and a similar talk-back following the Baghdad performance. Internet viewers are invited to Tweet comments and questions for the live talk-back using the hashtag #bookw.
The performances are scheduled for:
University of Baghdad: Tuesday, March 11th, 9am CST/10am ET/ 5pm Baghdad time
Moscow Art Theatre: Thursday, March 13th, 11amCST/12noon ET/8pm Moscow time
Live streaming of the performances will be viewable here.
Information on the project, including full bios of the playwrights and summaries of the commissioned works, can be found at the Book Wings website.