Becoming a Global Theater Artist


by Julia Lee Barclay-Morton · July 30, 2014


Julia Lee Barclay-Morton is part of the FringeU panel "Global Perspectives and the World Fringe Alliance" on Wednesday, August 13 at 1pm.

Visit FringeNYC's website for venue info

I'm a director and writer of experimental theater and prose who is based in NYC but works internationally, and lived in London from 2003-11, where I founded Apocryphal Theatre (www.flyingoutofsequence.org) from an experimental lab made up of actors, artists, musicians and dancers who represented nine nationalities. I also completed a practice-as-research Ph.D. at the University of Northampton in which I argued in words and through Apocryphal's performances that theater can be an act of philosophy.

While living in London as an American artist working within a British artistic and academic milieu, I learned a lot about how provincial any artist (or academic) can be who has only (or even primarily) been exposed to her own country's artistic scene. I had to negotiate an entirely different language to apply for funding and fellowships and connect with an audience with different expectations and cultural reference points than in NYC. This language was not only about words but also about ways of interacting, tones of voice (verbal and written) and the various taboos of British culture, which are very different than ours. 

The seemingly mundane mechanisms of funding affect how work is created, collaborators' expectations of payment, the perceived use-value of what one creates and for whom one envisions creating it. Because of greater access to funding and to a certain ability and desire to experiment amongst my collaborators and co-producers, I had much more freedom working in the UK. On the other hand, I became homesick for a certain ability to speak literal and figurative 'home truths' here in New York. As an ex-pat I felt I was in an awkward position in regard to speaking politically, especially as an American.

I have also worked in many different European & Scandinavian countries in which there is an even more robust funding infrastructure that embraces and nurtures experimentation - funding, teaching and presenting it.  However, I sometimes heard people voice certain inability to create work outside of specific expectations based on funding model requirements. Over all, though, higher levels of funding seem to offer more freedom rather than less. However, when one government holds all the strings, the funding process can become politicized in more way than one.

I was invited to various conferences throughout the world in order to discuss and show work, which has given me insights to the global theater/performance scene.  Much avant-garde work in the UK is generated in relation to the academic world, because there is an interest in creating and studying experimental work within the university system, which is not constricted by the conservatory model prevalent in the US. However, there are issues of lack of craft that can emerge from this model.

If you are interested in seeing what comes from being such a cultural mutt, I would be delighted for you to attend an experiment-as-staged-reading of '…whatever God is,' my most recent stage text - a meditation on mortality, sudden loss, grief, transformation and unexpected joy - inspired by William James' Varieties of Religious Experience - that draws also from the Book of Job, Jung & Rumi, along with personal and anecdotal experiences.  This is part of Indie Theater Now's series at Stage Left Studios and will be playing on October 7 & 21 at 7:30pm.

 

 

 

 

More about the playwright in this article:
Broken Bone Bathtub
After being asked who is comfortable with audience participation, we are lead one by one into the small room and guided to our seats. A young woman sits amid pleasantly floral scented bubbles, face turned away from us.
Broken Bone Bathtub
After being asked who is comfortable with audience participation, we are lead one by one into the small room and guided to our seats. A young woman sits amid pleasantly floral scented bubbles, face turned away from us.
Adapting: Five Takeaways
The fifth (and last) in a five part series on adapting a play from a novel as it occurs.