Media contact: Cynthia Medina, [email protected], 848-932-1940

Rutgers’ Mason Gross School of the Arts offers theater around the world, even in war zones, refugee camps and other remote areas

Newswise — New Brunswick, N.J. (Jan. 17, 2019) – Theater, as an art and a business, is about forging connections that transcend culture and language.

The Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers–New Brunswick requires aspiring actors, directors, designers and playwrights to undergo an unparalleled “global connections-making boot camp” from which they emerge as global citizens, able to connect with strangers in remote corners of the world, often without a shared language or internet access.

The media are invited to visit Rutgers’ Global Theater class next month, when a new group of students begins this challenge – and to speak with past students about the opportunities it created for them, and with professor Christopher Cartmill, the award-winning playwright, actor and director who created and teaches this class.

As part of the required course, now six years old, Cartmill assigns to each student a city, festival, theater space or company in a part of the world that some Americans might not associate with theater – recent examples include the cities of Aleppo, Hyderabad, Caracas and companies in Shanghai, Santiago and the West Bank’s Jenin Refugee Camp.

The students are required to use their own resourcefulness and build a meaningful connection to someone who can give them a window into how theater is performed and experienced at that company.

The experience can open students’ eyes to worldwide suffering and potential — artists making work against all odds – and the personal cost and commitment required to make art available in many places.

For example, student Gabriel Kessler in class of 2019 was assigned to learn about the Freedom Theatre, a Palestinian company in the Jenin Refugee Camp. Kessler learned that the art director had recently been murdered in front of the theater, which prompted members of the company to be suspicious of an American student who emailed with questions.

Tasha Milkman, a graduate acting student in class of 2019, cried when she was assigned the war-torn city of Aleppo, Syria, but she later realized what an awakening experience it would become. Through her research, she learned that theater takes on different forms in dangerous parts of the world, where art is regularly silenced and destroyed.

“Theater is this thing we value as fleeting – it happens once and you have to be there, and then it goes away,” said Milkman. “ But if you’re an artist living in a place where nothing is permanent, and things could explode and be gone in the blink of an eye all round you, it’s not appealing to do a form that’s going to be erased after it’s over.”

Milkman learned that Syrian artists often turned to Facebook and YouTube as places to publish their work and disseminate information that is not controlled by news outlets.

“What I learned pushed me to expand my ideas of what the form can include, in the sense that theater doesn’t have to be something impermanent,” said Milkman.

Ashley Baker, also of the class of 2019, was assigned a company in China and quickly found that Google would not be enough to search out her company. She came to connect with a fellow student who spoke Chinese and this opened up a new world and unexpected contacts.

The class has also connected with Anjali Parvati Koda, co-founder of Hyderabad’s Samahaara theater group, to discuss her plays about the rape culture in India.

Cartmill’s class has also garnered the attention of artists, such as JR, who is known for his giant photo installations on his Netflix documentary Faces Places. JR photographed the students from Cartmill’s class, and used them as part of an installation, which you can view here: JR1, JR2, JR3, JR4 .

To learn more about the Global Theater course, or to watch the class in session, contact Cynthia Medina.




Broadcast interviews: Rutgers University–New Brunswick has broadcast-quality TV and radio studios available for remote live or taped interviews with Rutgers experts. For more information, contact Cynthia Medina [email protected]



Rutgers University–New Brunswick is where Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, began more than 250 years ago. Ranked among the world’s top 60 universities, Rutgers’s flagship university is a leading public research institution and a member of the prestigious Association of American Universities. It is home to internationally acclaimed faculty and has 12 degree-granting schools and a Division I Athletics program. It is the Big Ten Conference’s most diverse university. Through its community of teachers, scholars, artists, scientists, and healers, Rutgers is equipped as never before to transform lives.

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