Bridging Theatre and Academia: Inside The Segal Center

October 4, 2016

"We truly have something for just about everyone," said Professor Frank Hentschker, executive director and director of programs at the Segal Center

This year's PRELUDE Festival (Oct. 5-7), presented by the GC's Martin E. Segal Theatre Center, offers a dazzling survey of the current moment in New York through in-process performances, conversations, and workshops.

The themed portion of the festival will focus on failure, a critical element in experimental theater and performance of all kinds.
Professor Frank Hentschker (Theatre) [pictured], executive director and director of programs at the Segal Center, and Antje Oegel, associate director of programs and one of the PRELUDE curators, recently talked about the Center's draw: "We truly have something for just about everyone."

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GC: You recently announced the new season lineup. What are some of the highlights?
This fall the Segal Center is offering a wide variety of artist talks, retrospectives, and discussions about contemporary issues concerning the international theatre community.

We were especially proud to be able to present, for the first time in NYC, an evening with world-renowned Italian theatre director Romeo Castellucci.

We're also presenting a retrospective and artist talk and discussion with Canadian theatre giant
Robert Lepage (November 14). We'll look at the tremendous legacies of some truly historic theatre-makers by dedicating a full day to readings and film screenings focusing on the work of Judith Malina and the Living Theatre (November 7). There is so much going on this fall, we truly have something for just about everyone.

What led you to the 'failure' theme for the PRELUDE Festival? 

The risk-taking and experimentation that is connected with the possibility of failure is such a rich topic in the performing arts. Failure embodies the possibility of not just failing, but also leads to success or a disruption of the status quo.

We also wanted to explore how systemic failure can be prohibitive to creation, and ask -- given the current political climate -- how much artists are dealing with that in their work.

While we didn't curate the festival according to the artists' relationship to the topic, many of the performances that will be presented do tackle this theme. So it seems that it's a zeitgeist topic that we will explore in podium discussions and talkbacks throughout the festival.

The Segal Theatre Center is far more than just a venue. Could you discuss its accomplishments as a publisher of books and journals, and its dedication to offering free public events such as screenings and discussions?
Over the years, the Segal Publication wing has published over 25 individual volumes of international plays in translation and other theatre resources. And on a regular basis, the Segal Center presents new work by highly acclaimed international playwrights whose translations the Segal Center initiates. We find it important to make this work available to a wide range of theatre professionals in the English-speaking world, and one of these ways of doing this is to publish this work.
The Segal Theatre works directly and often with the Ph.D. Program in Theatre, which has very strong connections with the professional theatre scene and theatre centers worldwide. Our three journals, Arab Stages, European Stages, and Journal of American Drama and Theatre, founded by Distinguished Professor Marvin Carlson, Frank Hentschker, and the late Daniel Gerould, are a way to bring contemporary international theatre trends and developments to a mostly academic readership. In addition, all three journals are edited by current Ph.D. students in theatre, which provides them with invaluable experience in the academic world.

The Center connects academics, performing artists, and the public. Could you talk about its role as an important cultural asset in the city?
The Segal Theatre Center's mission is to bridge the worlds of professional theatre and academia. By presenting the work of theatre-makers from all over the world, we fill a niche in the New York City performing arts scene in which artists, scholars, and audiences can meet and exchange ideas in an intimate setting (the 70-seat Segal Theatre) - all for free and open to everyone.

Our discussions, readings, and screenings reflect the work of some of the most exciting and ground-breaking theatre artists and thinkers - past and present - whose influence on contemporary performance will continue to shape the discourse in the performance world for many years to come.