Global Arts Corps Ongoing Projects

Nick Boraine and Michael Lessac and Truth in Translation cast member Andrew Buckland (far right) working with the students of the Phare circus group in Cambodia

As we move closer to the end of 2012, Global Arts Corps would like to share with you some updates on all of our current projects.

Michael, Jackie, and Nick Boraine, (who came on this year as Michael’s Associate Artistic Director), are currently in Battambang, Cambodia, where they are doing the initial work on a project with Phare Ponleu Selpak Circus ( Phare is no ordinary circus. It was started by 8 young people who came back to Cambodia from a refugee camp in 1994. They share our vision that art can be an instrument for human development and social change, and they have offered children a way out of poverty. We will be making a joint production over the next 3 years.

In addition, we have been invited to participate in workshops with young people from Youth for Peace ( as part of the joint grant we received along with Sites of Conscience ( from the Fetzer Foundation. Sites of Conscience use the past to engage people in making a difference in the future…they see Global Arts Corps as a traveling site of conscience.

We are very excited to announce that after a difficult start, we have re-grouped and are close to getting our next production on the boards with a wonderful team of NI talent. We are currently raising funds for the completion of this important project, and have invitations in Dallas and possibly Boston and London to finish the development if we can raise those funds. We are in discussion with a Canadian foundation that is interested in Truth Commissions because of the indigenous issues in Canada. Because there is a large Irish community in Montreal, we have been asked to explore using the Irish production in that pursuit.

Work with children: We feel the work in Northern Ireland has been important in many ways. In addition to our work on the current production, we have been doing, and will continue to do, outreach and sustainability work there with local Protestant and Catholic young people who are part of a group called the Talent Tribe. These children are from the most difficult areas of Belfast and are learning life skills through the arts in addition to the other skills the arts give them. Last June, while we were in Belfast working with our professional NI company, we spent another 3 days with the Talent Tribe and made the following 10-minute video of our work with them ( Some of the actors from our company joined us the last day so you will meet a few of them also. Our work in Northern Ireland has been generously funded by the Embrey Family Foundation.

In 2008, we performed Truth in Translation in Kosovo at the National Theatre in Prishtina. Its director at the time, Jeton Neziraj, asked if we would work with him on developing a project between Serbians and Albanians. Michael came up with the idea to tell that story through the eyes of the Roma. Jeton is an Albanian writer, and in addition, Borka Pavicevic, who is from Serbia, joined us as a dramaturge. Borka heads an institution in Beograd called The Center for Cultural Decontamination. We will also be including a Roma dramaturge, which that will complete the writing side of the project. The next stage on this project is to cast. Our cast will include Albanians, Serbs, and Roma. If we can match a Rockefeller Brothers Fund grant for $100,000.00, we will be able to start the next phase of this exciting project. We also have small pledges from the Kosovo Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the local Kosovo Foundation for Open Society.

In July 2012, we participated in the Dokufest film festival in Prizren, Kosovo, where we held a two-day workshop, that in addition to local attendees, included actors from Albania, Serbia, South Africa, Northern Ireland; several Roma actors from Serbia and Albania; and participants from France and the U.S. It was really a glorious premonition of what our Global Arts Corps can be. This was generously funded by: The Charles Stuart Mott Foundation, with additional help from CCFD – terre solidaire, the Prince Claus Fund, and the Kosovo Foundation for Open Society.

While in Kosovo last summer, we were approached by a journalist and filmmaker from Oslo, who encouraged us to pursue a project involving Israeli and Palestinian actors, using Oslo as a neutral space to rehearse. Subsequently, we met with several Norwegian funders and NGOs in Oslo. There was interest and potential seed money there. Now of course, with the current problems in Gaza, we are having internal discussions on the timing of this project. Given the current explosive nature of the conflict, we are faced with the tough choice of deciding if now is the absolute right or absolute wrong time to think about a project like this. We would appreciate any and all input please.

It has been a long journey, but I am thrilled to say we will complete our documentary film of the Truth in Translation journey by mid-March 2013. Shortly after that, we will be showing it in Germany at the Robert Bosch Stiftung’s annual forum. We have many funders to thank for getting us here, including the Robert Bosch Stiftung, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Charles Engelhard Foundation, the Embrey Family Foundation, and the Norman Hirschfield Foundation, among others.

Our inaugural summer institute was held in Jackson, Wyoming, and was funded by the Charles Engelhard Foundation in 2011. It was an extraordinary success and we are trying to make it an annual event in which we will always bring together highly regarded thinkers from a variety of diverse disciplines and places around the world to give their unique perspectives on conflict resolution and perceptual change. We will continue to combine talent from the performing arts, nuclear physics, particle physics, anthropology, neuroscience, journalism, anthropology, and psychology, ex-combatants, survivors of conflict and genocide to create new ways of thinking by combining old ways across disciplines. In our pilot session in 2011, we celebrated ideas of stunning originality, which explored the many ways of determining and communicating what is true and what is not. 150 participants enthusiastically joined us for the three-day discussion.

In 2011, Nick Boraine, a South African actor/director from the Truth in Translation company, who traveled with us to all 26 cites during the 3 years of the TnT tour, has joined us as Associate Artistic Director.

In 2012, Todd Lester joined us as our Executive Director. Todd is the founder of freeDimensional, a non-profit organization that is dedicated to finding a safe haven for human rights defenders using artist residency vacancies around the world.

We are also pleased to announce two additions to our board of directors this year: Dr. Alex Boraine and Stuart Oken (see their abbreviated biographies below).

Dr. Alex Boraine was one of the main architects of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. In 1995, he was appointed by President Nelson Mandela to be its deputy chair serving under Chairman Archbishop Desmond Tutu from 1996 to 1998. Dr. Boraine co-founded the International Center for Transitional Justice – an international human rights NGO. He served as ICTJ’s president for three years, and subsequently, the chairperson of ICTJ’s South Africa office.

Stuart Oken is a feature film and legitimate theatre producer. At Disney Theatrical Productions where he served as Executive Vice- President and co-head of the company, he produced The Lion King, and Beauty and the Beast, among others that received numerous awards. His feature films include: About last Night, Impromptu, Freejack and Queens Logic. He was founder and producer of Chicago’s Apollo Theater Center, which presents regional premieres of such acclaimed works as David Mamet’s Sexual Perversity In Chicago.

I am happy to announce Global Arts Corps opened its offices in New York in 2011, at:
790 Riverside Drive, #6P
New York, New York 10032

Finally, we want to thank all of our supporters for both Global Arts Corps and The Truth in Translation Project. And for those of you who don’t know, TnT successfully toured for 3 years to 26 cities, in 11 countries on 3 continents…for more information, please see our websites.

– Michael and Jackie Lessac