The marquee at the Paramount Theater for the production of "See You Yesterday," May 2019.
Dear Global Arts Corps friends,
It’s been a year of transitions and transformations for GAC. First, See You Yesterday had its American premiere at the Paramount Theatre in Boston in association with ArtsEmerson this past May. After tours and workshops in African refugee camps, the Kigali genocide center in Rwanda, as well as three cities in Cambodia, it was a great pleasure to bring it to the full houses in the U.S., where it had enthusiastic audience receptions and critical acclaim. The Boston Globe declared that “crucially, there’s not a single whiff of exploitation in this Global Arts Corps production, a brilliantly performed hybrid of physical theater and circus arts...”
In July, Michael and I, now based mostly in Paris, brought on Grant Rosenberg as Managing Director of GAC as we continue to grow our presence worldwide. Because we are poised to expand our work considerably over the next decade, he is joining us to strengthen the organization to take advantage of every potential partnership and support that exists—and if that is not enough, to help create new opportunities out of whole cloth. So as they say...without further ado, meet Grant.
Thank you all, as usual, for your continuing enthusiasm and support,
All best for the holidays,
Jackie and Michael Lessac
It was a bit of serendipity, meeting Michael and Jackie Lessac last April at a restaurant-café near Luxembourg Gardens. As it happens, an English-language bookshop is next door to a fascist-sympathizing bookshop (the Washington Post even profiled the situation a few months back), and our conversation standing there on the sidewalk in front of them—about the dangerous political winds, the traumatic effect of rulers on their citizens, and all the ways that populism and curtailing of rights affects a populace—was a reminder that GAC’s work remains vital and about very real concerns. Two weeks later, after more conversations about the kind of work they want to do going forward with GAC, and how Europe is central to that, they brought me on board.
Originally from Chicago and now a dual citizen, I’ve lived in France for 18 years. I spent my first decade here as a journalist and videographer for TIME magazine and the following six years as programs manager at the American Library in Paris. Other work has also prepared me for Global Arts Corps: I am a French-to-English translator, and also was part of the staff for the inaugural year at the Institute for Ideas & Imagination, a fellowship program at Columbia University’s Paris campus.
These are fraught times, and GAC’s work, at the crossroads of the arts and geopolitics and history, is something I am very pleased to be a part of. Below are some of the things we are currently doing as well as our plans for the coming months and beyond:
A new look online. We've recently overseen a redesign of our website to one that we feel better reflects the mission, reach, and scope of GAC for the years to come. We also have an exciting final edit of our new documentary film, Landmines. As we seek funds for finishing costs, we have been screening it as a rough cut, most recently at the UNESCO Biennale in Angola in September. There are also plans for it to be screened at the UN in Geneva sometime next year.
A second GAC home in Europe. As part of our international expansion and presence in France, we now have, in addition to our 501c3 in the U.S., a French 1901 Association as a way for GAC to be officially recognized in Europe and expand our international reach. This will also eventually allow donations by E.U. residents to be tax deductible. We were helped with this by a new friend of GAC, Paris-based retired attorney Tom Rose, who oversaw this pro-bono.
Benefit screening of Landmines in Paris. More immediately, in Paris on January 20th, Landmines will be shown to an invited audience at the illustrious Royal Monceau Hotel. This event is being organized by students of the Jeannine Manuel bilingual school, who have taken it on in order to raise funds to bring the Cambodian show See You Yesterday to Paris. These 20 international students from the school saw it as a way to bring the world’s youth together and explore difficult issues—in this case a historical one that feels desperately current. The screening will be a way for GAC to bring the show elsewhere in Europe.
Expanding staff. We’ve also brought on two additional colleagues: Bella Wood, who Michael and Jackie have known from their time in Wyoming, now in her final year at Fordham University, is GAC’s Director of Youth Engagement and Development and is working from our New York office. Here in Paris, Elena Tadros, a recent University of Montreal graduate who is also doing important work with local refugees will be assisting both for administrative needs as well as some of our upcoming projects. Born in France to Egyptian parents, Elena is trilingual (French, English, and Arabic), while Bella is bilingual in Spanish and English, and of course with our international work these language skills are essential.
The Maelstrom Reckoning: Reconciliation, Rehearsed. As many of you know, Michael has embarked on what will be the biggest international project he or GAC has ever attempted. Its origins lie in what we perceive to be a need that simply cannot be ignored. The rising tide of hatred in the world has created a dangerous chemistry that requires GAC to turn from exploring binary conflicts to now bringing a critical mass of cultures in conflict together on the same stage at the same time. There they will unpeel the historic source of their divides, creating an interaction where disparate actors from disparate conflicts will result in a process of onstage collaboration across languages and cultures, where everyone is a refugee in someone else’s history.
And so in 2020, we will begin visiting different regions around the world to create a consortium of theatres operating below the radar in the US, Western, Central, and Eastern Europe, as well as Latin America, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. The project should take four years from start to finish. More details aboutThe Maelstrom Reckoning can be read here.
As the decade comes to a close, we appreciate the financial help you've given and continue to give to keep GAC's work going. I look forward to bringing these projects to fruition and meeting as many of you as possible when the moment presents itself.