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British Council and Los Angeles Area Universities Partner to Host Transatlantic Dialogues

Award-Winning Play from Scotland Catalyzes Cross-Cultural Debate

WASHINGTON, Sept. 17 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The British Council, the UK's international organization for cultural relations, will partner with three Los Angeles area universities to present an exciting program of events surrounding the US premiere of the National Theatre of Scotland's Black Watch, the critically-acclaimed theater production that examines the war in Iraq as described by soldiers in Scotland's legendary Black Watch regiment.

Black Watch, which is based on recent interviews conducted by acclaimed Scottish playwright Gregory Burke with former soldiers who served in Iraq, serves as the centerpiece of British Council Conversations, a series of events discussing UK and US attitudes toward war and the military, the possibilities of intercultural dialogue and the role of contemporary arts in discussing divisive social issues.

The British Council and UCLA Live kick off the program on September 22 with a panel discussion featuring cultural influencers, journalists and ex-military personnel as they debate thematic issues arising from Black Watch. Panelists include UK journalist and commentator Robert Fox; Jason Berg, a former US Marine stationed in Iraq; Howard LaFranchi, the Iraq correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor; and Black Watch director John Tiffany.

On October 3, British Council Conversations continues as students and professors at California State University, Los Angeles, Royal Holloway University of London, and the University of Glasgow take part in a three-way videoconference that explores the text of Black Watch in terms of national trauma and identity. During "Dramas and Trauma: Writers Responding to War," sponsored by the Center for Contemporary Poetry and Poetics, faculty and students from the three countries will dissect the Anglo-American literary response to current and past conflicts, including the relationship between history, fiction and performance.

The British Council is also partnering with the University of Southern California Center on Public Diplomacy at the Annenberg School to present a white paper on the theater as a conduit for cultural diplomacy. Written by USC professor and public diplomacy expert Nicholas Cull, "Gregory Burke's Black Watch: Theatre as Cultural Diplomacy" provides the platform for an October 7 symposium. Peter Kovach, diplomat-in-residence at the UCLA School of Public Affairs, will moderate "The Power of the Stage: Drama as Diplomacy," a group discussion featuring Cull as well as Sasha Anawalt, director, NEA Arts Journalism Institute in Theater; Christopher Merrill, director, International Writing Program at the University of Iowa; and Alma Martinez, associate professor of theater arts, Pomona College, and former member of El Teatro Campesino.

"Art is a key vehicle for nations to express themselves, as well as to lay the groundwork for dialogue and engagement around potentially difficult issues," said Sharon Memis, director of the British Council in the United States. "In the case of Black Watch, the play offers a platform to examine the unique relationship between the US and the UK, as well as the key social issues that both unite and divide us."

The US premiere of Black Watch marks the debut of the National Theatre of Scotland in the United States, and is supported by the Scottish Government and the British Council. Black Watch will open UCLA Live's International Theatre Festival, running from September 18 to October 14 before moving to New York's St Ann's Warehouse from October 20 to November 11.

The production has won some of the most prestigious theater honors in the UK, including the South Bank Show Theatre Award and a Scotsman Fringe First. Black Watch was also the winner of four 2006-2007 Critics Awards for Theatre in Scotland: Best Director, Best Production, Best Ensemble and Best Technical Presentation.

ABOUT THE BRITISH COUNCIL: The UK's international organization for educational and cultural relations, the British Council builds long-term relationships between the US and the UK and fosters appreciation of the UK's creative ideas and achievements.

We increase recognition of the wide array of learning opportunities available in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and facilitate educational cooperation between the US and UK. Through transatlantic artistic partnerships, we introduce the American public to high-quality, groundbreaking creative achievements from the UK, and our science programs build networks that draw upon the UK's innovation in climate change and other disciplines. We also develop initiatives that give a voice to the next generation of leaders on both sides of the Atlantic, encouraging them to work together to explore solutions to current and future global issues. For more information, please visit

ABOUT THE NATIONAL THEATRE OF SCOTLAND: "It is not hyperbole to say that the National Theatre of Scotland is one of the most exciting things to have happened in British arts this decade" -- The Financial Times

Since its launch in February 2006, the National Theatre of Scotland has been involved in creating more than 53 productions in over 88 different locations. With no building of its own, the Company takes theatre all over Scotland and beyond, working with existing and new venues and companies to create and tour theatre of the highest quality. It takes place in the great buildings of Scotland, but also in site-specific locations, airports and tower blocks, community halls and drill halls, ferries and forests.

Scottish theatre has always been for the people, led by great performances, great stories and great playwrights. The National Theatre of Scotland exists to build a new generation of theatre-goers as well as reinvigorating the existing ones; to create theatre on a national and international scale that is contemporary, confident and forward-thinking; to bring together brilliant artists, designers, composers, choreographers and playwrights; and to exceed expectations of what and where theatre can be. For more information, please visit

ABOUT UCLA LIVE: UCLA Live is an internationally acclaimed producer and presenter of music, dance, theater and spoken word, bringing hundreds of outstanding and provocative artists to Los Angeles each year. From the ancient to the modern, the local to the global, and the underground to the world-renowned, UCLA Live is committed to supporting the development of new and existing work by both major and emerging artists. Lectures, residencies and extensive outreach programs expand the impact of its unparalleled performances.

ABOUT CALIFORNIA STATE UNIVERSITY, LOS ANGELES: The 175-acre hilltop campus of California State University, Los Angeles is at the heart of a major metropolitan city, just five miles from Los Angeles' civic and cultural center. More than 20,000 students and 170,000 alumni--with a wide variety of interests, ages and backgrounds--reflect the city's dynamic mix of populations. Six colleges offer nationally recognized science, arts, business, criminal justice, engineering, nursing, education and humanities programs, among others, led by an award-winning faculty. Cal State L.A. is home to the critically-acclaimed Luckman Jazz Orchestra and to a unique university center for gifted students as young as 12. Among programs that provide exciting enrichment opportunities to students and community include a noted alternative energy technology initiative; an NEH- and Rockefeller-supported humanities center; a NASA-funded center for space research; and a growing forensic science program, to be housed in the Los Angeles Regional Crime Lab now under construction.

ABOUT THE USC CENTER ON PUBLIC DIPLOMACY AT THE ANNENBERG SCHOOL: The USC Center on Public Diplomacy at the Annenberg School was established in 2003 as a partnership between the USC Annenberg School for Communication and USC College of Letters, Arts & Sciences' School of International Relations. It is a joint research and professional training center dedicated to furthering the study and practice of public diplomacy in the United States and around the world. For more information, please visit

SOURCE British Council
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