For 46 years (and counting) Philip Arnoult has happily haunted the margins of American and international theatre.
In Baltimore, he founded the Theatre Project in 1971 and led the theatre for two decades, creating a quirky mix of resident ensembles (Otrabanda Company, The Peabody Rock Opera, The Iowa Theatre Lab, and Blackbird Theatre); national and international performance residencies (over 350 well and lesser-known theatre and dance companies—Theater Complicite, Pilobolus, Bread and Puppet Theatre, The Shaliko Company, Theatre X, Tmu-Na Dance Theatre, The Playgroup, Teatr Buf, Le Plan K, TIE3, ); community projects, and pre-professional training programs.
He was responsible for bringing and directing two festivals to Baltimore: The New Theatre Festival in 1976 with Herbert Blau, and The Theatre of Nations Festival in 1986 with T. Edward Hambleton and Stan Wojewodski.
In 1991 he founded the Center for International Theatre Development with a simple mission of:
helping to tell the stories
helping to take the next steps
His CITD work has had a constant focus in Eastern and Central Europe with projects and exchanges in Russia, Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, Slovakia, and Romania. Directors from those countries have worked in the US at the American Repertory Theatre, Arena Stage, Woolly Mammoth Theatre, Portland Center Stage, the Wilma Theatre, Cutting Ball Theatre, Salvage Vanguard Theatre, and New York Theatre Workshop.
Working with his long-time partner in Russia, John Freedman, they developed a translation project, The New Russian Drama: Voices In A Shifting Age, responding to the decade of new writing for the Russian Theatre. Twenty-six plays were translated into American English and published. Working with Towson University, a conference/showcase was held in 2010 and attended by 100 invited professionals.
In 2010, CITD and John Freedman worked with The Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center, The Humana Festival, The Sundance Theatre Lab and New York Theatre Workshop creating a New American Drama project in Russia, translating and adapting Annie Baker, Chuck Mee, Adam Rapp, Suzan-Lori Parks, Nilo Cruz, Deborah Zoe Laufer, and Eric Bogosian. Major Russian contemporary playwrights adapted the translations resulting in over two-dozen Russian productions in Moscow and beyond.
Arnoult’s work in Hungary began in the 1990s, with multiple exchanges then much welcomed after the political changes. He worked closely with the Academy of Drama and Film, as well as a developing independent theatre scene. He brought a group of like-minded Americans to the first Independent Theatre Festival in 1993.
His continued work with those players in the independent scene led to major CITD partnerships with a cluster of Hungarian organizations in supporting and participating in two Independent Theatre Showcases in 2013 and 2015. These two events have been crucial to an independent theatre culture under siege from a hostile new government.
Early in CITD’s history, Arnoult began a decade-long bilateral project in the Netherlands: The US/Netherlands Touring & Exchange Initiative. It began as a three year commitment to three Dutch companies for both performances and workshop residencies, partnering with Annenberg Center in Philadelphia, Seven Stages in Atlanta, Theatre Project in Baltimore, and multiple New York theatres (New York Theatre Workshop, The Ohio Theatre, Danspace St. Marks, Theatre for the New City).
This presenting experiment was followed by a substantial focus on the presentation of Dutch Youth Theatre, as well as a new look at Dutch directors. Ivo Van Hove’s now long history with New York Theatre Workshop began with an introduction and follow-up support from CITD.
Arnoult began a decade-long project in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda in 1998, with the Ford Foundation’s East African Office, first as a consultant and later as a grantee. The development of a Media, Arts and Culture Program led to regional initiatives in professional training, exchange, and commissioning. He also worked closely with a cohort of Kenyan artists around the creation of the GoDown Arts Center in Nairobi that opened in 2003. He linked his work in Russia with a developing contemporary dance movement in East Africa and created a three-year Russian/East African exchange project, DANCE TRAFFIC (2001-2004). The Sundance East African Theatre LaB grew out of early joint projects in the region with CITD.
Arnoult has worked deeply, and in various capacities, with four laboratory theatres: The Iowa Theatre Lab and Double Edge Theatre, both in the US, and in Poland with Włodzimierz Staniewski’s Gardzienice Cener for Theatre Practices and Theatre ZAR.
He continues a 25 year relationship with Towson University’s graduate program, serving as a consultant, developing international programs. He worked closely with Tom Cook at The University of Tennessee, developing an international Center of Excellence and an MFA program for the Knoxville campus. He also has had professional history with Antioch College, and Bennington College.
He worked closely with Martha Coigney and the US Center of the International Theatre Institute from 1976 and served as a board member of the US Center and leadership roles with the New Theatre Committee/New Theatre Working Group. He was a member of the US Center’s ITI Congress delegations beginning in the 1979 Sofia Congress. His last ITI Congress was Athens 2002. In between, he attended Madrid 1981, East Berlin 1983, Toronto/Montreal 1985, Havana 1987, Helsinki 1989, Istanbul 1991, Munich 1993, Caracas 1995, Seoul 1997, and Marseille 2000
He also has served on panels and boards for The National Endowment for the Arts, The Pew Charitable Trusts, the Maryland Arts Council, the US State Department, and was a founding member and officer of the Neighborhood Arts Programs National Organizing Committee (NAPNOC).
He has worked closely with The Trust for Mutual Understanding on a wide array of projects in Eastern & Central Europe.
He has lectured abroad in Argentina, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Egypt, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Indonesia, Israel, Kenya, Korea, the Netherlands, Mexico, Poland, Romania, Russia, Scotland, Slovakia, South Africa, Tanzania, the former Yugoslavia, and Uganda.
Arnoult is the recipient of the 1990 Rosamond Guilder Award from the US Center of ITI, the 2014 Adam Mickiewicz Laureate (Poland), the Polish Order of Merit for Culture (Poland), and was named the 13th UNESCO World Theater Ambassador.
He lives in Baltimore with his wife and professional partner, Carol Baish.
Image by Zoltan Szarka