New WORLD Theater

From 1979-2009, the New WORLD Theater worked at the intersection of artistic practice, community engagement, scholarship, and activism toward a vision of a “new world”—one that broke the confines of multiculturalism and was an artistic harbinger of America’s shifting demographics. In July 2009, citing the economic recession, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst made the decision to suspend, and effectively end, the operations of the New WORLD Theater. With support from the Ford Foundation and the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the Hemispheric Institute is leading a multipronged initiative to preserve, disseminate, and foster outgrowth from the vital legacy of the New WORLD Theater.

From a geographic “outpost” in New England, New WORLD Theater evolved from a community organizing project and the Northeast point on a theater touring compass —to a protective studio to hone new work, a site of international intersections from South Africa to the South Bronx, and the home of inspired and rigorous collaborations with Western Massachusetts youth. New performance work development at New WORLD defied the conventional theater play lab as ghetto for artists of color; artists were met where they wanted to be in the imagining of new approaches, methods, and production. One of New WORLD Theater’s artistic legacies is Project 2050, an early call to imagine the U.S. demographic shift, with people of the future — youth, in equal collaboration with artists and scholars.

New WORLD Theater Initiative Components

•The creation comprehensive video collection of New WORLD Theater’s 30 year performance history in the Hemispheric Institute Digital Video Library (HIDVL). The video collection be publicly accessible via the HIDVL website and will be accompanied by a tri-lingual profile, photographs, and other ephemera. This work is supported by funds from the Ford Foundation.

•The publication of a volume of essays that articulates the history and legacy of the New WORLD Theater. Edited by Professor Chinua Thelwell, the book will be published in 2013. The publication is supported by funds from the Nathan Cummings Foundation.

An Unimagined Space: Beyond the Legacy of the New WORLD Theater. On June 14, 2011, the Hemispheric Institute hosted a one day symposium that brought together artists, scholars, and cultural organizers using the springboard of New WORLD as a bold forward-looking cultural experiment to examine the artistic and social reverberations within the changing cultural politics of the 21st Century. Performances by Marc Bamuthi Joseph, UNIVERSES, Guillermo Gómez-Peña and 2050 Legacy Ensemble.