Helmer Peter Brook and his international theater company will be in residence for a month at Columbia U., under the school’s new University Arts Initiative. During his time on campus, Brook will mount the U.S. premiere of “Tierno Bokar,” a theatrical exploration of the power of tolerance.
Brook’s company will draw on Columbia’s diverse academic resources to engage students, faculty and the community in an ongoing dialogue about the social, political, religious and historical questions raised by “Tierno Bokar.” A variety of symposia, lectures, workshops and related class activities is planned.
The Columbia University Arts Initiative, led by Gregory Mosher, former Lincoln Center producer and director, is organizing the residency in partnership with Barnard College and the Harlem Arts Alliance. The work will be staged in Barnard’s LeFrak Gymnasium, which will be temporarily converted to a 500-seat theater.
The initiative was created by Columbia prez Lee C. Bollinger to harness the resources of a university to enliven the arts on campus, connect students to the city’s vibrant culture, link the arts to other fields of study and make possible work that might not otherwise be seen.
“Peter Brook’s residency at Columbia represents an important point of intersection between the arts and scholarship, and his production of ‘Tierno Bokar’ exemplifies the unique power of artistic expression to illuminate the most enduring social questions of our times,” Bollinger said.
The work, named for a Sufi mystic embroiled in a dispute between rival religious factions in 1930s French-ruled Africa, is a co-production of Brook’s Intl. Center of Theater Creation and Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord. It’s adapted by Marie-Hélène Estienne from West African writer Amadou Hampaté Bâ’s “Life and Teaching of Tierno Bokar, the Sage of Bandiagara.” It will be performed in French, with supertitles, and features music by Toshi Tsuchitori and Antonin Stahly and lighting design by Phillipe Vialatte. The production recently played at Bouffes du Nord in Paris and is touring Europe.
Members of the theater company hail from eight countries; they are Habib Dembélé, Rachid Djaïdani, Djénéba Koné, Sotigui Kouyaté, Tony Mpoudja, Bruce Myers, Abdou Ouologuem, Hélène Patarot, Dorcy Rugamba and Pitcho Womba Konga. Kouyaté, who appeared in Brook’s “Mahabharata,” plays the title role.
Performances of “Tierno Bokar” run March 30-April 26. For more information, visit http://www.tiernobokar.com.