May 35th, © Cheung Chi Wai

Columbia University School of the Arts to Release International Play Reading Festival as Podcast

July 27, 2020

Columbia University School of the Arts announced that the third annual International Play Reading Festival will be held October 2-25, 2020 and released as a podcast series. The festival’s co-founders, David Henry Hwang and Dean Carol Becker, made the decision to pivot from an in-person festival to a podcast due to safety concerns amid COVID-19.


“Though the pandemic has sidelined live performances for now, enterprising artists and producers are exploring new ways of bringing theatrical content to even wider audiences,” says Hwang. “The International Play Reading Festival this year will therefore be accessible for the first time to a truly international audience. We hope these extraordinary plays can help bring our world together, during a time when we all share a common threat, one that acknowledges no borders.”


Over the previous two years, the festival’s organizers at the School of the Arts worked to bring international theatre to an in-person New York audience. This year’s festival has broadened its scope to make these plays and panel discussions available to an international audience. The audio plays will be released in early October and the public is invited to attend panel discussions with the playwrights and translators later that month.


Despite being selected prior to the global COVID-19 pandemic and the current civil rights movement in America, the plays selected for this year’s festival are uniquely suited to this moment. The selected plays, May 35th by Candace Chong Mui Ngam of Hong Kong, Rarámuri Dreams by Camila Villegas of Mexico, and Taxi Radio by Nophand of Thailand, all reflect on the power of the state and culture to affect the lives of individual citizens. 


While it’s disappointing not to bring the playwrights into the same room with New York casts, directors, and the Columbia community, producers are committed to honoring their work. The School of the Arts is working with theatre professionals to help execute a well-crafted podcast, intentionally hiring from within the theatre community to support artists whose industry disappeared overnight.


“Theatre is fundamentally about human interaction––something we all know is incredibly challenging at this time," explains Becker. "Our job at the School of the Arts always is to reimagine how to make deep connections between people possible while reaching a large global audience. We are grateful to have such an adventurous group of playwrights with whom to collaborate on this experiment.”


The play readings will be recorded at the Lenfest Center for the Arts, a dynamic hub for cultural and civic exchange in Upper Manhattan where flexible, state-of-the-art spaces create unprecedented opportunities for the presentation and generation of contemporary art and performance.


See below for more information about the plays and playwrights, and more details about the festival as they become available.


*Tune in whever you get podcasts.


This festival brings the works of three living international playwrights to the Lenfest Center for the Arts, giving New Yorkers access to theatre from across the globe translated into English. This year’s festival will be held via podcast, sharing these readings as audio-plays and allowing truly international engagement with playwrights and translators.