Jersey City Theater Center (JCTC) presents the second annual “Voices International Theatre Festival” from Friday October 16 to Sunday October 25. This year’s Festival is a unique hybrid of virtual and live events featuring the work of twenty-one groundbreaking theatre companies from Europe, Eastern Europe, South Asia, Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and the United States. The Festival is the largest of its kind in New Jersey

The festival’s opening ceremony on Sunday, October 18 is a specially designed, socially distanced live assembly gathering in Liberty State Park in Jersey City, combining both live and virtual elements, including classes during the afternoon and a performance-ceremony broadcast live at 6:00 p.m. EST. JCTC has obtained forty-eight hour licensing agreements with performers to make this event possible.

The 2020 “Voices International Theatre Festival” showcases daring and thematically provocative multi-disciplinary work that has been curated to offer festivalgoers a deeply stimulating cross-section of ethnic, racial, gender, and political perspectives.  Among the notable companies and artists participating are the internationally acclaimed Belarus Free Theater; Palesa Mazamisa (from South Africa); Ranan (from India; Roman Viktyuk Theatre (from Russia); RAAAM Theater Group of Estonia; Manuel Vignoulle (from France); Matara (from Israel); New York-based Sidra Bell Dance; Los Escultores del Aire (from Spain); and Haeboma (from South Korea).

“Many of the artists and groups we invited are acclaimed in their home countries as well as internationally,” says Olga Levina, the artistic director of the Jersey City Theater Center, who is originally from Belarus.  “Their work is a direct response to the state of our world and the need for greater equity and unity.  Their stories are eloquent, forceful, and often surprising, and their messages and testimony are riveting and shattering.  They deserve as wide an audience as we can give them.”

Several of the companies chosen would not otherwise be able to travel to the United States for a variety of reasons.  Because their performances will be staged and livestreamed from their home-base theatres, the companies will share not just the perspectives and rich performative content of their most mature work, but also the context in which they create their work. 2020  Voices is supported by the City of Jersey City (Mayor Steven M. Fulop), the Jersey City Municipal Council, the Jersey City Office of Cultural Affairs, the New Jersey Division of Travel and Tourism, Hudson County Cultural Affairs, businesses and organizations across the state as well as several neighborhood groups in Jersey City.

“We are very interested in sparking a far-reaching conversation with this festival,” says Levina.  “Of course, the voices of the different groups will interact and combine with one another, but it is crucial for the participants to
enter a conversation with the host city and the diverse local audience we nurture at JCTC.  That is why our partnerships with the city of Jersey City and with organizations throughout New Jersey and even on-the-ground neighborhood groups and individual artists are so important.  We want the conversations of 2020 Voices to be uniquely inclusive both locally and globally.” Levina also stressed the importance of the Festival’s “significant contribution to the reopening of theatre locally and globally.”

The festival is divided into three parts: “conversations,” performances, and classes and workshops.  The conversations section includes “Meet the Artists” (Friday Oct 16) and a “Festival Forum” about the work (Friday Oct 23).  Performances are scheduled throughout the ten-day festival and livestreamed in their entirety over two days (Saturdays Oct 17 and 24) with a special live performances section staged from Merseles Studios at JCTC on Saturday, Oct 24.  Classes and collaborative workshops take place on Sunday Oct 18 and on the festival’s closing day, on Sunday Oct 25.

The festival’s opening day ceremony will be staged live on Sunday, October 18, at 6:00 p.m., on Crescent Field in Liberty State Park. Several live, socially distant presentations and workshops will take place there from 12:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Co-hosted by the city itself, the opening ceremony reflects Jersey City’s status as the “golden gateway” of the United States, something Levina celebrates:

“America, of course, finds itself very conflicted right now,” Levina remarks.  “People like me who have come to America and found opportunity are so grateful for what we believe America stands for.  At the same time, many Americans—descended from immigrants ironically enough—are demanding that our borders get shut down, that we stop and even turn away people from around the world who are still yearning to breathe free.  A festival like Voices will no doubt capture this struggle, but hopefully it will give voice to those who love and respect the cultural diversity of the planet and who are ready to celebrate this no matter where they live!”

Included in the 2020 Voices International Theatre Festival are works about racial and social justice; gender equality; climate change; globalization; the tech revolution; personal freedom vs. totalitarianism; materialism and hedonism; war and terror; and traditional vs. modern culture.  Participating companies and the racially diverse participating artists are from Europe, Eastern Europe, South Asia, Asia, the Middle East, Africa, New York, and New Jersey. Three of the festival’s events have a Jersey City focus:  Jersey City resident Kyle Marshall’s “King on Saturday October 17;” the opening ceremony; and the  photo contest.

Tickets for the opening ceremony are $35 for the live event and $15 for the online.  For more information about Voices including tickets, the Voices Festival Pass, the photo contest, and the festival calendar, visit https://www.jctcenter.org/ or contact JCTC (339-345 Newark Avenue) at 201-795-5386.

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