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Columbia Hosts Month-long Residency of Peter Brook and Company
Sotigui Kouyaté portrays Sufi mystic Tierno Bokar.

Columbia's newly formed University Arts Initiative has established a residency for renowned director Peter Brook and his theater company, International Center of Theatre Creation. During the month-long stay, Brook will mount the U.S. premiere of Tierno Bokar, a theatrical exploration of the power of tolerance.

With this residency, Brook is for the first time integrating his work into the life and culture of a large urban university. The company will draw on the University'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 the production. 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 Arts Initiative was recently created by Columbia President Lee C. Bollinger to harness the resources of a university to enliven the arts on campus. The initiative also seeks to 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 performed.

"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," President Bollinger said. "Together with our partners at Barnard College and the Harlem Arts Alliance, Columbia is excited to help bring Tierno Bokar to the United States for the first time, and we invite our friends and neighbors in the community and throughout the city to experience it with us."

Tierno Bokar , 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 International Center of Theatre Creation (CICT) and Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord. The work was adapted by Marie-Hélène Estienne from the great West African writer Amadou Hampaté Bâ's Life and Teaching of Tierno Bokar, the Sage of Bandiagara. The piece 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 currently touring Europe.

Brook directs an international cast, who hail from eight countries, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Mali and Vietnam.

Brook, who was born in 1925 in London, cemented his reputation in the 1960s as the leading director of Shakespearean productions, including A Midsummer Night's Dream and King Lear for the Royal Shakespeare Company. Before settling in Paris in 1971, he spent three years in Africa. Brook's acclaimed work also spans opera and film, including Lord of the Flies and Marat/Sade. He is the author of numerous books, among them the landmark The Empty Space and a memoir, Threads of Time.

To house the productions, Barnard College will transform its LeFrak Gymnasium (located in Barnard Hall at 3009 Broadway at 117 St.) into a 500-seat theater.

"At the heart of Tierno Bokar is a plea for mutual tolerance and understanding," said Judith Shapiro, president of Barnard College. "We are fortunate to present this production on our campus and expect it will offer our students, our faculty and all New Yorkers an intense and absorbing exploration of culture, art and politics."

Voza Rivers, chair of the Harlem Arts Alliance, said, " Peter Brook is a master theater craftsman. His productions are thought provoking, powerful and scholarly. The Alliance is pleased that Columbia has invited us to collaborate on bringing Tierno Bokar, an African story, to Harlem's diverse residents, cultural and religious institutions, and artists."

"Over the last 50 years," Mosher added, "Peter Brook has been devoted to the simplest and most elusive of ideas, namely that theater is not a result, but a search. Like Tierno Bokar, his search has been for truth. And like Tierno Bokar, he does not claim to have found it. But he and his company have ventured closer and closer to the essence of an art form. In doing so, they have changed its landscape and inspired countless others to begin their own search."


Performances of Tierno Bokar begin Wednesday, March 30 and end Tuesday, April 26. After the week of March 30, performances run Tuesdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. Tickets will go on sale to the general public Monday, Feb. 14. Regular tickets are $40 and are available at the Miller Theatre Box Office (2960 Broadway at 116 St., open from noon to 6 p.m., Monday to Friday) and through Telecharge.com at (212) 239-6200.

Columbia University student tickets are $10, Columbia faculty and staff tickets are $25, and non-Columbia student tickets are $15; these are available at the box office only. A CUID is needed to purchase the Columbia discounted tickets, which go on sale Feb. 7.

For groups of 10 or more (including student groups), call (212) 354-6510. Additional box office outlets will be announced shortly, and additional ticket information can be found online at www.tiernobokar.columbia.edu.

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Published: Jan 27, 2005
Last modified: Jan 27, 2005

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