The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Presenter Interview
Organizing a large-scale Japan-themed festival for 2008 The policies behind the Kennedy Center's international programs
You came to the Kennedy Center in 1992. Have the programs and policies of the Center changed since then?
It has expanded a lot in terms of international programs. James Wolfensohn, our former chairman and also former chairman of the World Bank during the Clinton Administration, was very interested in expanding the scope of the Kennedy Center. So we began to look around the world for programs that would appeal to many diverse audiences. We have also expanded our educational programs, fellowships and internships. In other programming, there has also been an expansion in dance and ballet programs, to the point that we present more dance than probably any other center in America. And, the companies presented are the major companies of the world from China to Europe to America. So, the answer is yes—the Center hardly has a dark night.

You have had a series of four large international programs with regional orientations, starting with Africa and then Latin America, Asia and next the Arab world. What was the background behind these series, and do you think of it as a series?
I think of it as a plan that goes back to‘93 when we decided to focus on regions of the world that had been overlooked thus far. Those areas included the continent of Africa, the Latin Americas region and Asia. We also thought that there were local communities that would be natural affinity audiences for presentations of work from these regions. I am working now on the Arab world program [for 2009]. This is a region of the world that the Center has not focused on except for a bit when we did African Odyssey and for some world music presentations by Arab musicians on the Millennium Stage. This is an important festival for us to do because Americans know so little about this region of the world. I think that all will be amazed to see the beauty and creativity from these artists.

As a national institution, I’m sure that there are people who will try to find a political agenda in programs like your coming Middle East festival.
When we did the Africa Odyssey festival, we presented artists from Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco and it was then that I knew that I really wanted to do an Arab festival. When Michael Kaiser came on board this festival became one on his agenda so that is the reason that we are doing it now. So, there are no political motives but really artistic motivations behind them all. Certainly, the political situation has just gotten worse and worse but we are very committed to making this festival. I too think that it will be a good festival to do in these very charged times. Art is the best tool we have to foster more understanding between people.

From your position as a Vice President of the Kennedy Center’s international programs, what is the most important role of international exchange programs in your vision?
I think that America receives a rather myopic view of work from around the world on the main stages and theaters of our country—perhaps largely for economic reasons. So I believe that part of our mission should be to bring to American audiences the best from everywhere in the world—to enlighten. There is extraordinary work that I have seen around the world that I want to share with as many people as possible- it can be life-changing.
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