By T. Sasitharan (Singapore)
The words “intercultural” and “interculturalism” have been linked with performance and theatre for 40 years; part of the common parlance of practitioners, critics, and audiences. Introduced by Richard Schechner to contrast with “international,” “intercultural” initially referred to work and meetings of artists from different “cultures” (1983). In subsequent nuancing, interculturalism came to refer to creative ways of working with (or working out) “difference”, “cultural identity” and “the Other”. Implicit is the tension between identifying difference and seeking commonality. Differences acknowledged must find “transcendence” to enable “inter”-action. “Transcendence” could happen as highly visible, multi-national or state-sponsored spectacles of festivals and temples of theatre with actors as mere digits, or as micro-events in studios and courtyards where exchanges of culture are “gifts” offered and accepted by artists, who are empowered and autonomous agents of a collaborative creativity. What is urgently needed is balance between these poles of “interculturalism”.