The Lab was founded in 2012 as an outgrowth of a Convening on Global Performance, Civic Imagination, and Cultural Diplomacy, featuring more than 75 US and international theater artists, policymakers, activists, cultural leaders, and scholars. Led by Professors Derek Goldman (Theater & Performance Studies Program) and Cynthia Schneider (School of Foreign Service), this three-day convening explored how to maximize the potential of theater and performance to engage international challenges, and how to bridge the gap between the worlds of foreign policy and global performance. The gathering featured an Arabic adaptation of Heather Raffo’s award-winning 9 Parts of Desire, performed by visiting faculty and students from Baghdad University and leading Iraqi theater artists.

Since its founding, the Lab has developed a signature approach: raising voices rarely heard in Washington through compelling, authentic narratives, and engaging policymakers as well as artists, students, and wider audiences in forums that cast critical issues in a new light. Previous highlights of Lab programming, sometimes hosted in collaboration with the Davis Performing Arts Center, include Athol Fugard's anti-apartheid classic The Island by Freedom Theatre from Jenin Refugee Camp in the West Bank; Anna Deavere Smith’s On Grace Residency; Vaclav Havel's Anticodes from Laterna Magika and the National Theatre of Prague, and many additional collaborations, symposia and convenings around the world. All the Lab’s projects feature in-depth discussions between artists, audiences and leading policy experts (for example, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has participated in post-show discussions at a number of our events).

The Lab is grateful to the faculty and staff of the Theater & Performance Studies Program and the Davis Performing Arts Center for their support and ongoing collaboration on our programming.