Northern School of Contemporary Dance

Image: Brian Slater



Two Cities (2015)

Since 1998 LAMDA has been commissioning emerging and established writers to create new work in collaboration with its students and professional directors.

In 2015, LAMDA and the Theatre Department of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) worked together to create a unique programme of new play development based around the theme of immigration under the title of ‘Two Cities’. This exciting project built upon LAMDA’s years of experience with its New Writing and Long Project programmes.

Both LAMDA and UCLA engaged a playwright and director team to work with their respective students in the development of material that could form the basis of a new play. Each team worked within its own community for a period of four weeks. LAMDA engaged award-winning playwright Bola Agbaje and director Lisa Spirling; UCLA engaged the writer Alice Tuan and director Joe Olivieri.

The innovative aspect of this work came from two particular points in this process where city talked to city: the team from LAMDA and the team from UCLA shared their work collaboratively in real time via live streaming.

At the end of the third and fourth weeks of the project, students were able to share their discoveries with those on another continent, observing early readings and workshop staging of material and partaking in knowledge exchange as they watched different artists at work and offered ideas and suggestions to help develop the pieces.

Both writers then swapped continents and spent a week working on their material with the opposite artistic team. This culminated in a final sharing of process and discovery via live streaming. In the UK, the live streaming events were hosted by London Contemporary Dance School, who regularly utilise the technology to showcase Virtual Open Days, rehearsals and performances.

Once the four-week process was complete, Bola Agbaje returned to the UK and LAMDA to continue her development of material for an additional two weeks, leading to a final sharing of the work-in-progress prior to the writing of a first draft.

The project has been a great success in enabling students to work with different international peers and artistic practitioners, thereby broadening their knowledge of creative theatre making practice.