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CCU Atheneum: “I have always been interested in the [physical theater] format, and I came to Nepal thinking that there would be a lot of physical theatre here,
“I have always been interested in the [physical theater] format, and I came to Nepal thinking that there would be a lot of physical theatre here," said Peter Seifarth (center). "Since there are a lot of languages spoken here, I had imagined that physical theatre was often used to overcome the language barrier. It was an odd surprise to realize that the theatre scene here is very verbose."

CCU’s first Student Fulbright opens first theatrical show in Nepal

by Connor Uptegrove
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After a year of researching physical theatre practices in Nepal on a Fulbright grant, Peter Seifarth, a 2017 theatre arts graduate, will return to the United States after directing his first professional physical theatre piece.

“Physical theatre has the unique advantage of sharing stories cross-culturally, by virtue of the fact that you can use universal movements, gestures or attitudes understood by anyone,” said Seifarth, who studied in the physical theatre track of Coastal’s esteemed BFA program.

Originally from Young Harris, Ga., Seifarth was the first CCU student to win a Fulbright grant. He created an entirely nonverbal show that uses physical theatre to tackle complex ideas and relevant social issues, such as advocacy for women in the Nepali community.

Even after directing professional theatre in Nepal since July 2017, Seifarth still refers back to his education at Coastal.

“CCU’s theatre program taught me how to be an artist, first and foremost,” said Seifarth. “It taught me how to take risks and to learn from failure.”

While Seifarth was taught to learn from failure, his production in Nepal has seen only success.

His first production abroad, “Witch,” revolves around the concept of witchcraft and its superstitions in Nepali culture. The show was the culmination of his Fulbright study and research project. It was held at the Sarwanam Theater in Kathmandu and ran for a week.

Seifarth hopes nonverbal physical theatre can be a tool to reach broader audiences from all cultural backgrounds and languages.

Nepal has more than 120 languages spoken as a mother tongue, so “it was the perfect place to experiment with making theatre that can be understood by everyone,” said Seifarth, who speaks only minimal Nepali.

An example of the inclusivity of “Witch” could be seen during the last dress rehearsal of the performance, to which more than 100 deaf students were invited to watch.

Seifarth created the show with the help of Roshan Mehta, a Nepali actor he met during his yearlong study abroad trip to Italy during his junior year. Seifarth and Mehta worked at the Accademia dell’Arte, training and experimenting with highly physical movements in the theatre. Accademia dell’Arte is a vibrant arts community in Arezzo, Italy, and a partner institution with CCU.

Seifarth was so impressed with Mehta’s talent that he developed an appetite to see Nepali theatre firsthand.

To apply for the Fulbright grant, Seifarth composed a research question applicable to the theatre he strived to create: how can artists use the universality of physical theatre to share more stories with a broader audience?

With his experience in Italy and Nepal, Seifarth has become an enthusiastic advocate on following a dream abroad. He encourages students who study abroad to remain humble and open-minded.

“You will be the face of your country, so represent it well by employing compassion and understanding toward those who are different from you,” Seifarth says.

Seifarth returned to the U.S. in May; however, he will not take for granted the cultural understanding he has gained from living abroad. He believes that art is a perfect method to cultivate that understanding. “It can allow us to acknowledge the universal principles that unite us, while also paying homage to our own cultural traditions”

 

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