The Westmont Theater Arts Department has established a new initiative expanding its focus on diversity, justice, global engagement and intercultural competency. Beginning in fall 2021, as part of the Justice and Global Engagement in the Theatre Arts Initiative, John Blondell, award-winning director and Westmont professor of theater arts, will become the new global ambassador in the performing arts. The initiative also establishes a new artist/scholar-in-residence for diversity, equity and inclusion in theater arts.
“I am delighted and honored,” Blondell says. “These positions reflect the department’s commitment to seek change and transformation relative to local, national and global conversations and movements.”
In his new role, Blondell will teach and direct for one semester at Westmont and spend the remaining semester working in international theater.
“John has developed a stellar and altogether unique professional career directing international theater all over the globe,” says Mitchell Thomas, theater arts professor and chair of the department. “His experiences, connections and professional work directly benefit our theater arts students and provide a distinct lens into global theater-making. Westmont theater has hosted artists and scholars from all over the planet in connection with John’s networks, creating a truly magical artistic and educational environment here in Santa Barbara.
“I can’t think of a more apt and fitting title for John than global ambassador as he truly embodies the global aspiration of the college’s vision.”
Blondell, founding artistic director of the Lit Moon Theatre Company, director of the Lit Moon World Theater Festivals and co-founder of the Bitola (Macedonia) Shakespeare Festival, has directed more than 80 professional productions, and produced another 60 for Lit Moon’s various international festivals.
His Lit Moon productions have been staged in China, Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Poland, Scotland and Canada. His international credits include productions for the Tampereen Teatteri in Tampere, Finland; the Bitola (Macedonia) National Theatre (four occasions); the Russian Theatre of Karaganda in Kazakhstan; and the National Theatre of Albania.
Blondell’s Bitola National Theatre production of Henry VI, Part 3 was featured at the 2012 Globe to Globe Festival, presented by Shakespeare’s Globe London. His 2013 Westmont College production of “The Pirates of Penzance” received three national awards, including Distinguished Production of a Musical and Distinguished Director of a Musical, from the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
Until the global pandemic subsides, Blondell will dedicate himself to different international projects such as the two he’s already completed: a film of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream Quarantine” with Kazakh and American actors, and a virtual production of “Uncle Vanya,” presented live on Facebook last summer.
“Coming up in the winter and spring, I’ll direct three international, networked productions — with actors from Armenia, Greece, North Macedonia, Albania, Russia, Italy and the U.S — ‘Ivanov’ and ‘The Three Sisters’ by Anton Chekhov and Shakespeare’s ‘Cymbeline,” Blondell says. “When things open again, I have been invited to direct in Karaganda (Kazakhstan), Yerevan, Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Cetinje (Montenegro), and to co-produce an international festival in China.”
He will also develop a new course about contemporary global theater practice, which will fulfill Westmont’s Thinking Globally General Education Requirement.
Westmont has launched a search for the new artist/scholar-in-residence, who will interact with the larger Santa Barbara community through workshops, productions, guest lectures and artistic collaboration.
“The guest artist/scholar position will infuse new life, energy and perspectives into our community and allow us to offer a greater array of important core courses focused on equity, inclusion and diversity in the theater arts,” Thomas says.