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Fellowship Participants
2015 FELLOWSHIP Participants 

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Meet ISPA's 2015 Global Fellowship Program participant Neil Coppen! 

Neil Coppen

South Africa

Artistic Director, Think Theatre

Neil Coppen lives between Durban and Johannesburg where he works as a writer, director and designer. His collaborations include works with film-makers, visual-artists, writers, community-groups, sound-designers, authors, animators, choreographers and musicians.

Coppen has won several awards for his writing, acting, design and direction work. In 2011 he was named the Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Drama, which was followed by the ISPA fellowship award to New York in 2012. He was included in The Mail & Guardian’s 2011 200 most influential Young South Africans list and is one of the six South African playwright's to have been granted a staged reading at The Royal Court Theatre in London earlier this year. Coppen currently serves as Artistic Director for the company Think Theatre Productions having written, directed and designed several award- winning productions under the companies banner.

Neil, What are the three adjectives that describe you? 
Curious, Committed, and Insane


What’s your favorite city in the world?
Neil: The South African cities of Johannesburg and Durban are complex, inspiring multi-cultural…. multi-layered African metropolises whose identities are constantly shifting and changing. As a writer and story-teller (living and creating between the two) I am never short of inspiration.  .

Can you tell me the name of the life-changing performance that you either watched or participated in?

I see so many performances and performers that challenge and shift the way I perceive and create. One of the most indelible (and recent) was Taylor Mac who I first encountered earlier this year at the New York 2015 ISPA Congress. Professor Elizabeth Bradley took me along to see a decade of his show: "A 24-Decade History of Popular Music" the following evening . I was just mesmerized by Mac’s wit, theatricality, outlandishness, his participative and subversive approach to history and theatre in general. He is a man of so many talents and just the most sublime story-teller. I kept thinking during the performance: “God imagine if history had been taught like this in high-school”. The piece lasted three hours without an interval and I was so engrossed that I never noticed the time slip by. 

More recently the opening night of my South African adaptation of Orwell’s "Animal Farm" at the Market theatre can be considered a highlight. The work played to capacity houses over its run at the theater and I was working with the most extraordinary team of actresses’. Their talent and commitment to the project blew me away. The project looks set to embark on an international tour in the new watch this space.


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