Acclaimed theater director Peter Sellars and China expert Orville Schell talk about Dunhuang, the ancient Buddhist caves known for their magnificent Buddhist art, as a model for multiculturalism. Sellars, a professor at UCLA, is known for his unique contemporary stagings of classical and contemporary operas and plays, including Nixon in China in 1987. He is currently working on staging the Vimalakirti Sutra, whose hero is a businessman, proving, in his view, that anyone can be spiritual. Sellars will join Schell, Director of Asia Society’s Center on U.S.-China Relations and author of 15 books about China, in a wide-ranging conversation about Buddhism, contemporary China, and the cultural shift Sellars believes we need to cope with global challenges such as climate change.
MacArthur Fellow Peter Sellars is a distinguished professor in the UCLA Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance, where he has taught since 1988. Known for exploring challenging moral issues such as race, war, poverty, and the international refugee crisis through his work, his most notable courses include Art as Moral Action and Art as Social Action. Sellars has gained international renown for his groundbreaking and transformative interpretations of artistic masterpieces and for collaborative projects with an extraordinary range of creative artists across three decades. Sellars is the founding director of the Boethius Institute at UCLA, which invites scholars, activists, and artists to work together on projects of public significance, exploring radical ways to rethink relationships of communities and complex issues, using the arts as the point of entry and the point of transformation.
Orville Schell is the Arthur Ross Director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at Asia Society in New York. He is a former professor and Dean at the University of California, Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. Schell is the author of fifteen books, ten of them about China, and a contributor to numerous edited volumes. He has written widely for many magazine and newspapers, including The Atlantic Monthly, The New Yorker, Time, The New Republic, Harpers, The Nation, The New York Review of Books, Wired, Foreign Affairs, the China Quarterly, and The New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times. Schell was born in New York City, graduated Magna Cum Laude from Harvard University in Far Eastern History, was an exchange student at National Taiwan University in the 1960s, and earned a Ph.D. (Abd) at University of California, Berkeley in Chinese History. He is a Fellow at the Weatherhead East Asian Institute at Columbia University, a Senior Fellow at the Annenberg School of Communications at USC and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Schell is also the recipient of many prizes and fellowships, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Overseas Press Club Award, and the Harvard-Stanford Shorenstein Prize in Asian Journalism.