Catalyzed by intense upheavals, Egyptian and Ukrainian performing artists are animating their nations’ personal, social, and public spheres. With creativity as a gathering point for discourse, they are challenging themselves, their communities, and the millennia-old cultures they celebrate, to renew and to change.

For its fourth edition, Center Stage, the successful cultural exchange program initiated by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and produced by the New England Foundation for the Arts, will bring five contemporary music and theater ensembles from Egypt and Ukraine to tour in the USA between July and December 2018. Tours are in formation now.

For press inquiries, contact Ben Michaels: ben@rockpaperscissors.biz, 812.339.1195 x204.

The Artists of Center Stage Season 4

Dina El Wedidi (Giza, Egypt)  A sophisticated musical innovator, El Wedidi ravels the personal-political threads of Egyptian heritage and contemporary identity.

Kurbasy (Lviv, Ukraine/U.S. debut)  Tight vocal harmonies, resonant lyrics, and phantasmagoric visual imagery from the Carpathian mountains.

Mohamed Abozekry & Karkadé (Cairo, Egypt/U.S. debut)  Virtuoso oud prodigy convenes Egypt’s popular and classical music traditions, Sufi calls, and secular poetry with a new instrumental project.

Teatr-Pralnia with CCA Dakh (Kyiv, Ukraine/U.S. debut)  A rambunctious and audacious super-charged puppet cabaret asks ‘TseSho?/What’s That?’

Youssra El Hawary (Cairo, Egypt/U.S. debut)  A musical bellwether of everyday life, El Hawary’s indie sound captures the stories of Cairo and the alchemy of the Mediterranean basin.

artist selection


Building on the program's success over the past three seasons, Center Stage will invite 5 ensembles to make individual month-long tours during the period of June to December 2018. 


The U.S. Department of State working with NEFA identifies the participating countries. U.S. Embassies may also independently participate.

Season 4, Touring in 2018: Egypt & Ukraine 

Season 3 (2016-2017):  AlgeriaPakistanTanzania

Season 2 (2014):  MoroccoPakistanVietnam 

Season 1 (2012):  HaitiIndonesia, Pakistan 


New England Foundation for the Arts and Lisa Booth Management administer the selection process. 

Artists are identified during an open nominations period, and through advance trips to each country. 

Nominations may be submitted by presenters, artists and their representatives, U.S. Embassy personnel, regional arts organizations, state arts agencies, and individuals in the U.S. and abroad knowledgeable about performing arts ensembles in the identified countries. Artists interested in participating may submit a nomination on behalf of their own ensemble.

  • All nominations are reviewed by a panel of readers with knowledge of the performing arts and culture in these specific countries.  A list of candidates for consideration is identified by Center Stage’s panel of artistic advisors.
  • A delegation travels to each country to meet with potential ensembles and cultural leaders. Travelers include presenters and artists led by representatives from NEFA and LBMI and facilitated by the U.S. Embassies.  Travelers also conduct workshops, meet with the media, and, in general, seek to learn firsthand about the cultural context of each country.
  • Selections are made by the New England Foundation for the Arts in consultation with Lisa Booth Management, Inc. with final approval from the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State or a host Embassy.


Participating performing arts ensembles must:

  • Demonstrate high artistic quality and accomplishment.  
  • Have an interest in engaging with U.S. communities, including youth, through public and in-school performances, workshops, discussions, artist-to-artist exchanges, and social events.
  • Be comprised of two to nine ensemble members (artists and staff) who are citizens and residents of the selected countries.
  • Have previous touring experience but have rarely been seen in the U.S.
  • Have an ability to communicate electronically via email and Skype in English.
  • Have an interest and agree to actively share these experiences through traditional press outreach and social media channels.

Other factors influencing selection include artist availability, artistic discipline (dance, theater, music and multi-media), mix and diversity of programming, and logistical considerations.

More on Center Stage

Center Stage is a public diplomacy initiative of the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, administered by the New England Foundation for the Arts.

Since 2012, the program has welcomed important new voices into our national cultural dialogue, enlarging our world, and sharing diverse, global perspectives directly with communities in the U.S., and via real time virtual interactions, with fans and allies abroad.

Now in its fourth season, by the end of 2018, 29 performing arts ensembles from nine nations -- Algeria, Egypt, Haiti, Indonesia, Morocco, Pakistan, Tanzania, Ukraine, and Vietnam -- will have toured from coast to coast, hosted by colleges and universities, festivals, music clubs, and cultural centers. Each tour includes residencies in large cities and small towns, and a range of activities from performances, workshops, and discussions, to artist-to-artist exchanges, master classes, and community gatherings.

Center Stage artists engage with audiences onstage and online sharing their work with audiences in the U.S. and friends and fans at home to build mutual understanding through shared cultures and values.

From 2012 to 2017, Center Stage

  • Visited 85 communities in 34 states and Washington, DC
  • Hosted 154 artists in 24 ensembles from Algeria Haiti, Indonesia, Morocco, Pakistan, Tanzania and Vietnam
  • Booked 227 performances -- indoors and out, ticketed & free
  • Planned 642 educational, community, and artist-to-artist activities
  • Traveled 91,000+ cumulative tour miles
  • Connected with 141,000+ U.S. audience members, participants, and students
  • Garnered tens of millions global media impressions (online and print)
  • Engaged millions more people around the globe through social media and online content

Center Stage is made possible in cooperation with the U.S. Regional Arts Organizations, and with support from the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, and the Trust for Mutual Understanding. General management is provided by Lisa Booth Management, Inc.

Arts presenters and communities interested in hosting an ensemble are encouraged to contact Lisa Booth Management, Inc. at 212.921.2114 or artslbmi@msn.com. Tours are being routed this summer and fall; all engagements take place between July and December 2018.

Keep up with Center Stage on Facebook and on Twitter and at www.centerstageUS.org.

Touring Contact & Information
Lisa Booth & Deirdre Valente
Lisa Booth Management, Inc.
Tel +1 (212) 921-2114 artslbmi@msn.com  

General Program Information
Adrienne Petrillo
Program Director, New England Foundation for the Arts
Tel: +1 (617) 951-0010 apetrillo@nefa.org