STAGING STRIFE AND SOLIDARITY: BLACK-JEWISH RELATIONS IN AMERICAN DRAMA – a panel discussion across town

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This Sunday, August 5, nine of us will take part in a panel that’s both a wholly new conversation for us in the 21st Century, as well as an important reboot of a more familiar conversation that went the way of the Clinton Administration’s National Dialogue on Race during the last.  Tomorrow at 11:30, we’re convening at the Association for Theatre in Higher Education annual conference on its last of five huge, exhaustive days to talk about recent work that’s been produced relating to Black-Jewish History and the relations therein, reflecting on work that’s coming up during the new season as well.
The roundtable will offer a “constellation” of three major topics. Each section with feature speakers and will be moderated by a dramaturg.  Our working outline of the roundtable is as follows:  Roundtable and Panelist Introductions – Faedra Carpenter.
  1. Section #1:  Historicizing public presentations of Black-Jewish Relations (“the way back past” as well as the recent past) featuring Heather Nathans and James SoRelle (Faedra Carpenter, moderating)
  2. Section #2:  Contemporary plays that animate Black-Jewish relations (specifically, GOODNIGHT IRENE by Ari Roth and THE HAMPTON YEARS by Jackie Lawton, with LaRonika Thomas moderating)

    The Hampton Years by Jacqueline Lawton

    Goodnight Irene by Ari Roth

  3. Section #3:  Issues of Audience and Advocacy (Community outreach and audience response, particularly in reference to the Theater J and Center Stage productions of THE WHIPPING MAN).  Featuring Ari Roth, Kwame Kwei-Armah and Gavin Witt with Drew Barker Moderating.

    The Whipping Man produced at Center Stage, directed by Kwame Kewi Armah

    The Whipping Man produced at Theater J
    directed by Jennifer L. Nelson

The Moderators and Organizers
“Staging Strife and Solidarity: Black-Jewish Relations in American Drama” will be organized and moderated by University of Maryland’s graduate students LaRonika Thomas and Drew Barker, as well as Faedra Chatard Carpenter (Assistant Professor).

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FAEDRA CHATARD CARPENTER (B.A., Spelman College; M.A. Washington University; Ph.D. Stanford University) is an assistant
professor of theater and performance studies at the University of Maryland, College Park and a freelance dramaturg. A former
resident dramaturg for Arena Stage in D.C. and Crossroads Theatre Company in New Jersey, Dr. Carpenter has also worked as a
professional dramaturg for Centerstage, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the African Continuum Theatre
Company, Theater J, Black Women Playwrights, and TheatreWorks. Carpenter is an Advisory Editor in Drama for Callaloo, an
Editorial Board Member for The Southern Quarterly, and is on the Board of Directors for Literary Managers and Dramaturgs
of the Americas (LMDA). Her scholarly interests include the study of race, sexuality, and gender in contemporary performance
and her work is published in Review: The Journal of Dramaturgy; Theatre Topics; Women & Performance; Text and Performance
Quarterly; and Callaloo.

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DREW BARKER is currently a Master’s Candidate at the University of Maryland in Theatre and Performance Studies.  Formerly a high
school Theatre and English teacher, he also held the position of Artistic Associate at Triad Stage in Greensboro, North Carolina,
where he was dramaturg for 14 productions.  Additionally, he worked as an assistant dramaturg at Centerstage, Theatre J, and the
Kennedy Center.  His scholarly interests include the plays of Naomi Wallace and dramaturgy of the American Civil War.

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LARONIKA THOMAS is a Baltimore-based freelance dramaturg, producer and writer, a full-time PhD student in the Theatre and
Performance Studies Department at the University of Maryland, as well as the Vice President for Regional Activity for Literary
Managers & Dramaturgs of the Americas (LMDA), and sometimes adjunct faculty at the Community College of Baltimore County
(CCBC).  Her credits include: Goodman Theatre, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Neo-Futurists, Silk Road Theatre Project, Lifeline
Theatre, Greasy Joan and Co., Stage Left Theatre, and Chicago Dancemakers Forum. Recently, LaRonika has served as an
Associate Producer for Source Festival in D.C., and the Festivals Director for Active Cultures in Prince George’s County, as well as
working in various capacities with The Public Theater, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, The Playwright’s Center, Syracuse Stage,
TADA! Youth Theatre, Artists Bloc, the Baltimore Playwrights Festival, and the Playwrights Group of Baltimore.  She has an MA in
Theatre from Purdue University and a BA in Theatre and Anthropology from Indiana University.

The Panelists

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KWAME KWEI-ARMAH, Artistic Director, is an award-winning British playwright, director, actor, and broadcaster. Kwei-Armah’s
plays include Seize the Day, A Bitter Herb, Blues Brother Soul Sister, Big Nose, and his triptych of plays chronicling the struggles of the
British African-Caribbean community in London–Elmina’s Kitchen, Fix up, and Statement of Regret—which each premiered at the
National Theatre between 2003- 2007. With Elmina’s Kitchen he became the first Black Briton to have a play produced in London’s
West End; Elmina’s Kitchen and Let There be Love each had their American debuts at CENTERSTAGE. He has been named a
Writer-in-Residence at the Bristol Old Vic and for BBC Radio drama, an Associate Artist and board member at the National Theatre
of Great Britain and London’s Tricycle Theatre, as well as being named an Associate Artist at CENTERSTAGE, where he made his
directing debut with Naomi Wallace’s Things of Dry Hours. Since then he has directed the Pulitzer nominated playwright Esa Davis’s
10-minute play Dave Chappelle was Right for the24 Hour Plays on Broadway, and two successful productions of his play Let There Be
Love at the Tricycle Theatre London. Kwei-Armah has been named the Goodwill ambassador for Trade for Christian Aid; Chancellor
of University of the Arts London; and served as Artistic Director for the World Arts Festival in Senegal, a month-long World Festival
of Black Arts and Culture.

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JACQUELINE E. LAWTON received her MFA in Playwriting from the University of Texas at Austin (Hook ’em Horns!), where she was a James A. Michener Fellow. She participated in the Kennedy Center’s Playwrights’ Intensive (2002) and World Interplay (2003).  She is the author ofAnna K; Blood-bound and Tongue-tied; Deep Belly Beautiful; The Devil’s Sweet Water; The Hampton Years; Ira Aldridge: the African Roscius; Lions of Industry, Mothers of Invention; Love Brothers
Serenade, and Mad Breed.  Lawton’s work has been developed and presented at the following venues: Active Cultures, Classical Theater of Harlem, Discovery Theater, Folger Shakespeare Library, theHegira, Howard University, Kennedy Center’s Page to Stage Festival, National Portrait Gallery, National Museum of American History, Rorschach Theater Company, Round House Theatre, Savannah Black Heritage Festival (Armstrong Atlantic State University), Shakespeare Theatre Company, Source Theatre Festival, and Theater J. She is published in Experiments in a Jazz Aesthetic: Art, Activism, Academia, and the Austin Project (University of Texas Press). Lawton is a 2012 TCG Nathan Cummings Young Leaders of Color award recipient. She has been
nominated for the Wendy Wasserstein Prize and a PONY Fellowship from the Lark New Play Development Center.
She was named one of 30 of the nation’s leading black playwrights by Arena Stage’s American Voices New Play Institute.

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HEATHER S. NATHANS is a Professor of Theatre at the University of Maryland ’s School of Theatre , Dance, and Performance Studies.
She is also the editor for the University of Iowa Press’s award-winning series,Studies in Theatre History and Culture and co-editor
ofThe Oxford Handbook of American Drama with Oxford University Press.  Her publications include: Early American Theatre
from the Revolution to Thomas Jefferson; Slavery and Sentiment on the American Stage, 1787-1861; Shakespearean Educations:
Power, Citizenship, and Performance, co-editor and contributing author; and the forthcoming Hideous Characters and Beautiful
Pagans: Performing Jewish Identity on the Antebellum American Stage(under contract to the University of Michigan Press).
Nathans has held over twenty-five research fellowships including most recently ones from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation,
the Folger Shakespeare Library with the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Jewish Archives, and the Mellon
Foundation, and the American Society for Theatre Research.  She is the President-elect of the American Society for Theatre Research.

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ARI ROTH is a playwright, educator and producer and, for the past 15 years, Artistic Director of Theater J, hailed in 2005 by The New York Times as “the premier theater for premieres,” and where he has produced over 100 mainstage productions including 36 world premieres.  The theater won the 2008 Mayor’s Arts Award and has been nominated for over 50 Helen Hayes Awards, unveiling world premieres by the late Wendy Wasserstein, Joyce Carol Oates, Richard Greenberg, Ariel Dorfman, Robert Brustein, Thomas Keneally, as well as many emerging writers.  Internationally acclaimed for its Voices From a Changing Middle
East Festival, the theater has produced a dozen English language premieres by Israeli, Egyptian, and Pakistani born writers and last
season presented the Cameri Theatre’s production of RETURN TO HAIFA, performed in Arabic and Hebrew, adapted by Boaz Gaon from the Palestinian novella by Ghassan Kanafani. His plays include ANDY AND THE SHADOWS, BORN GUILTY, and THE WOLF IN PETER, which now comprise a trilogy, THE BORN GUILTY CYCLE.  Other plays, including OH, THE INNOCENTS, GOODNIGHT IRENE, LOVE AND YEARNING IN THE NOT FOR PROFITS, and LIFE IN REFUSAL have been produced across the country.  In 2009 he was named one of “The Forward 50,” honoring fifty nationally prominent “men and women who are leading the American Jewish community into the 21st century.” He has taught for the University of Michigan for 15 years, currently for their
“Michigan in DC” program, as well as for Brandeis, NYU and Carnegie Mellon Universities.

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JAMES SORELLE is a Professor of History at Baylor University. He received his B.A. and M.A. from the University of Houston in 1972 and 1974, respectively, and a Ph.D. from Kent State University in 1980. As a
historian specializing in the field of African American history, Dr. SoRelle has focused his research and publication on four areas of interest: (1) racial violence in Waco, Texas; (2) the development of the African American community in Houston, Texas, in the years between the two world wars; (3) the intersection between humor and protest in the African American community; and (4) the civil rights movement in Texas. His scholarly articles have appeared in Houston Review, Southwestern Historical Quarterly, and Black Dixie: Essays in Afro-Texas History and Culture in Houston(Texas A & M University Press, 1992). In addition, for the past twenty years he has served as co-editor of the two-volume reader, Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Controversial Issues in American History. His teaching fields are in African American history and late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century United States history.

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GAVIN WITT, Associate Artistic Director/Director of Dramaturgy, came to CENTERSTAGE in 2003 as Resident Dramaturg, having
served in that role previously at several Chicago theaters. As a dramaturg, he has worked on well over 60 plays, from classics
to new commissions—including play development workshops and freelance dramaturgy for TCG, The Playwrights Center, The
New Harmony Project, The Old Globe, Bay Area Playwrights Festival, Contemporary American Theatre Festival, the Kennedy Center,
and others. A graduate of Yale and the University of Chicago, he was active in Chicago theater for more than a decade as an actor,
director, dramaturg, translator, and teacher, not to mention co-founder of greasy joan & co. theater, while serving as a regional
Vice President of LMDA, the national association of dramaturgs. He has been on the faculty of the University of Chicago and
DePaul University, and currently teaches at Towson University.

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