Beyond the Stage Takes a Bow

Former DC-resident, the Giant Panda Tai Shan, eats an enormous summer Popsicle in an attempt to beat the DC heat.

Former DC-resident–the Giant Panda Tai Shan–eats an enormous summer Popsicle in an attempt to beat the DC heat.

As the temperature rises and the city slows down, we’re over here in the Theater J offices marveling at the fact that we made it to the end of this amazing, chock-full, stunningly diverse eight-show season. Things slow down just a bit here as well as we catch up on meetings; sort emails; dive into play reading; look at pictures of Cavachons on the internet (wait, what?); and take a minute to step back and look at what we accomplished in our 2012-2013 season.

And what besides those eight main stage productions did we accomplish?

Programming, programming, programming.

With help from our super intern Lauren, I’ve just completed our Programming Spreadsheet for the season (we do this for various record-keeping purposes) and I’m pleased to report that we had a stunning 106 additional events this season. That includes Locally Grown and other readings, Tea@Two’s, a Teach-In, Miriam’s Kitchen visits, talk backs, and panels.

And speaking of panels, we’ve had a few of those to wrap up our season as well.

On Sunday, June 16 we discussed:

Race and Representation: The African-American Artist in the World with

Juanita Hardy, Executive Director of CulturalDC and co-founder of the Millennium Arts Salon
Jennifer Nelson, Theater Director, Playwright and Educator, former Producing Artistic Director of the African Continuum Theatre
Dr. Dianne Whitfield-Locke, Collector of African-American Art and owner of The Locke Collection

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/68719528″>Race and Representation: The African American Artist in the World</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/theaterj”>Theater J</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

And on Sunday, June 23 we turned to:

A Lasting Legacy: The Past, Present and Future of HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) with
Sandra Jowers-Barber, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, History Program Coordinator, The University of the District of Columbia
Jim Loewen, American sociologist, historian, and author of Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong
Dr. Leslie Richards, Professor of Urban Affairs, Social Science & Social Work, The University of the District of Columbia
Gerald Allan Schwinn, former Hampton Institute Instructor

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/69188390″>Post Show Conversation: The Past, Present and Future of HBCUs</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/theaterj”>Theater J</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

This past week we also wrapped up our second Locally Grown Reading Festival with a reading of a brand new play by Renee Calarco (author of THE RELIGION THING) titled PEOPLE OF THE BOOK.

Adrienne Nelson, Sasha Olinik, Celeste Lawson, and Lawrence Redmond. Photo by Bill Petros.

Adrienne Nelson, Sasha Olinik, Celeste Lawson, and Lawrence Redmond. Photo by Bill Petros.

As directed by Allison Stockman, PEOPLE OF THE BOOK asked us to consider how far we would go to believe a story that’s too good to be true. Partially inspired by the story of Rabbi Menachem Youlus—the self-dubbed “Jewish Indiana Jones”—the play goes to “some uncomfortable places,” according to Calarco.  “We all yearn for survival stories,” she says, “and I’m obsessed with the stories that we collect and re-tell and believe—beyond the point of reason.”

The very next evening we gathered in the theater for our Locally Grown culminating event, a Playwright’s Town Hall Discussion which gathered the community to talk about the progress we have (or haven’t) made in the past year when it comes to supporting new work, and especially–encouraging opportunities for playwrights based in the greater DC region.

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Follow up from the ATHE Conference – Summary of Staging Strife and Solidarity

Our Locally Grown playwright, Jacqueline Lawton, has a wonderfully spirited write-up of the recent 8 person panel discussion at the recent ATHE Conference on the history of dramatizing the Black-Jewish Relationship on Stage.

Read the whole thing here

Jacqueline does a great job of honing in on perhaps the most crucial aspect of our moderator, Faedra Carpenter’s introduction, where she cites Julius Lester, the African-American Jewish scholar, who outlines key elements of a shared Black-Jewish narrative:

1. We were both enslaved.
2. We were demonized and denigrated by the white majority.
3. We were forced from our homelands and dispersed across the world, now living in a diaspora
4. We were forced to live in segregation and ghettoization.
5. We faced political injustice and discrimination against our civil rights.
6. We faced violent attacks and torture in the form of pogroms, race riots and lynchings.

Jacqueline writes:

We have danced, prayed, and wept together. We have marched arm-in-arm demanding equality, justice, and civil rights. We have fought against one another, standing at arm’s length in hatred, mistrust, and confusion.

Our ability to dramatize both the strife and solidarity experiences on the stage offers audiences room to witness, interrogate, celebrate and heal from our many experiences. The act of dramatizing the Black and Jewish relationship was the topic for the next section.

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