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American Theatre - May 2018

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Special Section:
and the Theatre
Wields ‘Soft Power’
Phylicia Rashad,
the Spirit of St. Louis
Dramatic Writing (MFA)
Acting (MFA)
Acting for Stage, Screen and New Media (BFA)
Design (BFA)
Sound Design (BFA)
Stage Management (BFA)
Technical Direction (BFA)
Dramatic Arts (BA)
Acting Emphasis • Design Emphasis
Visual and Performing Arts Studies (BA)
A place of possibilities.
Although we call other cities “home,”
St. Louis is our hometown.
This is a special place grounded in great people, a thriving
arts community and a culture of neighbors helping neighbors.
We hope you’re inspired by our historic city and all it has to offer.
Proud sponsor of the 2018 TCG National Conference
/New York Magazine
Brilliant innovators
and self-made
Helena Rubinstein
and Elizabeth Arden
built cosmetic empires
that established beauty
standards for much of
the 20th Century. They
were also bitter rivals,
motivated as much by
fierce competition as
their own talents.
With a decadesspanning book by
Doug Wright, lush
score by Scott Frankel,
and evocative lyrics by
Michael Korie, War
Paint tells the epic story
of these two women
who rose from humble
beginnings to shatter
glass ceilings, and a
legendary rivalry that
created an industry.
The cast of War Paint on Broadway, 2017 (Joan Marcus).
VOL.35 NO.5 MAY/JUNE 2018
Published by
Theatre Communications Group
Rob Weinert-Kendt
Russell M. Dembin
Diep Tran
Allison Considine
Christie Honoré
Jerald Raymond Pierce
Kitty Suen Spennato
Monet Cogbill
DACA recipients, feeling unwelcome in the country they call home, claim a
home onstage By Jose Solís
Theatres find new ways to
relate to immigrant and refugee
communities, not only as audiences
but as partners
By Theresa J. Beckhusen
What roles can theatre play in the
global refugee crisis? Healing,
representation—and diversion
By Simi Horwitz
Exits & Entrances;
Awards & Prizes; In Memoriam
People to Watch
David Henry Hwang on
revisiting his most famous work
and writing a new musical
Director Liesl Tommy won’t
take no for an answer
Carol Van Keuren
Marcus Gualberto
Michelle Prado
Carissa Cordes
Theatre, Community,
and Justice
So much U.S. theatre, from O’Neill to Udofia, has been inspired by the
stories of playwrights’ immigrant parents By Misha Berson
Alexis Capitini
Kathy Sova
St. Louis theatre has variety
and vibrancy, but does it
How to optimize your
theatre’s YouTube promo
with Phylicia Rashad
COVER: Los Angeles-based
theatremaker Alex Alpharaoh,
one of the recipients of the Deferred Action
for Childhood Arrivals program featured
in our story beginning on p. 22.
Photo by Elisa Noemí.
Terence Nemeth
Jim O’Quinn
Teresa Eyring
Adrian Budhu
and it was at a restaurant. I wanted something light, so I ordered what I
assumed would be a healthy option: a chicken salad sandwich. The name suggested chicken encased in lettuce surrounded by bread. When the chicken
salad actually came, I was revolted: a goopy white concoction of mayonnaise, chicken, and…was that celery? “How is it you’ve never had chicken
salad before?” my friends asked.
Questions like this have followed me throughout my life: How is it
you’ve never seen an Alfred Hitchcock film? Never watched Nickelodeon?
Never read Chekhov?
Because I’m an immigrant. As a kid who moved here from Vietnam
when I was 2, who spoke a different language at home than I did at school,
my frame of reference has never been the same as my friends. Instead of
eating fish sticks for dinner, we had pork and egg braised in sweetened fish
sauce. Instead of watching MTV, I watched “Paris by Night,” a Vietnameselanguage variety show. When a friend asked if I had seen a certain mainstream film or TV show, I would fake knowledge, or feel ashamed, or—grimacing—eat the chicken salad sandwich. It was as if I was tacitly being told:
This is what you need to do to be “normal,” to be “American.” American
chicken salad was normal, phӣ was not (until some white hipster says so).
The first time I saw myself and my experience reflected onstage was
in 2015. It was at a reading of a new play, Vietgone by Qui Nguyen. Seeing the Vietnamese characters criticize fried American food, or not quite
understand what white Americans were telling them, I felt seen—it was as
if my personal story, and the story of my family, mattered. It also made me
realize that white Americans feel this way all the time! They don’t have to
pretend to understand something, or transplant themselves into another
person’s body. They can just exist in the theatrical space, unencumbered,
as themselves. I longed for that. I still do.
As the musical Hamilton made clear: “Immigrants, we get the job
done.” We built the railroads, picked the produce, and worked in the factories. But you’d be hard pressed to find much evidence of that on America’s mainstages, where the white upper middle class and its anxieties still
reign supreme.
As you peruse the pages of this issue of American Theatre, you may
notice signs of a change. As Misha Berson writes in her critic’s notebook,
there is a wave of plays about the first-generation immigrant experience,
including Vietgone and Mfoniso Udofia’s “Ufot” Cycle. Immigrants and refugees are taking an active part in the telling of our own stories, as told in
stories by Simi Horwitz and Theresa J. Beckhusen. Those who cross the
borders into America are usually met with indifference or hate, made to
feel like parasites, told their stories don’t matter. What these articles show
is that for immigrants and refugees, “seeing their experiences reflected
and hearing their language onstage is affirming.” I know what they mean.
As Jose Solís, who is from Honduras, notes in his story about theatre
artists who are undocumented, the presence of immigrants onstage also
poses the question: “What is it to be American?” From its inception, America has been a constant experiment in multiculturalism, of different people
learning to live beside each other, and the conflict and growth that arises
from that proximity. An American theatre that doesn’t showcase that history—that tells certain groups that their stories aren’t worth telling—is an
American theatre for the very few.
Sure, there’s always room in the American theatre for the chicken salad
of storytelling. But let’s make room on the table for tamales, kibbeh, curry,
and phӣ too. Trust me, it will make for a more delicious meal.
As an arts reporter who says she’s “always
intrigued by artists in any field who are more
committed to doing good than advancing
their own careers,” Simi Horwitz dived
eagerly into reporting this issue’s story of
how theatre artists are addressing the global
refugee crisis in Europe, the Middle East,
Africa, and Asia (p. 30). That artists are
using theatre “as an educational and ‘healing’
tool was not a surprise,” Horwitz says, but
another practice especially intrigued her.
“Employing refugees—non-professional
actors—to tell their own stories in their own
voices was an eye-opener to me, raising all
kinds of questions, from how theatre is being
redefined to what audiences are experiencing
as they watch these new theatrical genres.”
An immigrant from Honduras, theatre and
film critic Jose Solís says he’s been chilled by
the surge of “xenophobia, racism, and antiimmigrant rhetoric” since the 2016 election,
but also called to “something akin to a mission:
For as long as I live here, it’s my job to elevate
the voices of those this administration is
trying to oppress.” For his story on DACA
(Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals)
recipients, a.k.a. “Dreamers,” working in the
theatre (p. 22), he not only got to “shine a
light on the work of amazing theatremakers
all over the country,” he also got to feel “a
sense of community and connection with
total strangers who shared the plea of the
immigrant, loved theatre as much as the next
white person, and understood my Spanglish.”
from R&H Theatricals
Theatre’s #MeToo Moment
Thank you, Teresa Eyring, for writing this article (“Time’s
Up for Theatre Too,” AT, March ’18). Sadly, the questions
you raise are vitally necessary and will be, I fear, for time to
come. With all respect, and not attempting to reframe the
topics you raise, I think it would be interesting to know what
TCG’s sexual harassment policy is. As a leader in the theatre
industry, TCG sets an example for others to follow. Laying
out (in broad strokes, of course) how TCG handles and protects those who bring harassment claims would be enlightening and instructive to the rest of us. If there is a link to the
TCG policy perhaps it could be amended to the end of your
article. Thank you again for your cogent and necessary piece.
Wally Dunn
New York City
TCG RESPONDS: Thank you for writing. TCG recognizes
its unique position to speak and lead on this issue. Our goal
is to provide a safe work environment where all employees are treated with respect. Our written policy prohibits
harassment of any employee by any supervisor, employee,
member, or vendor on the basis of sex, gender identity, or
gender expression. Employees who feel they have experienced conduct that violates this policy may immediately
report the matter to their supervisor. If their supervisor
doesn’t respond within five days, they may reach out to a
member of TCG’s senior leadership; if their supervisor is
the person about whom the complaint is being made, they
may go directly to a member of TCG’s senior leadership.
Every report of perceived harassment is fully investigated,
and corrective action is taken where appropriate. Violation of the policy results in disciplinary action, up to and
including termination of employment, and TCG will not
allow any form of retaliation against individuals who report
unwelcome conduct to management or who cooperate in
the investigations of such reports in accordance with the
policy. You can find resources for your own use at
Wrong Angle on ‘Angels’
I’ve always liked Alisa Solomon’s work, and her observations are good, but it seems that she’s criticizing The World
Only Spins Forward for not doing something that it never
claims to do (“‘Angels’ in the Details,” AT, March ’18). It’s
an oral history by (mostly) people who were involved in staging Angels; of course it doesn’t give us analysis of the interpretive debates over the play. That’s not really an oral history’s job, and the people who have performed, directed,
designed, and produced the play are precisely the people
not to ask about interpretive debates, just as you wouldn’t
ask them to review the play.
I don’t agree that the book will necessarily “stand as the
definitive account of the birth, life, and legacy of Angels.”
Sure, it’ll be the definitive oral history from participants,
but there’s still room for a book (or several) about the play’s
history and interpretation from the point of view of critics
and the public.
Matthew Westphal, New York City
Fond Farewell
It is with a very heavy heart that I write this note to you.
For many years my husband was an enthusiastic fan of your
wonderful publication. He passed away suddenly last winter. Therefore, when your magazine arrives to my home, it
makes me so very sad, thinking of how he would have thoroughly enjoyed it. He especially loved when you would feature a new play for him to read!
Ed was thrilled to see an Off-Broadway production, he
read Playbill religiously online, and was a regular supporter
of many regional productions in our city of Philadelphia. He
received his undergraduate degree in theatre from Temple
University. He performed professionally in Maryland, New
York, and Pennsylvania through the years.
Please do not send any future issues to our home. I
thank you sincerely for bringing such joy to my dear husband—theatre was “the thing” to Ed, it truly fulfilled him
and enriched his entire life. Your magazine was a gift to him
each time it arrived.
Margaret Miller, Philadelphia
JAN. ’18: A piece about property rights for directors and
designers (“Property Rights and Wrongs”) misidentified
Dallas’s Lyric Stage as Lyric Theater.
FEB. ’18: The article “Galas Galore” misspelled the name
of Cleveland Public Theater co-founder James Levin and
neglected to mention that the theatre’s Pandemonium event
was co-founded by Levin and then-artistic director Randy
Rollison. And a story about fundraising (“The Donor Class
Struggle”) stated that Andrew Hamingson is president of
the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, a job he no longer holds. His current title is producer at Pemberley Productions, a U.K. and U.S. commercial production company.
MARCH ’18: The Q&A interview with Tony Taccone (“History
Cracks Open, Again”) reflected an early draft; a more thorough and accurately edited version appears at americantheatre.
org/2018/2/20/history-cracks-open-again. A photo on p. 16,
accompanying the story “Children of ‘Angels,’” was uncredited; it was taken by Joan Marcus. An Entrances & Exits item
about the departure of Gregory Boyd from the Alley Theatre incorrectly claimed that the Houston Chronicle had published accusations of “sexual assault” against the former artistic director. In fact, he was accused by current and former
employees of abusive and bullying behavior toward young
female actors; at least one alleged inappropriate touching.
American Theatre welcomes comments from readers. Letters may be edited for reasons of space and clarity.
Write to the Editor, American Theatre, 520 Eighth Ave., 24th Floor, New York, NY 10018-4156, via email at
or online at Please include a daytime phone number.
Students at Columbia University School of the Arts’
Lenfest Center, designed by Renzo Piano
Classic Training. Future Vision. New York Outlook.
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t Columbia University School of the Arts you can earn
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W.B. Worthen
Theatre, Community, and Justice
ter hosted a convening called the Intersections Summit.
Inspired in part by Theatre Communications Group’s previous Audience (R)Evolution convenings in Philadelphia
and Kansas City, Intersections’ purpose was to gather practitioners for reflection and collaboration, recognizing that
this work increasingly intersects with so many people in
our theatres and our communities. Framed with a strong
Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion focus, the meeting kicked
off with artEquity founder and director Carmen Morgan’s
energized and compelling keynote, in which she urged the
room to think about their mandate not simply as community engagement, but as community justice work—with justice being the operative word. Her words rang out as a call
to examine the values, relationships, and structures that can
produce the most effective spaces for partnerships to thrive—
whether these partnerships are related directly to the work
onstage, expanding community conversations, or engaging
young people through programs in the classroom. This consciousness and these values are already fundamental to the
work of some theatre practitioners, but they have expanded
exponentially of late.
As the convening proceeded, I learned of a wide range of
programs and philosophies, including how theatre leaders are
encouraging more inclusive cultures. What struck me most,
though, were a few accounts of the ways theatres and teaching artists are working toward a much larger sense of civic
engagement and community justice among young people.
Along those lines, I serendipitously landed in a workshop with Beginner’s Guide to Community-Based Arts author
Mat Schwarzman and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Joëlle Worm, titled Training K-12 Teachers to Engage
With the Arts. While I hadn’t originally intended to take
part in this session—I took a wrong turn in the hallway—I’m
glad I stayed. Through role-playing exercises, the facilitators taught us how a triangular team made up of a community organizer, an artist, and a teacher can work together to
center students in creating artistic responses to urgent community issues. My team, which identified itself as working in a 7th-grade
This consciousness
classroom, decided to make a theatre
is already
piece on the Second Amendment. I
drew the “teacher” card. Taking on
fundamental to
the persona of the “teaching artist”
the work of
was American Theatre staff writer Allison Considine (who reported more
some theatre
fully on Intersections for AT online).
Our “community organizer” was a
frrom an anti-gun viobut it has expanded representative
lence organization. I left the session
with some important new perspec10
tive and a greater sense of hope—a hope realized as I witnessed the March for Our Lives taking place that weekend
just outside the Rep.
Another important encounter was with Maria Asp, a
longtime teaching artist at Minneapolis’s Children’s Theatre
Company in the Neighborhood Bridges program. Bridges
was designed more than 20 years ago to help improve language and literacy outcomes for students, and to build more
rigorous, culturally responsive classroom environments.
Maria was eager to tell me about a new curriculum that centers Muslim voices to foster a better cultural understanding
between Muslim and non-Muslim students. Minneapolis
is home to the largest Somali community in the U.S., and
these community members experience Islamophobia every
day, from being targeted for surveillance by the FBI to suffering attacks on their places of worship. Mothers report
to Neighborhood Bridges staff that they observe profound
internalized oppression in their children, including one
mom whose 5-year-old doesn’t want to write his last name
for fear that people will find out he is Muslim.
Though historically the Bridges program has focused its
curriculum on global folk and fairy tales as a touch point for
exploring present-day experiences, CTC has begun building a curriculum of stories that address the experiences of
young people. According to the theatre, these stories are
created within the context of two dynamics: the influx of
Somali-American students in Bridges classrooms and the
fear and misunderstanding of Muslims in the Twin Cities
and beyond. These stories are developed through interviews with the Muslim (primarily Somali) communities
and in consultation with Somali educators in the Twin Cities communities. Themes range from the changing rules at
airports to stories of a Somali girl being ostracized by her
classmates and bullies pulling at her hijab—an abuse, CTC
notes, that every Somali girl in Bridges has reported happening, often multiple times.
While Intersections was underway in Milwaukee, the
Old Globe in San Diego was hosting an international summit of 150 people doing work in correctional facilities, using
Shakespeare, dance, music, and playwriting. I am told that
community justice was an important theme there as well—
and though it has particular meaning in that context, encompassing goals such as quality of life and reparations for victims of crime, the parallels are unmistakable.
Regardless of the terms you use, it is sometimes the case
that a theatre’s community engagement work is considered
secondary to the work onstage. More and more, though, I
am observing it become part of the urgent core. And when
you come into contact with the people doing the work, you
recognize instantly the churning of a new American theatre
movement—one that is not slowing down any time soon.
Creating public theatre on a global scale
“You are providing refugees with food for
the soul—you are restoring their humanity.”
– Doctors Without Borders, Kosovo
Inspire change
The Power of Performance:
“Through theatre, I have started to see
everything with new eyes.”
– Maryam, Afghanistan
Theatre for Social Development
For practitioners & educators
Visit us @
Since 1984, Bond Street Theatre has been using
theatre for peacebuilding, empowerment and healing
local artists and activists to speak out for justice.
Sarah McLellan
EST’s Developing Story
supporting adventurous art and artists has found a new home. Coming off a stint as managing director of New York City’s innovative
Clubbed Thumb, she’ll next head uptown to join Ensemble Studio Theatre as the company’s new executive director. I wrote about
EST’s reinvention under artistic director William Carden in 2015,
and I spoke with Sarah about her plans for the 50-year old institution, whose longtime 52nd Street home is undergoing a massive
(and long-awaited) renovation as she takes the reins.
MARK ARMSTRONG: How did you get involved in theatre?
SARAH MCLELLAN: I was a young person who knew very quickly
what I wanted to do with my life. I went to a performing arts high
school and then to Sarah Lawrence, where I discovered that producing was where my skill set lay.
I found a groove in development and training. The first job
that I had was at Juilliard and from there Williamstown Theater
230 YEARS AGO (1788)
A husband-and-wife acting duo
billed as Mr. and Mrs. Kenna open
a theatre in Newbern, N.C. Before
moving to the Tar Heel State, the
Kennas had come from London
to join the Hallam Company in
New York City. In that troupe
they performed in classic plays,
which informs their programming
in the South: They open the new
theatre with Mrs. Kenna in the
title role of the tragedy Isabella.
Festival, where I ran the apprentice program. It’s an easy thing to
get hooked on, watching people discover things about themselves
and about art. It’s completely intoxicating. That was exciting about
working with Clubbed Thumb, and this opportunity to work with
EST is an extension of that.
What was the highlight of your time at Clubbed Thumb?
I built a CRM—it’s our donor database and our artistic database.
Those sides talk to each other, because there’s a lot of overlap, and
it also manages our entire literary process, commissions, and directing fellowship applications. That’s the nerdiest highlight, but I’m
pretty proud of it. The jazzy highlight was my first Summerworks.
We put up three individual productions in seven weeks. The first
was Jerry Lieblich’s D Deb Debbie Deborah. I loved the play, and that
was the first play that Clubbed Thumb had reviewed by Ben Brantley in The New York Times.
145 YEARS AGO (1873)
African-American actor Morgan
Smith, who left the U.S. seven
years earlier, appears at the
Surrey Theatre in London in
Richard III, Othello (with his
wife as Desdemona), Dred, and
The Slave. In a review of The
Slave, one critic observes that
Smith had a “good reading,
unexaggerated action, a clear
powerful voice, a correct
memory, and an intelligent
apprehension of dramatic
135 YEARS AGO (1883)
Baltimore’s Hurle Bavardo
becomes one of the first
professional black actors to
achieve media attention when
he appears on the front page of
the New York Dramatic News and
Society Journal, costumed as
Othello. The story reports that
Bavardo has made a study of
Shakespeare and intends to give
public readings and recitals. Two
years earlier, Bavardo had made
his acting debut at Chickering
Hall in New York City.
120 YEARS AGO (1898)
A San Antonio newspaper, La
Fe Católica, reports that the
Compañía Dramática Solsona
begins performing every Sunday
at the Salón San Fernando. The
Solsana company will continue
the weekly engagement for
at least eight more years. The
repertoire includes melodramatic
and historical works; by 1904
they’ll begin to include plays by
local San Antonians.
EST and Clubbed Thumb both make new work, but
they have different goals and structures. What will this
transition be like?
I don’t know if they do have different goals! Both have an
emphasis on providing for artists, mostly at an early stage of
their career, but really at any stage where they want to reinvest in themselves. I think that’s really a similar goal. They
certainly have different structures.
Yes, EST has a unique hybrid of art and business.
Clubbed Thumb relies on our alumni community; we have
artists on our board. But it is very formalized and explicitly articulated at EST. The membership plays a day-today role in the life of the theatre—600 member artists who
have a stake in the organization, a body of tremendous talent that you can draw on, and that you’re responsible to.
I’m excited to see how the executive leadership can interact
with the membership, draw on the institutional memory.
EST has an intense history, and with a lifetime membership some of that stuff stays in the DNA. How’s the
body politic doing?
Very well. There’s a refreshing transparency to the way people talk about history at EST. Painful moments are regularly
brought up. I think that’s so healthy. Billy [Carden] wanted
me to know everything. There’s an excitement about the
direction EST’s taking, a real engagement with the future:
to acknowledge the history, but to do every single thing possible to make the future what we want it to be.
Billy also brought EST back into the family of New
York City theatres. Can we expect more partnerships
with other theatres producing new work?
A huge priority for EST is to increase diversity at all levels
of our organization. That has been clearly articulated. Partnerships with other theatres are hopefully going to be a part
of that initiative. That’s a lovely point to make about Billy:
the opening of the doors and letting in the air and the light.
That’s what we want, and I think that’s something they are
bringing me in for. I have a long history in the developmental culture of New York and they welcome that.
110 YEARS AGO (1908)
Social worker Alice Minnie
Herts spearheads the creation
of the Educational Theatre for
Children and Young People. She
recruits Mark Twain to serve as
the president of the theatre’s
board, and will go on to produce
or adapt works by Mary Hunter
Austin, Lady Gregory, Frances
Hodgson Burnett, and others. She
will later spell out her thinking
in the 1911 book The Children’s
Educational Theatre.
105 YEARS AGO (1913)
The Ben Greet Players begin their
15-week Chautauqua circuit tour
near Albany, Ga., with two plays
in their repertoire: The Comedy
of Errors and She Stoops to
Conquer. Though many of the
rural churchgoing audiences
they will perform for reportedly
believe theatre to be the work
of the devil, the players win over
reluctant audiences, and their
15-week will be accounted a huge
The current space is 74 seats on the second floor. What
does the future space look like?
The theatre will move down to the ground floor. There will
be a storefront—a pristine, architecturally designed and vetted 99-seat theatre. It’s a theatre for EST’s work and we’re
completely intending to—Billy likes to use the phrase “maintain our lifestyle.” Everyone at EST is fiercely proud of the
space we occupy in the producing landscape. We don’t want
to transform what EST does; we want our facilities to match
the maturity and the esteem of the programs.
A theatre with a mission to develop plays isn’t designed
to generate earned income. It’s, what, 20 percent?
Yeah, if that.
And it has a board designed to generously include artist-members. Where does money for stability and
growth come from?
The goal of a developmental theatre company is not earned
income. We budget our box office very conservatively. The
box office is gravy, but we’re not counting on that to make
our financial goals. EST has been lucky at finding renegade philanthropists. Our long partnership with the Sloan
Foundation is a big part of the creative fabric of the American theatre. The Radio Drama Network is a visionary partner. And artist-members are an important part of any theatre’s good fundraising strategy—the connections those
artists can provide, the access to artistic process. In terms
of future growth and identifying resources to sustain that
growth, that’s my job.
What are your personal goals for your leadership at
To provide resources that match the mature and extraordinary work the organization is doing. More money. The other
personal goal I have is to humbly serve the work and the artists. To do a lot of listening and help chart a course forward
that everyone feels good about.
80 YEARS AGO (1938)
Langston Hughes’s one-act
play Angelo Herndon Jones is
staged by the Harlem Suitcase
Theatre after being rejected by
the Cleveland Federal Theatre
Project, where actresses
apparently refused to play the
roles of two prostitutes. The
theatre’s “Constitution” says the
group fills a “long-felt need…for
a permanent repertory group
presenting plays dealing with the
lives, problems, and hopes of the
Negro people.”
15 YEARS AGO (2003)
The Deaf West Theatre’s
production of Big River, which
began at the troupe’s 99-seat
theatre in North Hollywood
in 2001, prepares to open in a
Roundabout Theatre Company
production on Broadway with
Tyrone Giordano, a deaf actor,
in the lead role of Huckleberry
Finn. The show will go on to tour
nationally, with Giordano scoring
roles in two films after casting
directors saw his performance
in Big River.
appointed Maria Manuela Goyanes its next artistic director. In September
she will succeed Howard
Shalwitz, who co-founded
and will have led the theatre for 38 years. Goyanes
currently serves as the
director of producing and
artistic planning at the
Public Theater in NYC.
Signature Theatre
in New York City welcomed Harold Wolpert
as its new executive director in April. Wolpert succeeds Erika Mallin, who
stepped down last September, and will work
alongside artistic director
Paige Evans.
■ The Juilliard School
in New York has named
Evan Yionoulis the
school’s Richard Rodgers Director of Drama
starting with the 201819 academic and performance season. Yionoulis is currently a professor
at Yale School of Drama
and a resident director at
Yale Repertory Theatre in
New Haven, Conn. She
■ Woolly Mammoth
Theatre Company in
Washington, D.C., has
will succeed Jim Houghton, who headed the division starting in 2006 until
his death in 2016.
■ Connecticut’s Hartford Stage has announced
that artistic director
Darko Tresnjak will
step down at the conclusion of the 2018-19 season. A national search will
be conducted to find a
replacement for Tresnjak,
who has led the theatre
since 2011.
Rhode Island’s Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival has
announced that Jef HallFlavin will step down as
executive director of the
four-day international
event, which will run in
September. Hall-Flavin
will stay on through the
festival’s annual dinner
on June 2. The move follows his decision to begin
international graduate
studies in the arts.
■ The Alabama
Shakespeare Festival
has announced the
appointment of Todd
Schmidt as the company’s
new executive director.
He will join artistic
director Rick Dildine
as co-leader of ASF, the
State Theatre of Alabama.
Schmidt, who currently
serves as managing
director of Paper Mill
Playhouse in Millburn,
N.J., will start his new
post in June.
Actors Studio
Drama School
at Pace
For audition and admission information, please
or contact the Office of Graduate Admission
at (212) 346-1531.
Photo by Scott Wynn
The only Master of Fine Arts program
officially sanctioned and supervised
by The Actors Studio.
Playwrights Suzan-Lori
Parks and Lucas Hnath
have been named the winners of the 2018 Windham-Campbell Prizes
in the drama category.
The prizes, which recognize writers of all disciplines around the world,
are administered by the
Beinecke Rare Book and
Manuscript Library at
Yale University. Each
prize recipient receives
$165,000. They will be
honored with their prizes
in September at a literary
festival at Yale.
In April, Theatre
Development Fund in
New York celebrated the
winners of the 2018 TDF/
Irene Sharaff Awards honoring excellence in theatrical design. The recipients included costume
designer Holly Hynes,
scenic designer Zach
Brown, costume designer
Travis Halsey, and scenic and costume designer
Fritz Masten.
■ The Burry Fredrik
Foundation in New
Haven, Conn., has named
sound designer Frederick Kennedy the recipient of the 2018 Burry
Fredrik Design Fellowship. Kennedy will receive
a $20,000 award and the
opportunity to participate as a designer at the
Eugene O’Neill Theater
Center’s National Playwrights Conference.
■ Lambda Literary
in Los Angeles has
announced the finalists of
its 30th annual Lambda
Literary Awards. The
awards, which advance
LGBTQ literature, will
be presented on June 4
in NYC. The finalists
were selected from more
than 1,000 submissions
and 300 publishers by
67 literary professionals.
Alongside nominees for
novels, poetry, and other
literary forms, this year’s
drama selections include
Composure by Scott C.
Sickles, produced by
the Workshop Theater;
Everybody’s Talking About
Jamie by Tom MacRae,
Jonathan Butterell,
and Dan Gillespie Sells
(Samuel French); The
Gulf by Audrey Cefaly
(Samuel French); How
Black Mothers Say I Love
You by Trey Anthony
(Playwrights Canada
Press); and Indecent by
Paula Vogel (Theatre
Communications Group).
British playwright Alice
Birch won the 2018 Susan
Smith Blackburn Prize for
her play Anatomy of a Suicide. The prize recognizes
English-language plays by
female playwrights from
around the world. Birch
will receive $25,000 and a
signed print by artist Willem de Kooning.
■ New York’s League
of Professional Theatre Women honored the
■ New York City’s
Columbia University and
former U.S. ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith
have named Junk by Ayad
Akhtar the recipient of
the 2018 Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama
Inspired by American History. Akhtar will receive a
cash prize of $100,000.
The 2018 Theatre Women Awards Honorees.
recipients of its 2018
Theatre Women Awards
at a ceremony in March.
The awardees included
Rohina Malik, Cricket
S. Myers, Linda Winer,
Emily Joy Weiner, Adrienne Campbell-Holt, and
Phylicia Rashad.
■ The International
Thespian Society has
awarded Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School
of Parkland, Fla., the
Spirit of Thespis Award.
The school’s drama
teacher and troupe director, Melody Herzfeld,
accepted the award at the
Florida Thespian Festival in March. The Spirit of
Thespis Award, last given
in 2013, is a discretionary
honor that recognizes up
to three schools per year
that demonstrate grace
when faced with a serious
■ Houston’s 50 Playwrights Project (50PP) has
released its second annual
list of recommended
unproduced Latinx plays.
Dubbed the 50PP List, it
comprises eight production-ready plays by Latinx
playwrights. This year’s
selections include The
Anatomy of Light by
Juliany Taveras; Penny
Pinball Presents The Beacons
by Georgina Escobar;
Brothers, Sisters, Santos:
Stories from Familia Rojas
by Briandaniel Oglesby;
Fado by Elaine Avila;
Nativity by Darrel Alejandro Holnes; Querencia:
an imagined autobiography about forbidden fruits by
Benjamin Benne; Red Bike
by Caridad Svich; and
Richard & Jane & Dick &
Sally by Noah Diaz.
■ NBC of Universal
City, Calif., has awarded
grants to 50 high schools
across the country to support theatre education
programs. The R.I.S.E.
grants (Recognizing and
Inspiring Student Expression), totaling half a million dollars, are made possible in part by the Education Theatre Foundation. The R.I.S.E. initiative was inspired by NBC’s
upcoming television show
“Rise,” which premiered
March 13. The recipients
were selected from a pool
of 1,000 submissions, and
will receive $10,000 each
to support production
expenses, technical equipment, master classes, or
any critical needs for running the program.
: 1929-2018
a full Broadway orchestra. I was impressed. To
be honest, I was awed.
Just a month or so
after that show, I got an
offer to direct the annual
college musical, to be
done in the big, 1,000seat Hogg Auditorium.
It paid a fee and I was
ecstatic, since this was
the first time anyone
had ever offered to pay
me for directing. HowHarvey Schmidt (at piano)
ever, when I saw the
and Tom Jones.
scripts and songs that
were submitted by other
The composer of such beloved musicals as
students, I was appalled. They were awful!
The Fantasticks, 110 in the Shade, and
Hopeless! And the show was scheduled to
I Do! I Do!, died on Feb. 28. He was 88.
open the first week of January, just a couple
of months away. Well, I thought: I have to
come up with something better than this, so
Harvey Schmidt is from the University of
I contacted this Harvey Schmidt fellow and
Texas when he came to audition for the Curasked him if he would like to write a musical
tain Club. Tall and skinny, with a pronounced
with me. I offered to split the fee. He said
twang, he apologetically explained that he
yes—and that is how it all began.
was not an actor, but he loved the theatre
We didn’t intend to become writers,
and he could play the piano and do posters.
either one of us. I was a director. Harvey
Eureka! Actors we didn’t need. Actors we
was a commercial artist (and, as it turned
had. (Boy, did we have actors.) But a piano
out, a great one, one of the best in Amerplayer! A poster maker!
ica). But that first show we did, written in
We signed him up and put him to work.
just a few weeks in time stolen from our
The first poster he did was for a play called
regular schoolwork, had a profound effect
Beggar on Horseback, and it was wonderful.
upon us. It was a hit, a huge hit. It was such
It was so wonderful that it was terrible: The
a huge hit that the entire 1,000 seats were
posters, attached to bulletin boards and tied
sold out immediately for its four-day run.
to trees, were stolen almost as soon as they
It was such a big hit that, for the first time,
were put up. People took them and had them
they sold standing room, and when that
framed. (I wish I had done that—I would
was filled up, they sat people in the aisles,
love to have one.) Not long after, Harvey
and then finally, in response to the overplayed the piano and wrote the title song
whelming demand, they opened the side
for a Curtain Club revue called “Hipsywindows of the auditorium so that people
Boo!” Yes, if you’re taking notes, that’s
could gather in little clumps outside and
H-I-P-S-Y (dash) B-O-O (with an exclacatch some tiny hint of this magical experimation point). A wonderful, sassy song.
ence. For that’s what it was: something speMusic and lyrics both. The revue, which
cial. The audience knew it and we knew it
was produced in 1950, was a celebration of
too. Something in what we had produced
Broadway musicals from 1900 to 1950, all
together, cross-pollinating our very disthe way from Gallagher & Shean to “There
parate talents, was powerful. It made peoIs Nothin’ Like a Dame.” Harvey, in the pit
ple laugh. It made them weep. And it made
with nothing but a drummer, sounded like
them feel a special kind of exhilaration, an
exhilaration that they somehow helped to
produce along with us.
Time ticks. The world turns. The
Korean War erupted and we were drafted
into the Army, he in El Paso, me in Baltimore. But because of the lingering memory
of that college musical, we kept in touch. We
began writing songs by long-distance mail
and sending them back and forth across the
country. We began to talk about another
musical, perhaps a revue, to be called Portfolio. When the army stint was over, we got
together in Fort Worth and boarded a Greyhound bus for New York City! We shared an
apartment with two other roommates, one
of them Robert Benton, who went on to
become a three-time Oscar winner as both
writer and director, the other a muscle man
who left to join Mae West on her final tour.
Harvey became an enormously successful,
award-winning graphic artist. I languished
as teacher to a drama group of middle-aged
would-be thespians.
Then The Fantasticks—ah yes, then The
Fantasticks. And then. And then. And then.
“In so few eyeblinks/In transition lightning
streaks,” 50 years go by. And then 60. And
then 70. Harvey and I have been honored
and we have been scorned; we have been
pelted and we have been praised. But the
point is this: The combination of Harvey’s
genius and my talent has left a legacy. All
that music which came pouring out of him—
directly, it seemed, from his soul—all that
still lives. People are singing it right now.
People will sing it tonight. And tomorrow.
And the day after.
That thing that we felt after the college musical, that sense of something special which we had to give—we were able, by
hard work, but also by the grace of God—to
nurture and fulfill. Harvey’s life was fulfilled.
And I am grateful that, because of him, my
life has been fulfilled too.
I am not very religious. I don’t know
about heaven. But as I understand it, there is
a lot of music there, and if that’s true, Harvey is at home.
Tom Jones was Schmidt’s lyricist and
librettist for several musicals.
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Profession: Front desk administrator
at the Public Theater
Hometown: Brooklyn
Current home: The Bronx
KNOWN FOR: In June, Ford will have
been at New York City’s Public Theater
for two decades. In her current role she’s
known as the face of the theatre, providing customer service and making sure
guests have the best experience possible.
WHAT’S NEXT: She’s training two new staff members on how
to manage the information and front desks.
WHAT MAKES HER SPECIAL: “Jasmine Ford embodies the
ideals the Public Theater strives to achieve every day,” says
Ford’s supervisor, Ruth Sternberg, the Public’s production executive. “As the face and voice of the Public, she has welcomed
Profession: Technical director
Hometown: Fairfield, Ohio
Current Home: Cincinnati
KNOWN FOR: Koehlke was a studying
technical production at the University
of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of
Music when its shop was contracted to
build sets for the 2011-12 season at Know
Theatre of Cincinnati, and he came on
full-time immediately upon graduating.
Since then he’s built all 36 sets for the Know’s mainstage productions. In addition Koehlke is also in charge of Know Theatre’s craft beer selection.
WHAT’S NEXT: He’ll tech-direct the 15th annual Cincinnati
Fringe Festival at the end of May, meaning that he and his team
will convert everything from art school studios to church base-
Profession: Playwright/producer/
Hometown: Houston
Current home: Chicago and London
KNOWN FOR: Edmund, a resident play-
wright at Chicago Dramatists and London’s Tamasha Theatre, is writing a nineplay cycle, The City of the Bayou Collection.
Edmund is also the managing curating
producer of Black Lives, Black Words
International Project, which aims to explore the black diaspora experience in some of the world’s largest multicultural cities.
WHAT’S NEXT: Edmund is prepping for this summer’s threeday I Am Festival, which will showcase black female writers from
the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. and commission black writers
countless artists, patrons, partners, and community members
into our space with radical kindness and capability. Jasmine
is a comforting, dependable fixture of our staff; she possesses
that unique human ability to empathize with anyone who walks
through our doors, and does so while maintaining a constant
professionalism and poise.”
BACKGROUND AT THE FRONT: It was in 1998 that Ford started working as an usher at the Delacorte Theater for the Shakespeare in the Park stagings of Cymbeline and The Skin of Our
Teeth. As front desk administrator, she says she strives “to engage
and welcome audiences from all diverse segments of our community,” as well as “provide opportunities for those who create
the theatrical experience to express their art and to receive the
appreciation their efforts deserve.” She adds, “Before I came
to the Public Theater, I had no theatre background. But after
working here for 20 years, I think I’ve earned the right to say I
have a theatre background.”
ments into bare-bones theatres, complete with seating, drapes,
light plots, and audio systems the Fringe crew has “scrounged
and cobbled together over the last 15 years.”
WHAT MAKES HIM SPECIAL: Tamara Winters, the Know’s
associate artistic director, calls Koehlke “a bit of a wunderkind…I don’t think I’ve ever worked with anyone better at making magic on a shoestring.” How thin is that string? She says
that Koehlke “takes a lot of pride in keeping his average budget between $700 and $900. He’s a legit genius.”
SEE AND FEEL: At Know Theatre, Koehlke has rigged up
blood cannons and made rain, snow, and feathers fall, all in a
99-seat black box. He wouldn’t have it any other way: “The
action is always right there for our patrons to see and feel with
our casts.” He relishes “watching the spit fly from a passionate
vocalist’s mouth or seeing the sweat bead up on a brow that’s
been straining under thousands of watts of light to put on a
show just for you.”
from around the world to memorialize victims of police brutality. Closing the fest will be a theatrical interpretation of Sandra Bland’s arrest, created by Mojisola Abejola, and performed
by 100 women of color and immigrant descent.
WHAT MAKES HIM SPECIAL: Sean Daniels, artistic director of Merrimack Repertory Theatre, who serves on the Black
Lives, Black Words advisory board, calls Edmund “one of the
most exciting playwrights and truly unstoppable community
organizers out there…Also, he’s a bit of a rascal, and that’s truly part of his charm.”
CLOSER TO GODS: Edmund is most excited by art that rallies
communities together. “I dream about a theatre that activates
and heals, and is equitable to those it serves,” he says. “Sometimes people forget that this craft we do started off as a means
for us to get closer to our ancestors and our gods. So I believe
every work we put forward should be empowering to our spirits.”
Profession: Director, writer
Hometown: San Francisco
Current Home: New York City
KNOWN FOR: As artistic director of Built
for Collapse, Ghajar has directed 13 new
plays, adaptations of classics, and devised
shows, including Nuclear Love Affair,
which was performed in NYC, Prague,
Rome, and Krakow. She recently helmed
the multimedia play Red Wednesday at
Mabou Mines as part of the SUITE/Space program, and has
developed work with New York Theatre Workshop and others.
WHAT’S NEXT: Danger Signals, a collaboration between Built
for Collapse, British playwright Nina Segal, and pop musician
Jen Goma, runs at NYC’s New Ohio Theatre April 27-May
19. She’s also developing Virtuous People, a post-punk science
Profession: Designer, professor,
technical director
Hometown: Murphy, Texas
Current Home: Fort Worth, Texas
KNOWN FOR: He’s technical director
for Texas Christian University’s department of theatre and has worked as the set
designer at Fort Worth’s Trinity ShakeDecker
speare Festival for 10 years. For his work
he’s garnered a number of Dallas/Fort
Worth Theatre Critics Forum Awards.
WHAT’S NEXT: He’ll serve as T.D. for Theatre TCU’s Bat Boy:
The Musical, and lighting designer for Trinity Shakespeare Festival’s Twelfth Night and Greater Tuna at Oklahoma City Repertory.
WHAT MAKES HIM SPECIAL: Donald Jordan, the founding artistic director of Oklahoma’s CityRep, has known Decker profes-
Profession: Actor/writer
Hometown: Portalegre, Brazil (but
raised mostly in Frankfurt, Germany)
Current Home: Kansas City, Mo.
KNOWN FOR: At Kansas City Rep, Severo
played Cassandra in Vanya, Sonia, Masha,
and Spike; at Unicorn Theatre, Vanda
in Venus in Fur; at KC Actors Theatre,
Rosencrantz in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.
WHAT’S NEXT: She’ll bring back her solo show Frida…a Self
Portrait, about Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, to Kansas City Rep in
summer 2019, as the culmination of her TCG Fox Fellowship.
WHAT MAKES HER SPECIAL: Cynthia Levin, Unicorn’s artistic director, has worked with Severo for a dozen years, and takes
fantasy work about the future effects of global climate change.
WHAT MAKES HER SPECIAL: Ghajar assisted Rachel Chavkin
on Hadestown at NYTW, and Chavkin raves, “Sanaz’s work with
her company, Built for Collapse, is intellectual and emotional and athletic as hell. I’ve been watching with excitement for
years as she’s tackled subjects from atomic warfare to the Iranian revolution, and working ever more personally.”
HEART AND BRAIN: “I rely on impulse, intuition, and collaboration,” says Ghajar of her approach. “I give actors and
designers the latitude to contribute and to invent the shows
together with me, often drawing together disparate cultural references and unconventional media.” She brings a lot to
it herself, calling her work “always sexual, often psychedelic, and inevitably traumatic. I had heart surgery at a young
age, and then about four years ago, I got into a car accident
and experienced a traumatic brain injury. I connect those life
experiences to the way that I approach a devising process.”
sionally for 25 years. From the first, Jordan has been impressed
by Decker’s “superior work ethic, keen intelligence, dedication,
artistic sensibility, and collaborative spirit…I knew then that
this was a young man who would make a positive impact on our
art and the world.” Jordan’s been singing his colleague’s praises ever since. “His knowledge of his rapidly evolving profession is always cutting edge, his understanding of the script and
the goals of the production is remarkable, and the same ability
and character that he has displayed since we first collaborated
are still the foundation of his exceptional creativity.”
TEACHABLE MOMENTS: “‘This is probably too complicated
to do’ is a call to arms for me,” Decker says. “I thrive on the
opportunity to experiment and learn new techniques.” It’s a
spirit he tries to pass on to the next generation. “It’s critical that
our students see the good and bad, the successes and failures,
and the iterations that grow from those experiences. Some of
our best work can come from ‘playing’ around.”
special pleasure in her versatility. “There is no limit to what she
is capable of. She is equally at ease with broad comedy as she is
with heartfelt, dramatic roles.” Joanie Schultz, artistic director
of Texas’s WaterTower, who’ll direct her in Frida, calls Severo
“one of the most magnetic performers I’ve ever encountered...
She embodies depth, authenticity, and attention that somehow simultaneously manifests both as a smooth lightness and
a dark seriousness.”
WHAT IF: Severo says she was hooked from her first theatrical experience, in Germany at age 12. “I knew immediately it
was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.” What keeps
her going, she says, is “quite simple: stamina and the question
of ‘What if…?’ My favorite kind of work is the kind that initially terrifies me. You can’t do your job and be afraid. When I
knock down that initial fear, I know the real growth and artistry of the work is in development.”
Theatre Communications Group
“We don’t have a country if we don’t have borders.” —U.S. presidential candidate Donald J. Trump, 2016
“America hating immigrants is like a body rejecting its own blood.” —comic Hari Kondabolu, 2017
UCH AS WE CAN LEARN A LOT ABOUT OURselves from what others see in us, we may stand
to learn the most about our nation—its best qualities and its worst flaws—from those ostensibly outside
it, or from those who are here but began their lives elsewhere and thus view their America with a clarifying bicultural lens. If ours is, as the cliché goes, a “nation of immigrants,” it stands to reason that immigrants would be the
ones who know us, perhaps better than we know ourselves.
Fish don’t know they’re in water, after all.
And what might those immigrants see in us, and say
of us, right now? For one thing, it seems harder than ever
to claim “nation of immigrants” as our mission statement (the phrase has been removed from the website of
the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service). The other
cliché about America is that it’s a nation of ideas, in supposed contrast to those founded on deep-seated ethnic
and cultural identity. Americans are made, not born, the
thinking goes—what binds us is not race, religion, or class
but democratic ideals, a Constitution, the rule of law. Literally anyone from anywhere can be an American. Right?
We’re living through a time that is pressure-testing
these intertwined propositions—a time in which America’s
founding by white slave owners hardly seems incidental to
our stubborn legacy of white supremacy, despite the progress that’s been fought and won since; and a time when
our nation’s declining European-descended white Christian majority, feeling under threat from those who don’t
fit that profile, is ferociously reasserting dominion over
a land stolen from indigenous peoples and wrested from
contention with other colonial powers. Even leaving aside
the specifically anti-Semitic origins of the Trumpist slo-
gan “America First,” there’s little doubt whose America
our country’s ruling party puts first and promises to make
“great again.” As James Baldwin—as great an American
as the country has ever produced—once put it, “It is a terrible omen when you see an American flag on somebody
else’s car and realize that’s your enemy.”
In short, ours is looking increasingly like a country
whose supposedly universal founding ideals aren’t absolute at all but contingent, depending on who you are, where
you were born, the color of your skin, the people you love,
how much wealth or influence you’ve accumulated. We
aren’t seeming so special, so exceptional right now; immigrants and refugees fleeing oppression and strife might
justly wonder if we’re worth the trip.
U.S. theatres are feeling and reflecting these crosscurrents, as much or more than other art forms, since the
in-person nature of theatremaking still requires artists
to show up in a space together, and audiences too—
nonprofit theatres, after all, have both self-interested and
civic-virtuous reasons to nurture, maintain, even repair
communities. In this special issue we look at immigrants
and their place in the American theatre through what we
often think of as three main aspects of representation
(there are certainly more): how they’re portrayed, and their
stories told, onstage; how they fare as workers and makers
in the theatre; and how much they’re being made to feel
welcome as audience members. It might be simpler to sum
these components up, in an echo of an ageless American
formulation, as theatre of the people, by the people, and
for the people. The question now isn’t so much what kind
of people we “let in” to our country but what kind of people
Alex Alpharaoh. “Do you remember the first time you
looked into the eyes of your lover and felt that overwhelming warmth and that sense of intimate connection, and you knew without knowing?” I said yes as I
blushed over the phone, and Alpharaoh continued: “That’s what it
feels like on an exponential level.”
He was describing what it feels like to be onstage. Alpharaoh is
a writer and performer based in Los Angeles who knew he wanted
to be an artist when he was 4 years old and saw Michael Jackson perform on television. Performance has been a passion he credits with
saving him from a life of gangs and crime. “By the time I was 18, I’d
been to more funerals than graduations,” he said. Acting became a
matter of survival, and his love for the arts led him to become a theatre professional, and a founding member of the L.A.-based company
Urban Theatre Movement.
But there’s one catch: Alpharaoh is undocumented—one of an
estimated 3.6 million immigrants brought to the U.S. as children,
known popularly as “DREAMers,” whose careers, and the very foundation of their lives, are in constant threat of changing overnight.
Alpharaoh’s mother left her native Guatemala at age 15, carrying her 3-month-old baby as she traversed the Mexican desert by
foot. She raised her boy in Echo Park and South Los Angeles, constantly reminding him that the security of their lives there depended
on them guarding the secret of their immigration status. “I didn’t
understand how serious it was,” Alpharaoh explained. “I was told
not to say anything, not to tell people I didn’t have these elusive
papers everybody had.”
Three decades later, though, he told his story in WET: A
DACAmented Journey, a play he developed and performed in 2017
at Ensemble Studio Theatre in Los Angeles. That piece arose from
Alpharaoh’s need to make sense of what was happening in his life
at the time.
In 2012 he heard about DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood
Arrivals), President Obama’s immigration policy, which allowed
certain individuals who arrived in the United States as children and
remained in the country illegally to obtain a work permit, a Social
Security number, and a renewable two-year period of deferred action
from deportation, if they met certain criteria. At first, Alpharaoh
was hesitant to apply, as when the program was announced details
appeared murky. He consulted with legal advisors, friends, and family,
who all told him DACA was the “real deal,” and he applied. The program is still registering applicants due to judicial injunctions, which
have held off President Trump’s order to rescind DACA last fall. As
of press time, wrangling in Congress over a legislative fix seems to
have stalled, leaving the future of the program—and the hundreds of
thousands of young people it covers—in an awkward limbo.
“[There’s a] misconception that DACA is some sort of amnesty,”
explained Diego Salinas, a senior at James Madison University in
Virginia, who like Alpharaoh is a DACA recipient working in theatre. Salinas called DACA a “Band-Aid solution,” and said he wishes
Opposite: Alex
Alpharaoh in WET: A
DACAmented Journey.
This page, clockwise
from top left: Amalia
Rojas; Liz Magallanes,
Maya Malan-Gonzalez,
Frida Espinosa Muller,
David Zaldivar, and
Ivan Jasso in Deferred
Action, a co-production
of Cara Mía Theatre
Company and Dallas
Theater Center; Katie
Ciszek and Diego
Salinas in Picnic
at James Madison
people would understand that he doesn’t get to go to college for free, live off food stamps, or get free housing from
the government. In fact, he pointed out, his status means he
“can’t even apply for financial aid for college.”
Growing up, Salinas thought he’d be a lawyer, until he
fell in love with acting after doing Tartuffe in high school.
That’s also around the time he discovered his undocumented
status—his parents had brought him to the States from El
Salvador in 2001, when he was 5. The news left him angry
and hurt, even as he understood that his parents had left
their home country to give him and his two younger siblings a better future. Like many other DREAMers, Salinas
realized he was undocumented when he was planning for his
future after high school.
Many DACA recipients come from families who left
countries with high levels of illiteracy, most of them in Latin
America, and arrived in the U.S. with the hopes their children would
have opportunities that were nonexistent where they came from.
Liz Magallanes’s mother, for instance, left Mexico with nothing
higher than a fifth-grade education, but worked her entire life so her
daughter could have more than she did. “She’s extraordinary—she’s
a housekeeper, and has sacrificed everything for her children,” said
Magallanes, who is based in Dallas. It was witnessing her mother’s
struggle that inspired Magallanes to become an actor, she said: “I
want to tell stories of the lives we don’t get to see. Uplifting the ordinary would be wonderful, because those stories deserve to be told.”
Magallanes recalled the first time she saw a Latinx character on
television, and explains how once she pursued theatre as a career, she
encountered yet another obstacle: the lack of diversity in the art form.
“I was the only Latina in the theatre department, in a school
that was 80 percent Latino,” she said. “I realized that the arts were
no different than any other sphere. It was important for me to represent people who looked like me.”
Needless to say, lack of representation is a prevalent issue among
Latinx DREAMers. And some have used their own stories and struggles with immigration to inspire their art.
“I wrote Como Una Box De Chocolate, a play about the aftermath
of realizing I was undocumented,” said Amalia Rojas, a Mexican
playwright based in New York City. “My mother came to a reading,
and she was proud, but also shocked it was so autobiographical. She
started telling people, ‘Don’t say anything in front of Amalia because
she’ll write about it.’ We have a very dark sense of humor; we alleviate
the sadness and the pain by laughing at it,” she added with a chuckle.
Rojas said she started dreaming of seeing her own name on
a Broadway marquee after her mother saved for months to buy
them tickets to see Mamma
Mia! for Rojas’s fifth-grade
graduation. She majored in
political science and playwriting at CUNY Lehman
College, and trained at HB
Studio and Vassar’s Powerhouse Theater, where she
said she felt self-conscious
about being the only playwright who seemed to be
writing about her own life.
But, she reasoned, “If I don’t
write, I can’t complain about
the lack of representation.”
For many DACA-mented people, the xenophobia
and anti-immigration stance of the Trump Administration has led
them to ponder the existential question: What is it to be American?
Carlos Ibarra’s parents left Cuernavaca, Mexico, when he was a toddler. His father left first, then his mother, and for a few months he
and his siblings lived with aunts and uncles, until his parents were
able to bring them to the U.S. when he was 4.
Ibarra has no recollection of Mexico, though. As he put it, “I
was always aware that I was born in Mexico, but I felt American; for
me home was California, though I knew my roots were Mexican.”
Growing up on a mix of telenovelas and Jean-Claude Van Damme,
Ibarra longed to be the protagonist of the stories he so loved. “I
understand why labels exist, but in my own belief I’ve never allowed
myself to have labels or identifiers limit what I can or can’t do. When
I saw Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future I didn’t see a white guy, I
saw a cool story about a teenager traveling in time,” he said. So he
became an actor.
Learning of his immigration status thus felt like a dissonance,
he said. “Emotionally it didn’t compute. I understood in terms of
law and logistics, but not emotionally.” He continued: “I was very
hopeful that something would change, that because of the way I’d
been living my life that the rules would bend for me.” But in 2016
Ibarra set out to be that change, embarking on a journey to help him
understand the country that seemed to be less tolerant than he’d
wished for. In his documentary web series “Run Carlos Run,” Ibarra
chronicled his cross-country journey, à la Forrest Gump, from his
home in Brooklyn to Costa Mesa, Calif., where he grew up. “It was
the first time in my life where I felt like I was the other,” he said. “I’d
go to places like Missouri or Kansas, and I’d walk into places and be
the only person of color.” But what surprised him most was the lack
of tension he encountered. “Everyone was so nice; people offered to
help. In Ohio this lady who was driving pulled over near me, went to
her trunk, and pulled out a water bottle to give it to me,” he recalled.
Another time “a police car pulled over, asked if I was the guy who’s
running, and asked me to let them know what highways I’d take so
they could let the towns ahead know in case I needed assistance.”
Recently the media has seemed to concentrate efforts on homogenizing or valorizing DACA recipients, creating the false sense that
they all fit a certain profile or that they’re all “model citizens”—
people who deserve to be in America because of their saintly qualities or their heroism. Though it’s an understandable counterpoint
to the implication of many
restrictionist demagogues
that all immigrants are lawbreakers, it’s an oversimplification that can be dehumanizing and flattening of
“Just as we say, don’t
lump everyone as a criminal,
we can’t lump everyone as a
perfect example of DACA,”
said Ibarra. Rojas agreed:
“My brother is the opposite of me—he didn’t want
to go to school. Some people
Carlos Ibarra.
aren’t made for school, and
that’s okay. Maybe he wants
to become an electrician or a plumber. I’d like to see the media portray people like him too.”
What Alpharaoh, Rojas, Ibarra, Salinas, and Magallanes have
in common is their hope that Congress will finally pass legislation
that will make their legal status permanent.
“We can talk about it all we want, but unless we put pressure
on representatives we won’t see any change,” said Salinas, who in
the meantime is working on creating a solo show about DACA. “I’m
trying to channel that frustration into dialogue, but also action.”
Said Alpharaoh, “I don’t identify with the circumstance, I am not
the circumstance—I am a human being who happens to be undocumented and a Latino. You can label me however you want, but that
doesn’t change my humanity.” Change is on his mind, though: “If
we don’t demand change from the country we’ve worked in and for,
we won’t get what we need,” he reasoned. “We need to change the
culture of secrecy and fear. There’s nothing stopping the current
administration from sending ICE to my house.”
Besides her work as an actor, Magallanes is part of Mi Familia
Vota, an organization that advocates for immigrants’ rights, and
whose efforts have recently become focused on registering Latinx
voters who have been historically absent from the democratic process. While she too is “waiting for the other shoe to drop with this
administration,” she said she was grateful to “discover a group of
people outside of the arts who were in the movement.”
While Rojas’s DACA status expired at the end of March, she reapplied and is now “playing the waiting game,” as she called it. Like
other DREAMers and their advocates, she’d like a more lasting fix.
In the meantime she keeps on writing. “I hate the word
‘DREAMer,’ because we don’t dream, we do—we’re badasses. I like
to say I’m a doer.”
Jose Solís, a Honduran writer based in New York City,
is the chief theatre critic on and is
featured on the American Theatre web series
Token Theatre Friends.
world theatre day
was created in 1961 by the International Theatre Institute (ITI)
and is celebrated annually on March 27 by ITI Centers
and the international theatre community.
ITI-Worldwide, with the head office located in
Shanghai, asked five authors of world stature to
write an international World Theatre Day message,
one from each of the five UNESCO Regions:
Wèrê Wèrê Liking; Sabina Berman; Maya Zbib;
Ram Gopal Bajaj; and Simon McBurney.
Additionally, as the home of the U.S. Center of
the International Theatre Institute (ITI-U.S.),
The Global Theater Initiative is proud to share
the U.S. World Theatre Day message authored
by playwright and actress Heather Raffo.
“ If 2018 hopes to be a year of watershed awakening, of offering platforms for our bravest
voices, of challenging structures that no longer serve, might the theater be an institution
in need of awakening too? There are countless reasons we value theater. I just want to
make sure 2018 is the year we recognize how theater can be of value now.”
—U.S. Message for World Theatre Day by Heather Raffo
Complete versions of each World Theatre Day message may be found at
The Global Theater Initiative is a partnership between Theatre
Communications Group and The Laboratory for Global Performance and
Politics (The Lab) at Georgetown University. GTI serves as the collaborative
leadership of the U.S. Center of the International Theatre Institute
(ITI/U.S.). Through the alignment of programming and resources, the
GTI partners serve as a hub of global exchange connecting practitioners with resources,
knowledge, and partnerships, while promoting international peace and mutual understanding.
International Theatre Institute was formed in 1948, when
the United National Educational, Scientific and Cultural
Organization (UNESCO) joined with world-renowned theatre
experts to form an international non-governmental organization
in the field of the performing arts. Today, ITI consists of
approximately 90 centers worldwide.
questionnaires asking for name, religion, country of origin, parents’ countries of origin. Guards pulling certain people out of line for special screening or another
go-round with the metal detector.
This wasn’t customs or a checkpoint for asylum seekers. It was
the pre-show experience for audiences attending Cleveland Public Theatre’s production of American Dreams, which ran there Feb.
8-March 3.
CPT and other theatres across the country often work with
immigrant or refugee populations in their communities on a variety of programs. But that engagement feels all the more urgent now
given the anti-immigrant stance and policies of the Trump administration. Theatres are skilled at dramatizing and narrating the stories of our time. But could they do more? Might they provide space
and resources to immigrant or refugee members of their communities in a time of fear and misinformation? Can they act as a gathering and knowledge-sharing space for all members of their community: immigrant, refugee, and U.S.-born?
For the creative team of American Dreams, the first step was
to reflect a version of the immigrant experience for all audience
members, putting those who don’t know it firsthand on an equal
footing with those who know it all too well. The pre-show experience with guards profiling some audience members was intentional, said director Tamilla Woodard. “People should witness that
as a theatrical device of storytelling,” she said. “We’re doing it as
a demonstration, a reflection of the real world.” It’s a visceral way
for every audience member to be made aware of how certain people are treated every day.
After the pre-show gauntlet, American Dreams imagined a version of the U.S. where citizenship is sought and won on a televised
game show, with the attendees at each performance serving as the
live studio audience. They were called upon throughout five rounds
to assist three contestants in answering questions about American
tastes, history, and politics; to provide thumbs-up or thumbs-down
responses to contestants’ answers; and to ultimately vote on a winner: the person they wanted to be their new neighbor.
Isam Zaiem, an American Dreams audience member and himself an immigrant and civil rights activist, confessed that he didn’t
realize how difficult it would be to make a decision. “How do you
choose which of the three applicants should have the opportunity to
become an American citizen? How do you make such a life-changing decision when every applicant is deserving of that chance?” he
wondered rhetorically.
That interactivity and indeterminacy is what initially attracted
CPT executive artistic director Raymond Bobgan to the project.
“There’s something about the audience participation that makes
the audience complicit in a way that we already are but don’t recognize,” he said. “Every time we vote, every time we engage, how
we respond to Facebook posts, how we give our money when we’re
donating—all of these are things that we’re doing that make us complicit in our foreign policy. What this play did was say, ‘We’re going
to make that complicity really explicit.’”
The main creator of this devised piece was Leila Buck, with
support from Woodard and an ensemble of actors who, in creating their characters, drew on personal experiences as well as indepth interviews with immigrants in the Cleveland area. Born to
an American father and a Lebanese mother, Buck spent her youth
living in countries in the Arab world, a result of her father’s work
with the foreign service. There she experienced “both the privilege
of being American and being able to cross borders, and also knowing some of the people who are responsible for deciding who gets
across those borders,” she said.
Through her personal and professional experiences, though,
she’s met people “for whom it is challenging sometimes to be seen
as a trustworthy person to be let into our country.” American Dreams
was created with that thought in mind. “How do you create a space
within the theatre for people to be able to reflect within themselves
on how we decide who we trust, who we let in?” Buck said.
Isabel Galvez, an immigrant and a Cleveland resident of 23
Clockwise from left: Imran Sheikh, Ali Andre Ali, Andrew Aaron
Valdez, Jens Rasmussen, and Leila Buck in American Dreams
at Cleveland Public Theatre.
years, is an active member of CPT’s community, providing translation services and serving on its informal steering committee. Galvez
responded to particular moments in American Dreams differently
than the U.S.-born audience members—she laughed at one quiz
question about the Constitution, because she recognized the quotation as false, while U.S.-born audience members were silent. Ultimately, she felt encouraged by the experience.
“Things like this have a big potential to educate American citizens,” she said. “Unfortunately, with all these immigration issues that
we live and breathe day in and day out, you start to understand that
many people take positions and many times are against immigrants.”
similar understanding when they launched the ¡Óyeme! program
four years ago. Responding to an influx into the region of unaccompanied minors from Central America, Imagination Stage reached
out to the minors and invited them to make a play about their experiences. The theatre company commissioned playwright Miriam
Gonzales to write the play, and enlisted a government partner in
Health and Human Services, who identified youth who might benefit from the program.
Imagination Stage always made sure to have social workers on
hand during program sessions, as many of these young people experienced trauma in their home countries and in their journey to the
United States. ¡Óyeme! offered a safe space for the youth to share their
stories, learn about theatre, and create a bilingual play called Óyeme the
Beautiful, which has now toured schools throughout the area, reaching students who have made the same journey and those who haven’t.
After each school performance, a teaching artist leads students
through activities, one of which asks them to write a letter home in
the voice of one of the play’s characters. It’s here that Imagination
Stage staff have seen evidence of the play’s power to build empathy. One student wrote, ventriloquizing an immigrant: “I’ve come
to the USA. I miss you all. I have been making lots of friends. I’m
hopeful that one day you’ll be able to come join me. Everything
here is so beautiful. I’m safe here.”
Educators are often pleasantly surprised by the play’s power to
engage some of their more unruly students. An ESOL teacher, Laura
Desobry, wrote to Imagination Stage’s director of education, Joanne
Seelig, after a performance of Óyeme the Beautiful to say, “You had
the full attention of quite a few difficult newcomer students, who literally run around the halls when they should be sitting in class. It’s
been a long time since I have seen them so calm and still.”
She added that two other students who had been struggling with
their cultural identity “were beaming with pride while explaining
components of the play and the journey to their classmates. I think
they took a lot of pride in being able to answer the many questions
posed by their non-Spanish-speaking classmates.” Seeing their experiences reflected and hearing their language onstage was affirming.
Another teacher, Ludmilla DeBord, confirmed the play’s power
for her students: “It affected deeply my ESOL kiddos as we discussed it in all three of my classes today. They had a lot to say and
share, and I could see that they understood and took to heart a lot
of important lessons from the play.”
TEACHING ARTIST TAOUS CLAIRE KHAZEM ALSO UNDERtook a play-creation project, though on a smaller scale, with a youth
summer program organized by Mixed Blood Theatre in Minneapolis.
She asked each participant to go home and ask an elder to share a folktale. Khazem, whose father is from Algeria, has long been captivated
by folktales and the oral traditions of her father’s country of origin.
“It’s really important to not lose those elements of culture,”
she said. “Those stories hold wisdom. They held a purpose. They’re
there to teach us something, whether it’s a cautionary tale or a lesson to learn that I think are still relevant now.”
By asking the youth to talk with their elders about folktales,
Khazem hoped to bridge the gap between generations created by
distance and time, and to reinforce the value and beauty of oral tradition. After hearing everyone’s folktales, the group chose one of
them to turn into a short play. “Most of them had never been onstage
before,” Khazem said. “Before the performance, they were really
nervous. But they really pulled it off. I think they felt so proud of
themselves that they were able to sing a song, move their bodies,
tell a story in front of a group of people—an immense sense of pride
in sharing who they were.”
Khazem’s work is one part of larger efforts by Mixed Blood to
build relationships with members of their surrounding Cedar-Riverside community. Thirty-seven percent of Cedar-Riverside residents were born outside the United States, and a little more than
50 percent speak a language other than English.
“It’s surprising, but also not surprising, that the residents still
don’t really know who we are as an organization,” said Keri Clifton, Mixed Blood’s chief engagement officer. “We’ve been operating in the neighborhood for more than 40 years. Residents are still
unsure of who we are and what we do. As the theatre has moved
away from trying to engage them through our mainstage productions only, the relationship with residents has started to change. To
be effective, we have to be more than just a theatre.”
To that end, Mixed Blood’s community organizer, Sisco Omar,
convenes a neighborhood advisory council, and the theatre regularly opens its space for community movie or conversation nights.
They’ve also recently received a grant to embark on a project focused
on health and storytelling with community partners. These efforts
happen in parallel to Mixed Blood’s theatrical season, showcasing
how a theatre can be more than a place to present plays and work
with non-theatre organizations to enrich their communities.
PARTNERS ARE KEY, IT SEEMS, IN REACHING OUT TO IMMIgrant and refugee audiences who might be otherwise unfamiliar
with a theatre’s work. Seelig found their project partners invaluable
in working with the students in the ¡Óyeme! program. “We’re arts
educators, not therapists,” she said, honoring the fact that many of
the students may be struggling with issues that Imagination Stage
is not professionally equipped to handle. “That’s where we rely on
our partners really heavily.”
Cleveland Public Theatre has long-standing partnerships with
several organizations throughout the city. An invaluable partner in
their work with immigrants and refugees has been Global Cleveland, an organization “founded on this idea that immigrants and
migrants can have a positive and beneficial impact on our economy,”
Bobgan explained. “And, actually, for Cleveland to be successful and
continue the incredible comeback it’s in, we need immigrants. We
need new stories. We want new cultures. We need their expertise,
their skills, and their passion.”
Besides assisting in organizing post-show panels for American
skills do you have? Are you interested in learning some of my skills?’”
Dreams, Global Cleveland has connected the theatre with students
Those kinds of conversations need to happen over and over
at the Thomas Jefferson International Newcomers Academy, who
and well in advance of creating programming or a production
represent at least eight different countries. CPT has also created
meant to engage immigrant and refugee audiences. Many of the
a Latinx theatre ensemble,
artists and staff who do this
Teatro Publico de Clevework recommended being
Alina Collins Maldonado, Javier del Pilar, and
land, and is in the planning
clear about expectations with
Samy el-Noury in Óyeme the Beautiful.
and development stages of an
all involved parties. “If you
ensemble for an Arabic-lanwant to work with a refuguage theatre. Teatro Publigee community, you have to
co’s productions have feahave the intention from the
tured members of the combeginning that you hope this
munity, many of whom had
will be a long-term relationnever been onstage before or
ship,” Bobgan said. “If not,
who hadn’t acted in a long
you have to make that clear
time. With this ensemble,
from the beginning. That’s
CPT is providing an opporokay, as long as you’re clear
tunity for immigrants and
about that.”
Spanish speakers to celeKhazem stressed the
brate their cultures. In an
importance of not making
early Teatro Publico proassumptions. “If I’m workduction, a character sang a
ing with a community I
song in Spanish about Puerto
don’t know, I shouldn’t go
Rico, Bobgan recalled. Many
in like, ‘I know everything
of the audience members
about you,’” she said. “I have
stood and joined in.
more to learn than the peoAs with any programple I’m working with. It’s
ming, there are potential hazimportant that I offer what
ards with theatres seeking to
I know, but I’m always open
engage immigrant and refuto learning new things and
gee populations in their comhaving my own assumptions
munities. Khazem admits
there’s the risk in any work
Galvez, the volunteer
with immigrant or refugee
working with CPT, has been
Theo Langason, Nora Montanez, Mohammed Yabdri, and
communities that the particivery impressed with the work
Taous Claire Khazem in Sunrise at Midnight.
pants or the work they create
the theatre has done reachmight be flattened, reduced,
ing out to the diverse comor fall into the realm of stereotype. She always works to subvert or
munities of Cleveland. “You work to sustain yourself and have a job
complicate that. “There’s not one kind of Muslim; there’s not one
and a home, but you also need to cultivate another level that is so
kind of immigrant from the African continent,” she stressed. “We’re
important for human beings,” she said. “To be able to have a little
all complicated people with complicated stories and histories.”
bit of music in your life, have a little bit of art in your life, have a
Mixed Blood’s Clifton expressed a practical concern: Some staff
little appreciation of beauty and artistic expression—CPT is allowturnover at the theatre over the past two years has interrupted the
ing more people to have that expression.”
formation of long-term relationships with neighborhood residents.
These and other theatres across the country are finding new
“Right now, the most important thing for us to work on is building
ways to open their doors, engage with their neighborhoods, and
trust and consistency with the work that we’re doing,” Clifton said.
make theatre more accessible—and audiences are responding. It’s
“We want to build out our programming and our work so that no
no longer enough (if it ever really was) for a theatre to mail out a
matter what happens with us as an organization we will be able to
season brochure and wait for tickets to sell. As Clifton said, theatres
maintain trust and consistency for the residents and organizations
must be more than theatres if they really want to engage everyone
that we work alongside.”
in their community. This is natural. The theatre has always been a
Bobgan, too, highlighted the importance of relationships that
meeting place to exchange ideas, encounter new worlds, ask compliare give-and-take. These efforts aren’t about going into a commucated questions, and, above all, experience art. And while our nation’s
nity and only asking what they want, or only inviting them to one
leadership may seem dead set on showing its less inviting side to
production. “You have to approach it like you’re approaching any
the world, the theatre can still be a place where all are welcome.
relationship with somebody you may or may not have familiarity
Theresa J. Beckhusen is a writer and editor based
with,” he said. “I think that is the best way to approach work with
in the Twin Cities.
refugees is saying from the beginning, ‘I have a bunch of skills. What
“refugees,” a clearly defined legal status that would give them certain
rights. For byzantine reasons that Sherman doesn’t fully understand,
Malaysia is not a signatory of the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees,
which leaves much of the country’s refugee population extremely
vulnerable to exploitation. The bottom line is that without official
“refugee” designation, migrants are not allowed to work, and if
they’re caught they can be held in detention centers, deported at
their own expense, or simply dropped at the border.
Sherman and her team quickly found a niche for themselves
working alongside Asylum Access Malaysia, a legal-aid organization
that helps refugees navigate some of the complex legal processes
they may encounter. They saw that Asylum Access, though well
intentioned, was disseminating information in PowerPoint presentations
to refugees who spoke a host of languages, some of whom (most
notably the Rohingya) couldn’t read or write at all.
“We came along and said, we can create sketches without
language that will speak to everyone and illustrate what you’re
Israel, Palestine, Brazil, Kosovo, and Myanmar (formerly Burma).
The theatre’s work is now centered in a squatters’ village on the
fringes of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, a refugee hub with hundreds
of thousands fleeing from Somalia, Pakistan, Yemen, Afghanistan,
Sudan, Iran, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar.
Indeed, it was the plight of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims
that brought Bond Street to Myanmar nine years ago, and it’s that
people’s mass exodus from the country that has led to the theatre’s
most recent Malaysian project. Joanna Sherman, Bond Street’s
artistic director, said she has rarely seen people as downtrodden as
the Rohingya, who were already impoverished, uneducated legal
non-persons in Myanmar even before the recent ethnic cleansing
began. They endured unspeakably perilous journeys to the refugee
site: trekking through forests at night, crossing rivers in small boats,
and hiding in the backs of pickup trucks, all thanks to the “largesse”
of unscrupulous traffickers who could (and frequently did) commit
virtually any atrocity at any point, e.g., unceremoniously dropping
them off in the middle of nowhere and/or selling the women into
To make matters worse, once they arrive at Kuala Lumpur,
like many other asylum seekers there they are not recognized as
saying—what to do, for example, if the police stop you—and we can
make the skits funny,” she said. “The women from Somalia loved
it. For the first time they understood what it was all about, and they
hugged us. Same with the Rohingya. In fact, the Rohingya women
enjoyed it so much, they wanted to learn theatre; they wanted us to
teach them how to do theatre.”
With the help of translators, Bond Street—three full-time staffers
and eight trainers—encouraged the women to create short problemsolution scenes based on issues of special concern to them. Many,
for example, worried about what to do when police harass them for
bribes. But the women’s enthusiasm could not compensate for their
lack of theatre savvy. They had never performed before; indeed, they
had never even been to a theatre. Teaching them the basics—from
facing the audience to vocal projection to body language—was the
first order of business, Sherman recalled.
The local Masakini Theatre Company got into the act, opening up
its studio to the women to aid in the training. Ultimately the women,
whose talents blossomed, performed their self-created scenes in a
festival dealing with violence against women. They also presented
their work in community centers that included talkbacks following a
performance, where audience members (also refugees) offered their
migrants, and exiles—however those terms are defined—seems to
be springing up more these days, in the midst of a metastasizing
global refugee crisis. But it’s nothing new: Theatres and artists
have been grappling with these issues for decades, even millennia
(think of Aeschylus’s The Suppliant Women, for one).
There are new wrinkles in this broadly defined genre, though.
As artists travel to global hot spots and set up shop, usually with
the help of local social-service agencies and homegrown theatres
that function as partners, the agitprop street theatre and public
spectacle that predominated in the 1970s has largely given way to
lower-key forms of drama, often incorporating local actors and nonprofessionals, designed to disseminate information and serve as a
vehicle for psychological healing.
Consider the New York City-based Bond Street Theatre, a
major player on the scene for more than 40 years, advocating for
social justice and peaceful coexistence in such conflict zones as
feedback on the problems and solutions that were dramatized. The
team learned about community concerns and were able to contact
those who could help. Equally important, the women felt they had
a voice—something of value to say that someone else wants to hear.
Theatre plays yet another role. “What a lot of people don’t
understand is how prevalent boredom is in refugee centers,” said
Sherman. “Refugees are depressed, lethargic, and see no reason to
get up in the morning. Creating theatre has changed that for them.
It’s healing.”
Kelo Sam’s Hope North, a boarding school in Uganda, which serves a
refugee population of former child soldiers, orphans, and other young
survivors of Uganda’s brutal civil war. At its height, the conflict saw
thousands of child soldiers abducted and brainwashed by the Lord’s
Resistance Army (LRA) into committing blood-curdling atrocities
against everyone, including their own families. Even those who aren’t
can help open the door for dispossessed youngsters to be reunified
and reconciled with their villages and families, Sam explained. If
nothing else, the idea that these children are victims too is introduced.
Finally, these communal performances also become planned
opportunities—destination points—for medical personnel to come
and serve the needs of both performers and audiences.
Sam, whose work has received the support of such notables as
Susan Sarandon and Mary Louise Parker, also credits Silent Voices
Uganda and Forest Whitaker’s Peace & Development Initiative in
Uganda as important organizations employing theatre as a healing tool.
and political theatre was an acclaimed adaptation of The Trojan
Women, starring an all-female cast of Syrian refugees recounting
their stories of loss and flight during a five-year war that has left
more than 500,000 people dead and millions homeless, creating the
biggest refugee crisis since World War II.
What roles
can theatre
in the global
refugee crisis?
and diversion
literally orphans might as well be: Their families and communities
view them as traitors and want nothing to do with them.
Okello Kelo Sam, theatre artist and former child soldier,
managed to escape and founded Hope North in 1998 as an accredited
secondary school and college prep to provide an education and
future for youngsters like himself, devastated in the wake of LRA’s
destruction. Hundreds of former Hope North students are now
working toward their degrees and planning their careers.
Where does theatre come in? Sam said he uses it in his educational
program as a therapeutic tool, offering victims—ideally transformed
into survivors—the opportunity to express their feelings through
“In that way, they are able to deal with those life-threatening
situations that challenged them,” Sam said. “These reenactments
give the kids a chance to explore and discuss what happened to
them, make them realize that if they committed atrocities on the
one hand or were raped on the other, it was not their fault.” He adds
that there are virtually no trained psychotherapists in Uganda and
that he himself was healed through such role-playing.
These mini-dramas may serve yet another purpose when
performed in the communities from which these kids came: They
The Rohingya Women’s
Theatre performs a scene
about worker abuse for
Rohingya refugees,
part of Know Your Options.
This page: A workshop of
Living Altar at LaGuardia
Performing Arts Center
featuring the New
York-based collective
Syrian director Omar Abusaada launched the project in 2013
as a series of workshops that brought together 60 Syrian women
based in Jordan. As they discussed and improvised scenes about their
experiences, they chose characters in the play with whom they most
identified, and Abusaada fashioned a work that meshed the original
text with the stories of the refugees.
Even as many of the actors faced criticism from their families—
performing is not viewed as properly modest—the creative process
gave most of them a renewed sense of place and purpose. Several
women wanted to speak out openly against the Assad government,
while others were fearful of the repercussions and preferred a more
veiled interpretation.
Later, with the backing of the U.K.’s Developing Artists, a
charity that supports the arts in countries in conflict, and Refuge
Productions, the show toured to the U.K. in 2016, and later to other
parts of Europe; they also screened a documentary about the project
at Columbia and Georgetown universities, followed by Q&As held
via live video feed.
Though none of the women has since turned professional, a
number of them have appeared in other theatrical workshops, and
Abusaada said he wouldn’t be surprised if one or two decides to try
Top: The Exile Ensemble in Winterreise.
Below: Tahera Hashemi in
the Exile staging of Heiner Müller’s
their hands on the stage in the future. And he believes
they’ve all changed, not least in their comfort level
with their bodies.
“They were scared of the theatre because it’s about
showing yourself onstage,” he said. “In the end, they
enjoyed it.”
Western Europe, some of its theatres have risen to
the occasion, from doing outreach at refugee sites
to incorporating the refugees’ narrative into their
repertoire. In Germany, an open-door policy has led
to an especially large influx of refugees and migrants—
most notably Turks, Kurds, and Syrians—and a number
of theatres in Germany are attempting to grapple with
this complicated new reality, which has led to unrest
both among immigrant communities and among a newly reenergized
Berlin-based Israeli director, Yael Ronen, to helm—indeed, to
nationalist right.
forge—The Situation, a play about the conflicts among the mixed
At the forefront has been the Maxim Gorki Theater in Berlin,
racial and ethnic groups in Ronen’s own Berlin neighborhood. “How
headed by Shermin Langhoff, who emigrated from Turkey as a child
often do you see an Israeli director working with Palestinians and
and said, “I became a Muslim because everyone said I was a Muslim.”
Syrians?” Langhoff asked rhetorically.
Among Langhoff’s initiatives: making sure that close to 50
Ronen’s play, based on improvisation, depicts what happens
percent of the theatre’s core actors reflect ethnic, racial, and religious
when foreigners of all stripes converge in a German language class.
diversity. She recasts and readapts the classics, with Othello played
At once comic and serious, The Situation did well, and Langhoff was
by a Turk and a German-Turkish actor playing Lopakhin in The
more convinced than ever that the theatre needed to do much more
Cherry Orchard. She has also reshaped the repertoire, adding English
on behalf of foreign-born actors, audiences, and especially native
supertitles (for foreign-language plays) and bringing on board a
German audiences who needed to be introduced to the new normal.
In response to a casting notice for foreign-born actors, four
additional “refugee” actors joined the fold, and Langhoff pulled
together a new company, dubbed the Exile Ensemble. Under
Ronen’s direction, the creative team and cast traveled to 10 cities
throughout Germany and met with historians, cultural pundits,
and local theatre artists. Again, through improvisation, this time
based on what the actors had heard, seen and felt, on their tour,
they created Winterreise, which became a critically acclaimed piece
in the same cities the troupe had visited. The company offered
post-performance Q&As, as well as workshops that were especially
successful in schools, Langhoff said.
While some migrant populations were in the audience, Langhoff
stressed that her approach is not targeted in this way. “My approach
is not to bring in migrants, but rather to create a compassionate
program that evokes curiosity,” she said. “The program makes for
the audience.”
Ayham Majid Agha, a Syrian-born actor-director who now heads
the Exile Ensemble, agreed that good theatre has to be the goal.
He doesn’t want to be categorized as a migrant, exile, immigrant,
or refugee, and he doesn’t much care for “political” theatre, as he
feels it frequently reduces Syrians (or Turks or Afghans) to binary
stereotypes that simply confirm the public’s preconceptions: that
migrants are either terrorists or impoverished, uneducated lost souls.
In fact, he said, most are educated and have jobs. Portraying a fuller
picture relies on the full input of those being depicted.
“Often theatre artists ask you about your life and then write a
text without you, and it has nothing to do with your life,” he said.
“They don’t believe you’re an artist or know anything about theatre.
They ask if Syria has theatres; then they ask if you’ve ever been in
jail and whether you arrived in Germany on a plane or boat. Then
they ask, ‘What can we do for Syrian refugees?’ I’d much prefer we
talked about artists and art.”
Christopher Hibma, producing director of the Sundance
Institute Theatre Program, which has a special interest in artists
in and from the Middle East and North Africa, agreed that many
exiles don’t want to talk about genocide, or indeed politics at all—
that in fact these subjects are imposed on them by well-meaning
but patronizing Western theatre folk. “I’ve heard exiles say they
are whoring themselves, dramatizing stories they don’t want to tell,
in order to get funding and be seen onstage at all,” noted Hibma.
Said Michael Balfour, professor of applied theatre at Griffith
University, in Australia, “Theatre companies need to be wary of the
humanitarian complex, in which short-term feel-good workshops
are claimed as changing lives. It’s very important that the evangelical
zeal is questioned. The rush to make an intervention is strong, but
genuine, authentic projects are the result of long-term, consistent
work that truly investigates, listens, and responds to the needs of
participants. I also think the more interesting refugee performance
projects draw on specific traditional forms of theatre as well as
exploring hybrid modes.”
about the way theatre by, for, and about refugees is evolving in
Europe and the States.
Syria: The Trojan Women, featuring a cast of female Syrian refugees, directed by Omar Abusaada.
Devika Ranjan, a graduate student at the University of Cambridge
whose area of expertise is the ethnographic and oral stories of refugees
and migrants, anticipates that theatres will become increasingly
receptive to presenting the works of non-professionals who want to
tell their stories in their own way. Ranjan, who will receive a second
graduate degree in devised theatre, is part of the first cohort of fellows
from Georgetown’s Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics.
The League of Professional Theatre Women, a nonprofit
advocacy organization of women in U.S. theatre, is now inviting
distaff refugees from around the world to share their personal
writings or videos for inclusion in their 2018 presentation Writings
of Women Refugees. Under the title “My Life as a Refugee,” these
testimonies will be incorporated into a performance presentation
that will take place in New York on World Refugee Day, June 20.
And then there’s Simon Adinia Hanukai, educator, theatremaker,
who’s in the process of creating three projects for and with refugees.
Now based in Paris, Hanukai—who arrived in the States with his
family as a youngster from Azerbaijan—said he was almost instinctually
drawn to socially engaged, experimental theatre that addressed the
concerns of marginalized people.
In collaboration with the U.K.’s Good Chance Theatre, which
has set up shop in a holding center in Paris, the creative team will
erect a tent on the site to serve as a performance space for refugee
residents from Syria, Afghanistan, North Africa, and the Middle
East, 90 percent of them single men. The space will be used for play
and storytelling. “Without stories you are not human, and without
a place to tell them you don’t have a home,” he said.
His second project, Spaces, is a storyteller’s theatre exploring the
concept of “home” for natives and newcomers. In Paris, for example,
non-professional actors will talk about what it means to be a Parisian
by blood or a Parisian with roots in Libya. The highly ritualized
piece, bookended by and interspersed with dance pieces and other
multimedia elements, will employ dancers as guides leading 10- to
12-member audiences through a space to hear a series of brief stories,
at least half of which represent narratives voiced by non-natives.
“I will function as a director, working with each performer,”
Hanukai explained. “The moment I see them getting too polished
I will stop it. We’re supposed to be connecting to the real person.
Whatever audiences know about refugees is what they’ve seen
on television, never face to face. They’ve never interacted with a
refugee before.”
Hanukai’s third project, Living Altar, which in May will be
workshopped at LaGuardia Performing Arts Center in Queens, will
present a series of pieces—a story of recollection, a dance, a musical
composition, or all of the above—that express local artists’ responses
to someone who was killed in global conflict. Clearly refugees will
head the list, and artists will be free to focus their work as they see
fit. Some may create a Living Altar as an homage to a person they
knew, while others may honor a stranger whose life or experience
resonates with the artist. The creative team will work closely with each
artist or collective to support and guide them through the process.
Housed in a storefront, not unlike a gallery, Living Altar will
feature performances, running on a 12-hour loop, in various parts
of the space, through which audiences can wander and witness as
they wish. There will also be taped performances from various spots
around the globe, leading one to speculate about the possibilities for
virtual interactivity among artists in far-flung locations.
All the world a stage? Maybe. As the Exile Ensemble’s Ayham
Majid Agha put it, “My dream is to see a new theatre, a united
continent of theatre—no refugees, no asylums, no borders.”
Simi Horwitz is an award-winning journalist based in
New York City who writes for Film Journal International
and Forward, among other publications.
Offering 5- and 2-week summer sessions, the Summer
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DUE MAY 18, 2018
DUE MAY 14, 2018
Jenny Jules in Mfoniso Udofia’s Her Portmanteau at New York Theatre Workshop in 2017.
Sofía Raquel Sánchez and Ray Gonzalez in Octavio Solis’s Lydia at Strawberry Theatre Workshop in Seattle in 2017.
second-generation American, whether or not you grew
up in a household where a language other than English
was spoken, or your family routinely observed the customs of a foreign culture: If you are the child of immigrants, you are the guardian of a narrative that is not your own. As
the daughter of a mother from Russia, I am fully aware what a burden and gift this legacy can be, whether one consciously rejects or
unconsciously accepts it.
Many playwrights accept it, and find in their parent’s journey from one culture to another, from dislocation to assimilation (or some other ambiguous, transitional state), rich veins of
inquiry and drama.
Given how central immigration has been to the development
of the American psyche and society, how necessary and fundamental to our continuing renewal and dynamism, there is an enormous
wellspring of meaningful stage literature that flows from the immigrant experience. But it is one thing for someone to relate his or her
migration odyssey in the first person. It is another for their American offspring to absorb the journey through family memories, or
by osmosis, and interpret it in a different voice and time.
When I began thinking about this in relation to theatre, I
started realizing how many important American dramatists have
grown up with foreign-born parents. George M. Cohan, Eugene
O’Neill, Paddy Chayefsky, Edna Ferber, and Clifford Odets were
among the array of major 20th-century dramatists born of European immigrants, as were Arthur Miller and David Mamet.
As U.S. immigration patterns and policies changed, waves of
newcomers from Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America
have settled on these shores and also have produced a bounty of gifted
dramatists. Such Latinx scribes as Luis Valdez, Octavio Solis, and
Migdalia Cruz, and Asian-American writers such as Wakako Yamauchi, David Henry Hwang, Naomi Iizuka, Ping Chong, and Lloyd
Suh were raised in immigrant households. So were Danai Gurira,
Jocelyn Bioh, Mfoniso Udofia, and Ngozi Anyanwu, whose immediate families hailed from African nations. Mona Monsour and Saïd
Sayrafiezadeh are among the noteworthy American playwrights of
Middle Eastern parentage.
What impact has this had on our modern dramaturgy? It’s not
easily quantifiable. Clearly, not every writer takes as a subject the
lives of their parents and the influence of a distant “homeland” they
may have never seen or felt much affinity for. Yet even a secondhand
account of a family exodus and relocation can strongly shape a writMAY/JUNE18 AMERICANTHEATRE
er’s worldview, and resonate in characters and themes they pursue.
“Being the children of immigrants is about becoming a promise
of the sense of diasporic hope,” playwright Suh, who examines the
Korean-American diaspora in American Hwangap (published in AT,
Dec. ’10), told the Korea Herald newspaper. Suh continued, “Your
parents moved for opportunities and their children are capable of
things that they might not even be able to imagine.”
In the book Inheriting the City, CUNY Graduate Center professor Philip Kasinitz and his co-authors contend, based on a study,
that the progeny of recent immigrants have a unique opportunity to
blend traditional and “Americanized” ways. They are “keeping some
elements and discarding others as they go along…This biculturalism in no way prevents their joining the ‘mainstream,’” the book
concludes. “Indeed, in their cultural, economic, and social activities, the children of immigrants increasingly are the mainstream.”
Demographics verify that. In 2014 the Pew Research Center
projected that “if current migration patterns continue, immigrants
and their children will represent 36 percent of the U.S. population
in 2065, which equals or surpasses the peak levels last seen around
the turn of the 20th century. That share will represent a doubling
since 1965 (18 percent) and a notable rise from today’s 26 percent.”
At the same time, alas, we’re also witnessing one of America’s
periodic surges of anti-immigrant sentiment, compounded by racism
and other bigotry. Which is one of the reasons why this subgenre of
American drama can be especially valuable to consider. Plays by the
children of immigrants can make vivid many of the collective experiences of newcomers intrinsic to our country’s past, present, and
future. In comparing older and more recent examples of this literature, common themes emerge—as well as some telling differences.
(AT, Feb. ’17), a narrator—a surrogate for the author—spins his own
exuberantly theatrical account of the romance and marriage of his
Vietnamese mother and father, who separately fled their war-torn
homeland in 1975, during the fall of Saigon, then met in a desolate
U.S. refugee camp. In Nguyen’s hands it plays like a quirky, lusty
romantic comedy, bristling with humor and the bravado of survival.
But there’s sorrow and loss lapping at its edges—agonized memories
of loved ones left behind. By fleshing the tale out with American pop
music and contemporary sight gags, Nguyen shares the foundational
story of one American family, as well as a piece of Vietnamese-American history, filtered through the sensibilities of two generations.
Even when some kind of a safe haven in the U.S. is realized, as
it was for this playwright’s parents, and for my mother after fleeing
Kron, as narrator of the monologue. “We don’t know how to feel.
a pogrom in her Jewish village, for many immigrants relocation can
Tomorrow we’ll be at the place where his parents’ bodies lie. No,
feel more like dislocation, checkered with grief and regret. And as
they were burned. Will we step on their ashes? Will we see a wooden
these emotions are passed down to the next generation, they can
pallet where they slept? Will we kick a stone they also kicked? Will
make the children of immigrants feel torn between the demands of
they be hovering above the place, watching us? Are they waiting
one culture and the ghosts and expectations of another.
for their boy? Have they waited all this time for their little boy to
Some plays, like Josefina Lopez’s Trio Las Machos, attempt to
come and say goodbye to them?”
conjure and comprehend an aloof parent through an earlier genAnother solo piece, another genocide: Cambodian-Amerieration’s migration story. Lopez considers
three Mexican men who journey to rural
California to labor in the agricultural fields
during World War II. They are participants
in the Bracero Program, instituted in 1942
by the Mexican and American governments.
Before its termination in 1964, the controversial program allowed millions of Mexicans into the U.S. as guest workers, mainly
in farm operations. If offered both an economic opportunity and a dehumanizing
slog, as workers could be callously exploited
despite a guarantee of decent living conditions and a minimum wage.
Lopez depicts her title characters forming a musical group, whose songs of love
are threaded through the piece and soothe
Vichet Chum in his solo show Knyum at Merrimack Repertory Theatre earlier this season.
their difficult lives. The playwright told the
Annenberg Media Center’s Neon Tommy
news site that her own Mexican-bred father’s challenges inspired
can theatre artist Vichet Chum’s Knyum traces his own connection
her. “He shared with me what [his earlier life] was like, and when
back to his family’s experience vis-à-vis the killing of more than 1.5
I saw photos I was so sad to see how they were treated like animillion Cambodians during Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime in the
mals,” Lopez recalled. “It was so easy to write this play, because I
late 1970s. It wiped out much of a generation, yet his elders came
felt like I understood my father’s pain. I grew up seeing him very
to America and created a very different existence for their son.
quiet, cold, and distant, and as I got older I realized he was cover“Knyum has allowed me to interrogate my family’s history in a
ing up a lot of pain.”
way that I may have taken for granted to begin with,” Chum noted
Indeed refugee narratives can be deeply painful, involving harin an interview on the website of Massachusetts’s Merrimack Reprowing escapes from tragedy and devastation—escapes accompaertory Theatre, which premiered the piece earlier this year. Speaknied by survivors’ guilt as well as relief. It is often left to the next
ing generally of Asian-American theatre artists, he said, “All of our
generation to articulate what the traumatized immigrant parent is
families have complicated, rich stories that deserve to be told. As a
unwilling or unable to express: images of war, natural catastrophe,
writer and a performer, I’ve always known that I’ve been endowed
religious persecution, genocide.
with a responsibility to share my family’s stories.”
In an essay titled “The Aftermath of War: Second Generation
Performance Art,” Queensborough Community College profesrife with drama, with the psychic toll portrayed by such watershed
sor Susan Jacobowitz observes that solo theatre pieces in particu20th-century playwrights Eugene O’Neill. He famously described
lar can be vehicles that “utilize the unique perspectives of sons and
his searing, searching autobiographical opus, Long Day’s Journey Into
daughters of survivors, born both from and close to an experience
Night, as “written in tears and blood,” while he fearlessly dissected
of war.” She goes on to quote Susan Sontag’s comment about the
the branching trauma in his own family. One branch led directly
moral centrality of memory: “Remembering is an ethical act, has
back to Ireland: The character of James Tyrone, modeled closely
ethical value in and of itself.” As Jacobowitz surmises, rememberon the playwright’s immigrant father, the actor James O’Neill, was
ing can also be “a gift made to the living.”
among the more than million Irish who fled to America between
Lisa Kron’s haunting, seriocomic 2.5 Minute Ride is one such
1845 and 1855 to escape a brutal potato famine that decimated about
solo piece, retracing her father’s German-Jewish roots and the
a quarter of the Emerald Isle’s population.
Holocaust’s effect on her own childhood. Kron chronicles a deeply
By the 1870s, through talent and perseverance, the elder
disturbing but ultimately cathartic pilgrimage she made with her
O’Neill became one of the nation’s most celebrated stage actors, a
elderly father to Eastern Europe. They visit the Nazi concentration
rags-to-riches success. But Long Day’s Journey presents the trauma
camp in Poland, Auschwitz (now a museum), where, after sending
of his blighted Irish childhood as a kind of lingering curse afflicting
Kron’s father to safety, her paternal grandparents were murdered.
Tyrone, his wife, and children through his alcoholism, cruel miser“Dad and I, we’ve been waiting for this our whole lives,” says
liness, and a relentless fear of destitution that led O’Neill to squander his artistry on a single play, The Count of Monte Cristo, in which
he profitably starred and toured for decades.
At one point Tyrone’s morphine-addicted wife Mary poignantly
asks her son Edmund (a surrogate for the playwright) not to be too
hard on his “close-fisted” father. “You must try to understand and
forgive him, too, and not feel contempt,” she implores. “His father
deserted their mother and their six children a year or so after they
Chinaza Uche and Chinasa Ogbuagu in Udofia’s Sojourners at NYTW in 2017.
came to America….Your father had to go work in a machine shop
when he was only 10 years old.”
In the compellingly poetic Octavio Solis play Lydia, every
member of a working-class Mexican-American family suffers from
the scourge of dysfunction and the disappointment of unfulfilled
promises, economic as well as spiritual and emotional. Like the playwright’s own parents, the title character is an undocumented immigrant who has journeyed across the border from Mexico to El Paso,
Texas. Lydia goes to work as a maid for a troubled Chicano family,
but her true function is as a healer. She’s able to translate suffering
into desire, shifting the energies of the clan’s morose father, a confused teenage son, and a “vegetable” daughter who has been unable
to communicate until Lydia’s arrival. Ultimately, though, this angel
of mercy cannot bind everyone’s gaping wounds. And Lydia is ultimately discounted and ejected by the U.S. immigration system,
which sends her back to Mexico and a life of desperation.
In an NPR interview, Solis explained that national borders—in
this case the one between his native El Paso and the city of Juarez,
Mexico—are a vital metaphor for him, a metaphysical as well as geographical boundary. “That’s so much a part of my fabric now, the
way I see things,” he said. “There’s always a threshold one crosses,
between dark and light, life and death, between one country and
another, between one consciousness and another.”
Whether a parent arrived in this country poverty-stricken, persecuted, and emotionally damaged, or relatively healthy and privileged, the psychological cost of assimilation and intergenerational
clashes over cultural and religious identity are themes dramatists
with immigrant roots have turned to again and again.
Back in the 1930s, Clifford Odets captured the frictions between
European Jews like his Russian and Romanian parents and their resMAY/JUNE18 AMERICANTHEATRE
tive children, and the guilt, shame, and self-hatred such conflict can
stoke. His ambitious, controlling father Louis Odets (born Gorodetsky) pursued and largely achieved the American dream of material success. But after the stock market crash of 1929, and during
the grinding and demoralizing Great Depression that followed,
his radicalized son questioned the intrinsic value of upward immigrant mobility in such plays of militant disillusionment as Paradise
Lost and Awake and Sing!.
In one of his notebooks, Odets mused,
“The American and dehumanizing myth of
the steadily expanding economy…Where
does America stop? When does it begin to
make homes and sink nourishing roots?”
From another, nearer perspective, Ayad
Akhtar, the American-born son of Pakistani
physicians, has pondered religious and identity conflicts within immigrant families in
several recent plays. The Who & the What,
for instance, portrays a woman whose successful immigrant father from Pakistan, a
devout Muslim widower, encourages her
literary education and a book project she’s
working on. But when he discovers that
she’s written a revisionist feminist view of
the prophet Muhammad, which he considers blasphemous and dangerous, his close
bond with his daughter ruptures.
And in an ambitious multi-play project she calls “The Ufot
Cycle,” Nigerian-American dramatist Mfoniso Udofia spotlights
characters whose journey recalls her own family’s passage from West
Africa to the U.S. Her parents were not exiles or refugees, as Udofia told The New York Times, but like “quite a few of the Nigerians
that I know,” came to the U.S. “to explicitly study and leave. And
quite a few decided to stay.”
In Sojourners and Her Portmanteau (staged last year in tandem
at New York Theatre Workshop), Udofia depicts at various junctures the lives of a Nigerian woman, Abasiama Ufot, her husband,
Disciple, and their children, striving to evoke a panoramic “immigration creation story.” It too is teeming with culture clashes, ambitions realized and deflected, and quandaries over which elements of
two cultures to keep or shrug off in the mercurial purge-and-merge
process of becoming American.
Clearly there are countless other stories to tell in this vein,
plays that convey the unfolding story of a nation composed mainly
of immigrants from every corner of the planet. While political demagogues rant about erecting border walls, and naturalization laws
and enforcement tighten or loosen according to the prevailing political winds, nothing can change the reality of our diverse history and
manifold present, as painful and complicated as it often has been.
In our stories of exile and rebirth, division and inclusion, loss and
reinvention, there is more than enough material for another generation of playwrights to mine, in plays that will remind us—as the
most insightful, humane plays can—of who we really are and who
we are becoming.
Seattle-based critic and author Misha Berson writes
frequently for this magazine.
David Henry
and Forward
SK ANY ASIAN-AMERICAN WHAT THEIR FAVORite problematic musical is and they are likely to name one
of these three: The King and I, Miss Saigon, or Flower Drum
Song. For me—and I feel some shame admitting it—it’s
The King and I. I swooned when I saw the recent revival at
Lincoln Center, directed by Bartlett Sher, featuring Kelli
O’Hara’s soaring soprano and Ken Watanabe’s sexiness. As
soon as the boat carrying Anna Leonowens sailed onstage
(literally), I was hooked despite myself.
So was playwright and diversity advocate David Henry
“That boat is fantastic!” he exclaimed over dinner
one evening at Hakkasan in Hell’s Kitchen. “I always loved
King and I, and then seeing Bart’s production—and realizing how terrible the show is—still by the end, I’m like, ‘Oh,
he’s dying, and she loves him!’ It’s a very complicated feeling
that you get when you see things that you know are offensive but they’re so well-done.”
That’s the feeling that inspired Hwang’s newest show
Soft Power, co-created with composer Jeanine Tesori, and
playing May 3-June 10 at Center Theatre Group in Los
Angeles (in association with East West Players). “It’s a play
that becomes a musical,” explained Hwang. It takes place
now and in the future, and is partly about China using musical theatre to promote its dominance on the world’s political stage. And borrowing a trope from his 2007 play Yellow Face, “There’s a DHH character who is trying to get
his script approved by a Chinese film executive to shoot in
China.” Hillary Clinton is also a character, though when
we spoke, Hwang admitted he was still trying to figure out
how to break the news to the former presidential candidate.
Director Leigh Silverman, who has collaborated with
Hwang on six projects, compares Soft Power’s relationship
to genre to that of the film Get Out, in the sense that “it’s a
horror movie but it’s also making fun of horror movies, and
it also has this searing political commentary at the center of
it.” Likewise Soft Power is “both skewering and honoring”
musical theatre and its historical role, along with most of
American entertainment, in promoting white supremacy.
Though he’s 60 now, it’s clear that Hwang has lost none
of his bite. And he continues to keep himself busy: He’s chair
of the board of the American Theatre Wing and he’s working on a number of operas (including An American Soldier,
playing at Opera Theatre of St. Louis in June). Last fall he
did a major rewrite of his touchstone play M. Butterfly for
a splashy but unevenly received Broadway revival, all the
while preparing Soft Power, a work so big and ambitious “it’s
terrifying,” as Silverman put it.
So it’s been a season of looking to the past and to the
future for Hwang. While I’ve spoken to Hwang over the
years as a source for many stories, I’d never spoken to him
at length about his life and his career. And as someone who,
like many Asian-Americans of the generations that came
after him, held up Hwang as an example when my parents
asked me why I wanted to be a writer, I decided it was time
for a real conversation.
We spoke days after the announcement that the revival
of M. Butterfly—the one that catapulted him into theatre
history as the first ever (and so far the only) Asian-American
playwright to win a Tony Award—would close early. Hwang
took the news with grace, as if he knew he had already proven
himself and didn’t need further validation.
This season,
America’s leading
Asian-American playwright
revisited his most
famous play and wrote
a new musical
to be so important that we were all going
to have to think about China? So I feel like
I lucked out in some ways.
You were christened very early on
as the preeminent Asian-American
playwright. Have you ever felt like you
had to conform to certain expectations
because you were that writer?
Jin Ha, left, and the cast of M. Butterfly on Broadway in 2017.
“Sure, it would have been nice if [New
York Times theatre critic Ben] Brantley had
liked M. Butterfly, and it would be nice if
we didn’t have to close early,” he remarked
with a shrug. “But ultimately I’m not dependent on that to continue working.” Indeed,
he said, “I think it’s kind of cool I can go for
21 years without a good review in The New
York Times and I can still have a career.” We
spoke about that career, about his new play,
and about whether or not revising M. Butterfly was a good idea.
tion that I took—except for the presidential election. But by and large, in the cultural
community, it has continued to move toward
issues of inclusion and all those things that
I believed in early in my career when they
were less widely accepted. And who could
have guessed, when I started talking about
China 40 years ago, that China was going
Yeah, I feel like when I first started wanted
to write plays, I was like most Asian Americans of my generation—I didn’t think much
about being Asian. I knew I was Chinese but
I really didn’t identify with it. So I didn’t
think that I was going to end up writing
about some of this stuff.
I was home for the summer between my
junior and senior year in college, and I saw
an ad about studying playwriting with Sam
Shepard. And it was the first year of what
was going to become a prominent theatrical event in Southern California [the Padua
Hills Playwrights Festival in California], but
this was the first year they decided to do it,
and only two people applied. I was one of
them, so I got in. At Padua, Sam and [María]
How can you survive as a playwright
without any rave reviews from the Times?
I don’t know. I guess the way that I see it is,
you can’t game this thing. You can’t make
something and try to do it so it’ll get good
reviews or be commercially successful. If there
is a way to do it, I don’t know how to do it.
What that means is I have to make
sure that I have other outlets that allow me
to survive. So I write a lot of things other
than plays, so that protects me when I do the
plays, because I’m not concerned.
Does it also help to have institutional
connections like Center Theatre
But those can go away too. There are a lot
of people who—they may have had connections at various institutions and they
can still call up those people, but they don’t
get produced.
I also feel like I’m lucky that I picked a
subject and had a point of view on the world
or on America or our political situation, and
the culture sort of moved toward the posiMAY/JUNE18 AMERICANTHEATRE
Irene Fornés taught us to write more from
our subconscious—not to be rational, not to
be self-censorious, just to see what happens.
And I found that I was writing about
stuff like immigration and assimilation in the
U.S. So clearly some part of me was incredibly interested in these issues, but my conscious mind hadn’t figured it out yet. I feel
like that changed my life. I often say that the
artist creates the work, but the work recreates the artist, and there’s a reciprocal relationship where I created the thing, which
then changed me. Over the last 30-40 years,
there’s been times where I’m like, I don’t
know if I want to be the Asian playwright.
But most of the times when I go back to my
original work, the most personal stuff, I’m
still mostly interested in the same set of issues.
Which is not unusual for playwrights. So I
think it’s pretty artistically organic. For better or worse, it’s not something that I ever
imposed on myself.
So about Soft Power—did you, like the
character DHH, really try to get a TV
show shot in China?
There’s some truth to that. The first scene
[in Soft Power] is a discussion about content
restrictions and what the Chinese are trying to do. Then DHH goes with the Chinese film executive to the 2016 Hillary Clinton fundraiser. And the executive makes this
deep bond with her, and she says that when
she becomes president, he’s going to be able
to visit her in the White House.
Then it goes 50 years into the future,
and this incident has become the basis of
a beloved East-West musical in China. So
we’re watching a Chinese musical about
a good-hearted film executive who helps
China step in and rescue the world when
America collapses after 2016 (which is sort
of happening).
When I first started writing it, I kind
of assumed that Hillary was going to win,
and it was going to be a little more like The
King and I, where he was going to teach her
how to solve the problem of gun violence
in America. Then after the election, it was
so much better—not for the country, but
for my show. So now it’s about a Chinese
musical that celebrates the rise of China
Tzi Ma and Hoon Lee in Yellow Face at CTG.
over America, and what a bad idea democracy is—it’s an anti-democratic musical. You
can see the Chinese wanting to make something like that.
So if we do it well, it should have that
same complicated emotional feeling at the
end where you’re watching something that’s
basically propaganda. But so much is propaganda; it’s just that when we do it well,
it’s art. So the show becomes, in part, about
“Ruhl’s imagination is among the most adventurous
at play today in the theater.” —Charles Isherwood
After their father dies, five siblings find themselves around
the kitchen table of their childhood, pouring whiskey and
sharing memories. The eldest, Ann, fondly reminisces about
her days playing Peter Pan at the local children’s theater,
and soon the five are transported back to Neverland.
Through Ruhl’s signature style—deep human truths sprinkled
with the magical—For Peter Pan on her 70th birthday is
a fantastical exploration of the enduring bonds of family,
the resistance to “growing up,” and the inevitability of
growing old.
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how empires use culture to reinforce their
Do you read Viet Thanh Nguyen’s work?
He talks a lot about how Hollywood
is the propaganda arm of America,
especially in relation to how movies like
Apocalypse Now and Platoon reinforce
America’s version of the Vietnam War.
Right, and we think, “Apocalypse Now is so
subversive and anti-American.” But we don’t
understand the kind of underlying assumptions of the work, which actually—even
though it is critical of that American policy in a micro-sense—is really reinforcing
the sense of American dominance and white
supremacy and, you know, white people in
the center of the narratives of all that stuff.
China is doing the same thing now,
starting to partner with Hollywood, as
with The Great Wall. So they’re seeing
the value of cultural capital.
I think soft power has been the goal of China
for a good 20 years now. It’s the reason why
I’ve ended up going over as often as I have
in recent years, because there’s a big desire
that they would create a show that would
get on our Broadway. And I happen to be
the only even nominally Chinese person
who’s done a Broadway show. So I’m the
only person who they can ask, “Here, look
at this musical that we have. If you tweak it
a little, it could be a big hit on Broadway.”
They’re just starting to get musicals, so in
terms of their understanding of the form it’s
Cirque du Soleil and maybe The Lion King.
M. Butterfly is about Westerners trying
to dominate the East. So for the recent
revival of the play, did that political
message seem dated to you?
I thought about that. I believed that, despite
the rise of China, A: There’s still an impulse to
dominate China in the West. And B: International relations between the West and China
are still gendered in the sense that, particularly in America, our masculinity is so performative. I still believe that the East is considered feminized. So if the East is powerful,
it’s a different feminine model—I think it’s
a dragon-lady model more than the lotusblossom model. But when Trump or whoever says China is cheating, they can only be
“Crooked Hillary” or “Cheating China”—
women only get ahead when they are devious.
Jin Ha played Song Liling in the
recent production. Can you imagine
a version of M. Butterfly in which
that role is played by someone who is
We auditioned some gender-nonconforming people, because that would have been
an interesting choice, but we obviously
didn’t end up casting any of them. I did try
to learn more and study more, because the
term transgender didn’t exist 30 years ago.
P. Carl at HowlRound was super-helpful;
he really helped me understand that Song
is not a transgender character, and that took
a big load off my shoulders.
Also, after 30 years, Carl helped me
understand a big part of my emotional connection to the play. He said that the reason Song is not transgender is that when
he wants Gallimard to see his true self, he
wants to show Gallimard his dick; if he were
a transgender woman, he would not identify
with that. So we concluded that what Song
wants is to be desired as a man. And I was
like, Oh my God, that’s how I relate to the
play! Because as an Asian male, I want to be
desired as a male. Maybe I should have figured that out 20 years ago.
Even though it closed early, do you
think this revision of M. Butterfly was
successful artistically?
I don’t know if it’s possible to know that for
another three or four years at least. It wasn’t
successful in that it didn’t run. But I think
I’m on the right side of history.
I don’t know. For me that’s what it means
to be an artist. You make the best thing you
can, you invest in your thing, you investigate what you need to investigate, and you
put it out there and then you don’t have any
control over it. And that’s how I feel about
my plays.
Do you prefer the old or the new version?
[pause] I prefer the new version, actually.
But we’ll see. Assuming that people continue to produce the play, we’ll see what version they pick. It’s kind of like Flower Drum
Song—you can do my version or you can do
the old version (I think my version does get
done more).
We’ll just see how this continues to
play out over the next years and decades,
or however long.
Liesl Tommy
Won’t Take
No For
an Answer
How the
makes space for
women of color in
the theatre,
not just herself
her teacher asked her what she wanted to be when she grew
up. Her response: “I want to be an actor on Broadway.”
A typical response, you’d think, except that Tommy
grew up in apartheid-era South Africa, in a colored township in Cape Town. She had never seen a Broadway show,
and didn’t even really knew what Broadway was, apart from a
place described on the George Benson version of “On Broadway,” a record her parents owned. She remembers listening to lyrics about “neon lights” and “glitter” and thinking
that Broadway was “some sort of magical place, like Oz.”
What Tommy lacked in knowledge, she made up for
in conviction—or, as she calls it, “a fucking compulsion.”
That quality has served her well. At the 2016 Tony Awards,
Tommy became the first woman of color to be nominated
for a Tony for best direction of a play for her work in Eclipsed
by Danai Gurira; in a memorable moment during the telecast, she raised a power fist when her name was called. (Ivo
van Hove took home the statue that night.)
Since then Tommy has kept busy and expanded her
horizons. While maintaining her stage career, she’s begun
to work in television: an episode of “Queen Sugar” last year,
and, as we spoke for this story, an episode of “Dietland,” a
new show for AMC. She’s set to direct three more TV episodes this year, and has signed onto three studio film projects,
including directing Born a Crime, the Trevor Noah biopic,
which will also star Eclipsed’s Lupita Nyong’o.
“She’s a workout of a director,” exclaimed Nyong’o.
“She requires you to bring your A game when you work
with her. She’s full of integrity when it comes to her creative expression and also extremely intelligent. She makes
you want to be a better artist and a better person.”
On the theatre front, next February Tommy will direct
If Pretty Hurts Ugly Must Be a Muhfucka by Tori Sampson,
at Playwrights Horizons Off-Broadway. More immediately, though, just days after we had dinner at a neighborhood favorite, the Grove, near her apartment in Manhattan’s Hamilton Heights, she was on a train to Boston to
oversee rehearsals for her revival of Caryl Churchill’s feminist classic Top Girls at the Huntington Theatre Company
(April 20-May 20). For this version, the cast comprises primarily women of color.
“It’s just really fun to have an ensemble of adult women,”
she enthused over a dinner of scallops and brussel sprouts.
“And this is one of the plays where they get to sink their
teeth into some cool themes and language and relationships.” With Churchill’s permission, she is also rearranging some scenes in the play. “I found out that she actually
had a different idea for the order of the scenes when she
first wrote it, and Max Stafford-Clark [who directed the
world premiere] wanted to do it in a certain way for a certain reason, and she always wanted it to be this other way.”
She added, happily, “It’s always nice when you can correct
a long-time wrong.”
How would she describe her production? “Brutal and
intense, and angry and edgy and nuanced.” Those adjecAMERICANTHEATRE MAY/JUNE1 8
work is,” said JC Lee, whose play Relevance
Tommy directed at New York City’s MCC
Theater earlier this year. That play featured
Tony winner Jayne Houdyshell and Eclipsed
actor Pascale Armand going head to head in
a fight between two generations of feminists.
For Tommy, the key is to challenge
audiences intellectually but grab them emotionally. “You want your work to have emotional resonance,” she explained. “I want it
to have a lot of heart, but I also want it to
have extremely sophisticated design. I do
political works, so you have to have both,
because you want to change the hearts and
minds of your audience.”
The cast of Tommy’s production of Top Girls at the Huntington Theatre Company.
tives could also be used to describe Tommy’s
work as a whole. As a director, Tommy does
not shy away from difficult topics, whether
it is a family coming to terms with its white
supremacist past in Appropriate by Branden
Jacobs-Jenkins (which earned her an Obie
Award), or child kidnapping in Kid Victory
by John Kander and Greg Pierce.
Or Liberian sex slaves finding their voices
in Eclipsed, which made history as the first
production on Broadway to be written and
directed by women, with an all-female cast.
“I feel like she tackles really complicated stories, and they are always grounded
in the humanity of the people, no matter
how political or emotional or charged the
map as a director unafraid of political plays
(so much so that “people send me political
plays all the time”), in person she is calm
and a bit playful (she responded to some
texts I sent for this story with Beyoncé gifs).
Pulitzer-winning playwright Lynn Nottage,
whose play Ruined Tommy has directed three
times around the country, described her as a
“community builder” and a “benign direc-
tor. She’s very clear about what she wants
but at the same time, really allows the voices
of others to thrive in the space.”
In talking about her life and career,
Tommy doesn’t so much as tell you who she
is as shows you, painting verbal pictures of
pivotal moments in her memory. One story
stands out among the many she told over
the course of our three-hour conversation.
Tommy’s family immigrated to the
United States when she was 15 years old. As
a teenager growing up in the mostly white
suburb of Newton, Mass., her after-school
job was at a Kentucky Fried Chicken. One
day her father, a lifelong activist, told her to
ask her manager for a raise. Tommy chuckled
as she re-embodied her teenage self, exclaiming, “Dad, there’s no way that that man is
going to give me a raise. That’s crazy.” She
recalled her father’s response: “It doesn’t
matter. What matters is that you go in and
you advocate for yourself. People are dying
back home fighting for their rights. You can
walk in there tomorrow and ask for a raise.”
Tommy did ask for that raise, and didn’t
get it. But the lesson stuck. “The worst thing
Lupita Nyong’o and Zainab Jah in Eclipsed at the Public Theater,
which subsequently transferred to Broadway.
in the world is to be silent when you should
have spoken up,” she said, adding, “That
should go on my gravestone.”
A pivotal moment of advocating for herself came when she told her family that she
wanted to be an actor. The news didn’t just
come as a shock to her practically minded
parents; they effectively disowned her for a
year (though now “they’re my biggest fans,”
she said). Tommy stuck to her convictions,
studying acting at Oxford University, then
getting her master’s at the Brown University/Trinity Rep acting program. It was there
that she honed the aesthetic and work ethic
that would follow her throughout her career.
“Trinity was the right place for me
grants of up to $5,000
each to foster
new relationships
with international
IN the LAB
grants of $10,000
each to further
pre-existing international
US-based theatre
and individual artists
may apply to one of
two initiatives.
SEPTEMBER 10, 2018
For more information, including grantee news, visit
The GLOBAL CONNECTIONS program was designed by TCG and is funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Tommy in rehearsal for Relevance at MCC Theater.
because it’s a very actor-driven, no-nonsense
building that’s about craft,” she said. Another
source of inspiration was American Repertory Theatre, located a mere eight miles
from Newton. “I was profoundly inspired
by the visual scope and the experimentation [of ART]. In a way, I feel like what I
learned was a combination of the pragmatism of Trinity and the intense emotional
truth of Trinity, with the experimentation
and the bold, intellectual design elements
that I saw at ART.”
But while her skills were put to great use
at school (she acted on Trinity Rep’s mainstage), when she graduated and moved to
New York, the realities of the industry became
all too clear. Auditioning was a “very unsatisfying” experience, where “a lot of people
would say, ‘What’s your ethnicity?’ or ‘Do
you have a Latino accent?’”
She realized that as an actor, she would
have very little control over her projects,
which “as a political being, I do not see how
that would be sustainable for me emotionally.” She added, with a laugh, “And I also
worked with a lot of dumb directors.”
So Tommy started self-producing. In
2002, for the FringeNYC Festival, she
directed a musical called Two Girls From Vermont, a modern adaptation of Shakespeare’s
Two Gentlemen of Verona. “I used Britney
Spears songs, there were drag queens, it was
crazy,” she recalled fondly. That show got
positive reviews, won an audience favorite
award, and was extended. She took it as a
sign: “Focus on directing.”
In 2008 she seemingly received her
big break: her first big regional theatre gig
directing a new play about the civil rights
movement, The Good Negro by Tracey Scott
Wilson. It was produced at Dallas Theater
Center and again at the Public Theater. “I
think it’s, to this day, one of the best plays
we’ve produced since I took over the Public, and [Liesl] did an absolute perfect job
with it,” enthused the Public’s artistic director Oskar Eustis.
But though that production received
positive reviews and sold well, it would
be five years before Tommy would have
another New York production—and not
for lack of trying.
“I believed the lie that the reason that
there weren’t more of us [directors of color]
working was because they didn’t believe
we were qualified,” she said, still disappointed. “So I was like, ‘Here I am! Here
are the reviews, here’s the sales, here’s the
work.’” Aside from the Public, it seemed
that other institutions were not interested
in Tommy’s work. And what it showed her
was that those leaders simply were “not concerned with the fact that there are no people of color in leadership positions on these
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Party People, a musical by the collective UNIVERSES about the Black Panthers and the Young Lords, at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2012.
stages; they’re happy to put on a play by a
was growing up. Because she is mixed-race,
Theatre Company in Washington, D.C.,
person of color, but they will put a white
and so were her parents, they lived in a Cape
she set Macbeth in North Africa.
director at the helm.”
Town township full of people with multiple
“I think, frankly, when the history of
(Tommy said that publicly voicing that
genealogies and cultures. “So our commuthis era is written of the American theatre,
opinion has gotten her “blacklisted” from
nity is African, European, Malaysian, and
Liesl is going to have a prominent role,” said
certain New York institutions, but
Eustis without hesitation. “Part of
she is unfazed, saying simply, “We
the reason the American theatre
“It’s really just about the work.
should be allowed to call it out.”)
is more diverse is because Liesl
Being able to continue to push myself. has been succeeding in the last
If The Good Negro got her little
work in New York, it did give her
10 years, and she just continues
To continue to create access
a national profile: Tommy subseto push down barriers.”
for people. To continue to facilitate
quently directed on the mainstages
Of course, when Tommy
of large theatres such as Berkestarted out, her goal wasn’t to be
ley Rep, La Jolla Playhouse, and
a history-making director. It was
Oregon Shakes.
Indonesian,” she explained. “Down the road
to fulfill the compulsion to be an artist. And
“I think it’s an incredibly great examfrom me was a mosque and on the other side
when she thinks about the future, the founple for younger women who want to pursue
of the road was a church, and that’s just how
dations remain the same.
this career,” said Nottage. “She was dogged
most of these communities were. I woke
“It’s really just about the work,” she
in her pursuit, and I think it really paid off. I
up in the morning with the Muslim call to
said, looking introspectively out the winthink in this business, that’s what you have to
prayer, every single morning.”
dow. “Being able to continue to push myself.
do, particularly if you’re a woman of color,
That diversity naturally extends itself
To continue to create access for people. To
because no one is going to create that space.
to the worlds she has created onstage, and
continue to facilitate change and conversaYou have to create your own space.”
not only in new plays about marginalized
tions. It’s like a miracle that I get to do that.
Tommy isn’t content to create a space
groups, à la Party People or Eclipsed. When
And I get to make art that I love.”
just for herself; she wants to make room for
she directs classics or revivals, she makes sure
those like her. In choosing her projects and
that people of color are there to reclaim the
the artists for them, her priorities are clear:
narrative. In 2014, Tommy made national
“Women and people of color have the right
headlines when she directed a production
to be at the center of our stories.”
of Les Misérables at Dallas Theater Center,
In fact, Tommy would have you know
casting the leads with people of color and
that she was casting “non-traditionally”
updating the show to include visual referONLINE
before diversity became a buzzword. The
ences to Che Guevara and the
reason: That was the norm when Tommy
trial complex. Last year at the Shakespeare
With St. Louis as our inspiration and our gathering place, the national
theatre community will come together for conversations about:
• Preparing and supporting a generation of new theatre leaders
• Creating organizational cultures that are inclusive and forward-thinking
• Developing skills to address the persistent challenges threatening the vitality of our field
• Using our art form to uncover the deep (and often messy), truth of people, places, and identity
Over 800 theatre makers will also
engage with thought leaders from within and
beyond the performing arts, like keynote speaker
and renowned poet Naomi Shihab Nye, and
featured TED speaker and data artist, Jer Thorp.
We look forward to seeing you in ‘The Gateway City’ in June!
For more information, or to register, please visit
The Jigsaw City
St. Louis theatre has variety
and vibrancy, but does it cohere?
Blow, Winds, part of the annual
Shakespeare in the Streets event at the St. Louis Public Library.
theatre crowd is headed to Tower Grove Abbey, a converted
church in South City, where patrons sit on curved church
pews to see Stray Dog Theatre stage Charles Busch’s Red
Scare on Sunset. The campy dark comedy about Hollywood
during the McCarthy era is buoyed by lead Will Bonfiglio, who plays, with exaggerated drag flair, lead character Mary Dale.
Others are at Upstream Theater in Midtown, in a
small black box to see the U.S. premiere of Albert Ostermaier’s Infected, a one-man show about a day trader having a
breakdown after being quarantined for an unknown illness.
Nearby, the 4,500-plus seat Fox Theatre is packing them in
for a touring production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The
Sound of Music. In the cast is Melissa Weyn, a graduate of the
local Conservatory of Theatre Arts at Webster University.
And in Webster Groves, on the campus of said conservatory, the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis is staging the
Tony-winning drama The Humans, which was originally produced on Broadway by Fox Theatricals, a commercial theatre production company founded and still centered in St.
Louis. (Its 25 productions have won 48 Tony Awards, but
most St. Louisans don’t even know it’s here.)
This is St. Louis theatre: It ranges from the small and
off-beat—like YoungLiars’ staging an adaptation of Franz
Kafka’s unfinished Burrow, about a man who lives in an
underground lair—to the lavishly grand, like the 11,000seat Muny in Forest Park, which this summer will celebrate
its 100th season, making it the nation’s oldest and largest
outdoor theatre. The city’s abundance as a theatre town is
one reason it’s been chosen as the site of Theatre Communications Group’s next national conference, June 14-16.
“There is some theatre for everybody: family-friendly
theatre, provocative theatre, experimental theatre, musical theatre, both traditional and contemporary,” says Tina
Farmer, a theatre critic for KDHX Community Media, a
local radio station. “I see approximately 140 to 160 shows
per year—that’s two to five nights a week I’m attending theatre. That’s how much there is to do in St. Louis.”
In the last year, Rebel and Misfits’ Immersive Theatre Project staged Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya at a mansion in a
tiny St. Louis suburb. R-S Theatrics mounted Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights to capacity crowds at a 200-seat
theatre, and New Line Theatre put on Lizzie, a rock musical
by Tim Maner and Steven Cheslik-deMeyer about the life
of Lizzie Borden. St. Louis Post-Dispatch theatre critic Judith
Newmark hailed it as a “hard-rocking, riot-grrrl explosion
of rage, nerve, and the best goth/steampunk/roller-chic costumes ever flaunted on a St. Louis stage.”
There are still more companies: ACT INC, the Black
Rep, Equally Represented Arts, Hawthorne Players, Insight
Theatre Company, JPEK CreativeWorks, Max & Louie
Productions, Mustard Seed Theatre, New Jewish Theatre,
Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble, St. Louis Actors’ Studio, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis, Stages St. Louis, Tesseract Theatre, Theatre Macabre, That Uppity Theatre ComAMERICANTHEATRE MAY/JUNE1 8
Clockwise, from left: Phillip C. Dixon and Reginald Pierre in Suspended at Upstream Theater; Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble’s First Impressions;
Will Bonfiglio and Shannon Nara in Red Scare on Sunset at Stray Dog Theatre; Real Life at the Grandel Theatre; Christina Rios and the cast of R-S
Theatrics’ In the Heights.
pany, West End Players Guild, and more.
And these are just the professional groups
(though many are non-Equity). There are
still more community and educational theatre
programs. St. Louis city and county’s combined 1.3 million people have more than 60
professional and community theatre companies. This means you can catch world premieres, Broadway touring productions, intimate shows, and edgy theatre regularly here.
This abundance, though, can also stretch
St. Louis audiences a little thin.
“I talk to actors who are in shows every
weekend or directors who are directing
shows,” says Ed Reggi, a longtime St. Louis
actor. “They’re messaging me saying, ‘Reggi,
we had seven people at our show last night.’
And these are great shows! I know they are.
I can just look at the cast and the director.
It’s not weather. It’s just because there’s like
20 other shows going on that weekend.”
Why is the St. Louis theatre scene so
sprawling? Reggi has a theory, linked to
the character of the area itself: “I think it’s
engrained in our DNA that everything has
to go back to this idea of being fractured.”
Fragmented by Design
arrived in St. Louis, he had a vision of bringing international theatre to the Midwest.
Though he’s an American, Boehm had been
living in Poland for most of his artistic career
and had directed plays at some of Poland’s
largest theatres.
“I knocked on a lot of doors,” he says.
“And no one was interested.” One artistic
director he spoke to called his ideas “‘too
poetic.’ When I heard that, I thought, ‘How
can anything be too poetic?’” Boehm recalls.
“And then I realized instead of knocking on
these doors that aren’t opening, I’ll just start
my own thing.”
By 2005, Boehm had founded Upstream
Theater, which specializes in translated, classical, and international works. The most recent
season included the world premiere of Suspended by Maya Arad Yasur, about two refugee window washers troubled by violent pasts.
Boehm’s story is all too familiar on the
St. Louis theatre scene. It’s part of what
makes the scene “scrappy,” as Mike Isaacson, artistic director of the Muny, described
it, as well as disparate. Artists who don’t
find the scene sufficiently open to collaboration carve out their own niches and marshal their resources—patrons, backers, and
other assets—which in turn makes the scene
less open to partnerships and collaboration.
“The St. Louis theatre community,
and I would even say the art community,
we very much emulate the municipalities,”
says Reggi. “No matter what we say, we’re
geographically broken up, this city is, and
these dividing lines have sometimes created
divided companies.”
St. Louis County has more than 90
municipalities, reportedly some with fewer
than 200 people, and most have their own
governments. The city of St. Louis, while
all part of one governing body, has more
than 70 neighborhoods. And, exurbs like
St. Charles and St. Peters have their own
communities and theatre companies. In this
jigsaw, the city competes with the county,
and municipalities compete with each other
for resources and businesses. This free-forall trickles down to the theatre community.
“The analogy I use is that it feels to
me like many professional theatre companies have the idea of ‘Mom gave me my basketball and said that I don’t have to share,’”
says Christina Rios, artistic director for R-S
Theatrics. “But we only have one court.”
Divisions also play out among theatregoers. “Generally, theatre audiences in
St. Louis reflect St. Louis a lot, in that
there are theatre audiences that go to certain theatres and they don’t necessarily go
to others,” says Ron Himes, artistic director for the Black Rep.
Reggi, who also runs the website STL
Auditions, often hears that actors won’t audition for certain companies. “I’ll ask why,”
Reggi says. “And they’ll will say, ‘Well, that
company’s way up there in North St. Louis.’
Or, ‘I would never go to St. Charles! That’s
crazy, Reggi!’”
This is a city where, when people ask,
“What school did you go to?” they mean
which high school. And everyone always
asks, because your neighborhood, parish,
or even private school offers a glimpse into
your background. Neighborhoods splice
the area up according to politics, class, and,
above all, race.
Himes, artistic director of the Black Rep,
which for many of its 40 seasons was the
area’s only African-American theatre company. “It’s a major issue in America. Race has
a lot to do with the philanthropic support
that institutions of color get in St. Louis.
Race has a lot to do with audiences and the
cross-fertilization of audiences in St. Louis.
There are a number of major playwrights that
would not be seen in St. Louis if it weren’t
for black theatre companies, because other
companies just wouldn’t do the work.”
The city’s race problems came to a head,
and to international attention, in 2014, when
a white police officer killed an unarmed black
teenager in Ferguson, a St. Louis suburb.
The Race Divide
Ed Reggi, Kent Coffel, and Elliot Auch in Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes
Mystery at Insight Theatre.
This sparked a series of protests and elevated the Black Lives Matter movement.
Reggi remembers that after Ferguson
many companies started to take notice of the
“missing people of color” on their stages. But
casting roles of color can be difficult here.
While Himes says that there is talent that
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would not get onstage at all were it not for
African-American theatre companies, Reggi
says he hears from directors that when they
send out casting calls for people of color they
don’t get much response.
“I don’t want to sit here and say only St.
Louis is guilty of it,” says Reggi. “I think it’s
a national question, and one that’s not falling
on deaf ears. In St. Louis that’s really being
discussed. It’s not just a matter of posting
a casting notice up, but really going out of
your way to really invite [talent] and know
their name.”
Even before the rude awakening of 2014,
there had been promising trends. According to Steven Woolf, artistic director of the
Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, one of the
best shifts he’s seen in the last few decades
has been the “effort and ease” of multiethnic casting, also sometimes called non-traditional casting, in which roles traditionally
played by white actors by default are opened
up to performers of all backgrounds.
Also encouraging: Some new AfricanAmerican theatre companies have sprung
up. Joel Patrick Edward King, founder of
JPEK CreativeWorks, remembers starting
his company in the early 2000s and staging
shows in beauty salons, clubs, and churches.
“There was once a day when people would
attend my shows and maybe one Caucasian was in the audience,” recalls King, who
gained early acclaim for Real Life, a musical drama about life in the ghetto. That percentage has changed in the years since. As
King puts it, “Now that I’m here and it’s
seemingly working, the goal is to continue
us and companies that are being vocal about
change and saying women as artists matter,
women as art leaders matter.”
Christina Rios, a Mexican-American
and female artistic director (who runs R-S
Theatrics, alongside two other women in
leadership roles), is also trying to push the
community to be more inclusive.
“I believe firmly as a woman, in a professional setting that tends to be dominated
by men, that one of my jobs is to get to the
top of the hill so that I can turn around, and
now I’ve got two arms to bring up two more
people,” she says.
Growing Together
Ron Himes at St. Louis Black Repertory Company.
to achieve a level of success that makes my
company look good as an African-American-run theatre company.”
Other companies have also made a push
to make St. Louis theatre more representative. Last year, Rachel Tibbets and Ellie
Schwetye, the artistic director and managing director, respectively, for Slightly Askew
Theatre Ensemble, started the Aphra Behn
Emerging Artists’ Festival, which features
short plays written and directed by women.
“Seeing the stories of women or of
people of color, or of trans and homosexual folks—these are all so important. These
stories are our community,” says Schwetye.
“And I think things are changing because of
in other ways too. Most will say that for
all its far-flung fragmentation, companies
are far less divided now than they used to
be. Farmer remembers that 20 years ago
if you worked for certain companies, others might not hire you. “We’ve grown and
matured,” she says.
This maturing into a more cohesive
whole might be attributed to several factors.
The St. Louis Municipal Opera Theatre.
One is an increase in theatre festivals in the
last decade. There is the six-year-old Grand
Center Theatre Crawl, in which more than
two dozen theatre groups put on short performances at venues throughout Grand Center,
an arts district in the city. The three-yearold Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis
has companies stage the plays of the classic
American writer, who is buried in town; St.
Lou Fringe Festival, which is in its seventh
year, is a showcase for the smaller avantgarde theatres; and during the eight-yearold Shake-38 festival, companies all over
town stage works by Shakespeare, putting
on his entire canon in five days.
What’s more, St. Louis benefactors
have helped alleviate one of the local theatre
scene’s long-standing bugbears: bad, scarce,
and/or expensive spaces. Itinerancy is a common problem for small and even mid-sized
theatre companies here. The Centene Corporation and Arts and Education Council
created the Centene Center for the Arts, an
arts accelerator, while philanthropists Ken
and Nancy Kranzberg created the Kranzberg
Center for the Arts and .ZACK, an arts incubator. All offer space for offices, rehearsals,
and performances at reduced rates.
Still, some would like to see a further
shift in attitude. Those finite resources
companies guard? Maybe they aren’t so
finite after all.
“There is the idea that we’re all cultivating our own patrons,” says Rios. “And
we’re competing against each other for their
interest. I think we’re competing against the
movies and the Cardinals [baseball team] and
the Blues [hockey team] and bars. The average person in St. Louis isn’t sitting at home
thinking, ‘What live performance should we
go to?’ But they can, if we all work together.”
Rios envisions smaller companies pooling resources and marketing as a group to
get the word out about all of their shows.
“I don’t want to cultivate an R-S Theatrics
patron,” she says. “I want to cultivate a St.
Louis theatre patron.”
A City of Creators
concede that an art scene where people feel
free to create their own companies and do
their own thing is good. In St. Louis the
cost of living is low and barriers to entry to
the art world are not as high as in cities like
New York or Los Angeles.
“You can say all you want about New
York, but the rules are set,” says Isaacson,
a Tony-winning Broadway producer. “St.
Louis is still figuring out what it is, and the
energy that’s going on in the arts reflects
that, and it’s really great.”
As Farmer puts it, “We have a community here where the mindset is ‘do, create.’”
And the theatre scene does a lot of things
well. Thanks to the Muny exclusively staging
musicals every summer for a century, “we
really excel at musical theatre,” says Reggi.
“Now, some people might make a gagging
sound, like throwing up,” he adds with a
laugh. “But it’s in our DNA.”
According to Patrick Huber, associate
director for St. Louis Actors’ Studio, St.
Louis excels at staging the “second generation of American playwrights—Shepard,
Nicky Silver, Tracy Letts…I think we’re
fine-tuned to do outstanding productions
of those types of plays.”
According to Boehm, St. Louis is a
good place for fostering talent. “We have a
lot of talented people here,” he says. “And
they persist.”
Jennifer Wintzer, interim producing
director of Shakespeare Festival St. Louis,
agrees. “The arts—and the theatre scene in
particular—create opportunities for young
people to learn and to dream big about their
future and the future of their city,” Wintzer says.
This makes St. Louis, perhaps surprisingly, a great town to be an artist. Schwetye,
who works with Slightly Askew, often uses
the hashtag, “Wasn’t I lucky to be born in
my favorite city?” Says Rios, “Every time
I see her tag something with that, I always
think, ‘You know, it’s funny, that’s exactly
how I feel.’”
Rosalind Early is the associate editor
of the alumni magazine for Washington
University in St. Louis and a freelance
theatre critic for St. Louis Magazine.
Matthew Barney
+ Erna Ómarsdóttir
+ Valdimar Jóhannsson
Michel Marc Bouchard
+ Rodrigo Portella
Evelyne de la Chenelière
+ Marie Brassard
Jefta van Dinther
Réjean Ducharme
+ Martin Faucher
Paul-André Fortier
+ Étienne Lepage
Lara Kramer
Benoît Lachambre
+ Sophie Corriveau
Euripides Laskaridis
Daniel Léveillé
Jean-Sébastien Lourdais
J-F Nadeau
+ Stéfan Boucher
Robyn Orlin
Crystal Pite
+ Jonathon Young
Philippe Quesne
Gabino Rodríguez
Gurshad Shaheman
+ Ivo van Hove
Meg Stuart
Système Kangourou
Anne Thériault
Sarah Vanhee
Tao Ye
+ Theatre
From May 23
to June 7, 2018
Ever and always
the trailblazer
Web and Flow
How to optimize your theatre’s YouTube promo videos
Berkshire Theatre Group’s YouTube page.
way to add video to their website, complete with analytics,
YouTube has an enticing offer: They’ll do it for free.
In a move designed to retain their status as the de facto
platform for video on the web, the company has rolled out
a series of free tools that essentially enable any theatre to
edit, post, and analyze viewership of a promotional video
at absolutely no cost.
“We’ve found that our videos, specifically our behind-thescenes elements, the interviews, the ‘insights’ into the creation of the show, have not only grown attendance but
engagement and interest from those that do attend,” says
Steve Cisneros, producing artistic director of California’s
Phantom Projects Theatre Group.
Celeste Post, marketing associate of New Jersey’s South
Orange Performing Arts Center, home of American Theater
Group, says she’s seen similar success. “It can be a great ‘first
introduction’ and ultimately spark a visit to our website.”
The content theatres create for YouTube need not
directly promote their next production. Indeed, videos that
are simply associated in some way with your theatre often
result in more traffic to your website—and more sales at the
box office down the line.
For example, consider creating a video showing theatregoers an insider’s look at rehearsals “behind the curtain,”
or what a day of auditions is really like, rather than a traditional promotional piece.
“People don’t want to see commercials,” Cisneros says.
“Our early videos were all essentially ads, and they didn’t
work. Once we started doing interviews or highlighting fun
elements, we saw engagement grow.”
Find an inexpensive way to promote theatre
with web video
Experiment with YouTube’s free video platform
and tools
Short “behind the curtain” videos
Traditional commercials and long videos
Mastering YouTube’s analytics tools to pinpoint
videos that promote most effectively
Elspeth Misiaszek, owner of eMarketing Copywriter,
agrees. “There is no better way for people to experience
you and your unique marketing message than by creating
an informational video.”
It’s also a good idea to keep whatever you do short
and sweet. “It wasn’t until we started to create shorter videos—under five minutes—that we saw an uptick in views
and viewer interaction,” says Madelyn Gardner, press and
communications manager of Massachusetts’s Berkshire
Theatre Group.
Probably the most attractive thing about promoting
your theatre via YouTube is the cost: It’s absolutely free.
YouTube allows any business or organization to post promotional video, free of charge, and also makes it easy for
even the most novice users to put together a promotional
video. For starters, there’s a YouTube Creators site, where
you can learn the basics on how to set up
an account and get inspiration on how to
shoot your first video.
You’ll also find links to editing tools to
help you polish your raw footage, as well as
tips on how to optimize your video. There’s
also a free users’ forum where you can get
advice from seasoned YouTube veterans. If
you’re looking to get more sophisticated with
your video editing, there are stand-alone
tools you can buy for the purpose, such as
VideoStudio Pro Ultimate, Pinnacle Studio 16 Ultimate, or Adobe Premiere Pro.
Once your video is on YouTube, the free
service also offers an embeddable video player
you can add to your website. Embedding the
player involves little more than dropping a
snippet of code onto a web page. YouTube
does the rest. What’s more, the player—
also free—can be placed in other locations
on the web, such as adjacent to your company’s blog, on your web site’s social network, or in virtually any other web-based
When dropping in the player, you’ll
have the option to post it to your site “as is,”
with its familiar chrome border and YouTube
logo, or you or your Web designer can customize the player with its own “skin.” That
customized look can feature your theatre’s
logo, as well as a look and feel that’s distinctive to your theatre’s website. (With either
option a faint YouTube watermark appears
in the right-hand corner of your video.)
The player creation tool also enables
you to optimize your video for the search
engines by allowing you to include titles,
descriptions, ratings, and viewer comments
associated with your video.
The real beauty of the player is that the
technology enables you to offer a window
to the videos you make on your own site,
while shifting the hosting and transmission
costs associated with the viewing of the videos to YouTube, whose servers are the ones
actually transmitting the video—and picking up the bandwidth transmission costs,
rather than your theatre.
It’s a scenario that’s especially ideal for
theatres interested in reaching out to web
viewers with a number of offerings on little or no budget.
It’s also an excellent insurance policy for
any theatre that happens to produce a video
that goes viral. The onslaught of the kind of
massive downloading that accompanies sudMAY/JUNE18 AMERICANTHEATRE
denly popular content generally results in
crashed servers and countless missed sales
and/or public relations opportunities. But
for YouTube, it’s nearly an everyday event
that this web Goliath has learned to easily
Once you’ve uploaded your videos to
YouTube, you’ll also be able to continually
analyze how your videos are performing
with another free tool, YouTube Analytics.
Essentially, Analytics offers you a “heat
map” of where your views are coming from.
It will also show you how people are discovering your videos by revealing the search terms
they used to find your videos. You’ll also be
able to discern the age and gender of your
audience, observe how many times viewers
rate or comment on your videos, and more.
You can get the most out of those analytics by optimizing your videos for the Google
search engine. “Google favors sites with relevant, timely content,” says Cyndie Shaffstall, founder of Spider Trainers, an online
marketing firm. (For tips on how to optimize, simply Google “search engine optimization YouTube videos.”)
The bottom line: Whether you’re looking to experiment with web video for the first
time or you’re an experienced user looking
to cut costs while increasing the sophistication of your Web video promotions, YouTube is a free solution that is tough to beat.
Of course, if you’re looking to survey
other free video sharing sites, you’ll want
to check out sites like Vimeo, which some
users prefer to post archival-quality video,
Metacafe, Vevo, Dailymotion, and Flickr.
For relevance and cost, though, there’s no
denying YouTube’s dominance.
“We wish that we had known the true
depth of the world of YouTube, and what it
offers in terms of marketing” sooner rather
than later, says South Orange Performing
Arts Center’s Post. “YouTube is much more
personal because it is where people go after
they unplug from email, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.”
Joe Dysart is an internet speaker
and business consultant based in
Here’s what’s playing this month
at TCG theatres nationwide.
Arizona Theatre Company, Tucson,
information about
performance schedules,
contact the theatre or
visit Theatre Profiles online:
Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Montgomery,
(334) 271-5353,
Much Ado About Nothing, Shakespeare.
Thru May 6.
The Miracle Worker, Mar 3-May 6.
Twelfth Night, Shakespeare. Apr 20-May 5.
Perseverance Theatre, Douglas,
(907) 463-TIXS,
Cyrano de Bergerac, adapt: David Grimm from
Edmund Rostand; dir: Eleanor Holdridge.
Thru May 6.
The Arsonists, Jacqueline Goldfinger; dir: Art
Rotch. May 10-Jun 3.
(520) 622-2823,
The Diary of Anne Frank, adapt: Wendy
Kesselman from Frances Goodrich, Albert
Hackett; dir: David Ira Goldstein.
Thru May 12 (Tucson), May 17-Jun 3
(Phoenix). co-production with Geva Theatre
Center, NY
OChildsplay, Tempe, (480) 350-2822,
On tour: Maddi’s Fridge, Anne Negri; dir: Jenny
Millinger. Thru May 18.
Flora & Ulysses, John Glore; dir: Dwayne
Hartford. Thru May 20.
Invisible Theatre Co, Tucson, (520) 882-9721,
Mr. Goldberg’s Prodigal Son, John W Lowell.
Thru May 6.
iTheatre Collaborative, Phoenix,
(602) 252-8497,
Church & State, Jason Odell Williams;
dir: Rosemary Close. May 4-19.
The Rogue Theatre, Tucson, (520) 551-2053,
The Hound of the Baskervilles,
adapt: Steven Canny, John Nicholson.
Thru May 20.
Arkansas New Play Festival, Jun 8-17.
24th Street Theatre Company, Los Angeles,
(213) 745-6516,
I.C.E., Leon Martell; dir: Debbie Devine.
Thru May 6.
American Conservatory Theater,
San Francisco, (415) 749-2228,
Father Comes Home From the Wars Parts
I, II, III, Suzan-Lori Parks; dir: Liz Diamond.
Thru May 20. co-production with
Yale Repertory Theatre, CT
A Walk on the Moon, book: Pamela Gray; music
and lyrics: Paul Scott Goodman; dir: Sheryl Kaller.
Jun 5-Jul 1.
Antaeus Theatre Company, Glendale,
(818) 506-1983,
Native Son, Nambi E. Kelley; dir: Andi Chapman.
Thru Jun 3.
Tales of the Jazz Age, adapt: Cynthia Meier
from F. Scott Fitzgerald; music: Mary Turcotte;
dir: Cynthia Meier. Jul 14.
King Lear, Shakespeare; dir: Cynthia Meier.
Thru May 13.
OAurora Theatre Company, Berkeley,
(510) 843-4822,
Eureka Day, Jonathan Spector; dir: Josh
Costello. Thru May 13.
Dry Powder, Sarah Burgess; dir: Jennifer King.
Jun 22-Jul 22.
OBerkeley Repertory Theatre, (510) 647-2949,
Angels in America Parts 1 and 2, Tony Kushner;
dir: Tony Taccone. Thru Jul 22.
Pike Street, Nilaja Sun; dir: Ron Russell.
May 3-Jun 17.
OArkansas Repertory Theatre, Little Rock,
(501) 378-0405,
God of Carnage, Yasmina Reza; dir: Cliff Baker.
Jun 6-24.
For the most up-to-date
TheatreSquared, Fayetteville, (479) 443-5600,
The cast of SHOCKA: The Story of Energy & Hawaii at Honolulu Theatre for Youth.
Bootleg Theater, Los Angeles,
Live Arts Exchange/LAX Festival, Thru Oct 25.
CalArts Center for New Performance, Valencia,
(661) 253-7800,
Carolyn Bryant, Nataki Garrett (also dir), Andrea
LeBlanc. May 16-27.
Capital Stage Company, Sacramento,
(916) 995-5464,
Marjorie Prime, Jordan Harrison. May 2-Jun 3.
co-production with American Stage, FL
The Thanksgiving Play, Larissa FastHorse.
Jun 20-Jul 22.
Center Repertory Company, Walnut Creek,
The Way We Get By, Neil LaBute; dir: Randall
Arney. May 8-Jun 17.
Skeleton Crew, Dominique Morisseau;
dir: Patricia McGregor. Jun 5-Jul 8.
Impro Theatre, Los Feliz,
Dorothy Parker UnScripted, Impro Theatre;
dir: Jo McGinley, Paul Rogan. May 18-20.
Tennessee Williams UnScripted, Impro Theatre;
dir: Brian Lohmann. Jun 15-17.
OInternational City Theatre, Long Beach,
(562) 436-4610,
Cardboard Piano, Hansol Jung. May 2-20.
The 39 Steps, adapt: Patrick Barlow.
Jun 20-Jul 8.
(925) 943-7469,
Disney’s Freaky Friday, book: Bridget
Carpenter; lyrics: Brian Yorkey; music: Tom Kitt.
May 25-Jun 30.
OL.A. Theatre Works, Venice, (310) 827-0889,
Spill, Leigh Fondakowski; dir: Martin Jarvis.
May 17-20.
Center Theatre Group, Los Angeles,
Magic Theatre, San Francisco, (415) 441-8822,
(213) 972-4400,
Block Party: Celebrating Los Angeles Theatre,
Thru May 20.
Soft Power, book and lyrics: David Henry
Hwang; music: Jeanine Tesori; dir: Leigh
Silverman. May 3-Jun 10.
The Humans, Stephen Karam; dir: Joe Mantello.
Jun 19-Jul 29.
The Gangster of Love, Jessica Hagadorn;
dir: Loretta Greco. Thru May 6.
OThe Chance Theater, Anaheim,
(888) 455-4212,
Good People, David Lindsay Abaire; dir: Jon
Lawrence Rivera. Thru May 20.
Elevada, Sheila Callaghan. May 4-Jun 3.
Big Fish, book: John August; music and lyrics:
Andrew Lippa; dir: Oanh Nguyen. Jun 29-Jul 29.
City Lights Theater Company, San Jose,
The Siegel, Michael Mitnick; dir: Mark Anderson
Phillips. May 17-Jun 17.
OCoachella Valley Repertory, Rancho Mirage,
(760) 296-2966,
2 ACROSS, Jerry Mayer; dir: Ron Celona.
Thru May 20.
Cygnet Theatre Company, San Diego,
(619) 337-1525,
The Wind and the Breeze, Nathan Alan Davis;
dir: Rob Lutfy. May 16-Jun 10.
Dell’Arte International, Blue Lake,
(707) 668-5663,
The Mad River Festival 2018, Jun 14-Jul 14.
Diversionary Theatre, San Diego,
(619) 220-0097,
The Loneliest Girl in the World, book and
lyrics: Gordon Leary; music: Julia Meinwald;
dir: Matt M. Morrow. May 24-Jul 1.
East West Players, Los Angeles, (213) 6257000,
As We Babble On, Nathan Ramos. May 31-Jun 24.
OEnsemble Theatre Company, Santa Barbara,
(805) 965-5400,
Cookin’ at the Cookery, Marion Caffey (also dir).
Jun 7-24.
foolsFURY Theater, San Francisco,
(415) 685-3665,
Role Call, Debórah Eliezer, Michelle Haner, Ben
Yalom (also dir). Thru Sep 22.
Fountain Theatre, Los Angeles, (323) 663-1525,
Cost of Living, Martyna Majok. Thru Jun 24.
Geffen Playhouse, Los Angeles, (310) 208-5454,
Significant Other, Joshua Harmon; dir: Stephen
Brackett. Thru May 6.
MainStreet Theatre Company,
Rancho Cucamonga, (909) 477-2752,
Frederick, book: Suzanne Maynard Miller;
music and lyrics: Sarah Durkee, Paul Jacobs;
dir: Robert Castro. Thru May 20.
Marin Theatre Company, Mill Valley,
(415) 388-5208,
Marjorie Prime, Jordan Harrison; dir: Ken Rus
Schmoll. May 3-27.
Straight White Men, Young Jean Lee;
dir: Morgan Gould. Jun 14-Jul 8.
OThe New Conservatory Theatre Center,
San Francisco, (415) 861-8972,
The Mystery of Love and Sex, Bathsheba
Doran; dir: Rebecca Longworth.
Thru May 20.
When Pigs Fly, book and lyrics: Mark
Waldrop; music: Dick Gallagher; dir: Ed Decker.
May 11-Jun 10.
New Village Arts Theatre, Carlsbad,
(760) 433-3245,
Avenue Q, book: Jeff Whitty; music and
lyrics: Robert Lopez, Jeff Marx; dir: AJ Knox.
May 18-Jul 1.
A Noise Within, Pasadena, (626) 356-3100,
Noises Off, Michael Frayn; music: Robert
Oriol; dir: Geoff Elliott, Julia Rodriguez-Elliott.
Thru May 20.
ONorth Coast Repertory Theatre,
Solana Beach, (858) 481-1055,
How the Other Half Loves, Sir Alan Ayckbourn;
dir: Geoffrey Sherman. Thru May 5.
The Father, Florian Zeller; dir: David Ellenstein.
May 30-Jun 24.
OThe Old Globe, San Diego, (619) 234-5623,
The Wanderers, Anna Ziegler; dir: Barry
Edelstein. Apr 5-May 6.
A Thousand Splendid Suns, Ursula Rani Sarma;
dir: Carey Perloff. May 12-Jun 17.
Native Gardens, Karen Zacarías; dir: Edward
Torres. May 26-Jun 24.
OThe Pasadena Playhouse, (626) 356-7529,
Bordertown Now, Culture Clash, Richard
Montoya, Ric Salinas, Herbert Sigüenza;
dir: Diane Rodriguez. May 29-Jun 24.
PCPA Pacific Conservatory Theatre, Santa
Maria, (805) 922-8313,
The Hunchback of Notre Dame, book: Peter
Parnell; lyrics: Stephen Schwartz; music: Alan
Menken. Thru May 13 (Marian Theatre),
Jun 14-Jul 8 (Solvang Festival Theater).
Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike,
Christopher Durang. Jun 28-Jul 7.
OThe Road Theatre Company, North
Through The Eye of a Needle, Jami Brandli;
dir: Ann Hearn Tobolowsky. Thru May 13.
San Francisco Playhouse, (415) 677-9596,
An Entomologist’s Love Story, Melissa Ross;
dir: Giovanna Sardelli. May 8-Jun 23.
In Braunau, Dipika Guha. Jun 13-Jul 7.
Scripps Ranch Theatre, San Diego,
(858) 578-7728,
For Better, Eric Coble. May 25-Jun 24.
Shotgun Players, Berkeley, (510) 841-6500,
Dry Land, Ruby Rae Spiegel; dir: Ariel Craft.
May 17-Jun 17.
OSouth Coast Repertory, Costa Mesa,
(714) 708-5555,
The Sisters Rosensweig, Wendy Wasserstein.
May 5-Jun 2.
Amos & Boris, adapt: William Steig; lyrics: Sofia
Alvarez, Daniel Roland Tierney. May 18-Jun 3.
TheatreWorks, Palo Alto, (650) 463-1960,
FINKS, Joe Gilford; dir: Giovanna Sardelli.
Jun 6-Jul 1.
OArvada Center for the Arts & Humanities,
(720) 898-7200,
Sense and Sensibility, Kate Hamill; dir: Lynne
Collins. Thru May 6.
The Electric Baby, Stefanie Zadravec; dir: Rick
Barbour. Thru May 4.
All My Sons, Arthur Miller; dir: Lynne Collins.
Thru May 3.
Sunday in the Park With George, book: James
Lapine; music and lyrics: Stephen Sondheim;
dir: Rod A. Lansberry. Thru May 6.
OBoulder Ensemble Theatre Company,
(303) 444-SEAT,
Going to a Place Where You Already Are, Bekah
Brunstetter; dir: Rebecca Remaly. Thru May 6.
Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at
Colorado College Theatre Company,
(719) 634-5583,
Fully Committed, Becky Mode. Thru May 20.
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Jeffrey Lane, David
Yazbek. May 24-Jun 17.
Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, Greg
Allen. Jun 29-Jul 21.
OCurious Theatre Company, Denver,
(303) 623-0524,
Your Best One, Meredith Friedman; dir: Dee
Covington. May 3-Jun 16.
ODenver Center Theatre Co, (303) 893-4100,
Native Gardens, Karen Zacarías; dir: Lisa Portes.
Thru May 6.
The Who’s Tommy, book: Des McAnuff, Pete
Townshend (also music); music: John Entwistle,
Keith Moon; dir: Sam Buntrock. Apr 20-May 27.
Human Error, Eric Pfeffinger; dir: Shelley Butler.
May 18-Jun 24.
Discounted tickets are available to TCG Individual Members for performances at participating theatres, marked on these pages with an orange dot O.
Please check with each theatre for performance times, ticket discounts, and ticket availability. Present your TCG membership card to receive ticket discounts.
Theatre participation is subject to change. For information on becoming an Individual Member, see
OpenStage Theatre & Co, Fort Collins,
(970) 221-6730,
The Comedy of Errors, Shakespeare; dir: Denise
Burson Freestone. Jun 2-30.
OSu Teatro, Denver, (303) 296-0219,
Anthem to Aztlan, Tlaloc Rivas. Jun 7-24.
THEATREWORKS, Colorado Springs,
(719) 255-3232,
Amadeus, Peter Shaffer. Thru May 13.
Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, Waterford,
(860) 443-1238,
National Puppetry Conference, Jun 15-16.
National Music Theater Conference,
Jun 30-Jul 14.
Hartford Stage, (860) 527-5151,
The Age of Innocence, adapt: Douglas McGrath;
dir: Doug Hughes. Thru May 6.
A Lesson from Aloes, Athol Fugard; dir: Darko
Tresnjak. May 17-Jun 10.
OFolger Theatre, (202) 544-7077,
Saint Joan, George Bernard Shaw; dir: Eric
Tucker. May 12-Jun 3.
OFlorida Repertory Theatre, Fort Myers,
(239) 332-4488,
George Washington’s Teeth, Mark St. Germain;
dir: Abigail Sealey Bess. Thru May 13.
GALA Hispanic Theatre, (202) 234-7174,
En el tiempo de las mariposas (In the Time of
the Butterflies), Caridad Svich. Thru May 13.
Dancing in my Cockroach Killers, Magdalena
Gómez; music: Desmar Guevara. Jun 7-Jul 1.
Florida Studio Theatre, Sarasota,
Mosaic Theater Company of DC,
(202) 547-1122,
Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett; dir: Garry
Hynes. Thru May 20.
Camelot, book and lyrics: Alan Jay Lerner; music:
Frederick Loewe; dir: Alan Paul. May 22-Jul 1.
Yale Repertory Theatre, New Haven,
Theater J, (202) 777-3210,
Red Barn Theatre, Key West, (305) 296-9911,
Cry It Out, Molly Metzler; dir: Joy Hawkins.
Thru May 5.
OWestcoast Black Theatre Troupe, Sarasota,
(941) 366-1505,
Soul Man: A New Musical Revue, Nate Jacobs
(also dir). Thru May 26.
OWoolly Mammoth Theatre Co,
(202) 393-3939,
Botticelli in the Fire, Jordan Tannahill; dir: Marti
Lyons. May 28-Jun 24.
Resident Ensemble Players, Newark,
(302) 831-2204,
Twelfth Night, Shakespeare; dir: Maria Aitken.
Thru May 6. co-production with the Acting
Company, NY
St Petersburg, (727) 823-7529,
The Producers, book, music, lyrics: Mel Brooks;
book: Thomas Meehan. Thru May 13.
Strait of Gibraltar, Andrea Lepcio; dir: Jim
Sorensen. May 23-Jun 17.
OArena Stage, (202) 488-3300,
Snow Child, book: John Strand; music and
lyrics: Georgia Stitt; music: Bob Banghart; dir:
Molly Smith. Thru May 20. co-production with
Perseverance Theatre, AK
OPalm Beach Dramaworks, West Palm Beach,
(561) 514-4042,
Equus, Peter Shaffer; dir: J. Barry Lewis.
May 16-Jun 3.
Trayf, Lindsay Joelle; dir: Derek Goldman.
May 30-Jun 24.
Delaware Theatre Company, Wilmington,
(302) 594-1100,
Ella: First Lady of Song, book: Lee Summers;
dir: Maurice Hines. Thru May 13.
Gulfshore Playhouse, Naples, (866) 811-4111,
The Mystery of Irma Vep - A Penny Dreadful,
Charles Ludlam; dir: Kristen Coury. Thru May 20.
The Shakespeare Theatre Company,
(203) 787-4282,
Crowns, Regina Taylor (also dir). Thru May 13.
(203) 432-1234,
Kiss, Guillermo Calderón; dir: Evan Yionoulis.
Thru May 19.
OGableStage, Coral Gables, (305) 445-1119,
Gloria, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins. Thru May 6.
I’m Gonna Pray for You So Hard, Halley Feiffer.
Jun 9-Jul 8.
Hooded, Or Being Black for Dummies,
Tearrance Arvelle Chisholm; dir: Vaughn Ryan
Midder, Serge Seiden. May 2-Jun 3.
The Vagrant Trilogy, Mona Mansour; dir: Mark
Wing-Davey. Jun 6-Jul 1.
The Emmett Till Trilogy, Ifa Bayeza. Jun 12-25.
OStudio Theatre, (202) 332-3300,
The Remains, Ken Urban; dir: David Muse.
May 16-Jun 17.
Long Wharf Theatre, New Haven,
(941) 366-9000,
Cabaret: Shakespeare’s Greatest Hits, Rebecca
Hopkins, Richard Hopkins (also dir); book: Jim
Prosser. Thru Jun 10.
Mainstage: Honor Killing, Sarah Bierstock.
Thru May 25.
O7 Stages, Atlanta, (404) 523-7647,
Curious Human Encounters, dir: Heidi Howard.
Thru May 13.
American Stage Theatre Company,
Actor’s Express, Atlanta, (404) 607-7469,
The Flower Room, Daryl Fazio; dir: Melissa
Foulger. Thru May 13.
Alliance Theatre, Atlanta, (404) 733-5000,
OAsolo Repertory Theatre, Sarasota,
(941) 351-8000,
Ragtime, book: Terrence McNally; lyrics: Lynn
Ahrens; music: Stephen Flaherty; dir: Peter
Rothstein. May 1-27.
Jungle Book, adapt: Craig Francis, Rick Miller
(also co-dirs). Jun 6-24.
Candide, adapt: Hugh Wheeler; lyrics: John
Latouche, Stephen Sondheim, Richard Wilber;
music: Leonard Bernstein; dir: Susan V. Booth.
May 9-20.
Aurora Theatre, Lawrenceville, (678) 226-6222,
Ripcord, David Lindsay-Abaire; dir: Jaclyn
Hofmann. May 10-Jun 3.
Out of Hand Theater, Atlanta, (404) 462-8836,
Old Fourth Ward Listening Tour, Adam Fristoe,
Jireh Holder. Thru May 30.
The Game, Maureen Downs. Thru May 12.
Serenbe Playhouse, Chattahoochee Hills,
(770) 463-1110,
Peter Pan: A World Premiere Pirate Adventure,
May 31-Aug 26.
OSynchronicity Theatre, Atlanta,
(404) 484-8636,
Ripe Frenzy, Jennifer Barclay. Thru May 6.
The Taming, Lauren Gunderson. Jun 1-24.
The cast of Sense & Sensibility at Colorado’s Arvada Center for the Arts & Humanities.
Theatrical Outfit, Atlanta, (678) 528-1500,
110 in the Shade, book: N. Richard Nash;
lyrics: Tom Jones; music: Harvey Schmidt,
Jonathan Tunick; dir: Tom Key. May 31-Jun 24.
Honolulu Theatre for Youth, (808) 839-9885,
Little Big Eye, Kathleen Doyle (also dir).
Thru Jun 10.
Theatre Communications Group acknowledges its engaged community of supporters*
who believe in our mission to strengthen, nurture, and promote the professional not-forprofit theatre. We are proud to recognize the following individuals for generously supporting
TCG’s vision of a better world for theatre, and a better world because of theatre.
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and Yvonne Huff Lee
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Mel Marvin
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East-End Theatre Company
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Robert O’Hara
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SHOCKA: The Story of Energy & Hawaii, HTY
Company; dir: Eric Johnson. Apr 13-May 12.
OKumu Kahua Theatre, Honolulu,
(808) 536-4222,
Dead of Night, Edward Sakamoto; dir: Harry
Wong. May 24-Jun 24.
16th Street Theater, Berwyn, (708) 795-6704,
The Wolf at the End of the Block, Ike Holter;
dir: Lili-Anne Brown. Thru May 5.
Adventure Stage Chicago, Chicago,
(773) 342-4141,
Roots in the Alley, Lucas Baisch. Thru May 5.
OAmerican Blues Theater, Chicago,
(773) 327-5252,
Buddy - The Buddy Holly Story, Alan James;
dir: Lili-Anne Brown. Thru Jul 28.
Chicago Shakespeare Theater, (312) 595-5600,
Macbeth, adapt: Aaron Posner (also dir) from
Shakespeare; dir: Teller (of Penn and Teller).
Thru Jun 24.
Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett; dir: Garry
Hynes. May 23-Jun 3.
OCourt Theatre, Chicago, (773) 753-4472,
The Originalist, John Strand; dir: Molly Smith.
May 10-Jun 10.
The Gift Theatre, Chicago,
Hamlet, adapt: Monty Cole (also dir), Michael
Petersen from Shakespeare. Jun 1-Jul 29.
OGoodman Theatre, Chicago, (312) 443-3800,
Having Our Say, adapt: A. Elizabeth Delany,
Sarah L. Delany, Amy Hill from Emily Mann;
dir: Chuck Smith. May 5-Jun 10.
Father Comes Home From the Wars, Suzan-Lori
Parks; dir: Niegel Smith. May 25-Jun 24.
Support Group for Men, Ellen Fairey;
dir: Kimberly Senior. Jun 23-Jul 29.
Halcyon Theatre, Chicago, (773) 413-0454,
De Troya, Caridad Svich; dir: Rinska CarrascoPrestinary. May 10-Jun 20.
OThe House Theatre of Chicago,
(773) 769-3832,
The Magic Parlour, Dennis Watkins.
Aug 4-Jul 28.
Ellen Bond, Union Spy, Jenni Lamb; dir: Jess
McLeod. Thru May 20.
OLookingglass Theatre Co, Chicago,
(312) 337-0665,
20,000 Leagues Under the Seas, adapt: David
Kersnar, Althos Low; dir: David Kersnar.
May 23-Aug 19.
Northlight Theatre, Skokie, (847) 673-6300,
The Legened of Georgia McBride, Matthew
Lopez; dir: Vanessa Stalling. May 10-Jun 17.
Cry it Out, Molly Smith Metzler; dir: Jessica
Fisch. May 10-Jun 17.
OPiven Theatre Workshop, Evanston,
(847) 866-8049,
Crossing Green Bay (Working Title), Tania
Richard; dir: Tim Rhoze. Thru May 20.
Affluenza, Juliet Bond (also dir). May 14-15.
At These Gates, Joan Sergay. Jun 4-5.
ORaven Theatre Company, Chicago,
(773) 338-2177,
The Gentleman Caller, Philip Dawkins; dir: Cody
Estle. Thru May 13.
Suddenly Last Summer, Tennessee Williams;
dir: Jason Gerace. May 2-Jun 17.
A Red Orchid Theatre, Chicago,
33 to Nothing, Grant Varjas. Thru May 27.
Silk Road Rising, Chicago,
Hollow/Wave, Anu Bhatt; dir: Barbara Zahora.
May 17-27.
OSteep Theatre Company, Chicago,
(866) 811-4111,
Birdland, Simon Stephens; dir: Jonathan Berry.
Thru May 12.
Steppenwolf Theatre Co, Chicago,
(312) 335-1650,
The Doppelganger (an international farce),
Matthew-Lee Erlbach; dir: Tina Landau.
Thru May 20.
Guards at the Taj, Rajiv Joseph; dir: Amy
Morton. May 31-Jul 15.
The Roommate, Jen Silverman; dir: Phylicia
Rashad. Jun 21-Aug 5.
OTimeLine Theatre Company, Chicago,
(773) 281-8463,
To Catch a Fish, Brett Neveu; dir: Ron OJ
Parson. Thru Jul 1.
Victory Gardens Theater, Chicago,
(773) 871-3000,
Doing It, Boo Killebrew; dir: Chay Yew.
Thru May 6.
Mies Julie, Yael Farber; dir: Dexter Bullard.
May 25-Jun 24.
OWriters Theatre, Glencoe, (847) 242-6000,
Smart People, Lydia Diamond; dir: Hallie Gordon.
Thru Jun 10.
Buried Child, Sam Shephard; dir: Kimberly
Senior. May 9-Jun 17.
Indiana Repertory Theatre, Indianapolis,
(317) 635-5252,
Looking Over the President’s Shoulder, James
Still; dir: Janet Allen. Thru May 6.
Noises Off, Michael Frayn; dir: David Bradley.
Thru May 20.
OWilliam Inge Center for the Arts,
Independence, (620) 332-5491,
37th Annual William Inge Theater Festival,
May 9-12.
The New Play Lab at the Inge Festival,
May 9-12.
Commonwealth Theatre Center, Louisville,
(502) 589-0084,
The Merry Wives of Windsor, Shakespeare;
dir: Jennifer Pennington. May 10-20.
Measure for Measure, Shakespeare; dir: Charlie
Sexton. May 10-20.
Richard III, Shakespeare; dir: Heather Burns.
May 10-20.
New Orleans Shakespeare Festival at Tulane,
(504) 865-5106,
All’s Well That Ends Well, Shakespeare; dir: Amy
Holtcamp. Jun 1-17.
The NOLA Project, New Orleans, (504) 302-9117,
The Three Musketeers, adapt: Pete McElligott;
dir: Mark Routhier. May 9-27.
Southern Rep Theatre, New Orleans,
(504) 522-6545,
Eclipsed, Danai Gurira. Thru May 6.
All the Way, Robert Schenkkan. May 17-27.
Penobscot Theatre, Bangor, (207) 942-3333,
The Spitfire Grill, book: Fred Alley (also lyrics),
James Valcq (also music). Thru May 13.
OPortland Stage Company, (207) 774-0465,
Sex and Other Disturbances, Marisa Smith.
May 1-20.
The Public Theatre, Lewiston, (207) 782-3200,
Midvale High School 50th Reunion, Alan Brody;
dir: Christopher Schario. May 4-13.
Everybody Loves Pirates, Frogtown Mountain
Puppeteers. May 20-25.
Center Stage, Baltimore, (410) 332-0033,
TBA, dir: Kwame Kwei-Armah. May 3-Jun 10.
Everyman Theatre, Baltimore, (410) 752-2208,
The Book of Joseph, Karen Hartman; dir: Noah
Himmelstein. May 9-Jun 10.
Imagination Stage, Bethesda, (301) 280-1660,
Robin Hood, Greg Banks; dir: Janet Stanford.
Thru May 20.
You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, book and
lyrics: Clark M. Gesner, Andrew Lippa; dir: Aaron
Posner. Jun 23-Aug 12.
Maryland Ensemble Theatre, Frederick,
(301) 694-4744,
A View From the Bridge, Arthur Miller; dir: Jerry
Stropnicky. May 24-Jun 17.
OOlney Theatre Center for the Arts,
(301) 924-3400,
The Crucible, Arthur Miller; dir: Eleanor
Holdridge. Thru May 20.
The Invisible Hand, Ayad Akhtar; dir: Michael
Bloom. May 9-Jun 10.
On The Town, book and lyrics: Betty Comden,
Adolph Green; music: Leonard Bernstein;
dir: Jason Loewith. Jun 20-Jul 22.
Rep Stage, Columbia, (443) 518-1500,
True West, Sam Shepard. Thru May 13.
ORound House Theatre, Bethesda,
(240) 644-1100,
“Master Harold”…and the Boys, Athol Fugard;
dir: Ryan Rilette. Thru May 6.
The Legend Of Georgia McBride, Matthew
Lopez; dir: Tom Story. Jun 6-Jul 1.
Single Carrot Theatre, Baltimore,
(443) 844-9253,
Peter Pan Adaptation, Thru May 20.
Theatre Project, Baltimore, (410) 752-8558,
Nights on the Fringe, Jun 8-9.
The Laramie Project, Moisés Kaufman. Jun 15-24.
Actors’ Shakespeare Project, Somerville,
(866) 811-4111,
Much Ado About Nothing, Shakespeare; dir:
Christopher V. Edwards. Thru May 6.
American Repertory Theater, Cambridge,
(617) 547-8300,
Jagged Little Pill, book: Diablo Cody; music and
lyrics: Glen Ballard, Alanis Morissette; dir: Diane
Paulus. May 5-Jun 30.
ArtsEmerson, Boston, (617) 824-8000,
Cold Blood, the Kiss & Cry collectif, Michèle Anne
De Mey, Jaco Van Dormael. May 30-Jun 3.
Company One Theatre, Boston, (617) 933-8600,
Wig Out!, Tarell Alvin McCraney; dir: Summer L.
Williams. Thru May 13.
Huntington Theatre Company, Boston,
(617) 266-0800,
Top Girls, Caryl Churchill; dir: Liesl Tommy.
Thru May 20.
Fall, Bernard Weinraub; dir: Peter DuBois.
May 18-Jun 16.
The Lyric Stage Company of Boston,
(617) 585-5678,
Anna Christie, Eugene O’Neill; dir: Scott
Edmiston. Thru May 6.
The Wiz, book: William F. Brown; music
and lyrics: Charlie Smalls; dir: Dawn M. Simmons.
May 19-Jun 25.
OMerrimack Repertory Theatre, Lowell,
(978) 654-4678,
The Villains’ Supper Club, Lila Rose Kaplan;
dir: Sean Daniels. Thru May 20.
ONew Repertory Theatre, Watertown,
(617) 923-8487,
Two Jews Walk Into a War…, Seth Rozin.
Thru May 20.
SpeakEasy Stage Company, Boston,
(617) 933-8600,
Allegiance, book: Marc Acito, Jay Kuo (also
music), Lorenzo Thione; dir: Paul Daigneault.
May 4-Jun 2.
ODetroit Public Theatre, (313) 576-5111,
Birthday Candles, Noah Haidle; dir: Vivienne
Benesch. May 10-Jun 3.
Detroit Repertory Theatre, (313) 868-1347,
Harmony Park, Daniel Damiano; dir: Barbara
Busby. Thru May 20.
Ghost Gardens, Steven Simoncic; dir: Lynch
Travis. May 31-Jun 1.
Meadow Brook Theatre, Rochester,
(248) 377-3300,
The All Night Strut!, Fran Charnas; dir: Travis
Walter. Thru May 20.
Burt & Me, Larry McKenna; lyrics: Hal David;
music: Burt Bacharach; dir: Travis Walter.
May 30-Jun 24.
Thunder Bay Theatre, Inc., Alpena,
TBT^2 Educational Tour: 3 Billy Goats Gruff,
Goldilocks and the 3 Bears, & Binge the Bard,
Jeffrey Mindock (also dir). Thru May 13.
All Shook Up, book: Joe DiPietro; lyrics: Elvis
Presley; dir: Jeffrey Mindock. Jun 20-Jul 8.
OWilliamston Theatre, (517) 655-7469,
Out of Orbit, Jennifer Maisel; dir: Frannie
Shepherd-Bates. May 17-Jun 17.
OChildren’s Theatre Company, Minneapolis,
(612) 874-0400,
Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax, adapt: David Greig;
music and lyrics: Charlie Fink; dir: Max Webster.
Thru Jun 10. Co-production with Children’s
Theatre Company, MN, and the Old Globe, CA,
in partnership with the Old Vic, UK
OCommonweal Theatre Company, Lanesboro,
(800) 657-7025,
Silent Sky, Lauren Gunderson. Thru Jun 23.
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling
Bee, book: Rachel Sheinkin; lyrics: William Finn;
music: Jay Reiss. May 4-Sep 24.
The Clean House, Sarah Ruhl. Jun 28-Oct 22.
ODalekoArts, New Prague, (952) 314-9072,
She Loves Me, book: Joe Masteroff; lyrics:
Sheldon Harnick; music: Jerry Bock; dir: Joshua
Campbell. May 4-20.
Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis, (612) 377-2224,
Penumbra Theatre Company, St Paul,
(651) 224-3180,
This Bitter Earth, Harrison David Rivers;
dir: Talvin Wilks. Thru May 20.
OStages Theatre Company, Hopkins,
(952) 979-1111,
Whoever You Are, Christina Ham; music: Aaron
Gabriel; dir: Nikki Swoboda. Thru May 20.
Crenshaw, Jeannine Coulombe. Thru May 19.
DreamWorks’ Madagascar - A Musical
Adventure, Jr., book: Kevin Del Aguila; music and
lyrics: George Noriega, Joel Someillan; dir: Sandy
Boren-Barrett. Jun 29-Aug 5.
Ten Thousand Things Theater Company,
Minneapolis, (612) 203-9052,
The Good Person of Szechwan, Bertolt Brecht;
dir: Michelle Hensley. May 3-Jun 3.
Theater Latte Da, Minneapolis,
Five Points, book: Harrison David Rivers; music
and lyrics: Douglas Lyons; music: Ethan D.
Pakchar. Thru May 6.
Underneath the Lintel, Glen Berger; music:
Frank London; dir: Peter Rothstein. May 30-Jul 1.
ONew Stage Theatre, Jackson, (601) 948-3531,
Sister Act, Bill Steinkellner, Chris Steinkellner;
lyrics: Glenn Slater; music: Alan Menken;
dir: William Biddy. May 29-Jun 10.
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, Todd Kreidler;
dir: Timothy Bond. Thru May 27.
An Enemy of the People, adapt: Brad Birch from
Henrik Ibsen; dir: Lyndsey Turner. Thru Jun 3.
West Side Story, book: Arthur Laurents; lyrics:
Stephen Sondheim; music: Leonard Bernstein;
dir: Joseph Haj. Jun 16-Aug 26.
The Coterie Theatre, Kansas City,
Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company, St Paul,
(651) 647-4315,
Natasha and the Coat, Deborah Stein. Thru May 13.
Skylight, David Hare; dir: Darren Sextro.
May 23-Jun 10.
Park Square Theatre, St Paul, (651) 291-7005,
Kansas City Repertory Theatre,
Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes
Mystery, Ken Ludwig; dir: Theo Langason.
Jun 15-Aug 5.
French Twist, Jun 22-Jul 15.
Curtis Edward Jackson and Rudy Galvan in
The Gentleman Caller at Raven Theatre
Company in Chicago.
(816) 474-6552,
Jack and the Bean Mágico!, Linda Carson;
dir: Kim Selody. Thru May 20.
Goosebumps: Phantom of the Auditorium - The
Musical, book and lyrics: John Maclay; music and
lyrics: Danny Abosch; dir: Jeff Church. Jun 19-Aug 5.
Kansas City Actors Theatre, (816) 235-6222,
(816) 235-2700,
Brother Toad, Nathan Louis Jackson. Thru May 27.
Welcome to Fear City, Kara Lee Corthron.
Thru May 27.
Metropolitan Ensemble Theare, Kansas City,
(816) 569-3226,
Anna in the Tropics, Nilo Cruz; dir: Karen Paisley.
Thru May 6.
The Unsinkable Molly Brown, book: Richard
Morris; music and lyrics: Meredith Wilson;
dir: Karen Paisley. Jun 14-24.
Shakespeare Festival St Louis,
Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare; dir: Rick Dildine.
Jun 1-24.
OUnicorn Theatre, Kansas City, (816) 531-7529,
Vietgone, Qui Nguyen; dir: Cynthia Levin.
Thru May 13.
Hir, Taylor Mac; dir: Ian R. Crawford. May 30-Jun 24.
The BLUEBARN Theatre, Omaha,
(402) 345-1576,
The City in the City in the City, Matthew
Capodicasa; dir: Susan Clement-Toberer.
May 17-Jun 17.
Omaha Theater Company, (402) 345-4849,
Curious George & the Golden Meatball,
book and lyrics: Jeremy Desmon; music: John
Kavanaugh; dir: Stephanie Jacobson. Thru May 6.
Young Playwrights Festival (A Rose Teens ‘N’
Theater Production), May 11-13.
Disney’s Newsies, book: Harvey Fierstein; lyrics:
Jack Feldman; music: Alan Menken. Jun 1-17.
OBruka Theatre, Reno, (775) 323-3221,
The Frog Prince - Grimm’s 9, Mary Bennett.
Thru Jul 15.
Hedwig & the Angry Inch, John Cameron
Mitchell, Stephen Trask; dir: Bill Ware.
Thru May 12.
Abducting Diana, Dario Fo; dir: Stacy Johnson.
May 25-Jun 23.
Cape May Stage, Cape May, (609) 770-8311,
Erma Bombeck: At Wit’s End, Allison
Engel, Margaret Engel; dir: Roy Steinberg.
May 23-Jun 22.
Chapter Two, Neil Simon; dir: Roy S.
Jun 27-Aug 3.
Crossroads Theatre Company, New Brunswick,
Back to the Real, Pia Wilson; dir: Marshall
Jones,III. Thru May 6.
OMcCarter Theatre Center, Princeton,
(609) 258-2787,
Turning Off the Morning News, Christopher
Durang; dir: Emily Mann. May 4-Jun 3.
Lady Windermere’s Fan, Oscar Wilde; dir:
Josephine Hogan. Jun 1-24.
Kitchen Theatre Company, Ithaca,
(607) 272-0403,
Matt & Ben, Mindy Kaling, Brenda Withers;
dir: Shana Gozansky. May 27-Jun 10.
La MaMa E.T.C., NYC, (646) 430-5374,
Martyrs, Romana Soutus; dir: Pirronne
Yousefzadeh. Thru May 6.
There’s Blood at the Wedding: Songs for Lorca,
adapt: Theodora Skipitares (also dir); music: Sxip
Shirey. May 17-Jun 3.
Lincoln Center Theater, NYC, (212) 239-6200,
My Fair Lady, book and lyrics: Alan Jay
Lerner; music: Frederick Loewe; dir: Bartlett
Sher. Thru Jul 8.
Manhattan Theatre Club, NYC, (212) 239-6200,
Sugar in Our Wounds, Donja R. Love; dir:
Saheem Ali. May 22-Jun 24.
MusicalFare Theatre, Amherst, (716) 839-8540,
Once, book: Enda Walsh; music: Glen Hansard,
Markéta Irglová; dir: Randall Kramer. Thru May 27.
Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes
Mystery, Ken Ludwig; dir: Randall Kramer, Doug
Weyand. May 10-13.
OTwo River Theater, Red Bank, (732) 345-1400,
Dancing at Lughnas, Brian Friel; dir: Jessica
Stone. Thru May 13.
Oo-Bla-Dee, Regina Taylor; music: Diedre L.
Murray; dir: Ruben Santiago-Hudson. Jun 9-Jul 1.
OPan Asian Repertory Theatre, NYC,
Daybreak, Joyce Van Dyke. Thru May 16.
Twelfth Night, Shakespeare; dir: Maria Aitken.
May 10-27.
OThe Cider Mill Playhouse, Endicott,
(607) 748-7363,
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the
Forum, music: Stephen Sondheim. May 31-Jun 10.
Classic Stage Company, NYC, (212) 677-4210,
Summer and Smoke, Tennessee Williams. Thru
May 26. Co-production with Transport Group, NY
Carmen Jones, Oscar Hammerstein II.
Jun 14-Aug 1.
OGeva Theatre Center, Rochester,
(585) 232-4382,
Steel Magnolias, Robert Harling; dir: Skip Greer.
May 8-Jun 3.
HERE, NYC, (212) 352-3101,
Children’s Theatre of Charlotte,
(704) 973-2828,
Madagascar - A Musical Adventure,
lyrics: George Noriega, Joel Someillan.
Thru May 6.
Pocket, May 24-Jun 2.
OTriad Stage, Greensboro, (336) 272-0160,
The Passion of Teresa Rae King, Preston Lane
(also dir). Thru May 20.
Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park,
Cincinnati Shakespeare Company,
Peace for Mary Frances, Lily Thorne; dir: Lila
Neugebauer. May 8-Jun 17.
Teen Ensemble One-Act Festival, Jun 1-2.
OCape Fear Regional Theatre, Fayetteville,
(910) 323-4233,
Crowns, adapt: Regina Taylor; dir: Donna Bradby.
May 17-Jun 3.
Ramp, Eisa Davis; dir: Charlotte Brathwaite.
May 1-28.
(732) 229-3166,
Issei, He Say, Chloe Hung. Thru May 20.
Mercy, Adam Szymkowitcz. Jun 14-Jul 15.
The Acting Company, NYC,
New Georges, NYC,
The New Group, NYC, (212) 279-4200,
The 52nd Street Project, NYC,
Summer and Smoke, Tennesse Williams;
dir: Jack Cummings III. Thru May 1. Co-production
with Classic Stage Company, NY
(513) 421-3888,
Ken Ludwig’s Treasure Island, adapt: Ken
Ludwig; dir: Blake Robison. Thru May 19.
Murder for Two, book and lyrics: Kellen Blair;
music and lyrics: Joe Kinosian; dir: Paul Mason
Barnes. May 5-Jun 10.
New Jersey Repertory Company, Long Branch,
Transport Group Theatre Company, NYC,
Playwrights Horizons, NYC, (212) 279-4200,
Dance Nation, Clare Barron; dir: Lee Sunday
Evans. Thru May 27.
Log Cabin, Jordan Harrison; dir: Pam MacKinnon.
Jun 1-Jul 15.
The Public Theater, NYC, (212) 967-7555,
Mlima’s Tale, Lynn Nottage. Thru May 20.
Miss You Like Hell, book: Quiara Alegría Hudes;
lyrics: Quiara Alegría Hudes, Erin McKeown; music:
Erin McKeown; dir: Lear deBessonet. Thru May 5.
Mobile Unit: Henry V, Shakespeare; dir: Robert
O’Hara. Thru May 13.
ORed Bull Theater, NYC, (212) 352-3101,
Revelation Readings, Thru Jun 18.
The Metromaniacs, adapt: David Ives; music:
Adam Wernick; dir: Michael Kahn. Thru May 26.
Road Less Traveled Productions, Buffalo,
(716) 629-3069,
The Christians, Lucas Hnath; dir: Scott Behrend.
Thru May 20.
Signature Theatre Co, NYC, (212) 244-7529,
Paradise Blue, Dominique Morisseau; dir: Ruben
Santiago-Hudson. Thru Jun 3.
Our Lady of 121st Street, Stephen Adly Guirgis;
dir: Anne Kauffman. May 1-Jun 10.
(513) 381-2273,
On tour: Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare;
dir: Jeremy Dubin. Thru May 27.
On tour: Macbeth, Shakespeare; dir: Darnell
Pierre Benjamin. Thru May 27.
Noises Off, Michael Frayn; dir: Ed Stern.
May 16-Jun 9.
Cleveland Play House, (216) 241-6000,
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling
Bee, book: Rachel Sheinkin; lyrics: William Finn;
dir: Marcia Milgrom Dodge. Thru May 6.
The Royale, Marco Ramirez; dir: Robert Barry
Fleming. May 5-27.
Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin, Hershey Felder;
dir: Trevor Hay. Jun 7-17.
Cleveland Public Theatre, (216) 631-2727,
Station Hope 2018, May 5.
DanceWorks 2018, May 17-Jun 9.
Dobama Theatre, Cleveland Heights,
(216) 932-3396,
Appropriate, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins;
dir: Nathan Motta. Thru May 20.
OEnsemble Theatre Cincinnati,
(513) 421-3555,
His Eye is on the Sparrow, Larry Parr.
Thru May 19.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch, book: John
Cameron Mitchell; lyrics: Stephen Trask;
music: Stephen Trask. Jun 5-30.
Know Theatre of Cincinnati, (513) 300-5669,
Ada & the Engine, Lauren Gunderson;
dir: Tamara Winters. Thru May 12.
Theater Ninjas, Cleveland,
Symphonie Fantastique, Basil Twist.
Thru May 13.
Assembled Identity, Purva Bedi, Kristin Marting
(also dir), Mariana Newhard. Thru May 13.
American Weather, Chris Green (also dir).
Jun 11-Jul 1.
SITI Company, NYC,
the theater is a blank page, dir: Anne Bogart,
Ann Hamilton. Thru May 12.
OIrish Classical Theatre Co, Buffalo,
(716) 853-4282,
The Awful Truth, Arthur Richman; dir: Fortunato
Pezzimenti. Thru May 13.
Syracuse Stage, (315) 443-3275,
The Magic Play, Andrew Hinderaker; dir: Halena
Kays. Thru May 13. co-production with Portland
Center Stage, OR
OArtists Repertory Theatre, Portland,
(503) 241-1278,
I and You, Lauren Gunderson; dir: JoAnn
Johnson. May 20-Jun 17.
Mystery Box, Lauren Fraley, Jeremy Paul.
May 31-Jun 2.
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OBag&Baggage Productions, Hillsboro,
(503) 345-9590,
Blithe Spirit, Noel Coward; dir: Scott Palmer.
May 10-27.
OBroadway Rose Theatre Company, Tigard,
(503) 620-5262,
Always…Patsy Cline, Thru May 6.
Mamma Mia!, Jun 27-Jul 22.
CoHo Productions, Portland, (503) 220-2646,
Luna Gale, Rebecca Gilman; dir: Brandon Woolley.
Thru May 12.
OCorrib Theatre, Portland,
Quietly, Owen McCafferty; dir: Gemma Whelan.
Thru May 6.
Oregon Contemporary Theatre, Eugene,
(541) 465-1506,
Hand to God, Robert Askins; dir: Brian Haimbach.
May 17-Jun 9.
Miracle Theatre Group, Portland,
(503) 236-7253,
Watsonville: Some Place Not Here, Cherríe
Moraga; dir: Cambria Herrera. May 3-26.
Oregon Children’s Theatre, Portland,
(503) 228-9571,
The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show,
adapt: Jonathan Rockefeller; book: Eric Carle;
dir: Marcella Crowson, Tony Fuemmeler.
Thru May 13.
Impulse: OCT’s Improvisational Troupe, dir: Jay
Flewelling. May 4-20.
A Year With Frog and Toad, adapt and lyrics:
Willie Reale; book: Arnold Lobel; music: Robert
Reale; dir: Dani Baldwin. May 5-27.
Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland,
(800) 219-8161,
Othello, Shakespeare; music: Andre Pluess;
dir: Bill Rauch. Thru Oct 28.
Sense and Sensibility, adapt: Kate Hamill; music:
Justin Ellington; dir: Hana Sharif. Thru Oct 28.
Destiny of Desire, Karen Zacarías; music: Rosino
Serrano; dir: José Luis Valenzuela. Thru Jul 12.
Henry V, Shakespeare; music: Palmer Hefferan;
dir: Rosa Joshi. Thru Oct 27.
Manahatta, Mary Kathryn Nagle; music: Paul
James Prendergast; dir: Laurie Woolery.
Thru Oct 27.
Oklahoma!, book and lyrics: Oscar Hammerstein
II; music: Richard Rodgers; dir: Bill Rauch.
Thru Oct 27.
Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare; music: Rodolfo
Ortega; dir: Dámaso Rodríguez. Jun 5-Oct 12.
The Book of Will, Lauren Gunderson; music: Paul
James Prendergast; dir: Christopher Liam Moore.
Jun 6-Oct 13.
Love’s Labor’s Lost, Shakespeare; music: Amanda
Dehnert (also dir), Andre Pluess. Jun 7-Oct 14.
Portland Center Stage, (503) 445-3700,
And So We Walked, DeLanna Studi; dir: Corey B.
Madden. Thru May 13.
Major Barbara, George Bernard Shaw; dir: Chris
Coleman. Thru May 13.
Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill, Lanie
Robertson; dir: Bill Fennelly. May 26-Jul 1.
Portland Playhouse, (503) 488-5822,
Fences, August Wilson; dir: Lou Bellamy.
May 2-Jun 10.
Profile Theatre, Portland, (503) 242-0080,
The Secretaries, Maureen Angelos, Babs Davy,
Dominique Dibbell, Peg Healey, Lisa Kron.
Jun 14-Jul 1.
OStaged! Musical Theatre, Portland,
John Hughes High - The 1980’s Teen Musical,
book, music, lyrics: Mark LaPierre; music: Eric
Nordin; dir: Diane Englert. May 3-20.
OStumptown Stages, Portland, (800) 273-1530,
Evita, lyrics: Tim Rice; music: Andrew Lloyd
Webber; dir: David Marquez. Thru May 14.
Leonard Bernstein’s Mass, book: Leonard
Bernstein (also music), Stephen Schwartz;
dir: Jon Kretzu. Jun 9-10.
Third Rail Repertory Theatre, Portland,
(503) 235-1101,
Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again., Alice Birch;
dir: Rebecca Lingafelter. May 25-Jun 16.
1812 Productions, Philadelphia, (215) 592-9560,
Hope and Gavity, Michael Hollinger; dir: Jennifer
Childs. Thru May 20.
OAct II Playhouse, Ambler, (215) 654-0200,
Camelot, book and lyrics: Alan Jay Lerner;
music: Frederick Loewe. May 15-Jun 10.
Arden Theatre Co, Philadelphia, (215) 922-1122,
Snow White, Greg Banks (also dir). Thru Jun 3.
Fun Home, book and lyrics: Lisa Kron; music:
Jeanine Tesori; dir: Terrence J. Nolen. May 17-Jun 17.
Little Women, Laura Dugan. Jun 8-30.
The Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival,
Center Valley, (610) 282-9455,
TBA, Jun 1-Aug 4.
Ragtime, Terrence McNally; lyrics: Lynn
Ahrens; music: Stephen Flaherty; dir: Dennis
Razze. Jun 13-Jul 1.
Twelfth Night, Shakespeare; dir: Matt Pfeiffer.
Jun 20-Jul 15.
People’s Light, Malvern, (610) 644-3500,
Romeo and Juliet: A Requiem, adapt: Zak
Berkman, Samantha Reading (also dir) from
Shakespeare. Thru May 27.
Skeleton Crew, Dominique Morisseau; dir: Steve
H. Broadnax III. Jun 13-Jul 8.
OPittsburgh Public Theater, (412) 316-1600,
Hamlet, Shakespeare; dir: Ted Pappas.
Thru May 20.
Reduced Shakespeare Company in William
Shakespeare’s Long Lost First Play (abridged),
Reed Martin, Austin Tichenor. May 31-Jul 1.
Quintessence Theatre Group, Philadelphia,
(215) 987-4450,
The Prince and the Pauper, May 14-Jun 8.
Azuka Theatre, Philadelphia, (215) 563-1100,
Mrs. Harrison, R. Eric Thomas; dir: Kevin
Glaccum. May 2-20.
Theatre Exile, Philadelphia, (215) 218-4022,
OBloomsburg Theatre Ensemble,
(570) 784-8181,
Marjorie Prime, Jordan Harrison; dir: Daniel
Roth. Thru May 20.
OTouchstone Theatre, Bethlehem,
(610) 867-1689,
Young Playwrights’ Festival & Gala, Area Young
Playwrights; dir: Touchstone Ensemble & Special
Guests. May 12.
Fresh Voices, Chloe Anne Madison. Jun 1-2.
Bristol Riverside Theatre, (215) 785-0100,
Triumph of Love, book: James Magruder;
lyrics: Susan Birkenhead; music: Jeffery Stock;
dir: Keith Baker. May 1-20.
OCity Theatre Company, Pittsburgh,
(412) 431-2489,
The White Chip, Sean Daniels; dir: Sheryl Kaller.
Thru May 6.
Nomad Motel, Carla Ching; dir: Bart DeLorenzo.
May 12-Jun 3.
EgoPo Classic Theater, Philadelphia,
(267) 273-1414,
Lydie Breeze Trilogy: Marathons, John Guare;
dir: Lane Savadove. Thru May 6.
Gamut Theatre Group, Harrisburg,
(717) 238-4111,
The Little Mermaid, Sean Adams. May 2-19.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare;
dir: Thomas Weaver. Jun 1-16.
Aesop’s Fables, Don Bridge, Clark & Melissa
Nicholson. Jun 6-16.
OInterAct Theatre Company, Philadelphia,
(215) 568-8079,
Draw the Circle, Mashuq Mushtaq Deen;
dir: Chay Yew. Jun 1-24.
OLantern Theater Company, Philadelphia,
(215) 829-0395,
Don’t Dress for Dinner, adapt: Robin Hawdon
from Marc Camoletti; dir: Kathryn MacMillan.
May 24-Jun 24.
Montgomery Theater, Souderton,
(215) 723-9984,
Last of the Red Hot Lovers, Neil Simon;
dir: Tom Quinn. Jun 7-Jul 1.
OOpen Stage of Harrisburg, (717) 232-6736,
Collective Rage: A Play in Five Betties,
Jen Silverman. Thru May 6.
Alice in Wonderland, adapt: Rachel Landon.
May 17-20.
Sing the Body Electric, Michael Hollinger;
dir: Deborah Block. Thru May 13.
The Wilma Theater, Philadelphia,
(215) 546-7824,
Passage, Christopher Chen; dir: Blanka Zizka.
Thru May 13.
Gamm Theatre, Pawtucket, (401) 723-4266,
As You Like It, Shakespeare. Thru May 27.
OTrinity Repertory Co, Providence,
(401) 351-4242,
Native Gardens, Karen Zacarías; dir: Christie
Vela. Thru May 6.
Ragtime, book: Terrence McNally; lyrics: Lynn
Ahrens; music: Stephen Flaherty; dir: Curt
Columbus. Thru May 27.
OThe Wilbury Theatre Group, Providence,
(401) 400-7100,
The Pirates of Penzance, or The Slave of Duty,
adapt: Sean Graney, Kevin O’Donnell from
W.S. Gilbert, Arthur Sullivan; dir: Josh Short.
May 17-Jun 8.
Arts Center of Coastal Carolina, Hilton Head,
(888) 860-2787,
Evita, lyrics: Andrew Lloyd Webber; music: Tim
Rice; dir: Gail Luna. May 2-22.
Saturday Night Fever, book: Nan Knighton;
music and lyrics: Bee Gees; music: Bee Gees.
Jun 20-Jul 29.
Centre Stage, Greenville, (864) 233-6733,
Red Herring, Michael Hollinger. May 10-26.
God of Carnage, Yasmina Reza. May 15-23.
The Tin Woman, Sean Grennan. Jun 19-30.
OLean Ensemble Theater, Hilton Head Island,
(843) 715-6676,
The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde;
dir: Christine Albright. Thru May 6.
PURE Theatre, Charleston, (843) 723-4444,
Straight White Men, Young Jean Lee.
Thru May 19.
Trustus Theatre, Columbia, (803) 254-9732,
The Restoration’s Constance, book: Chad
Henderson (also dir); lyrics: Adam Corbett, Daniel
Machado; music: The Restoration. May 4-19.
Hir, Taylor Mac; dir: Lindsay Rae Taylor. Jun 1-9.
Memphis, book: Joe Dipietro; music and
lyrics: David Bryan; dir: Dewey Scott-Wiley.
Jun 29-Jul 28.
The Village Repertory Co, Charleston,
Disaster, Jack Plotnick, Seth Rudesky; dir: Keely
Enright. Thru May 12.
The Warehouse Theatre, Greenville,
(864) 235-6948,
Much Ado About Nothing, Shakespeare;
dir: Anne Kelly Tromsness. Thru May 5.
Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, book: Alex
Timbers; music and lyrics: Michael Friedman;
dir: Andrew Scoville. Jun 8-30.
OClarence Brown Theatre Co, Knoxville,
(865) 974-5161,
Urinetown, the Musical, book: Greg Kotis; lyrics:
Mark Hollmann; dir: Bill Osetek. Thru May 6.
A.D. Players, Houston,
Lilies of the Field, F. Andrew Leslie; dir: Chip
Simmons. Thru May 13.
David, The Best Slinger In The West, Robb
Brunson (also dir). Jun 5-May 23.
OAlley Theatre, Houston, (713) 220-5700,
Picasso at the Lapin Agile, Steve Martin;
dir: Gregory Boyd. May 11-Jun 3.
The Cake, Bekah Brunstetter. Jun 1-Jul 1.
Holmes and Watson, Jeffrey Hatcher; dir: Mark
Shanahan. Jun 22-Jul 22.
OAustin Playhouse,
Curtains, book: Rupert Holmes; lyrics: Fred Ebb;
music: John Kander; dir: Don Toner. May 25-Jun 24.
The Catastrophic Theatre, Houston,
(713) 521-4533,
Small Ball, book and lyrics: Mickle Maher;
music: Anthony Barilla, Meryl van Dijk; dir: Jason
Nodler. Thru May 12.
The Strangerer, Mickle Maher; dir: Jason Nodler.
May 11-Jun 2.
Jim Lehrer and the Theater and Its Double and
Jim Lehrer’s Double, Mickle Maher; dir: Jason
Nodler. May 11-Jun 2.
On Tour with Tamarie, Tamarie Cooper (also dir).
Jun 28-Aug 11.
Dallas Children’s Theater, (214) 740-0051,
Blue, Annie Cusick Wood. Thru May 6.
Jungalbook, Edward Mast. May 4-26.
How I Became a Pirate, book and lyrics: Mark
Friedman, Janet Yates Vogt; music: Janet Janet.
Jun 15-Jul 8.
ODallas Theater Center, (214) 252-3927,
The Trials of Sam Houston, Aaron Loeb;
dir: Kevin Moriarty. Thru May 13.
White Rabbit Red Rabbit, Nassim Soleimanpour.
May 30-Jul 1.
OThe Ensemble Theatre Houston,
(713) 807-4300,
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, August Wilson;
dir: Eileen J. Morris. May 5-Jun 3.
Sistas: The Musical, Dorothy Marcic; dir: Patdro
Harris. Jun 23-Jul 29.
OKitchen Dog Theater, Dallas, (214) 953-1055,
Pompeii, book and music: Cameron Cobb (also
dir), Max Hartman; book: Michael Federico.
Thru May 6.
New Works Festival 2018 Staged Reading
Series, May 31-Jun 17.
Main Street Theater, Houston, (713) 524-6706,
Junie B. Jones Is Not a Crook, Allison Gregory;
dir: Katie Harrison. Thru May 26.
Sideways Stories from Wayside School, adapt:
John Olive; dir: Vivienne M. St. John. Thru May 19.
Daddy Long Legs, book: John Caird; music
and lyrics: Paul Gordon; dir: Andrew Ruthven.
May 19-Jun 17.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, adapt: Ray Roderick,
Jeremy Sams; music and lyrics: Richard M.
Sherman, Robert B. Sherman; dir: Jimmy Phillips.
Jun 12-Jul 29.
4th Wall Theatre Co, Houston,
Shakespeare in Vegas, Suzanne Bradbeer;
dir: Jennifer Dean. May 17-Jun 9.
OUndermain Theatre, Dallas,
(214) 747-5515,
Whither Goest Thou America?,
Thru May 6.
The VORTEX, Austin, (512) 478-5282,
Performance Park, Bonnie Cullum (also dir), the
Ensemble. Thru May 12.
Home, May 17-19.
Polly Mermaid, Indigo Real; dir: Caroline Reck.
May 25-Jun 9.
The Afterparty, Reina Hardy. Jun 15-30.
OWaterTower Theatre, Addison,
(972) 450-6232,
Bread, Regina Taylor; dir: Leah C. Gardiner.
Thru May 6.
The Last Five Years, book, music, lyrics: Jason
Robert Brown; dir: Kelsey Leigh Ervi.
Jun 8-Jul 1.
OZACH Theatre, Austin, (512) 476-0541,
Goodnight Moon, book, music, lyrics: Chad
Henry; dir: Abe Reybold. Thru May 27.
Sunday in the Park With George, book: James
Lapine; music and lyrics: Stephen Sondheim;
dir: Dave Steakley. May 30-Jun 24.
Heisenberg, Simon Stephens; dir: Nat Miller.
Jun 20-Jul 22.
OSalt Lake Acting Company, Salt Lake City,
(801) 363-7522,
Fun Home, book and lyrics: Lisa Kron; music:
Jeanine Tesori; dir: Jason Bowcutt.
Thru May 13.
Saturday’s Voyeur 2018, Allen Nevins;
lyrics: Nancy Borgenicht; dir: Cynthia Fleming.
Jun 20-Aug 26.
Northern Stage, White River Junction,
OMildred’s Umbrella Theater Company,
Houston, (832) 463-0409,
Museum of Dysfunction X, Jun 21-30.
(802) 296-7000,
Noises Off, Michael Frayn; dir: Peter Hackett.
Thru May 13.
OStage West Theatre, Fort Worth,
(817) 784-9378,
Hir, Taylor Mac; dir: Garret Storms. May 17-Jun 17.
Vermont Stage, Burlington, (802) 863-5966,
Tigers Be Still, Kim Rosenstock. Thru May 6.
Pistarckle Theater, St. Thomas,
Going to Come Back, Susan Hunter. May 3-19.
season of “8 TENS @ EIGHT “ short-play festival. 16 winners presented in alternating nights in
repertory for five full weeks. Send us your best ten-minute-or-less scripts. All styles, all genre,
including musicals. Deadline: July 1, 2018. See for details.
TCG FALL INTERNSHIPS: Theatre Communications Group (TCG), the national service
organization for the American theatre, seeks highly motivated individuals for our internship
program in the following areas: American Theatre magazine; Artistic & International Programs;
Communications & Community Engagement; Conferences & Fieldwide Learning; Graphic Design;
Individual Giving & Special Events; Institutional Advancement & Partnerships; Membership;
Research, Policy & Collective Action; and the TCG Books Program. Email résumé, writing sample
(two if applying for American Theatre magazine internship), and cover letter indicating your
primary area(s) of interest to Laurie Baskin, Application deadline: Friday,
July 22, 2018 For more information, please visit:
InternshipsAtTCG.aspx. TCG is an Equal Opportunity Employer and has a strong commitment to
equity, diversity, and inclusion in our hiring process and in all areas of our work.
Callboard ad rates for American Theatre are as follows: $5.00 per word. Zips, abbreviations, addresses and all
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1st Stage, Tysons,
Fly By Night, Will Connolly, Michael Mitnick,
Kim Rosenstock; dir: Kathryn Chase Bryer.
Thru May 6.
Swimming With Whales, Bob Bartlett; dir: Alex
Levy. May 31-Jun 24.
American Shakespeare Center, Staunton,
(540) 851-1733,
Sense and Sensibility, adapt: Brian McMahon,
Emma Whipday; dir: Stephanie Holladay Earl.
Thru Jun 9.
Macbeth, Shakespeare; dir: Benjamin Curns.
Thru Jun 9.
The Taming of the Shrew, Shakespeare;
dir: Jemma Alix Levy. Thru Jun 10.
Equivocation, Bill Cain; dir: Jim Warren.
Thru Jun 8.
Cadence Theatre Company, Richmond,
Appropriate, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins; dir: Anna
Senechal Johnson. Thru May 20. co-production
with Virginia Repertory Theatre, VA
Taproot Theatre Company, Seattle,
(206) 781-9707,
Lady Windermere’s Fan, Oscar Wilde.
May 16-Jun 16.
OMill Mountain Theatre, Roanoke,
(540) 342-5740,
A Chorus Line, book: Nicholas Dante, James
Kirkwood Jr.; lyrics: Edward Kleban; music: Marvin
Hamlisch; dir: Alicia Varcoe. Thru May 13.
The Tempest, Shakespeare. May 3-12.
Mother Goose Tales, May 3-12.
The Christians, Lucas Hnath. May 18-19.
A Year With Frog and Toad, book and lyrics:
Willie Reale; music: Robert Reale. Jun 2-30.
Spring Awakening, book and lyrics: Steven Sater;
music: Duncan Sheik. Jun 21-30.
OAmerican Players Theatre, Spring Green,
(608) 588-2361,
As You Like It, Shakespeare; dir: James Bohnen.
Jun 9-Oct 7.
Blood Knot, Athol Fugard; dir: Ron OJ Parson.
Jun 9-Sep 28.
Born Yesterday, Garson Kanin; dir: Brenda
DeVita. Jun 15-Sep 22.
The Recruiting Officer, George Farquhar;
dir: William Brown. Jun 22-Sep 29.
Exit the King, Eugene Ionesco; dir: Kenneth
Albers. Jun 26-Sep 27.
OVirginia Repertory Theatre, Richmond,
(804) 282-2620,
River Ditty, Matthew Keuter; dir: Nathaniel Shaw.
Thru May 6.
Appropriate, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins; dir: Anne
Senechal Johnson. Thru May 20. Co-production
with Cadence Theatre Company, VA
West Side Story, book: Arthur Laurents; lyrics:
Stephen Sondheim; music: Leonard Bernstein;
dir: Nathaniel Shaw. Jun 22-Jul 29.
Milwaukee Repertory Theater, (414) 224-9490,
Always…Patsy Cline, Ted Swindley (also dir).
Thru May 20.
Our Town, Thornton Wilder; dir: Brent Hazelton.
Thru May 13.
Peninsula Players Theatre, Fish Creek,
(920) 868-3287,
Now and Then, Sean Grennan. Jun 12-Jul 1.
Virginia Stage Company, Norfolk,
Third Avenue Playhouse, Sturgeon Bay,
(757) 627-1234,
Crowns, Regina Taylor. May 9-27.
(920) 743-1760,
Stella and Lou, Bruce Graham; dir: James Valcq.
May 9-Jun 3.
Lungs, Duncan Macmillan; dir: Robert Boles.
Jun 27-Jul 28.
WSC Avant Bard, Arlington, (703) 418-4808,
The Tempest, Shakespeare; dir: Tom Prewitt.
May 31-Jul 8.
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Contact Norm Orlowski, 866-503-1966.
OThe 5th Avenue Theatre, Seattle,
(206) 625-1900,
Ride the Cyclone, book, music, lyrics: Brooke
Maxwell, Jacob Richmond; dir: Rachel Rockwell.
Thru May 20. Co-production with ACT - A
Contemporary Theatre, WA
The Hunchback of Notre Dame, book: Peter
Parnell; lyrics: Stephen Schwartz; music: Alan
Menken; dir: Glenn Casale. Jun 1-24.
ARTSWEST, Seattle, (206) 938-0339,
An Octoroon, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins.
Thru May 13.
Kiss of the Spider Woman, book: Terrence
McNally; lyrics: Fred Ebb; music: John Kander.
Jun 7-Jul 8.
Book-It Repertory Theatre, Seattle,
OHarlequin Productions, Olympia,
(360) 786-0151,
Three Days of Rain, Richard Greenberg; dir: Scot
Whitney. May 3-26.
Magical Mystery Midsummer Musical, music
and lyrics: Bruce Whitney; dir: Linda Whitney.
Jun 21-Jul 21.
Seattle Children’s Theatre, (206) 441-3322,
Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed: The Rock
Experience, book and lyrics: Mo Willems;
music: Deborah Wicks La Puma. Thru May 13.
The Lamp Is the Moon, Kirk Lynn.
Thru May 20.
OSeattle Repertory Theatre, (206) 443-2222,
Familiar, Danai Gurira; dir: Taibi Magar.
Thru May 20.
Mac Beth, adapt: Erica Schmidt (also dir).
May 18-Jun 17.
(206) 216-0833,
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,
adapt: Elise Thoron (also dir). Thru May 6.
The Picture of Dorian Gray, dir: Victor Pappas.
Jun 6-Jul 1.
Theatre is as much a visual as a verbal medium, and among the key perceptual guides
not only to what we see but how we see it are theatrical lighting designers. Though
it’s only been officially recognized as its own distinct profession since the 1940s, the
manipulation of light and its properties has been an integral part of theatremaking since
its beginning. This special issue will look at the latest developments in the craft and
technology of illumination, including a career-summing profile of the groundbreaking
lighting-design duo Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer.
ALSO IN THIS ISSUE: Profiles of “break beat” playwright Idris Goodwin and Ilana M.
Brownstein, director of new work at Boston’s Company One.
on Facebook
Our April 2018 issue featured a package of stories on Native American theatre and artists. Some reactions to those pieces:
TCG has announced the latest
cohort in its Rising Leaders of Color grants. Learn
more about these up-and-comers at:
GARY STANFORD JR.: Yessss!!!! Some more of my people get a voice!!
L. NICOL CABE: Finally, some reasonably good news out of U.S. theatre.
WILLIAM S. YELLOWROBE: And there are many other Native Tribal
women doing theatre today that aren’t mentioned in this article or any
past articles of this magazine…
Applications are open for the latest round of TCG’s Audience (R)Evolution Travel Grants, where artists and theatres can apply for funding for audience engagement
Like us at
on Twitter
Speaking of Audience (Re)Evolution, read the latest
case study, sponsored by the Wallace Foundation,
about Denver Center Theatre Company’s immersive
audience-building work at
Responses to
“Native Women Rising,”
Madeline Sayet’s April
issue cover story about
playwrights Larissa FastHorse,
Mary Katheryn Nagle, and
DeLanna Studi:
@pollackpelzner: This is a terrific, timely blend of reporting, cultural
context, and personal essay that shows the political stakes of telling
these stories now.
@KarenZacarias6: Amazing article about amazing women!
@SasswithCas: I’m stage managing “The Thanksgiving Play” by
Larissa FastHorse @artistsrep.
@thereismoresea: Now is a very special moment for
#NativeTheater—and here’s @MadelineSayet in @AmericanTheatre
with #WomenWarriors Larissa FastHorse, @MKNAGLE, & @
delanna_studi to tell you all about it! #Sheroes #WonderWomen
Follow us at
This month TCG Books will
release The Band’s Visit, a miraculous new musical that explores
the magic and wonder of unexpected human connection. After a
mix-up at the border, an Egyptian
police band finds itself stranded
in an Israeli desert. With no bus
until morning and no hotel in
sight, these travelers are taken in by the locals and
their lives are forever altered. Itamar Moses and David
Yazbek’s stunning musical adaptation of the 2007
acclaimed film of the same title finds transcendence
in the surprising and tender relationships forged under
the desert sky. Purchase a copy of The Band’s Visit at
Up-to-date schedules of TCG theatres from
coast to coast. PLUS: details about production
venues, designers and choreographers, artistic leader statements, and general information
about each theatre at
Julian Parker, Kayla Carter, Deanna Myers,
and Erik Hellman in Smart People at
Writers Theatre in Glencoe, Ill.
TALK BACK! Post your comments on stories from this issue and from our archives
at Visit our publisher, Theatre Communications Group, at
published monthly except for double issues in
May/June and July/August. Available through
TCG Membership, $50 per year in the U.S., $80
per year in Canada and all other countries.
Copyright © 2018, Theatre Communications
Group. All rights reserved. Reproduction in
whole or part without permission is prohibited.
Statements of writers and advertisers are not
necessarily those of the publisher. Unsolicited
play manuscripts are not accepted from playwrights or their representatives. POSTMASTER:
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TCG Board members represent a broad cross-section of the American theatre field and professional perspectives.
They are united by their belief in TCG’s mission and dedicated to building a bond between TCG and
the national theatre community.
Kevin Moriarty, Chair
Kathryn M. Lipuma, Vice Chair
Christopher Acebo, Associate Artistic Director;
Oregon Shakespeare Festival
Sarah Bellamy, Co-Artistic Director; Penumbra Theatre Company
Joseph P. Benincasa, President and CEO; The Actors Fund
Raymond Bobgan, Executive Artistic Director; Cleveland Public Theatre
Kristen Coury, Founder and Producing Artistic Director;
Gulfshore Playhouse
Tim Jennings, Treasurer
Larissa FastHorse, Secretary
Kathryn M. Lipuma, Executive Director; Writers Theatre
Johamy Morales, Education Director; Creede Reportory Theatre
Kevin Moriarty, Artistic Director; Dallas Theater Center
Eileen J. Morris, Artistic Director; The Ensemble Theatre
Lisa Portes, Head of Directing; The Theatre School at DePaul University
Meghan Pressman, Managing Director; Woolly Mammoth
Theatre Company
Joshua Dachs, President; Fisher Dachs Associates
Theatre Planning and Design
Will Davis, Artistic Director; American Theater Company
Teresa Eyring, Executive Director; Theatre Communications Group
Larissa FastHorse, Playwright and Choreographer
Derek Goldman, Co-Founding Director; Laboratory for Global
Performance and Politics; Director, Playwright/Adapter, Professor
Jamie Herlich, Director of Development; Seattle Repertory Theatre
Susan Hilferty, Costume and Set Designer
Rebecca Hopkins, Managing Director; Florida Studio Theatre
Tim Jennings, Executive Director; The Shaw Festival
Marshall Jones III, Producing Artistic Director;
Crossroads Theatre Company
Benita Hofstetter Koman, Executive Director;
Heather Randall, Actor and Producer
Randy Reyes, Artistic Director; Mu Performing Arts
Francine T. Reynolds, Artistic Director; New Stage Theatre
Ellen Richard, Executive Director; Laguna Playhouse
Blake Robison, Artistic Director; Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park
Eric Rosen, Artistic Director; Kansas City Repertory Theatre
Michael S. Rosenberg, Managing Director; La Jolla Playhouse
Nikkole Salter, Actor, Playwright, and Advocate
Tim Sanford, Artistic Director; Playwrights Horizons
Carlo Scandiuzzi, Philanthropist
John Douglas Thompson, Actor
Robert P. Warren, President; The William & Eva Fox Foundation
Shana C. Waterman, Head of Television; One Race TV
The Roy Cockrum Foundation
Max Leventhal, Owner’s Representative; The Woodruff Arts Center
Composed of leading trustees from member theatres across the country, the National Council for the American Theatre
guides TCG’s programs on governance and board development, and serves as a “brain trust” for the organization.
For information on joining the National Council, please contact Adrian Budhu, Deputy Director and COO:
* Judith O. Rubin, Chair; Playwrights Horizons
* Eve Alvord, Seattle Children’s Theatre
Roger J. Bass, Frm. Seattle Repertory Theatre
Ralph Bryan, La Jolla Playhouse
Diana Buckhantz, Center Theatre Group
Bunni Copaken, Kansas City Repertory Theatre
Sophie Cripe, South Coast Repertory
Brad Edgerton, Oregon Shakespeare Festival
Mindy Ellmer, ZACH Theatre
Reade Fahs, Alliance Theatre
Wendy Gillespie, La Jolla Playhouse
Kiki Ramos Gindler, Center Theatre Group
Laura Hall, Coterie Theatre
Ruth Hendel, Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center
Cynthia Huffman, Intiman Theatre
Bruce E.H. Johnson, Seattle Repertory Theatre
Carole Krumland, Berkeley Repertory Theatre
Gail Lopes, Oregon Shakespeare Festival
Jennifer Melin Miller, Guthrie Theater
Ruby H. Melton, Long Wharf Theatre
Julie Morris, PlayMakers Repertory Company
* Eleanor Cook Nolan, Seattle Children’s Theatre
* Toni Rembe, American Conservatory Theater
Deedie Rose, Dallas Theater Center
Ted Rosky, Actors Theatre of Louisville
Jack Rouse, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park
Jeremy Shamos, Curious Theatre Company
David Shiffrin, Arena Stage
* Jaan Whitehead, The SITI Company
* Founding member
Because I’m always very interested in what the actor sees,
being an actor myself. That’s very important. There’s some
people who like to impose their insights and thoughts on
actors. And to a certain extent, direction will do that. But
not all of it should be that. Because if the actor can’t own it
for his or her own self, it becomes empty. It’s not alive. It
becomes alive when the actor can own it.
What has being a director taught you about acting?
Phylicia Rashad, best known as an actor (including a
Tony-winning turn in A Raisin in the Sun), is bulking up
her directing résumé. She’s next helming Stephen Adly
Guirgis’s Our Lady of 121st Street at New York City’s
Signature Theatre (May 1-June 10) and Jen Silverman’s
The Roommate at the Steppenwolf Theatre Company
in Chicago (June 21-Aug. 6). —Diep Tran
You haven’t worked with Guirgis or Silverman before.
Why did you choose these plays?
That’s attractive to me—something I haven’t done, a playwright that I haven’t worked with. I just really love the work,
and it just makes me happy to do it. And then when I get
over being tired, I’m happy again. They’re very good plays.
If I didn’t think they were good plays, trust me, I would just
say, “No, thank you,” and move on.
How would you characterize your style as a director?
You’d have to talk to actors, I don’t know. I get inspired
by connections—subtle connections within the text to the
emotional life of the character, to the unfolding of the story
itself. Those are what I call the sinews of thought and emotion. And I get very excited about that, and I get very, very
happy about finding those things. I read the play every day
before entering into rehearsal, but it’s always what you don’t
know that’s most exciting.
What is your process for finding the core of a play?
The truth is, I just read the text and I allow it to present
itself to me. And then when it presents itself to me, I may
ask why. Let’s take this example: In Our Lady of 121st Street,
the character Father Lux comes in and reveals something
about himself that one wouldn’t expect. And then I have
to ask myself, “Why?” And I’ll just pose that question, and
I won’t go around trying to make up stuff. I’ll just ask the
question and allow the answer to come. And then comes
the question, “That’s what I see—what will the actor see?”
There are two things I discovered as a director. I would
see it in actors, and then I would think, “Oh, did I do that?
Have I done that? Most likely I have. I don’t wanna do that
anymore.” Those are two great obstacles for actors: One is
wanting to be liked, and the other is imagining that one has
to do something for the audience to get it. So when I work
as an actor, I really love to trust the director, because working as a director, I know I see things that the actor can’t see.
The most brilliant actor can’t see the picture. This is the
way I say it: The picture cannot see itself.
Would you ever direct yourself?
Child, no! [Laughs] I would never be that arrogant. Ooh,
praise the Lord, no, no, no, no. Somebody else has got to
be keeping watch! I really learn a lot from the directors that
I work with. That’s what happens when an actor can open
oneself to receiving direction and actually taking it. Sometimes even if I don’t get it right away, I still wanna follow
it, because I know just as long as I do, I’ll understand it. It’s
called trust. And it is a critical factor.
What’s the secret to a long life in the theatre?
George C. Wolfe said, “She who holds her breath the longest will survive.” You just have to be willing to be in it all
the way. One of the most incredible artists I know is Vinie
Burrows. She won’t mind me saying this—I think she’s
about 93 years old. And she was Peaseblossom in this past
summer’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the
park. When I came to New York, Vinie Burrows was a name
I heard all the time; she was always creating work for herself, never waiting for somebody to come with a production.
She was in the trenches. And she’s still performing. She is
an inspiration. This lady, she’s like fire.
This is the thing about artists. Artists don’t retire.
Never. It’s to the end, girl. It’s to the end. Geoffrey Holder
said, “Darling, theatre artists never die. We just go on tour.”
If you could go back in time and see one production,
what would it be?
I would go back in time to see once again Wedding Band
with Ruby Dee at the Public Theater [by Alice Childress,
1972]. That was a very moving piece for me, and Ruby Dee
was magic onstage. I saw this woman stand centerstage, in
full light, and disappear. She appeared to disappear because
she was so focused on the action in the scene that my eye
went to what she was looking at. That is something that
lives with me still.
Seth Barrish & Lee Brock co-Artistic Directors
Robert Serrell Executive Director
“I attribute my entire c areer
to what I learned there,
which is essentially: how to
–Lola Kirke
Mozart In The Jungle (Netflix)
Mistress America
Gone Girl
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