Arts journalist and filmmaker Verity Healey speaks with members of the Belarus Free Theatre to discuss how making art in exile has prepared them for making theater during a pandemic.
The Civilians presents the ninth annual R&D Group FINDINGS Series. The R&D Group is comprised of writers, composers, and directors who worked with The Civilians for nine months to develop six original pieces of theater through the creative investigation of a pre-selected subject.
The members of the 2019-20 R&D Group are Gabriel “Gaby” Alter, Michael Alvarez, Matt Barbot, Kathleen Capdesuñer, Rachel Dickstein, Kate Douglas, Darrel Alejandro Holnes, Grace McLean, Whitney Mosery, Crystal Skillman and Jason Tseng.
Projects this year investigate a wide range of topics that share a common thread of how humanity perseveres and seeks out joy through adversity. They include stories inspired by an Arizona House Bill that banned Mexican Studies programs and confiscated a number of books from classrooms, our country’s gendered expectations about those who lead, our complex relationship to money, the role citizens can play in the immigration detention and deportation system, and more. The projects’ creative processes include interviews, community engagement, research and other experimental methods of inquiry. Led by Artistic Director Steve Cosson, previous R&D Program Director Megan McClain and current R&D Program Director Ilana Becker, the cohort shared and discussed their processes, examined artistic choices and provided a community of support for one another.
Applications are now open for the 2020-21 R&D Group. The Civilians seeks writers, composers, directors and generative theatermakers to join the tenth class of its R&D Group. Participants will have the opportunity to create their own investigative work of theater, contribute to bi-monthly meetings, and present a work-in-progress showing as part of the annual FINDINGS Series. The application for the 2020-21 R&D Group can be found on The Civilians’ website or http://bit.ly/RDGroup2021App. All applications must be submitted by June 29th, 2020 for consideration.
The ninth annual FINDINGS Series will run from May 29th-June 22th and will be streamed online. Five of the six projects will be shared at this time; the sixth, a wholly immersive and interactive experience, will be presented when we can gather in person again. All of these works-in-progress readings are free and will require a reservation. To RSVP, please fill out this form: https://bit.ly/CiviliansFindingsRSVP
DROWN MY BOOK – May 29th at 7:00PM
In 2010, Arizona House Bill 2281 banned Mexican Studies programs in the Tucson Unified School District by making it illegal to teach classes that “advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils,” “are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group” and – dubiously – “promote the overthrow of the United States government.” A number of books were outright confiscated from classrooms by government officials, but one text confusingly caught in the crossfire was William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, which touches on themes of colonization, indigeneity and enslavement. DROWN MY BOOK will borrow and remix words found in legal documents, public statements, interviews and Shakespeare’s plays to tell an original story of high school resistance. RSVP here.
Matt Barbot (writer) is a playwright from Brooklyn, NY. His plays include EL COQUÍ ESPECTACULAR AND THE BOTTLE OF DOOM (Two River Theatre), THE VENETIANS (Columbia@Roundabout New Play Series), INFALLIBILITY (Robert Moss Theater, Theater for the New City), STOO’S FAMOUS MARTIAN-AMERICAN GUMBO (Peppercorn Theater at Kaleidium), PRINCESS CLARA OF LOISAIDA (Columbia University), and THE TRAGEDY OF SULTAN KHALID BIN BARGHASH; OR, THE ENTIRE ANGLO-ZANZIBAR WAR IN REAL TIME (Dixon Place). Matt recently collaborated with Ilana Becker and Christina Quintana on The Civilians’ Lobby Project OH, THIS IS SUCCESS! (New York City Center). Additionally, Matt has worked with comic book creator Edgardo Miranda Rodriguez as an editor and co-writer for Darryl Makes Comics’ DMC, as well as Somos Arte’s La Borinqueña. Matt is a New York Theatre Workshop 2050 Fellow, a Sheen Center playwriting fellow, and received his MFA from Columbia University.
Kathleen Capdesuñer (Director) is a NYC based director of new work. She is a 2019/20 The Civilians’ R&D Group Director, 2019/20 Manhattan Theatre Club Directing Fellow, 2018/19 Roundabout Directing Fellow, 2017/18 McCarter Theatre Center Directing Apprentice, Latinx Theatre Commons Steering Committee Member, The COOP Youth Advisory Board Member, and The 24 Hour Plays: Nationals alumna. She has developed/generated work at: Roundabout Theatre Company, Atlantic Theatre Company, Yale University, Ensemble Studio Theatre, McCarter Theatre Center, Columbia University, Teatro LATEA, and internationally in the Fringe Festival circuit. As the Teatro LATEA Reading Series Artistic Producer, she is curating a different staged reading for every month this year. Kathleen is a first-generation Cuban-American from Kissimmee, Florida and committed to making equitable change in this industry. kcapdesuner.com
CANDIDATE X – June 5th at 3:00PM
Candidate X finds the extraordinary in the ordinary. A dynamic cross between testimonial-based theatre and dance theatre, Candidate X celebrates the risk-takers who challenge and defy the gendered expectations our country has of those who lead. Sometimes defiant and brave, other times vulnerable and intimate, our characters tap into the complex battle of womxn negotiating political and personal power in America today. In this primary season, we have seen our country stumble in embracing female leadership at the ballot box. Institutional bias and internalized misogyny have clouded the 2018 midterm triumph of womxn candidates. Candidate X challenges this step back through stories that unleash the moxie, rage and revolutionary fervor of womxn’s voices aggressively fighting for equity. The work features an intersectional array of voices of American womxn: politicians, activists and everyday women across generations, geographic locales, and racial and ethnic backgrounds. The team includes British playwright Aisha Zia, composer Kamala Sankaram and director Rachel Dickstein. RSVP here.
Rachel Dickstein (director, concept and co-creator) Rachel Dickstein is a deviser, director and choreographer of theatre, opera, and dance-based performance. She founded the Obie-winning theatre company Ripe Time twenty years ago, to develop and produce ensemble-based adaptations from literature. Some of Ripe Time’s past work includes the world premieres of the critically acclaimed SLEEP (BAM Next Wave Festival, Yale Rep, Annenberg Center), THE WORLD IS ROUND (BAM-Fisher), SEPTIMUS AND CLARISSA (Joe A. Calloway, Drama Desk, Drama League nominations, Baruch Performing Arts Center) FIRE THROWS (based on Antigone) at 3LD, INNOCENTS (based on Edith Wharton’s THE HOUSE OF MIRTH, BETROTHED (based on stories by Jhumpa Lahiri, Chekhov and S. Ansky) at the Ohio Theatre. Opera and Music based theatre works include: BLOOD MOON by Garret Fisher/ Ellen McLaughlin (BMP, Prototype), DESIRE by Hannah Lash for Jack Quartet (Miller Theatre, Columbia), Kamala Sankaram’s THUMBPRINT (LA Opera, Prototype), Vijay Iyer/Mike Ladd’s IN WHAT LANGUAGE? (Asia Society, REDCAT, PICA TBA Festival). Awards: 2015 LPTW Lucille Lortel Award, nominated: 2014 Alan Schneider Award, 2014 and 2015 Doris Duke Impact Award. Drama League Fall Production Program, NEA-TCG Director’s Fellowship, and residencies at Berkeley Rep Ground Floor, Watermill Center, and The Civilians R&D Group. BA, Yale College. Associate Professor, Theatre and Performance at Purchase College, SUNY.
Praised as “strikingly original” (NY Times) and a “new voice from whom we will surely be hearing more” (LA Times), Kamala Sankaram writes highly theatrical music that defies categorization. Recent commissions include Washington National Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Shakespeare Theatre Company, Opera on Tap, and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, among others. Awards, grants and residencies include: Jonathan Larson Award, NEA ArtWorks, MAP Fund, Opera America, NY IT Award for Outstanding Production of a Musical, The Civilians, HERE, the MacDowell Colony, and the Watermill Center. Also a performer, notable appearances include the LA Philharmonic, the LA Opera, and the PROTOTYPE Festival, among others. Kamala is the leader of Bombay Rickey, an operatic Bollywood surf ensemble (recipient of two awards for Best Eclectic Album from the Independent Music Awards). Her 2019/2020 season includes premieres at HERE Arts Center, the Glimmerglass Festival, and Houston Grand Opera. Dr. Sankaram holds a PhD from the New School and is currently a member of the composition faculty at SUNY Purchase. www.kamalasankaram.com
Aisha Zia is an award-winning playwright, former resident artist at Somerset House Studios and part of the 503Five at Theatre 503 in London. She has toured site- specific plays across the UK having had huge success with her two most recent plays with Common Wealth NO GUTS, NO HEART, NO GLORY (Winner of Scotsman Fringe First Award, shortlisted for the Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Awards) and OUR GLASS HOUSE (Winner of the Special Commendation from Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Awards). Both plays were a critical success with 4*/5* reviews in the Guardian, The Independent, Scotsman, Herald and The Yorkshire Post. NO GUTS, NO HEART, NO GLORY has since been published by Oberon, was part of the Women of the World Festival at the Southbank and Live from TVC Theatre commission with the Battersea Arts Centre on BBC 4. NO GUTS, NO HEART, NO GLORY, a play about young Muslim female boxers from Bradford staged in real boxing gyms and OUR GLASS HOUSE, a play about domestic abuse staged in disused houses, both had huge success with engaging non-theatre goers and engaged young, diverse participants and audiences across the UK. Aisha’s work is dedicated to non-theatre audiences and has a strong proven track record of working in communities to deliver high-quality artistic work. It has been highlighted extensively in the press, in print, radio, and television and online, notably with features in the Guardian, The Independent, The Huffington Post as well as several appearances on BBC Radio 4. Aisha is currently under commission from Contact Theatre in Manchester, Curve Theatre in Leicester, Fuel Theatre in London and Ripe Time in New York. As well as conceiving original ideas for theatre, film and TV, Aisha also works as a freelance photo editor for the Financial Times and the New Statesman, having previously worked for The Independent and Reuters.
THIS SHOW IS MONEY – June 15th at 8:00PM
A musical about the 1 and 99 percent, exploring how our choices with this fictional creation called money affect people around us in ways we find difficult to see. As we follow several different characters who suddenly have a new job opportunity, we ask: what does it means to have more and less? Based on interviews with individuals ranging from Wall Street traders, to those in the Occupy movement, to social media managers, to those who work in the service industries, to those who benefit from the illusion of being wealthy in a get-rich society, this new musical piece asks: what is profit? Who profits and from what and how? Can the concepts of justice and money co-exist? THIS SHOW IS MONEY is about America’s love affair with money, and asks us to consider what could happen if we see those connections. Can we change? An investigation that exposes how bad, scary, beautiful and disturbing our relationships with the almighty dollar are. RSVP here.
Crystal Skillman (playwright) is an award-winning dramatist. She is an NY Innovative Theatre Award winner, an alumni of Youngblood, the WP and Soho Rep Writer/Director Lab, and an EST member. Plays include NYTimes Critics Picks OPEN (The Tank), KING KIRBY (The Brick), GEEK (Vampire Cowboys), and CUT (Theatre Under St. Marks), as well as ANOTHER KIND OF LOVE (Chopin Theatre), and WILD (Lucille Lortel MCC Reading, IRT). New plays include PULP VÉRITÉ (2019 Kilroys List Honorable Mention) and RAIN AND ZOE SAVE THE WORLD (2018 EMOS Prize). She is the book writer of the musical MARY AND MAX (Composer/Lyricist Bobby Cronin), winner of the 2018 MUT Award Critics Prize, which premiered at Theatre Calgary last fall, which will premiere in Europe this fall. TV/Comic Books: EAT FIGHTER (WebToon), ADVENTURE TIME (Boom! Studios), and the pilot PAPER HEROES (Finalist for Big Break and Launch Pad). https://www.crystalskillman.com/
GABRIEL “GABY” ALTER
Gabriel “Gaby” Alter (songwriter) is a songwriter and composer living in Brooklyn, originally from Berkeley, California. His musicals include NOBODY LOVES YOU with playwright Itamar Moses (Second Stage, The Old Globe Theater), BAND GEEKS (Goodspeed Musicals, Human Race Theater, MTI) and the song cycle 29 (Joe’s Pub, NYU Steinhardt, Troy University) as well as contributions to STARS OF DAVID (DR2 Theater, National Tour). Film & TV: Disney’s animated feature “Tinkerbell and the Pirate Fairy”, PBS Kids TV, “3rd Street Blackout” (MarVista) starring Janeane Garofalo and John Hodgman. Gaby is the recipient of a Jonathan Larsen grant, the San Diego and San Francisco Critics’ Circle Awards for Best Original Score and an ASCAP Plus Award in Musical Theater. He recently released his debut folk pop album under the name Yes Gabriel.
BLACK FEMINIST VIDEO GAME, AFRIKAN•ISCH Cycle – June 24th at 7:00PM
From refugee and immigrant narratives to native-born stories, AFRIKAN•ISCH will present a rich tapestry of theatrical narratives created from ethnographic interviews conducted by Darrel Alejandro Holnes within Black communities in Berlin, Germany. RSVP here.
DARREL ALEJANDRO HOLNES
Darrel Alejandro Holnes (writer) is a poet, playwright, and researcher from Panama City, Panama, and the former Panama Canal Zone. His plays have won or been finalists for various awards and honors including the Princess Grace Award in Playwriting, Eugene O’Neill Theater Center’s National Playwrights Conference, WSU’s Best New Play, Farrar Prize in Playwriting, and the Hopwood Award in Drama at the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor. He’s been awarded various grants including a Kitchen Theater Company New Play Development Grant, Arch & Bruce Brown Foundation Production Grant, and the Jerome Foundation Travel and Study Grant in Literature. His plays have been presented as part of the Kennedy Center for the Arts College Theater Festival (THE BURNING ROOM), NOW African Playwrights Festival (SHELL SHOCK), Brick Theater’s Festival of Lies (BIRD OF PRAY), Keep Soul Alive! at the National Black Theater (TRIGGER), and elsewhere nationwide. He is a MacDowell fellow in playwriting and a member of the Lincoln Center Directors Lab, Page 73’s Interstate 73 Writers’ Group, the Musical Theater Factory’s POC Roundtable, and the Stillwater Writers Workshop. His play NATIVITY was selected for the 50PP List of top unproduced plays by Latinx playwrights in 2018. His play STARRY NIGHT was a 2018 finalist for the O’Neill’s National Playwrights Conference and a 2019 finalist for the Princess Grace Award in Playwriting. His play FRANKLIN AVE was selected for the 2019 SolFest: A Latinx Theater Festival presented by The Sol Project and Pregones Theater/Puerto Rican Traveling Theater, and an excerpt of his play MIMADO was read at Primary Stages as part of their Infinite Stories series presented by NYC Latinx Playwrights.
AGAINST WOMEN & MUSIC! – June 29th at 3:00PM
AGAINST WOMEN & MUSIC! is an anachronistic chamber musical that explores the notions of privilege, ambition and morality through the eyes of a female piano tuner in the 1800s. At that time, music was considered dangerous for women to play or even hear. Ideas about women’s weakness of nerves were pervasive, and music was seen as inflammatory, leading to passions, despair, crime, madness, melancholy, hysteria and more. RSVP here.
Kate Douglas (book & lyrics) is a theater artist, composer and performer. Her work has been performed at The Met Cloisters, Ars Nova, Joe’s Pub and The McKittrick Hotel and developed at New Victory Theatre, SPACE on Ryder Farm, The Orchard Project, Rhinebeck Musicals, The National Theater Institute and the Writer’s Colony at Goodspeed. She is a Johnny Mercer Songwriters Project Fellow and a member of the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop. She is currently a 2019-2020 Dramatists Guild Fellow. Upcoming co-writes include work with Todd Almond and Matthew Marsh. Favorite conversation topics include old growth forests, quantum physics and Nancy Drew.
Grace McLean (music & additional lyrics) is an actor, singer, writer and composer. She performs on Broadway (Natasha, Pierre…) and Off (New Group, MCC, LCT3, Public, La MaMa, Vineyard, among others). Grace is a Writer In Residence at Lincoln Center Theater where her first original musical IN THE GREEN was commissioned and produced, received a 2020 Richard Rodgers Award, and earned 6 Lucille Lortel nominations including a win for McLean in the category of Outstanding Lead Actress. She has had two artistic ambassadorships with the US State Department touring Pakistan (2015) and Russia (2018), and her band performed in both the 2015 and 2016 Lincoln Center American Songbook series. Grace received the 2017 Emerging Artist Award from Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and is a 2018 MacDowell Colony Fellow. She has developed work at CAP21, SPACE on Ryder Farm, Goodspeed, The Orchard Project, The PiTCH and with The Civilians R&D Group. Grace McLean & Them Apples have released 2 EPs, “Make Me Breakfast” and “Natural Disaster,” and are looking forward to releasing a full length album soon. www.gracemclean.com
Whitney Mosery (director) is a Brooklyn-based director, dramaturg, and art activist. Favorite credits: GIRL FROM NOWHERE (NYMF/St. James/Ed Fringe), presented in support of Planned Parenthood; FOREIGN BODIES (Princeton University), a documentary musical about quarantine and superbugs; and the play/ritual/bonfire/danceparty BACCHANALIA (US/UK/Greece). Upcoming, post-pandemic: directing GARJANA at LaMama, and dramaturging UNDER THE SAME SKY, a new Cirque du Soleil show created with Es Devlin. Associate Director: HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD, AMERICAN PSYCHO, KING CHARLES III. Proud member of Orchard Project NYC Greenhouse, former Almeida Director in Residence, and Williamstown Theatre Festival Directing Corp alum. BA Princeton, MA RADA. www.whitneymosery.com
SANCTUARY – To be presented when we can gather
SANCTUARY is an immersive play, placing audiences in the thick of the daily struggle of immigrants fighting for their rights. Based on interviews with volunteers and staff of the New Sanctuary Coalition in New York City, the play invites audiences to consider their role and their complicity in the deportation and detention system.
Jason Tseng (writer) is a queer, non-binary Chinese-American playwright based in New York City, originally hailing from the suburbs of Washington, D.C. Their plays have been presented and developed by Flux Theatre Ensemble, Judson Arts, Mission to dit(Mars), Artist at Play (LA), Theatre COTE, Inkubator Arts and Second Generation. Their plays have been recognized as a Semi-Finalist for The Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center’s National Playwright Conference, The Bay Area Playwrights Conference, The New American Voices Conference, and The Austin Film Festival’s Playwriting Competition. They are a member of Mission to dit(Mars)’s Propulsion Lab, a group of Queens-based playwrights. Jason’s full-length plays include RIZING (Flux Theatre Ensemble), LIKE FATHER (Reading, Judson Arts Wednesdays), SAME SAME (Reading, Mission to (dit)Mars), GHOST MONEY (Reading, Dramatist Guild Association), FEAR AND WONDER, and THE OTHER SIDE (Downtown Urban Arts Festival). Find more at jasontseng.co
Michael Alvarez (director) is an international and interdisciplinary director and visual artist. He has directed in New York, London, Los Angeles, Atlanta and Eastern Europe, including such institutions as Her Majesty’s Theatre in the West End, Arcola Theatre, Institute of Contemporary Arts (UK), and the British Museum. Michael was a recent 2050 Directing Fellow at New York Theatre Workshop, a Drama League Directing Fellow, and a member of the Lincoln Center Director’s Lab. His new piece, LOVE, MEDEA, with writer Peter Gray, will be in residence at the Center at Park West in January 2020, and his new musical, SALOME, will have a residency at A Noise Within in Los Angeles in Spring 2020. He holds a BA in Performance Art from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and an MFA in Directing from California Institute of the Arts. www.Michael-Alvarez.com