On Sunday, March 19th, I'll be delivering the keynote address at the 10th Annual Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium, which is a day-long event held each spring at American University, ahead of Arts Advocacy Day. This year, their theme, Focus Forward, is a "call to action, a rally to use our collective strength and potential to not only envision the future, but to make it so. It is our chance to ask "what's next?" and then to see it through."
As the current president calls for the elimination of four independent cultural agencies — the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, there is no better time than now to be discussing the role of art and culture in this country.
I'll also have the opportunity to attend another performance of Intelligence, which, as it happens, was supported by the NEA. After a week away, I'm excited to see where the cast and audience is with the play. Of course, I know that many of you will not be able to see this performance, so I wanted to share the program note, production photos, and our latest promotional video with you here. Please enjoy!
“But I suppose the most revolutionary act one can engage in is ... to tell the truth.”
Howard Zinn, Marx in Soho: A Play on History
Tell the truth.
I write out of a deep frustration for the lack of strong, complex, and engaging roles for women in the American Theatre.
In theatre, representation matters. The way we write women and people of color impacts how women and people of color are perceived in everyday life. When Artistic Director Molly Smith asked me to write a play for Arena Stage’s Power Play Initiative, I wanted to write about a woman whose experience had transformed our political landscape. With Intelligence, I am writing about the role of women in the CIA. At the center of the play is a woman, a covert intelligence officer, who is fighting to ensure the national security of the United States.
Tell the truth.
I write to bear witness.
In theatre, we are able to explore the powerful, strange, terrifying, curious, and beautiful human experience. After 9/11 and in the two years leading up to the war in Iraq, I began to write with a deeper sense of civic duty and an increasing interest in the unfolding narrative of the United States. With Intelligence, I turn my focus to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the lies that led to that invasion, and the act of retaliation that occurred when the truth was revealed. At the center of the play is a woman, a wife and mother, who is fighting for freedom and justice.
Tell the truth.
I write to have a voice and advocate for change.
In theatre, we gather communities, cultivate empathy, and raise awareness around issues that impact our lives. We are at a pivotal moment in the history of this nation. With Intelligence, I’ve written a play that is as much a political thriller as it is a clarion call for citizens to remain actively involved in ensuring the principles of Democracy. At the center of the play is a woman, a citizen, who finds the courage to speak truth to power and demands that our political leaders held accountable for their actions.
Never before has this message been more urgent than right now and there is no better place for this play to be seen than at Arena Stage, in the heart of the nation's capital.
Intelligence Production Photos by C. Stanley Photography
Eleven days of previews is a glorious thing. Over the course of last week, I made several radical changes to the script. I removed a scene, a plot line, and an offstage character. I also rewrote a scene, gave greater strength and agency to a character, and deleted the intermission! In doing so, I found the play that I wanted to write: a thrilling piece of historical fiction that lays bare the lies that led to the war in Iraq and the act of retaliation taken by the Bush Administration on a U.S. citizen when the truth was revealed.
I couldn't have accomplished any of this without the passion, support, and generosity of everyone at Arena Stage and my entire Intelligence team. As we make our way to opening, my heart is full of love, respect, and deep appreciation for each and every of them. We're running now through April 9th and I hope you're able to attend!
Under the brilliant direction of Daniella Topol, our talented cast includes Nora Achrati, Aakhu TuahNera Freeman, Ethan Hova, Lawrence Redmond, and Hannah Yelland. Our amazing production team includes Set Designer Misha Kachman, Costume Designer Ivania Stack, Lighting Designer Kathy Perkins, Sound Designer Jane Shaw, Projection Designer Jared Mezzocchi, Dialect Coach Leigh Smiley, and Stage Manager Trevor A. Riley.
Click here to learn more about the play and please enjoy these gorgeous photos from our final dress rehearsal.
Intelligence Final Dress Photos by Misha Kachman
I'm a playwright, dramaturg, and teaching artist. It is here where you'll find my queries and musings on life, theater and the world. My posts advocate for diversity, inclusion, and equity in the American Theatre and updates on my own work. Please enjoy!