Welcome to the Women Playwrights of DC Series! Over the next week or so, you'll be introduced to a wide range of women playwrights, who are as diverse and varied in experience as they are in writing styles and approaches to play making. Among these women are playwrights at the beginning their artistic journeys, courageously discovering their voices; "emerging" playwrights working hard to hone their craft and making names for themselves in the D.C. area and beyond; and long established playwrights who've achieved great success and high acclaim. There are traditional playwrights, solo performers, key members of performances ensembles, and "Hold on, wait a minute, you think I'm a what?". They use language, image, prayer, dance, sound, memory, landscape, food, and space to create beautiful, passionate, powerful, haunting, and important stories that capture the human experience. Each of these women are helping to shape the landscape of American Theatre with their artistic vision, creativity and dedication to theatre.
Again, my hope is that these interviews will serve Christine and others who are making their way as playwrights in the Nation's Capital, and perhaps beyond. But, if there are any artistic directors out there looking for bright, talented, funny, and prolific women playwrights to include in their seasons, here you go!
Kathleen Akerley is the artistic director of Longacre Lea, a small, professional theater company founded in 1998 and devoted to creating physical productions of cerebral works with an emphasis on absurdism and magical realism. As a freelance director she has also worked with Baltimore Shakespeare Festival, Solas Nua, Rorschach Theatre, Theater Alliance, Forum Theatre, WSC Avant Bard and Studio Second Stage; as a playwright she has worked with Sideshow Theatre (Chicago), eXtreme eXchange, Source Festival, The Hope Operas, had several plays commissioned by Round House Theatre's Heyday Players, adapted Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle for the stage in 2010 and had readings of her plays Only Angels at Theatre J's 5x5 series and The Hungry Dry at Boston Center for the Arts; as an actor she has worked with Catalyst Theatre, Theater Alliance, WSC Avant Bard, Washington Stage Guild and Olney Theatre. She is a recipient of the Mary Goldwater Theater Lobby Award for acting and directing, and a member of the playwriting collective Lizard Claw.
Bari Biern is a playwright/lyricist whose first musical, A Dance Against Darkness: Living with AIDS (with composer Roy Barber) was nominated for Helen Hayes Awards as Outstanding New Play and Outstanding Resident Musical. She also wrote the lyrics for Riddle Me a Prince, The Miracle of Watts, and the critically-acclaimed In Series production of The Marriage of Figaro: Las Vegas Version. Also in 2010, the Playwright’s Forum presented Bari’s adaptations of Henry James’ The Real Thing and The Marriages at the John F. Kennedy Center Page to Stage Festival. In 2011, She wrote the book and lyrics of pocket versions of Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Cosi fan Tutte for WAM2, a co-production of the In Series and the Washington Ballet. Recently, she contributed lyrics to Imagination Stage’s Helen Hayes-recommended production of The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe. Her lyrics are also featured in the Capitol Steps’ Take the Money and Run for President. Bari has been performing with the Steps since 1993.
Renee Calarco lives and works in Washington, DC. Her play SHORT ORDER STORIES received the 2007 Charles MacArthur Award for Outstanding New Play. Other plays include THE RELIGION THING (2012 Helen Hayes Recommended), KEEPERS OF THE WESTERN DOOR, THE MATING OF ANGELA WEISS, BLEED, and IF YOU GIVE A CAT A CUPCAKE (commissioned by Adventure Theatre in 2011). Her 10-minute play WARRIORS was published by One Act Play Depot in 2010. Other short plays include SEMPER FIDELIS, POUNDS AWEIGH, and FIRST STOP: NIAGARA FALLS. Renee is an artistic associate with First Draft/Charter Theater, the program coordinator for Naked Ladies Lunch, and a proud member of both DC Area Playwrights and The Dramatists Guild of America. She teaches playwriting at George Washington University and improvisational comedy at The Theatre Lab, and is a licensed professional tour guide. www.reneecalarco.com
Allyson Currin is an award-winning playwright of over twenty plays. Previous world premieres of her work include: Hercules in Russia (Doorway Arts Ensemble, 2012); The Dancing Princesses (Imagination Stage, with composter/lyricist Christopher Youstra, DC Theatre Scene’s 2010 Pick for Best Family Show); and Treadwell: Bright and Dark (The American Century Theatre, 2010; DC Capital Fringe, 2011). She has written original librettos for several opera companies including “musica aperta” and The In-Series, and has written original work for The National Museum for Women in the Arts, Strathmore Arts Center and The National Conservatory of Dramatic Arts. Her multi-media collaborations have been spotlighted in Source Theatre’s Washington Theatre Festival. She has several new plays in development, including the comedies The Colony, Caesar and Dada, The White Trash Grail Play, and a new musical (with composer-lyricist Matt Conner) commissioned by Tony Award-winning Signature Theatre. She is the Playwright-in-Residence for the 2012-13 Season with First Draft at Charter Theatre. As an actor she has appeared at Olney Theatre, Signature Theatre, Studio Theatre, Source Theatre Company, Washington Shakespeare Company, Catalyst Theatre, Rep Stage, Everyman Theatre, Theatre J, The American Century Theater, Charter Theatre and Round House, in addition to her work in television and film. She is Vice Chair of The Kennedy Center’s American College Theatre Festival National Playwriting Program (Region 2), and she teaches in the Theatre and Dance Department at The George Washington University. She is a proud member of The Dramatists Guild, The Screen Actors Guild and Actors Equity Association.
A native of the D.C. area, Thembi Duncan has performed as an actor in the region for over a decade. Her most extensive experience is in stage work, with productions at numerous area venues including The Studio Theatre, The Kennedy Center, Imagination Stage, and Round House Theatre. As an emerging playwright, she’s penned Gridiron: Adventures from the Sidelines, for the Active Cultures 2011 Sportaculture Play Festival; Champagne, a 15-minute commission for the Brave Soul Collective; and an adaptation of the Japanese folktale Urashima Taro for Arlington’s Stage Door Productions. She’s currently developing Mon Chaton, her first full-length play, and a cross-gender adaptation of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?. Ms. Duncan also works as the Lead Teaching Artist at historic Ford's Theatre.
Kitty Felde won the 2009 LA Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Adaptation of a trio of Nikolai Gogol short stories called GOGOL PROJECT, a commission from the Rogue Artists Ensemble. The LA Times said Felde "deftly balances flights of whimsy and depths of darkness." She also won the Open Book/Fireside Theatre Playwriting Competition for her one-woman show ALICE: an evening with the tart-tongued daughter of Theodore Roosevelt, which sold out performances at the 2011 Capitol Fringe Festival – “critic’s pick” by The Washington Post.Felde has written a melodrama set in San Francisco’s Barbary Coast (SHANGHAI HEART), a musical comedy about the Dodgers’ move from Brooklyn to Los Angeles (BUM’S RUSH), and a one-act about a radio cowboy whose show is moving to television, but without him: he doesn’t look like his voice (MAN WITH NO SHADOW.) Her courtroom drama A PATCH OF EARTH, winner of the Maxim Mazumdar New Play Competition, was inspired by her work covering the war crimes tribunals. It’s published by the University of Wisconsin Press in The Theatre of Genocide: Four Plays about Mass Murder in Rwanda, Bosnia, Cambodia, and Armenia. Her newest play THE LUCKIEST GIRL is the story of a young African-American girl’s obsession with the politically incorrect holiday figure Zwarte Piet. Felde co-founded Theatre of NOTE, wrote for TV’s What’s Happening Now, and directed a playwriting program for at-risk youth. She currently serves as a judge for the Helen Hayes Awards. Felde grew up in Compton, the eldest of seven children.
Rebecca Gingrich-Jones is a 2012 recipient of an Individual Artist Award in Playwriting from the Maryland State Arts Council. Her plays have been produced or developed at the Capital Fringe Festival, Active Cultures, Kennedy Center Page-to-Stage Festival, American College Theater Festival, Theater J, Manhattan Rep, First Draft, DC Queer Theatre Festival, Beltway Drama Series, Young Playwrights Inc., Bread & Water, MadLab, Raconteur, and Catholic University, where she received an MFA in Playwriting. Her play She Said/She Said received an Honorable Mention for the 2011 Jane Chambers Student Playwriting Award. Rebecca has taught acting and playwriting at Wobble Rocket Stage in Alexandria, Virginia, and Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. She is a co-founder of the DC-Area Playwrights Group and the DC Queer Theatre Festival, and a member of the Playwrights’ Center and the Dramatists Guild.
A resident playwright at New Jersey Rep, D.W. Gregory writes in a variety of styles and genres, from the historical epic RADIUM GIRLS to the psychological thriller OCTOBER 1962. The Rep’s production of her impressionistic family drama THE GOOD DAUGHTER earned her a Pulitzer Prize nomination in 2003, and her comedy MOLUMBY’S MILLION, produced by Iron Age Theatre, was nominated for Philadelphia’s Barrymore Award for Outstanding New Play in 2011. In addition, Gregory’s work has been presented or developed at Playwrights Theatre of New Jersey, Woolly Mammoth Theatre, Theatre of the First Amendment, the Lark, the Young Vic, the New Harmony Project, ShenanArts, Round House Theatre, Ensemble Studio Theatre, and Actors Theatre of Louisville, among others, and has been supported through grants from the National New Play Network, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Maryland Arts Council, the Montgomery County Arts and Humanities Council, and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Her work in youth theatre began with a commission by Imagination Stage to write five plays for its Speak Out on Stage Program, including PENNY CANDY, MIRACLE IN MUDVILLE, and SECRET LIVES OF TOADS. In 2011, her drama SALVATION ROAD received the American Alliance for Theatre in Education’s Playwrights in Our Schools award and her short play WHAT GOES AROUND appeared in Dramatic Publishing’s BULLY PLAYS anthology. She is currently at work on a commission from NJ Rep for a new musical for young audiences adapted from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.
Tenured Howard University Associate Professor of theatre, Denise J. Hart is an accomplished and award winning actress, director and playwright. In addition to teaching at Howard University, she has taught at American University and Duke Ellington School of the Arts. She is a magna cum laude graduate of Howard University (BFA in Acting) and also holds an MFA in Playwriting from Sarah Lawrence College. She currently serves as the Area Coordinator of Playwriting in the Department of Theatre Arts. She has written and self-produced 16 children's musicals and most recently collaborated with Darius Smith on “The Mysterious Case of Classroom #459.” She is the author of the adult plays Nothing to Lose, Sistah Girl, Masquerade Parade, Ring the Bell, My Soul is a Witness and This Joy (a former finalist in both The Lark and the Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights competition). Her Directing credits include: Secret Mist of Blue, Melancholy of Barbarians, The Exile & the American, Day of Absence (finalist in the 2008 Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival), Zooman and the Sign, and Joe Turner’s Come and Gone. Her acting credits include the recurring role as the beloved character "Miss Anna" on HBO'S The Wire, African Continuum Theatre Co., Wolly Mammoth Theatre, and The Theatre Alliance. Ms. Hart is also the founder and Executive Director of The Performing Arts Training Studio, located in Washington DC. Denise is also a Creativity Coach, a member of the Screen Actors Guild, The Dramatist Guild, The Playwrights Forum, and Theatre for Young Audiences. She proudly serves on the boards of The DC Black Theatre Festival, Takoma Theatre Conservancy and DC Art Studios.
Paige is a multifaceted artist, who is known for her innovative fusion of poetry, hip hop, dance and education.
As a master teaching artist, Paige has taught throughout the country, to all ages, in all disciplines. To date, she has reached over 10, 000 students, from Pre-K through college, in over 100 residencies, workshops and performances. She has been recognized in many organizations including the Wolftrap Foundation for Early Learning and Arena Stage where she was awarded the Thomas Fichandler award for exceptional promise in theater education. Paige was also named a “classroom hero” by the Huffington Post. As an actress, Paige has performed on many stages including DC: Arena Stage, Folger Theatre, The Kennedy Center , Fulton Theatre(PA), Ohio Theatre (NY), Manship Theatre(LA), Paramount Theatre (TX) and many others. As a critically acclaimed dancer, Paige's choreography has been seen all over the country and recently in The Kennedy Center’s American Scrapbook and Knuffle Bunny. As a hip hop education advocate, Paige has shaped various educational workshops, including Props for Hip Hop at Arena Stage and Keep it Moving, at Wolftrap. Both workshops help teachers to understand the fundamentals of hip hop while incorporating the culture into their curriculum. With her company B-FLY ENTERTAINMENT, Paige has toured her children’s show Havana Hop and her one woman show, Paige in Full: A B-girl’s Visual Mixtape throughout the country. www.paigehernandez.com www.paigeinfull.com
CALEEN SINNETTE JENNINGS
Caleen Sinnette Jennings is professor of theater at American University in Washington, D.C. She teaches acting, voice and speech, acting Shakespeare, playwriting and academic courses in theater. Jennings was a 2007 finalist for the O'Neill Playwright's Conference, and she is a two-time Helen Hayes nominee for Outstanding New Play. In 2002, she received the Heidman Award from Actor's Theatre of Louisville for her play Classyass. In 1999 she received a $10,000 grant from the Kennedy Center's Fund for New American Plays for her play Inns & Outs. Her play Playing Juliet/Casting Othello was produced at the Folger Elizabethan Theatre in 1998. In 2000, her children's play Free Like Br'er Rabbit was produced for the Kennedy Center's New Visions/New Voices festival. Her two short plays Pecos Bill and The People Could Fly are featured in Walking the Winds, which premiered at the Kennedy Center and toured nationally with Kennedy Center's Programs for Children and Youth. Jennings received her bachelor's degree in drama from Bennington College and her M.F.A. in acting from the N.Y.U. Tisch School of the Arts. She has been a faculty member of the Folger Shakespeare Library's Teaching Shakespeare Institute since 1994. She moderates panels, does workshops and presentations for cultural institutions such as the Smithsonian, Kennedy Center, Arena Stage, Ford's Theatre, the Folger Shakespeare Library and the Shakespeare Theatre. In 2003, she received American University's 2003 Scholar/Teacher of the Year Award. That same year, she won the award for Outstanding Teaching of Playwriting from the Play Writing Forum of the Association of Theatre in Higher Education.
Nicole Jost is a playwright, teaching artist, producer and director. Her play The Terror Fantastic was read as part of the inaugural DC Queer Theatre Festival, and featured in The Inkwell’s “Evening of Inklings” in April 2012. She has worked locally with The Inkwell, dog & pony dc, Forum Theatre, City Artistic Partnerships, Madcap Players and Roundhouse Theatre. In 2011, she was recognized by The Washingtonian as one of ten “Women to Watch.” She is the Associate Artistic Director of Young Playwrights’ Theater, the only professional theater in Washington, DC dedicated entirely to arts education.
Kristen Lepine is a playwright in residence and company member at the award winning The HUB Theatre, which has commissioned three plays to date: Foolish Fire, Leto Legend, and Dire Wolves. Foolish Fire took top honors at the 9th Annual Firehouse Theatre Festival of New American Plays. Leto Legend is currently being further developed with Pinky Swear Productions, and Dire Wolves continues its development with the HUB Theatre and will participate in the 2012 Kennedy Center’s Page to Stage Festival. Kristen was commissioned by AccokeekCreek Theatreco to write Laundry Blows, which was presented in the 2011 Kennedy Center Page to Stage Festival. Additionally, her works have been staged at various Mid-Atlantic venues including Active Cultures, The Firehouse Theatre, The HUB Theatre, Inkwell, Georgia College and State University, Pinky Swear Productions, The Pittsburgh New Works Festival, and Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company. She is the former coordinator of Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company’s local playwriting forum, PlayGround. Kristen has an MFA in Dramatic Writing from Humboldt State University, and she currently teaches Dramatic Literature and Introduction to Theatre at the University of Mary Washington.
Liz’s plays include OWL MOON (Taffety Punk Theatre Company, Page-to-Stage Festival); SOMERSAULTING (Page-to-Stage Festival, The Artists’ Bloc Downtown Series); TINDERBOX (Forum Theatre ReActs); FALLBEIL (Great Plains Theatre Conference, The Sweatlodge); and multi-disciplinary collaborations THE PRESSURE COOKER for the 2012 Source Festival and THE RAIN for E.M.P. Collective’s Genesis project. Liz was a founding core member of The Anthropologists, a physical-theater ensemble in NYC, where she collaborated on devised works The Potato Play, One Million Forgotten Moments, The Columbus Project, and Falling. She studied playwriting with the 24 With 5 Collective at New Dramatists, and received her B.A. in Theatre from the University of Maryland. Liz is the recipient of a 2011 DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities Young Artist Award, and is a member of The Playwrights’ Center and the Dramatists’ Guild. www.lizmaestri.com
Heather McDonald’s plays include An Almost Holy Picture, When Grace Comes In, Dream of a Common Language, Available Light, The Rivers and Ravines, Faulkner’s Bicycle, The Two Marys, Rain and Darkness and, upcoming, The Suppressed-Desire Ball (developed at Sundance Ucross Writers Retreat). Her work has been produced on Broadway and Off and at such theatres as The Roundabout Theatre, Arena Stage, The McCarter Theatre, Center Stage, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Seattle Repertory Theatre, Indiana Rep, California Shakespeare Theatre, Round House Theatre, Signature Theatre, Yale Repertory Theatre, The Actors Theatre of Louisville – Humana Festival of New Plays, The La Jolla Playhouse and internationally in Italy, Spain, Portugal, England and Mexico. Her most recent work, STAY, is the result of a two-year collaboration with choreographer Susan Shields. Ms. McDonald wrote the libretto for the opera, “The End of the Affair,” adapted from the novel by Graham Greene. She and composer Jake Heggie (“Dead Man Walking”) were commissioned by Houston Grand Opera and the opera premiered at HGO and went on to have several more productions. She has also directed many productions, most recently Stephen Adly Guirgis’ “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot,” a steampunk version of “The Elephant Man,” “The Cripple of Inishmaan” by Martin McDonogh and the world premiere of “Two-Bit Taj Mahal” by Paul D’Andrea. The production she directed of “Dream of a Common Language” was nominated for eight Helen Hayes Awards (including Best Direction) and won four Helen Hayes Awards including Outstanding Resident Production. Her work has been honored with a nomination for the Pulitzer Prize, three NEA Playwriting Fellowships, The First Prize Kesselring Award and was a finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. She has written and sold two screenplays “Rocket 88” and “Walking After Midnight” and is at work on a new project for television, “GOLD.” She received her MFA from NYU Tisch School of the Arts and is Professor of Theater at George Mason University.
Danielle Mohlman holds an MA in Theatre Studies from Emerson College. Recent credits include Jim and Paul Meet in Dreams (Field Trip Theatre) and The Crow (Artists’ Bloc) at the Kennedy Center’s Page-to-Stage Festival. Other credits include Stopgap at the Capital Fringe Festival and The Bed at DC SWAN Day. In 2012, the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities awarded Danielle a Larry Neal Writers’ Award for Dramatic Writing. She is a co-moderator of DC-Area Playwrights and Artistic Director of Field Trip Theatre.
JENNIFER L. NELSON
Jennifer L Nelson is currently Director of Special Programming at Ford’s Theatre. Prior to this appointment she was the founding Producing Artistic Director of the African Continuum Theatre Company, Washington D.C.’s only professional black theatre company. During that eleven year tenure, she produced twenty plays, multiple readings and other events. Ms. Nelson is a commended playwright and published poet. Her musical play Torn from the Headlines was awarded the 1996 Helen Hayes/Charles MacArthur Award for Most Outstanding New Play. Her three-minute telephone play Somebody Call 911 was commissioned by and featured at the 2001 Humana Festival at the Actors’ Theatre of Louisville. Her latest full-length play 24, 7, 365 was produced by Theatre of the First Amendment. Her full-length musical Hubert & Charlie was honored by the 2003 Larry Neal Writers’ Awards and was subsequently produced by the African Continuum Theatre. She has received several commissions to write issue-oriented plays for young audiences, most recently by Ford’s Theatre to bring to life historical character Elizabeth Keckly (2011 Washington Post Helen Hayes Theatre Award). She has also been commissioned to write short plays for the Theatre Lab; Active Cultures/Sportaculture Festival; the Cultures-in-Motion Program of the National Portrait Gallery; the Education Department of the Corcoran Gallery; the Kennedy Center Program for Families; and Round House Theatre’s HeyDay Players. She is a three-time grantee of the DC Commission on the Arts Individual Artist program, and a recipient of the Mayor’s Arts Awards for Excellence in an Artistic Discipline. As a director, her recent productions include Raisin in the Sun at Everyman Theatre in Baltimore; Necessary Sacrifices at Ford’s Theatre; The Whipping Man at Theatre J. Upcoming productions include: 9 Circles for Forum Theatre and Top Dog/Underdog for Everyman Theatre.
Helen Pafumi is the Artistic Director and co-founder of The Hub Theatre. Her original plays Merry, Happy...What? and co adaptation Wonderful Life (Helen Hayes Award Nomination for Outstanding New Play) have been produced by The Hub and Clara's Little Questions, was first read at the Kennedy Center's Page to Stage Festival. In addition to her role at The Hub, Helen works as an actor in many DC area theatres, including Theatre J, Folger Theatre, Woolly Mammoth, Forum Theatre, Theatre Alliance, Rorschach Theatre, Keegan Theatre, Didactic Theatre, The Inkwell, the Source Festival, the Beckett Centenary Festival, Vpstart Crow, and Madcap Players. She has appeared in numerous independent films and commercials. Helen also does dialect coaching for George Mason University’s theatre program and privately teaches acting and public speaking. She is the recipient of the Puffin Foundation Award and the Washington Canadian Partnership Award. Helen holds a BA in Theatre from Virginia Tech.
Marni Penning is a northern Virginia native and co-founder of the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, for whom she has performed over 35 roles in 10 seasons, including Juliet, Kate, Rosalind, Beatrice, and Hamlet. In 10 years in New York, she appeared on Saturday Night Live (burning a Martha Stewart cookbook on live national television), Guiding Light, All My Children, Law & Order: SVU, The Sopranos, Mona Lisa Smile, onstage in the beat poetry rock musical Subway Train and for The Production Company, with whom she is a founding company member. Marni has performed steadily on New York stages for the past ten years as well as appearing in several short films; regionally, favorite roles include Peg in Six Years (Actors Theatre of Louisville, Humana Festival), Luciana in Comedy of Errors and Catherine in Lorenzaccio (Shakespeare Theatre Company, DC), Jane in The Unmentionables, Ashley in After Ashley and Mom in Big Death and Little Death (Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company), Helen in Machinal (American Century Theater), Lady Macbeth in Macbeth (Georgia Shakespeare), Adriana in Comedy of Errors (Folger Shakespeare Theatre and Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival), Mrs. Manningham in Gaslight (Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival), Sarah in The Lover (Rep Stage), Myra and Myrna in The Mineola Twins (Human Race Theatre, OH) and Shelby in Steel Magnolias (Wayside Theatre, VA). She is the author of Carol's Christmas, which was produced by Pinky Swear Productions in 2011.
NATSU ONODA POWER
Natsu Onoda Power is a writer, director, and designer. Her original works include Astro Boy and the God of Comics (The Studio 2ndStage), The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Madness and Civilization, The T Party, Trees and Ghosts, Swimmy and Other Stories (Georgetown University), Revenge of the Poisoned Ladies (Capital Fringe Festival 2008), Performance of Sleep in One Long Act Without Intermission, Are you my negative space?, and SCIENCE (FICTION) (Live Action Cartoonists). Directing credits include The Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven (by Young Jean Lee, The Studio 2ndStage). Recent design credits include Big Love (The Hub Theatre, scenery), bobrauschenbergamerica, Mad Forest (Forum Theatre, scenery), Kafka’s Metamorphosis (Synetic Theatre, costume and scenery). Natsu is the author of God of Comics: Osamu Tezuka and the Creation of Post World War II Manga (University Press of Mississippi, 2009), which explores the 54-year career of a Japanese Cartoonist Osamu Tezuka. Her current ongoing research projects include food/food justice and performance, ethnography of DC transgender community, and racial representations in comics and graphic novels. She is an Assistant Professor in the Program in Theater and Performance Studies at Georgetown University.
The artistic director and co-founder of Active Cultures, Mary has a consistent track record from producing and supporting high quality professional theatre. In the D.C. area, she collaborated on Source’s Washington Theatre Festival for ten years and led the new play development effort at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company for eight years. Her freelance work as a director and dramaturg includes productions and workshops at Source Theatre Company, New Playwrights, Actor’s Theatre of Louisville, Hartford Stage in Connecticut, Empty Space in Seattle, New Dramatists in New York City, Theatre of the First Amendment in Fairfax and Arena Stage in DC. She has worked with the playwrights David Lindsay Abaire, Carlos Murilla, David Bucci, Craig Wright, Michael John Garces, Mark Medoff, Jennifer Nelson, Oni Faida Lampley, Neena Beeber, Gwydion Suilbhan, and Anna Zielger, among others, on successful world premiere productions. Mary was a US Fulbright Scholar to Armenia. She has taught theatre at the University of Maryland, Georgetown University and Catholic University. She has a B.A. from Spring Hill College in Alabama, an M.A. from New York University, and a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan.
Juanita Rockwel is a writer and director specializing in the development of new work and new forms at such venues as The Ontological, Mabou Mines/Suite, Culture Project, Blue Heron, Bushwick Starr (NYC); Theatre of the First Amendment, Banished? Productions, Source, Capital Fringe, DCAC, Everyman, Theatre Project, Iron Crow, Single Carrot (DC/Balto); Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford Arts Center, Jorgenson Theatre, Church Barn Farm (CT); City Theatre (P’burgh); Gas & Electric Arts (Phila); Teatro Municipal (São Paolo, BR); Teatro Abya Yala (San José, CR); RS9 (Budapest); and on National Public Radio. Produced writing includes Between Trains, What’s a Little Death (plays w/songs); The World is Round, Waterwalk (operas); Cave in the Sky (puppets/multimedia); The Circle (audioplay); Lunar Pantoum (dance-theatre); Across the Void, Packing/Pecking, Language Monkey, Quantum Soup, A Table in Hell (short plays); Immortal: The Gilgamesh Variations (multi-playwright adaptation) and Playing Dead (translation w/Yury Urnov from Bros. Presnyakov). As Artistic Director of Hartford’s Company One Theater for six years, Juanita directed dozens of early premieres for stage and radio by Paula Vogel, Suzan-Lori Parks, Rachel Sheinkin, Erik Ehn and Donna diNovelli, as well as her own work. She is a Fulbright Scholar and was recently invited to serve a second term as Fulbright Ambassador. Her artist residencies include Ko Festival of Performance, O’Neill Center’s National Theatre Institute, and the Visual Playwriting Conference (Gallaudet University). She has recceived NEA awards with Gas & Electric Arts and Company One Theater, as well as grants and awards from a variety of states, cities and private foundations including a MD State Arts Council Individual Artist Award in Playwriting. Juanita is a proud member of both the Society of Directors and Choreographers and the Dramatists Guild.
Kristy Simmons is a playwright from the D.C. area. In 2009, she had an in house reading of her One Act play Greg's Anatomy by Calliope Theatre. She is a co-writer of Filter, a multimedia performance and street theatre piece featured in the 2012 Source Theatre Festival. She has directed a 10-minute play for DC-SWAN Day at the National Museum for Women in the Arts, and has served for many years as a reader for Inkwell Theatre. This Fall she will serve as Assistant Director for Spooky Action Theatre's production of Reckless.
MARY HALL SURFACE
Mary Hall Surface is a playwright and director specializing in theatre for families and multi-disciplinary collaborations. A DC theatre community member since 1989, her producers include Round House Theatre, Arena Stage, Folger Theatre, the National Gallery of Art and over 15 productions at the Kennedy Center. Internationally her work has been featured in productions and festivals in Germany, Canada, Japan, Peru, France, Taiwan, Sweden and Ireland. Nominated for four Charles MacArthur Award for Outstanding New Play and five Helen Hayes Awards for Outstanding Direction, she received the 2002 award for her musical, Perseus Bayou. She is the artistic director of INTERSECTIONS: A New America Arts Festival at the Atlas Performing Arts Center. She received the Charlotte Chorpenning Award, presented by the American Alliance for Theatre and Education for an Outstanding Body of Work as a Playwright, May 2006. She was a finalist for the 2011 DC Mayor's Arts Award for Service to the Arts.
CARMEN C. WONG
Carmen C. Wong is the founding Artistic Director and agent provocateur of banished? productions, an avant-pop performance collective that plays with narrative while creating immersive art experiences. Her projects have been fueled by awards such as the Creative Communities Fund (2012), TCG Global Connections (2011) and the DCCAH's Young Artist Award (2010). Current projects and concepts include the devised dance collage Into the Dollhouse; a sensory gastro-art-performative series that has spun Tactile Taste of Helsinki / Tactile Dinner Morsels / Tactile Dinner Car / A Tactile Dinner; the ballades mechaniques installation series of story-telling machines, and the banished? footsteps series of alternative art audiowalks. Carmen first got her start in interdisciplinary performance in Berlin, working on Constanza Macras’ & Dorky Park’s “Back to the Present” in 2003. She currently sits on the Board of Directors of CityBlossoms, an urban gardening organization, and is on the Board of Governors for Theatre Washington which runs the annual Helen Hayes awards in Washington, DC. When not busy making works that defy easy categorization, she secretly enjoys picking up languages just to make untranslatable puns.
Karen Zacarías award-winning plays include THE BOOK CLUB PLAY, LEGACY OF LIGHT, MARIELA IN THE DESERT, THE SINS OF SOR JUANA, the adaptation of Julia Alvarez’s HOW THE GARCIA GIRLS LOST THEIR ACCENTS, and the adaptation of Helen Thorpe’s nonfiction book on immigration JUST LIKE US. Her TYA musical s with composer Debbie Wicks la Puma include EINSTEIN IS A DUMMY, LOOKING FOR ROBERTO CLEMENTE, JANE OF THE JUNGLE, CINDERELLA EATS RICE AND BEANS, FERDINAND THE BULL, and FRIDA LIBRE. Her plays have been produced at The Kennedy Center, Arena Stage, The Goodman, Round House Theater, The Denver Center, Alliance Theater, Imagination Stage, GALA, Berkshire Theater Festival, South Coast Rep, La Jolla Playhouse, Cleveland Playhouse, San Jose Rep, and more. Her awards include: 2010 Steinberg Citation-Best New Play, National Francesca Primus Prize, New Voices Award, National Latino Play Award, Finalist Susan Blackburn, Helen Hayes for Outstanding New Play. Karen is a playwright-in-residence at Arena Stage and teaches at Georgetown University. She is the founder of Young Playwrights’ Theater, an award winning theater company that teaches playwriting in local public schools.
Laura Zam is an award-winning writer, performer, and educator. To date, she has created seven one-person plays, which she has performed Off-Broadway, internationally, and across the US. Her newest solo piece, Married Sex, was commissioned by Theater J and will have a workshop production there in September before being produced Off-Broadway (2013). Through her touring play Collaterally Damaged, Laura raises money for contemporary genocide survivors. Laura has published extensively, including plays, monologues, essays, and articles. Also an arts educator specializing in healing, she has worked with trauma survivors all over the world, including teens from the Middle East, wounded soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, and survivors of sexual abuse. Recently, she was invited to present at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY. Drawing from this healing work, Laura helps artists overcome obstacles so they may make a living doing what they love. She has a B.A. in Theatre from Brooklyn College and an M.F.A. in Playwriting from Brown University. Laura has taught at Brown University, UC Berkeley and George Mason University, among others. For more information, visit www.LauraZam.com.
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!