About the Conference
Arena Stage and The George Washington University will host a national, two-day creative and scholarly conference at the Marvin Center on the campus of GW focused on exploring the American Civil War and its Aftermath, through presentations, panels, and performances. Workshops will focus on specific topics and issues of life during the War and its connection to the present, creating new theatrical, visual and movement-based work from these discoveries. A goal of the conference is to bring scholars and artists together in dialogue about the significance of the Civil War and its resonances in our present lives. The participants will have the opportunity to explore aspects of Civil War history and how this history may reverberate in their own personal narratives, as the participants are invited to create expressive responses based on this collision of the personal and historic.
The overarching goal of the project is to find ways to continually interweave performance and scholarship, crossing traditional boundaries by bringing together the perspectives and resources of the artistic and academic communities in a wide-ranging, humanities-based exploration of civil conflict. Click here to reserve your tickets.
Monday, April 21st
9:15 to 10:30 – Opening session – Welcome and introduction by Dr. Ben Vinson III, Dean of the GW Columbian College of Arts & Sciences. Creative Research in Art and the Academy: Using her current project, HealingWars, Liz Lerman will speak to the multiple methods artists use in researching their projects. She will also discuss the implications of creative research for academic institutions and art audiences. This will be followed by the presentation by Professor Nina Seavey of a short preview of Healing Wars, the documentary film, a rare blending of dance, documentary, and drama that will focus on the intimacy of character and complexity of narrative explored by Healing Wars on stage, moving them past performance and into the realm of filmic interpretation. Betts Theatre of the Marvin Center.
10:45 to 12:00 –Welcome and introduction by Edgar Dobie, Managing Director of Arena Stage. James Swanson (author of Manhunt, Lincoln’s Assassins: Their Trial and Execution, and Chasing Lincoln’s Killer) will discuss his works on the assassination of President Lincoln
12:15 to 1:15 – lunch (and book signing by Swanson)
1:30 to 2:45 p.m. – Four workshop sessions. Break-out rooms in the Marvin Center’s 3rd and 4th floors. See information below.
3 to 4:15 p.m. – Healing in the Aftermath – GW Professor Leslie Jacobson, session convener, joined by Professors Jennifer James and James Miller, and guest speakers, will examine the aftermath of the American Civil War and the ways that Reconstruction shaped race and gender relations in the US, compared with the struggle against Apartheid and the ways that the Truth & Reconciliation Hearings shaped race and gender relations in South Africa – Betts Theatre. Readings performed by GW students, will accompany the presentation and discussion.
4:30 to 5:45 – Part I: Music, the Centennial, and Whitman in Philadelphia, Professor Karen Ahlquist, with Kevin Frey, baritone and Frank Conlon, pianist Part II: The Heart of the Stranger That Hover'd Near: A recital performance in words, music and song focused on Walt Whitman's contributions to healing during and after the Civil War. Material suggested by Christopher Sten, Robert Baker, and Alan Wade; Edited, arranged, and directed by Alan Wade, with Pianist: Frank Conlon; Soloist: Michael Noel; Whitman: Delante Fludd; Voices: Rachel Matusewicz, Hassan Dayek, Catherine Mullins, Alexandria Taliafero, Sam Game, Will Low – Betts Theatre
6 to 7 p.m. – Reception
Tuesday, April 22nd
9:15 to 10:30 – Welcome and Introduction by John Wetenhall, Director, GW Museum and Textile Museum Professor Tyler Anbinder’s presentation on the key role that the American Civil War played in the making of modern Washington DC – Betts Theatre
10:45 to 12:00 p.m. – Four workshop sessions. Break-out rooms. See information below.
12:15 to 2 p.m. – Lunch
2:15 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. – Four workshop sessions. Break-out rooms. See information below.
3:45 to 5:15 p.m. – – Presentations by GW students receiving this year’s CWP theatre commissions, and by Arena Stage’s youth troupe, Voices of Now – Betts Theatre
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Workshop Breakout Sessions
John Molestress, Founding Director of force/collision& Hari Jones, Assistant Director and Curator of the African American Civil War Freedom Foundation and Museum
During the artistic component of this workshop, the African-American Loyal League and "knowledge circles" will be further explored through an exercise which physicalizes the significance and practice of the transference of messages, hidden codes and "insider" language vital to the movement's means of communication.
Jacqueline Lawton, Playwright, & C.R. Gibbs, Lecturer, Author, Historian: "Black, Copper, and Bright: A Fight for Freedom and Justice from Page to Stage"
In this interactive workshop, author and historian Carroll "C.R." Gibbs will share stories of African-American men and women who served the Union, enlisted in the only African American Civil War regiment raised in the nation's capital, fought for freedom for the enslaved, and worked to achieve civil rights right here in the nation’s capital. Then, playwright and dramaturg Jacqueline E. Lawton will lead participants though theatre games and storytelling techniques to help bring the stories of the First Regiment, United States Colored Troops to life.
Raymond Caldwell, Partnership Manager, Arena Stage & Matthew Penrod, National Park Service Ranger and Education Programs Manager at Arlington House, the Robert E. Lee Memoria
"Examining Civil War History through Contemporary Myth"
In this workshop, participants will work to personalize the meaning of the American Civil War by breaking down their own preconceived notions. Participants will examine the basic core human experiences of the Civil War while challenging and confronting their own prejudices in history. Through artistic collaboration, participants will synthesize the complexity of historical characters creating work that challenges monolithic narratives.
Thembi Duncan, Producing Artistic Director of the African Continuum Theatre Company & DeAnne Blanton, Senior Military Archivist at the National Archives
"They Fought Like Demons"
In this workshop attendees will learn about some of the women warriors that fought as men during the Civil War. Attendees will explore how fluid identity was during the war and in the 19th century. Each person will take on the identity of a particular female soldier. Through a guided inquiry process attendees will explore the women’s experiences intimately and in relation to their own.
Voices of Now – Mentor Ensemble: "Free For All"
“Once upon a time there was a land and that land was broken, but it wasn’t always that way. What happens when you look deeper into something that has been the same for as long as you can remember? How long can you go without repairing something before it is broken forever?”
In Free For All the Voices of Now Mentor Ensemble is exploring the repercussions of The Civil War on their lives 150 years later and what fault lines still remain in our society today. The play asks challenging questions about race, equality and freedom in order to explore how societies become divided and what a person’s responsibility is to the creation of change.
Voices of Now is a drama and writing program dedicated to training young artists in ensemble-created theater. Participants explore creative writing, movement, vocal expression and collaboration as part of a dynamic artistic experience that challenges them to recount the personal stories that shape their lives. Each Voices of Now participant works with an ensemble to create an original, autobiographical play that explores social questions relevant to their communities. The plays are performed in May at Arena Stage as part of a week-long festival.
The Voices of Now Mentor ensemble, one of ten ensembles participating in the program this year, is a group of artist that auditioned for this select group after spending at least one year creating Voices of Now
Click here to reserve your tickets.
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!