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The National Civil War Project

The National Civil War Project is a radical multi-city, multi-year collaboration amongst four universities and five performing arts organizations to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War.

The American Civil War is arguably one of the most significant times in American history, an era that raised issues still relevant today. The National Civil War Project will include the commissioning of 12 original works for the stage, as well as create new arts-integrated academic programs.

Inspired by noted choreographer and MacArthur Genius Fellow Liz Lerman, the project involves four multi-city partnerships facilitated through the launch by Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater and The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. The other three partners include Alliance Theatre and Emory College Center for Creativity & Arts at Emory University in Atlanta; American Repertory Theater and Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass.; and CENTERSTAGE in Baltimore and The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland in College Park. These diverse localities symbolize the geographic scope of the American Civil War.

“Every anniversary is an opportunity to reflect," Ms. Lerman noted. "Our Civil War was 150 years ago: What does it still mean? What is the aftermath? Where is the damage? How is it absorbed? Who does the absorbing? These questions are too big for the arts alone, or for academia alone; my interest is in collaborations that will allow new understandings.”

The theatrical centerpiece of The National Civil War Project is the commissioning and development of 12 new works about or inspired by the American Civil War in each region. The universities will convene leading experts for national conferences and symposia and will produce public lecture series, community programs and dramaturgy, student devised theater playwriting projects, student-generated exhibitions, artist and academic roundtables and post-show discussions. Public presentations from each partnership will be shared through an interactive Media Wall at CENTERSTAGE and connected by satellite to high-definition video display, connecting the regions simultaneously. To read the D.C. focused version of the partnership click here.

Our War Scripts

Arena is known for being a trailblazer — winning the first regional Tony Award, being the first theater to send a show to Broadway, among many firsts. In an effort to continue to make great theater more accessible, we’re making all of the scripts for last season’s world premiere, Our War, available to be downloaded and performed for free. Now anyone in the world can perform these terrific monologues from some of America’s most vibrant playwrights and share these moving stories far and wide. We’re proud of this exciting and groundbreaking opportunity for theater to reach and impact more people.

Our War scripts are now available here.

Highlights of The National Civil War Project
Artistic Programming

Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater and the George Washington University

  • National conference in December 2013 investigating the Civil War in Washington, DC and how scholarship and artistry can inspire each other towards a deeper level of understanding;
  • World premiere of Healing Wars (June 6–29, 2014), by Liz Lerman–a theatrical dance piece that explores the experiences of the healers tasked with treating the physical and psychic wounds of battle. Joined by narrator Bill Pullman (Independence Day, 1600 Penn), an ensemble of dancers represent medics and soldiers from the American Civil War to today. The work will be informed by interviews with students at GW’s School of Nursing; 
  • National commissioning of 25 playwrights titled Our War, which is a multiplicity of voices about the American Civil War, reconstruction and its aftermath and the reverberations in our lives as Americans today;
  • World premiere of an original piece by award-winning playwright and performer Daniel Beaty, portraying the depth and breadth of humanity involved in the American Civil War—from slaves to generals and abolitionists to slave owners, to those who went to war and those who were left behind. A stirring exploration of experiences during the war, this piece will fuse song and poetry, personal narrative and art as a means of asking what it was really like and how each person survived through their art.  
  • Arena Stage’s internationally renowned Voices of Now program will create an ensemble of young emerging artists to devise an original one act play in response to source material from the Civil War and contemporary issues in the nation’s capital, which will be part of a partnership-wide devised theater project;
  • Collaborations between theater and university on faculty innovations integrating artistic and academic approaches with new curricula for fall 2014;
  • Multiple panel series held at and hosted by George Washington University.

Alliance Theatre and Emory College Center for Creativity & Arts at Emory University

American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.) and Harvard University

CENTERSTAGE and the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland

For the most up-to-date information regarding The National Civil War Project, please visit Questions or suggestions about Arena Stage’s participation in The National Civil War Project? We want to hear from you! Please contact


The National Civil War Project


Liz Lerman

Photo of Liz Lerman by Lise Metzger

Press Release

Bill Pullman

Bill Pullman