Power Plays | 25 new plays | 10 years
Arena Stage's Leadership on the Power Plays Initiative
"Power and politics are the red meat of Washington, D.C. We eat, sleep and drink politics here from early morning coffee to late night conversations. Every city has its own language, its own nuances, its own history and our language is politics. D.C. audiences are hungry for these stories, and there is no other place in the country where these plays could have such an impact. There is no better time to launch this massive commissioning cycle, the largest in Arena’s history. The more we understand our American stories of politics and power, the more informed we become as a democracy."
"Our Power Plays initiative ties directly into Arena Stage’s mission of nurturing new plays and presenting work that reflects America’s diversity and challenges and honors the founding principles of our organization set down over six decades ago. We have test driven the idea with several stakeholders and already received meaningful support. As a manager, I love the 10-year arc, which allows us to plan with confidence and set audacious goals for the organization."
The Five Cycles of Power Plays
Power Plays will encompass five cycles: Presidential Voices, African-American Voices, Insider Voices, Musical Theater Voices and Women’s Voices. Commissioned projects will focus on topics including Oklahoma’s “Black Wall Street,” John Quincy Adams and Theodore Roosevelt.
Plays about exceptional presidents and remarkable events in their lives.
Plays that herald African-American stories in our country’s history and politics.
Plays that delve into an exclusive perspective on the complex workings of American institutions or cultures.
MUSICAL THEATER VOICES
Musicals that celebrate political ideas and events.
Plays that shine a spotlight on women in our country’s political life.
Power Play Summit
On Monday, December 9, 2019, Arena Stage hosted the Power Play Summit in order to bring together the best minds in Washington, D.C., to wrestle with big questions facing our communities, our nation and the world today.
Participants included leading thinkers in the areas of democracy, education, climate change, race and gender, gun safety, technology, immigration, housing, faith, art and business along with Arena Stage’s commissioned Power Play writers. Our goal was to activate the D.C. Brain Trust and Power Play writers and ignite robust connections and action across sectors. The impact of this summit will extend beyond this one day as the ideas shared in this fertile atmosphere impact the future planning and work of the thinkers and writers at this summit. Scroll down to the Gallery to view photos from the day.
Thoughts from the Summit
Click the links below to read participants' thoughts from the summit.
In the Words of Naysan Mojgani
In the Words of Jacqueline E. Lawton
Power Play Commissioned Playwrights
Bob Banghart has been performing throughout Alaska, Canada and the Pacific Northwest since the mid-70s. He co-founded the Alaska Folk Festival and Juneau Jazz and Classics, which are annual weeklong festivals in their 43rd and 30th years, respectively. He began composition work with the 1991 Perseverance Theatre production The Collected Works of Billy the Kid, directed by Molly Smith, and has since scored over a dozen theater productions, an opera and numerous independent TV shows and films. Recent works include The Little Prince directed by Katie Jensen, Metamorphoses directed by Dave Hunsaker and the opera Hansel and Gretel directed by Henning Hegland. Bob lives in Juneau, Alaska with his wife, Laura Lucas, and dog, Jasmine.
Bob wrote the music for Arena's 2018 production of Snow Child with fellow commissioned artist Georgia Stitt.
Kia Corthron was the 2017 resident playwright at Chicago’s Eclipse Theatre, which produced three of her plays. In the summer of 2018 she co-produced and contributed to Imagine: Yemen, an evening of short plays addressing the crisis in Yemen. Awards for her body of work include the Windham Campbell Prize for Drama, the USArtists Jane Addams Fellowship, the Simon Great Plains Playwright Award, the McKnight National Residency, the Otto Award for Political Theatre and the League of Professional Theatre Women’s Lee Reynolds Award. Her plays have been produced in New York by Playwrights Horizons, New York Theatre Workshop, Atlantic Theater Company, Manhattan Theatre Club, Ensemble Studio Theatre and Brooklyn Academy of Music; regionally by ATL Humana, Goodman Theatre, Mark Taper Forum, Minneapolis’ Children’s Theatre, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, NY Stage and Film, Baltimore's Center Stage, Yale Rep and Hartford Stage; and in London by the Royal Court Theatre and Donmar Warehouse. TV credits include The Jury and The Wire. Her debut novel The Castle Cross the Magnet Carter was the winner of the 2016 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize. She serves on the Council of the Dramatists Guild, is a New Dramatists alumnus and is a member of the Authors Guild.
Nathan Alan Davis
His play Nat Turner in Jerusalem received its world premiere at NYTW in the fall of 2016 and was a New York Magazine Critic’s Pick. In 2015, his play Dontrell Who Kissed the Sea received a Steinberg/ATCA New Play Citation and was produced in five cities in a NNPN Rolling World Premiere. His play The Wind and the Breeze received the 2016 Blue Ink Playwriting Award and was selected for Cygnet Theatre’s inaugural Finish Line Commission. Nathan is a theater lecturer at Princeton University, a Usual Suspect at NYTW and a 2016 graduate of Juilliard’s Lila Acheson Wallace American Playwrights Program. He received his M.F.A. from Indiana University and his B.F.A. from the University of Illinois.
Eve Ensler is the Tony Award-winning playwright, activist, performer and author of the Obie Award-winning play The Vagina Monologues, which has been published in 48 languages and performed in over 140 countries. Eve’s plays include Necessary Targets, O.P.C., The Good Body and Emotional Creature. Her books include Insecure At Last: A Political Memoir and The New York Times’ bestseller I Am An Emotional Creature. Her latest critically-acclaimed memoir is In the Body of the World, which she adapted, debuted and performed at American Repertory Theater directed by Diane Paulus. Her play Fruit Trilogy was performed at the Women of the World Festival and The West Yorkshire Playhouse. Eve is founder of both V-Day, an almost 20-year-old global movement to end violence against women and girls, which has raised over $100 million, and One Billion Rising, a global mass action campaign in over 200 countries. She was named one of Newsweek’s “150 Women Who Changed the World” and The Guardian’s “100 Most Influential Women.”
Emily Feldman’s work has been developed by Roundabout Theatre Company, The Playwrights Realm, Alliance Theatre, Second Stage Theater, A.C.T., Portland Center Stage, La Jolla Playhouse and Actors Theatre of Louisville, among others. Her play The Best We Could (a family tragedy) will premiere at Manhattan Theatre Club in 2020. Alum: The Working Farm at SPACE on Ryder Farm, I-73 at Page 73, the Jerome Fellowship/Core Apprenticeship at the Playwrights’ Center, Orchard Project Greenhouse, New Harmony Project Two Rivers Emerging Playwrights Group. Current: Lila Acheson Wallace American Playwrights Program at the Juilliard School, Core Writer at The Playwrights Center, commissions from Manhattan Theatre Club and Playwrights Horizons. Emily has taught playwriting at Playwrights Horizons Theater School at NYU and holds an M.F.A. from University of California, San Diego and a B.A. from Middlebury College.
Idris Goodwin is a playwright, director, break beat poet and educator. He is the producing artistic director of Stage One Family Theater in Louisville, KY for which he penned the award-winning and widely produced And In This Corner: Cassius Clay. Other plays include How We Got On, This Is Modern Art co-written with Kevin Coval, Bars and Measures and Hype Man: a break beat play. Idris's play The Way The Mountain Moved was commissioned and produced as part of Oregon Shakespeare’s groundbreaking American Revolutions series. His work has been produced Off-Broadway, as well as at The Humana Festival at Actor’s Theater of Louisville, Steppenwolf Theater, The Kennedy Center, The Denver Center for The Performing Arts, Cleveland Playhouse and Company One. Idris is a highly sought-after writer for young audiences, produced and commissioned by children's theaters across the country. He has received awards and development support from the NEA; The Ford, Mellon and Edgerton Foundations; Berkeley Rep's Ground Floor Program; The Eugene O’Neill Center; The Lark Playwriting Center; and New Harmony Project. Idris is the 2018-2019 recipient of the Playwright Center's McKnight Fellowship. These Are The Breaks (Write Bloody, 2011), his debut collection of essays and poetry, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Inauguration, a chapbook co-written with Nico Wilkinson (Haymarket Books), won the 2017 Literary Arts Award from The Pikes Peak Arts Council. He's performed his poetry on HBO, The Discovery Channel, Sesame Street and National Public Radio. Idris is a member of The Dramatists Guild and serves on the boards of TYA/USA and The Children’s Theatre Foundation of America.
Jacqueline E. Lawton
Jacqueline E. Lawton's plays include Intelligence, Anna K, Blood-bound and Tongue-tied, Deep Belly Beautiful, The Devil’s Sweet Water, The Hampton Years, Love Brothers Serenade, Mad Breed and Noms de Guerre. She has received commissions from Adventure Theatre-MTC, Discovery Theater, National Portrait Gallery, National Museum of American History, Round House and Theater J. Her play Cinder Blocks was published in Experiments in a Jazz Aesthetic: Art, Activism, Academia and the Austin Project (University of Texas Press). A 2012 TCG Young Leader of Color, she is an alumna of the National New Play Network (NNPN), Arena Stage’s Playwrights’ Arena and Center Stage’s Playwrights Collective. She is a proud member of the Dramatists Guild of America. She received her M.F.A. from the University of Texas at Austin, where she was a James A. Michener Fellow.
Kenneth Lin's plays Warrior Class (TCG Edgerton New Play Prize); Fallow (Barrymore Nomination for Outstanding New Play, Brown Martin Philadelphia Award); Intelligence-Slave and Po Boy Tango (TCG Edgerton New Play Prize); said Saïd (L. Arnold Weissberger Award, Princess Grace Award); Life On Paper, Agency* and Genius In Love have been seen at theaters throughout the country, including Second Stage, Alliance Theatre, Northlight Theatre, Alley Theatre, People's Light, South Coast Repertory, Williamstown Theatre Festival, Marin Theater Company and East West Players. He is the creator of a new limited series, American Way for USA Networks, and is a staff writer on Netflix's House of Cards. Commissions include Ensemble Studio Theatre, Manhattan Theatre Club, South Coast Rep, Wilma Theater and Arena Stage. Residencies include Ojai Playwrights Conference, Ucross Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Lark Playwrights Workshop, Interstate 73, New York Stage and Film and McCarter Playwrights Retreat. He attended Cornell University, Fulbright Scholarship, Yale School of Drama.
Craig Lucas' plays include Reckless, Blue Window, Prelude to a Kiss, The Dying Gaul, Prayer, For My Enemy, The Singing Forest, Ode To Joy and I Was Most Alive With You. His screenplays include Longtime Companion, The Secret Lives of Dentists, Prelude to a Kiss and The Dying Gaul. He wrote libretti for The Light in the Piazza, An American in Paris and Two Boys (opera). He directed the world premiere of The Light in the Piazza, Harry Kondoleon’s Saved Or Destroyed and Play Yourself, as well as the films The Dying Gaul and Birds of America. Awards include NY Film Critics Best Screenplay, Sundance Audience Award, Excellence in Literature Award from the American Academy of Arts & Letters as well as three Obie Awards.
Eduardo Machado was born in Cuba and came to the United States when he was nine. He is the author of over 40 plays including The Cook, Havana is Waiting, The Modern Ladies of Guanabacoa, Fabiola, Broken Eggs and Stevie Wants to Play the Blues. His plays have been produced at Seattle Repertory, Goodman, Hartford Stage, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Mark Taper Forum, Long Wharf, Hampstead Theatre in London, Cherry Lane, Theater for the New City and Repertorio Español, among many others. He was formerly artistic director of INTAR Theatre in New York and has been a Professor of Playwriting at NYU Tisch and Columbia. He is the co-author of Tastes Like Cuba: An Exile’s Hunger for Home and his plays are published by Samuel French and TCG.
Mary Kathryn Nagle
Mary Kathryn Nagle is an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation. She currently serves as the executive director of the Yale Indigenous Performing Arts Program. She is also a partner at Pipestem Law, P.C., where she works to protect tribal sovereignty and the inherent right of Indian Nations to protect their women and children from domestic violence and sexual assault. She has authored numerous briefs in federal appellate courts, including the United States Supreme Court. She has received commissions from Arena Stage; The Rose Theater in Omaha, Nebraska; Portland Center Stage; and Denver Center. Her other plays include Manahatta, Diamonds, Waaxe’s Law, Sliver of a Full Moon, My Father’s Bones, Miss Lead and Fairly Traceable.
Mary Kathryn Nagle wrote Sovereignty, which received its world premiere in Arena's 2017/18 season, directed by Molly Smith.
Aaron Posner is an award-winning playwright, director, teacher and former artistic director of two LORT theaters. His Helen Hayes Award-winning play, Stupid Fucking Bird, was one of the 10 most produced plays in the country in 2015. Other plays include Life Sucks and No Sisters (both re-inventions of Chekhov), District Merchants (inspired by The Merchant of Venice), Who Am I This Time? (& Other Conundrums of Love) (adapted from Kurt Vonnegut), The Chosen and My Name Is Asher Lev (adapted from Chaim Potok), Sometimes a Great Notion (adapted from Ken Kesey) and several more. He has directed more than 150 productions at major regional theaters across the country, including Arena Stage, and currently lives outside of D.C. with his wife, actress Erin Weaver, and his amazing daughter, Maisie.
Theresa Rebeck is a widely produced playwright on and off-Broadway, regionally and internationally. Her plays include Seminar, Mauritius (IRNE Award and Elliot Norton Award), Spike Heels, Poor Behavior, The Family of Mann (National Theatre Conference Award), The Bells (William Inge New Voices Playwriting Award), Omnium Gatherum (Pulitzer Prize finalist), Bad Dates and The Understudy. In television, she is known for her work on NYPD Blue (Writer’s Guild, Peabody and Edgar Awards) and for creating the NBC series Smash. Theresa is originally from Cincinnati, Ohio. She has a Ph.D. and M.F.A. from Brandeis University. She serves on the board of PEN America and is a proud member of the Dramatist’s Guild. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, Jess Lynn, and her children, Cooper and Cleo Lynn.
Octavio Solis is a playwright and director whose works Mother Road, Quixote Nuevo, Hole in the Sky, Alicia’s Miracle, Se Llama Cristina, John Steinbeck’s The Pastures of Heaven, Ghosts of the River, Quixote, Lydia, June in a Box, Lethe, Marfa Lights, Gibraltar, The Ballad of Pancho and Lucy, The 7 Visions of Encarnación, Bethlehem, Dreamlandia, El Otro, Man of the Flesh, Prospect, El Paso Blue, Santos & Santos and La Posada Mágica have been mounted at the California Shakespeare Theatre, Mark Taper Forum, Yale Repertory Theatre, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, the Dallas Theater Center, the Magic Theatre, Intersection for the Arts, South Coast Repertory Theatre, the San Diego Repertory Theatre, the San Jose Repertory Theatre, Shadowlight Productions, the Venture Theatre in Philadelphia, Latino Chicago Theatre Company, Boston Court and Kitchen Dog Theatre, the New York Summer Play Festival, Teatro Vista in Chicago, El Teatro Campesino, the Undermain Theatre in Dallas, Thick Description, Campo Santo, the Imua Theatre Company in New York and Cornerstone Theatre. His collaborative works include Cloudlands, with music by Adam Gwon; Burning Dreams, cowritten with Julie Hebert and Gina Leishman; and Shiner, written with Erik Ehn. Octavio has received an NEA 1995-97 Playwriting Fellowship, the Roger L. Stevens Award from the Kennedy Center, the Will Glickman Playwright Award, a production grant from the Kennedy Center Fund for New American Plays, the 1998 TCG/NEA Theatre Artists in Residence Grant, the 1998 McKnight Fellowship grant from the Playwrights Center in Minneapolis and the National Latino Playwriting Award for 2003. He is the recipient of the 2000-2001 National Theatre Artists Residency Grant from TCG and the Pew Charitable Trust, the United States Artists Fellowship for 2011 and the 2104 Pen Center USA Award for Drama. Octavio is a Thornton Wilder Fellow for the MacDowell Colony, a New Dramatists alum and a member of the Dramatists Guild. He is working on commissions for SF Playhouse and South Coast Repertory Theatre, in addition to Arena Stage.
Georgia Stitt is currently writing the musicals Snow Child, Blue Ridge Sky, Juliette et Romeo and a large-form choral oratorio. Other shows include The Danger Year, Big Red Sun (Arlen Award), Samantha Spade: Ace Detective (National Youth Theater Award), Mosaic and The Water. Albums include This Ordinary Thursday, Alphabet City Cycle (featuring Kate Baldwin) and My Lifelong Love. Her choral piece with hope and virtue (using text from President Obama’s 2009 inauguration speech) was featured on NPR and her orchestral piece, Waiting for Wings, co-written with husband Jason Robert Brown, was recorded by the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra. Other credits include music director for 2016’s Sweet Charity (Off-Broadway), The Last Five Years (film) and The Sound Of Music Live! (NBC). She is on the Board of Directors for The Lilly Awards Foundation. www.georgiastitt.com
Georgia co-wrote the music and wrote the lyrics for Arena's 2018 production of Snow Child with fellow commissioned artist Bob Banghart.
John Strand's Arena Stage commissions include The Originalist, about the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia; The Miser, an adaptation of the Moliére play set in Reagan-era America; Lovers and Executioners, winner of the Charles MacArthur Award for Outstanding New Play; and Tom Walker. Recent work includes the book and lyrics for Hat! A Vaudeville, a new musical with a score by composer Dennis McCarthy (South Coast Repertory); Lincolnesque, a dark comedy about politics and madness in D.C. (Old Globe); and Lorenzaccio, his adaptation of Alfred de Musset’s 1834 French classic (Shakespeare Theatre Company). Strand wrote the book for the musical The Highest Yellow, with a score by Michael John LaChiusa (Signature Theatre). Additional plays are The Diaries (Signature Theatre, MacArthur nomination); Otabenga
(Signature Theatre, MacArthur nomination); Three Nights in Tehran, a comedy about the Iran-Contra affair (Signature Theatre); and The Cockburn Rituals (Woolly Mammoth). Strand spent 10 years in Paris, where he worked as a journalist and drama critic, writing in English and French, and directed New York University's Experimental Theater Wing in Paris. His novel Commieland
was published by Kiwai Media, Paris in 2013. He is currently at work on a new musical for Arena Stage and on the film adaptation of The Originalist.
John wrote the script for Arena's 2017 production of The Originalist and the 2018 production of Snow Child.
Lawrence Wright made his Arena Stage debut with Camp David. He is a staff writer for The New Yorker and author of nine books, including his recent Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief. His book The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 won the Pulitzer Prize, was named by Time Magazine as one of the 100 best nonfiction books ever written and is being adapted for TV by Hulu. He was the co-writer of the screenplay for 1998 movie The Siege, with Denzel Washington and Annette Bening, and also wrote Noriega: God's Favorite, with Bob Hoskins, for TV. He has written and performed two one-man shows: My Trip to al-Qaeda, which he performed off-Broadway and at the Kennedy Center, and was made into a movie for HBO; and The Human Scale, which Lawrence performed in New York and Tel Aviv. His play Fallaci was staged by Berkeley Repertory Theater in 2013, and in 2015 he co-produced a documentary for HBO, Going Clear, based on his book of the same name, which won the Alfred I. du-Pont-Columbia Award and three Emmy Awards. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Society of American Historians. He also serves as the keyboard player in the Austin-based blues band, WhoDo.
Lauren Yee’s Cambodian Rock Band, with music by Dengue Fever, premiered at South Coast Rep. with subsequent productions at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, La Jolla Playhouse, City Theatre, Merrimack Rep, Signature Theatre, Portland Center Stage and Jungle Theatre. Her play The Great Leap has been produced at the Denver Center, Seattle Repertory, Atlantic Theatre, the Guthrie Theatre, American Conservatory Theatre, Arts Club, InterAct Theatre and Steppenwolf, with future productions at Long Wharf and Asolo Rep/Miami New Drama. Honors include: the Doris Duke Artists Award, Whiting Award, Steinberg/ATCA Award, American Academy of Arts and Letters literature award, Horton Foote Prize, Kesselring Prize, Primus Prize, a Hodder Fellowship at Princeton and the number one and number two plays on the 2017 Kilroys List. She's a residency five playwright at Signature Theatre, New Dramatists members, Ma-Yi Writers’ Lab member and Playwrights Realm alumni playwright. TV credits include: “Pachinko” (Apple) and “Soundtrack” (Netflix). Current commissions include: Geffen Playhouse, La Jolla Playhouse, Portland Center Stage, Second Stage and South Coast Rep. BA: Yale. MFA: UCSD. www.laurenyee.com
Karen Zacarías was recently hailed by American Theater Magazine as one of the 10 most-produced playwrights in the U.S. Her award-winning plays include The Copper Children, Destiny of Desire, Native Gardens, The Book Club Play, Legacy of Light, Mariela in the Desert, The Sins of Sor Juana, the adaptations of Just Like Us, Into the Beautiful North and How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accent. She is the author of 10 renowned TYA musicals and the Marvel play Squirrel Girl Goes to College, and the librettist of several ballets. She is one of the inaugural resident playwrights at Arena Stage (where she has been produced four times!), a core founder of the Latinx Theatre Commons – a large national organization of artists seeking to update the American narrative with the stories of Latinos – and she is the founder of the award-winning Young Playwrights’ Theater (YPT). YPT was cited by the Obama administration as one of the best arts-education programs in the nation. Karen was just voted 2018 Washingtonian of the Year by Washingtonian Magazine for her advocacy work involving the arts. She is an inaugural 2019 Sine Fellow for Policy Innovation at American University and is selected by The League of Professional Theatre Women to receive the 2019 Lee Reynolds Award given annually to a woman in theater who has helped illuminate the possibilities for social, cultural or political change. She also was awarded the 2019 Medallion by the Children’s Theater Foundation of America for her advocacy for youth and the arts. Karen lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband and three children.
Zack Zadek is a composer/lyricist, playwright and songwriter with Warner/Chappell. Zack has been named by Playbill as “A Contemporary Musical Theatre Songwriter You Should Know,” was a MacDowell Fellow and VCCA Fellow and is a 2019 Dramatist Guild Fellow. Zack won the Weston New Musical Award for his book, music and lyrics to Deathless (dir. Tina Landau), which was produced at Goodspeed Musicals in 2017. His work has been developed and presented at The Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center, Roundabout, Lincoln Center, The Kennedy Center, New York Stage and Film, The 5th Avenue Theatre, TheatreWorks Silicon Valley, The Lark, Arena Stage, Goodspeed Musicals, SPACE on Ryder Farm, Weston Playhouse, Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival, Legacy Theatre, NYMF, The Mitten Lab and in the UK at the London Theatre Workshop and Edinburgh Fringe. He is a two-time finalist for the Kleban Prize as a librettist and a lyricist, a three-time Jonathan Larson Grant Finalist, SigWorks @ Signature Theatre finalist, KSF Artists of Choice finalist and winner of the inaugural NMI/Disney Imagineering New Voices Award. Other pieces include The Crazy Ones (dir. Sam Buntrock/Hunter Bird), The Role of a Lifetime (dir. Jerry Mitchell) and 6 (dir. Sheryl Kaller/Max Friedman). Upcoming projects include Store Brand (dir. Jaki Bradley), which is being developed by The Civilians and current commissions from Mike Bosner Productions, Jill Furman Productions, Arena Stage and Ars Nova. He is currently a writer-in-residence with The Orchard Project Greenhouse and Ars Nova.