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Voices of Now

Voices of Now (VON) is an internationally recognized, devised theater program where ensembles of middle-school, high-school, and adult artists work together to create autobiographical plays and films. These fast-paced, collaboratively written, physical pieces pose significant social questions relevant to the ensemble of artists and their communities.

Working locally and internationally, VON's goal is to create positive change within the artists’ communities by engaging in dialogue centered on the unique life experience of each ensemble member. More than 2,000 artists have had their lives changed by their VON experience in the last decade alone.

2022 Voices of Now Festival

In May 2022, Arena Stage's Community Engagement Department presented the work of nine ensembles from the D.C. Metro area. Artists, aged 11 to 38, raised important questions about their communities through an evening of original, autobiographical theater and cinema.

WATCH THE 2022 VOICES OF NOW PERFORMANCES

Download the Voices of Now Program

Films

From the moment schools were closed in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we worked to restructure VON to meet current needs, and transitioned our rehearsals to a virtual format. We were presented with multiple challenges: how do we create ensemble-based theater with artists who are not in the same room? Working virtually, is it possible to maintain the aesthetic of a VON play which is typically highly choreographed? How will the work be performed? Who will it be performed for? Will they watch it?

With these questions in mind, we decided to focus our efforts on creating films that captured the experiences of the VON artists in real-time. In addition to traditional scripting, we used electronic devices such as smartphones and video conferencing tools, as well as art forms such as animation, illustration and music production to respond to the pandemic as it unfolded.

Access to over 200 VON artists allowed us to catalog the experiences of young people in a way that will speak to future generations, generated by a cohort of artists who are uniquely qualified to create art that fosters productive inquiry while representing their authentic point of view. Together, we have created time capsules that reflect how young people think, observe and behave during this historic time.

Inside Voices: a film by Arena Stage’s Voices of Now ensembles is a moving time capsule of the lives of over 120 student artists’ creating art through a devised theater process.
Arena Stage presents Waiting Room: A new film by Arena Stage’s Voices of Now Ensembles.

Mini Film Residencies

Through residencies and partnerships VON techniques have been used to create mini-films with a variety of organizations and participants.

THIS IS THE WAY In partnership with Miner Elementary School
SAFE HAVEN In partnership with Creative Arts & Performing Arts Center (CAPAC)
ROAD MAP In partnership with the Wendt Center for Loss & Healing
ESCAPE PLAN In partnership with the Wendt Center for Loss & Healing

Current Voices of Now (VON) Ensembles 

Please select the VON ensemble below that best represents you below. If your organization is interested in hosting a VON ensemble, or you would like to learn more about ways to partner with us, please contact Community Programs Manager, Mauricio Pita at mpita@arenastage.org

FCPS ENSEMBLES

Free After-School program for middle school students in Fairfax County

JEFFERSON ENSEMBLE

Free After-School program for Jefferson Middle School Academy Students

PRE-PROFESSIONAL

Free weekly ensemble for college and university students, and emerging theater professionals.

MEAD ENSEMBLE

Tuition-based ensemble for students in grades 7 through 12.

MENTOR ENSEMBLE

Audition-only ensemble for former and continuing VON artists.

WENDT CENTER ENSEMBLE

Free evening ensemble for teenagers who are grieving the death of a loved one. This ensemble is offered in partnership with the Wendt Center for Loss and Healing.

International Ensembles

  • Voices of Now: Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina 2019

    In partnership with the U.S. Embassy in Zagreb, Croatia and the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Arena Stage sent four Arena Stage Voices of Now devisers/directors to Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina for three weeks beginning January 26, 2019. The artists worked with three ensembles of young people, two in Croatia and one in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and through workshops and rehearsals, three original plays were created and performed by the ensembles.

    Learn more

  • Voices of Now: Croatia 2015

    In September 2015, Arena Stage in partnership with the U.S. Embassies in Zagreb, Croatia and Ljubljana, Slovenia, sent three Voices of Now (VON) teaching artists to Zagreb to work with high school and college-age youth from Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia and Slovenia. The participants, known as the Voices of Now Youth 2 Youth Ensemble, created and performed the play Beneath the Surface at the Tresnja Theater in Zagreb on Friday, September 18, 2015.

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  • Voices of Now: Peru 2014

    In June 2014, the United States Embassy in Lima, Peru invited two artist-educators from Arena Stage’s Community Engagement division to Lima to work with Esteras, a local theater company comprised of artists, educators and leaders committed to using art as a tool for human development and social transformation. Together, they formed Arena y Esteras and created the play La Solidaridad/Unity.

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  • Voices of Now: India 2014

    Following a successful partnership in 2012, the United States Department of State funded nine artist-educators from Arena Stage’s Community Engagement division in 2014 to return to India to create devised theater pieces with nearly 400 artists from diverse communities in the following cities: Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai and Hyderabad.

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  • Voices of Now: Croatia 2013

    In partnership with the United States Department of State, Arena Stage sent four artist-educators to Zagreb, Croatia in December of 2013 to create an original, autobiographical play with 11 young adults with physical disabilities.

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  • Voices of Now: India 2012

    In 2012 the United States Department of State funded four artist-educators from Arena Stage’s Community Engagement division to travel to India to create devised theater pieces with diverse groups in four cities: Kolkata, Patna, New Delhi and Hyderabad. Using workshop activities and rehearsal methods used in Arena Stage’s Voices of Now program, artist-educators devised and directed plays exploring themes important to the ensemble of artists in each community.

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Get Involved

Voices of Now workshops and residencies are available to middle school, high school, community groups, educators and theater professionals. Learn more by contacting Community Programs Manager Mauricio Pita at mpita@arenastage.org

Sponsors

Sam G. Rose is the Lead Sponsor of Voice of Now.

Voices of Now is made possible by support from the Hattie M. Strong Foundation, Global Medical REIT, Weissberg Foundation, Lois & Richard England Family Foundation and Friends of Southwest D.C.

Arena Stage’s community engagement efforts are generously sponsored by Denie and Frank Weil; The Estate of Ms. Toni A. Ritzenberg; AT&T; Joanne Barker; the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities; Catherine and Chris Guttman-McCabe; Hattie M. Strong Foundation; Robert and Natalie Mandel Family Foundation; Floyd E. Davis Family Foundation; Max and Victoria Dreyfus Foundation, Inc.; Alice Shaver Foundation; Theatre Forward; Collins Aerospace; England Family Foundation; Friends of Southwest D.C.; GEICO; JBG Smith; Wayne and Susan Jonas; Foley & Lardner LLP; Weissberg Foundation; Jean Schiro- Zavela and Vance Zavela; Actors’ Equity Foundation; and Youth Activities Task Force (YATF) of the Southwest Neighborhood Assembly, Inc.)