Arena Stage Holds VOICES OF NOW Festival, Now thru 5/17

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Arena Stage Holds VOICES OF NOW Festival, Now thru 5/17

Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater will host the Voices of Now Festival, a four-day event featuring original works of theater written and performed by nine different youth ensembles from the internationally renowned Community Engagement program. The festival will bring together more than 100 artists, ages 11-24, from D.C., Maryland and Virginia who have been working with professional theater artists from Arena Stage for the past year to devise original one-act plays. The 2014 ensembles will come together today, May 14-17, 2014 to perform and discuss their work in the Arlene and Robert Kogod Cradle at the Mead Center.

Voices of Now (VON)-currently in its 11th year-gives young artists the opportunity to devise and perform autobiographical theater pieces that pose challenging questions relevant to their communities and investigate those questions by recounting personal stories. A primary goal of the program is to create positive change within the artists' community by empowering young people to engage in dialogue centered on their daily experiences of their world. This year's plays examine topics including gender equality, sexual identity, mental health, self-esteem, the ramifications of the civil war and the questions that emerge when grieving a loss, among others. All performances will be followed by a talkback.

Ensembles will have an additional opportunity this spring to perform their plays for the communities for which their pieces were devised, including the National Civil War Project Conference at George Washington University, the Art and Spirit Coffeehouse at St. Augustine's Episcopal Church in Southwest, D.C., the 2014 Grief Forum hosted by the Wendt Center for Loss and Healing and a Teach for America professional development opportunity for first year D.C.-area teachers at Gallaudet University.

"Voices of Now is a source of great pride for Arena Stage," shares Arena Stage Artistic Director Molly Smith. "What else is more passionate, exuberant, profound, deep and dangerous in the American spirit than the voices of our youth? The plays from these young people are powerful because they give voice, in a unique way, to their concerns, fears, and ideas. We all grow to be better people when we listen to their voices."

"Over the past decade Voices of Now has undergone a dizzying transformation, and it has been both humbling and fortifying to see the program at work in D.C. and around the world," adds Director of Education Ashley Forman. "Each season, VON artists are presented with new challenges and sources of inspiration, and I am particularly excited about the Mentor Ensemble's work as part of the National Civil War Project as they create a play that examines what they see as social and cultural 'fault lines' caused by the Civil War. As we push the boundaries of what we can do with Voices of Now, the stories we hear on stage become even more compelling and evocative."

Voices of Now (VON) is a year-long, internationally recognized drama program designed by Arena Stage's Director of Education Ashley Forman. Currently in its eleventh year, Voices of Now utilizes creative writing, improvisation, collaboration, movement and performance to devise autobiographical theater pieces with ensembles made up of middle school, high school and adult artists. Each ensemble's play poses challenging social questions relevant to the artists' communities and investigates those questions by recounting the artists' personal stories. The VON curriculum has successfully created plays with middle school, high school and adult community groups and is available for schools and community groups throughout the D.C. metro area. In addition to performing at Arena Stage, ensembles perform throughout their own communities. Past ensembles have performed at the Atlas Performing Arts Center's Intersections Festival, Imagination Stage, the American Alliance for Theater Educators' National Conference, The Association of Theater in Higher Education Conference, the 2013 International AIDS Conference and the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage.

For more information on Voices of Now, visit arenastage.org/education/voices-of-now.

TICKETS: Tickets for the Voices of Now Festival are FREE, though reservations are required through the Arena Stage Sales Office at 202-488-3300.

Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater, under the leadership of Artistic Director Molly Smith and Executive Producer Edgar Dobie, is a national center dedicated to American voices and artists. Arena Stage produces plays of all that is passionate, profound, deep and dangerous in the American spirit, and presents diverse and ground-breaking work from some of the best artists around the country. Arena Stage is committed to commissioning and developing new plays through the American Voices New Play Institute. Arena Stage impacts the lives of more than 20,000 students annually through its work in community engagement. Now in its seventh decade, Arena Stage serves a diverse annual audience of more than 300,000. arenastage.org.

Follow Arena Stage on Twitter @arenastage or twitter.com/arenastage with #VoicesofNow and on Facebook at facebook.com/arenastage.

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