Kelly Renee Armstrong, Ricardo Frederick Evans, John Lescault & More Set for Arena Stage's OUR WAR
In a bold undertaking as part of the company's involvement with the multi-year, multi-city National Civil War Project, Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater has commissioned Our War, a dynamic new theatrical event and collection of short stories that explores-through diverse perspectives-the historical memory and present-day reverberations of the U.S. Civil War. Director Anita Maynard-Losh weaves the vignettes by 25 esteemed playwrights-including winners of the Pulitzer Prize, Tony Award, Olivier Award and Helen Hayes Award-together through performances by an ensemble of local actors including Kelly Renee Armstrong, Ricardo Frederick Evans, John Lescault, Tuyet Pham, Lynette Rathnam and Sara Waisanen. Joining the ensemble throughout the run are nearly 30 notable leaders from the D.C. community, including Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, MSNBC's Chris Matthews and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), among others listed below.
In regards to the inspiration for the project, Arena Stage Artistic Director Molly Smith shares, "Around the time of the development of The National Civil War Project I became aware of Kwame Kwei-Armah and CenterStage's My America project, which asked 50 renowned playwrights the simple question, 'What is my America?' As one of our partners of The National Civil War Project, I discussed with him my desire to take their brilliant idea and apply it specifically to the American Civil War and his encouragement and excitement helped drive forward this premiere event and collaboration with such distinguished playwrights, Washingtonians and artists. Together through Our War we explore the impact of a young country at war with itself."
The playwrights represented in Our War include Maria Agui Carter, Lydia Diamond, Amy Freed, Diane Glancy, Joy Harjo, Samuel D. Hunter, Naomi Iizuka, Aditi Kapil, Dan LeFranc, David Lindsay-Abaire, Ken Ludwig, Taylor Mac, Ken Narasaki, Lynn Nottage, Robert O'Hara, Heather Raffo, Charles Randolph-Wright, Tanya Saracho, Betty Shamieh, John Strand, Tazewell Thompson, William S. Yellow Robe, Jr., Karen Zacarías as well as two students participating through Arena Stage's National Civil War Project partnership with George Washington University: Zinhle Essamuah and Nicholas Ong. To view playwright biographies, visit arenastage.org/shows-tickets/the-season/productions/our-war/.
"Our War gives us a chance to investigate the question of who controls our accepted version of a historical narrative," shares Maynard-Losh. "Through this project-and its multitude of voices and expressed points of view that are not traditionally heard-we have an opportunity to see how the U.S. Civil War impacts our collective society still today.
Our War guest performers include Deborah Amos (NPR International Correspondent); Tamara Christian (COO, International Spy Museum); The Rev. Canon Jan Naylor Cope (Washington National Cathedral); Dr. John J. DeGioia (President, Georgetown University); Anita Dunn (Managing Director, SKDKnickerbocker); Jack Evans (D.C. Councilmember, Ward 2); Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Associate Justice, Supreme Court of the United States); The Very Rev. Gary Hall (Dean, Washington National Cathedral); Kaya Henderson (Chancellor, D.C. Public Schools); The Rev. Dr. H. Beecher Hicks, Jr. (Senior Servant, Metropolitan Baptist Church); Hari Jones (Assistant Director and Curator, African American Civil War Museum); Dr. Cornelius M. Kerwin (President, American University); Dr. Steven Knapp (President, George Washington University); Chris Matthews (Hardball, MSNBC); Anita McBride (Executive in Residence, School of Public Affairs, American University and former Chief of Staff to First Lady Laura Bush); James P. Moran (Congressman, D-VA); Eleanor Holmes Norton (Congresswoman, D-D.C.); Archbishop Alfred A. Owens, Jr. (D. Min., Pastor, Greater Mount Calvary Holy Church); Diane Rehm (The Diane Rehm Show, WAMU); Andy Shallal (entrepreneur and owner of Busboys and Poets); Tom Sherwood (NBC reporter); Rabbi Gil Steinlauf (Senior Rabbi, Adas Israel Congregation); Constantine Stavropoulos (owner of Tryst, The Diner, Open City, The Coupe and Tryst at The Phillips); Joan Wages (President & CEO, National Women's History Museum); and Judy Woodruff (Co-Anchor and Managing Editor, PBS Newshour).
Our War is part of The National Civil War Project, a collaboration between four universities and five performing arts organizations to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War. The National Civil War Project includes the commissioning of 12 original works for the stage as well as the creation of new arts-integrated academic programs. Locally, Arena Stage is in partnership with Liz Lerman and The George Washington University. 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. For more information visit civilwarproject.org.
For up-to-date information about the Our War guest artists, including performance dates and times, visit arenastage.org/shows-tickets/the-season/productions/our-war/.
The creative team of Our War includes Dramaturg Jocelyn Clarke, Set Designer Robbie Hayes, Costume Designer T. Tyler Stumpf, Lighting Designer Catherine Girardi, Sound Designer Elisheba Itoop and Stage Manager Kurt Hall.
The ensemble of Our War:
Kelly Renee Armstrong makes her debut at Arena Stage. Other appearances include Monica in The Elder Statesman at Washington Stage Guild, Alma in Yellowman at Rep Stage and Ensemble in Wit at Bay Theatre Company. She has been nominated for numerous awards for her performance as Alma in Yellowman. She is a 2013 Individual Artist Award grantee for her solo performance work Testify. Kelly received her MFA in performance from Catholic University of America. She can be seen in Theater J's upcoming production of The Call.
Ricardo Frederick Evans makes his Arena Stage debut with Our War. Other Washington area credits include Sterling in Two Trains Running at Round House Theatre, the Egungun in In the Red and Brown Water at Studio Theatre, Orsino in Twelfth Night with Taffety Punk, the titular character in Doorway Arts Ensemble's Hercules in Russia and multiple productions at Imagination Stage including Disney's Mulan, Ferdinand the Bull, Rumpelstiltskin and Doctor Dolittle (Helen Hayes nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Resident Musical). Ricardo can be seen in the independent film Of Dice and Men, directed by Kelley Slagle, and the final film of John Putch's trilogy Route 30,Three!. TV credits include House of Cards.
John Lescault was last seen at Arena Stage in The Music Man. New York credits include Le Deserteur at Lincoln Center. John's D.C. credits include Defiant Requiem, Sancho Panca, Le Deserteur and From the New World (as Dvorak) at the Kennedy Center, Brother Russia, "Art," Crave and Angels in America at Signature Theatre; From Prague and Yankee Tavern at CATF; A Christmas Carol at Ford's Theatre; The Lyons, Fahrenheit 451, A Prayer for Owen Meany, Our Town, Wintertime Shakespeare and Moses and Joe Papp at Round House; The School for Scandal, A Midsummer's Night Dream, Elizabeth the Queen and Macbeth at Folger Theater; Henry V, Richard II, Tamburlaine, Edward II, The Winter's Tale and Don Carlos at Shakespeare Theatre; The Disputation and Hannah and Martin at Theatre J; and Heaven and The Psychic Life of Savages at Woolly Mammoth. International credits include Prague Spring Music Festival: Defiant Requiem. His film and TV credits include Joseph Graham's Beautiful Something, Spielberg's Lincoln, The Day Lincoln Was Shot and Unsolved Mysteries. John received a BFA from The Catholic University of America.
Tuyet Thi Pham returns to Arena Stage. She has been seen in over 25 local productions in the Baltimore-Washington, D.C. area that include roles at Centerstage, Everyman Theatre, Spooky Action Theatre, Constellation Theatre Company, Rep Stage, Roundhouse Theatre, Imagination Stage, Signature Theatre, The Kennedy Center for Performing Arts and Capital Fringe Festival. She has also worked with Perseverance Theatre in Alaska, The Nebraska Shakespeare Festival, The Brigit St. Brigit Theatre, The Shelterbelt Theater and was an Allen Lee Hughes Artistic Fellow and member of Arena Stage's Living Stage Theatre Company. She was last seen in Spooky Action Theatre's production of Kwaidan.
Lynette Rathnam makes her Arena Stage debut. Other Washington area appearances include The Mute in The Fantasticks at Rep Stage, various roles in Slam Theatre 3.0 at the Atlas Intersections Festival, The Witch in Glassheart with Rorschach Theatre, Good Deeds in The Summoning of Everyman with Edge of the Universe Players and Cris in The Wings of Ikarus Jackson at The Kennedy Center. Lynette has performed in both the D.C. Source and Capital Fringe Festivals. She recently performed the role of Olivia in Illyria with the Virginia Shakespeare Festival and has appeared in several productions with the Maryland Shakespeare Festival including Olivia in Twelfth Night, Hermia in A Midsummer Night's Dream and Diana in All's Well That Ends Well.
Sara Waisanen makes her Arena Stage debut. Regionally she has worked at Dallas Theatre Center, California Shakespeare Theatre, Shakespeare Theatre Company and Perseverance Theatre, where she was a company member. Favorite roles include Ahab in Moby Dick; Catherine in Proof; Maria in Up: The Man in the Flying Lawnchair; and Yitzhak in Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Sara has an MFA in acting from Southern Methodist University.
Our War Special Events
Our War National Monologue Contest:
In conjunction with Our War, Arena Stage held a national competition for character monologue submissions written about the American Civil War. Up to three winners will be announced to receive a performance of their monologue by members of the cast of Our War at a post-show public reading November 6 following the 8:00 p.m. performance. The selected writers will also receive a session with American Voices New Play Institute Dramaturg Jocelyn Clarke. For additional details visit: arenastage.org/ourwar.