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Ars Nova's UNDERGROUND RAILROAD GAME Tour Will Travel to Germany, D.C. and More

Ars Nova has announced an international tour of the critically acclaimed Underground Railroad Game.

The provocative production, which premiered in New York last year, was created by Jennifer Kidwell and Scott R. Sheppard with Philadelphia based theater company Lightning Rod Special and directed by Taibi Magar.

This international tour will begin in Theater Der Welt in Hamburg, Germany in June 2017, and will include a multi-week run in Washington D.C. at Woolly Mammoth in April 2018. Additional tour dates to be announced.

Underground Railroad Game welcomes audiences to Hanover Middle School, where a pair of teachers - Kidwell and Sheppard - are keen to introduce you to today's lesson. The nimble duo goes round after round on the mat of our nation's history, tackling race, sex and power in this R-rated, kaleidoscopic and fearless comedy.

About the show, Ars Nova Founding Artistic Director Jason Eagan says, "Jenn and Scott navigate fraught, baggage-laden territory with fierce intelligence and humor, which lines up beautifully with Ars Nova's interest in supporting work that challenges our ideas about what a live theatrical experience can be. We're excited to introduce this production to new audiences around the world."The creative team for Underground Railroad Game includes Tilly Grimes (production design), Steven Dufala (scenic design), Oona Curley (lighting design) and Mikaal Sulaiman (sound design).

Kidwell and Sheppard met at Pig Iron's School for Advanced Performance Training and have been collaborating since 2013. Underground Railroad Game was inspiredby Sheppard's fifth grade experience of his school's Civil War thematic unit, which involved a temporary immersion in what Sheppard calls, "a pedagogical extravaganza" as teachers, "flexed and strained their creative muscles to get even the lazys and trouble makers excited about learning." His class was divided into the two warring factions, Confederate Soldiers and Union Soldiers, in which students "would wage a civil war of learning, rewriting history as [they] explored it." Each side would receive points for their military strategy, and one of the key point scoring exercises was The Underground Rail Road Game, a game in which each side had to either secure or impede the passage of two black dolls through cardboard boxes marked SAFEHOUSE, one in each classroom, "Union students would get five points for every new SAFEHOUSE that a doll reached safely, and if a slave made it to every box, he/she became a free person, crossing into a symbolic Canada," which for Sheppard's school was the hall trophy display case.


Jennifer Kidwell is a performing artist. Recent projects: Demolishing Everything with Amazing Speed (Dan Hurlin), I Understand Everything Better (David Neumann/advanced beginner group), Sans Everything (AS 220), Antigone (The Wilma Theater), I Promised Myself to Live Faster and 99 Break-Ups (Pig Iron Theatre Company), Dick's Last Stand (Whitney Biennial 2014, as Donelle Woolford), Zinnias: the Life of Clementine Hunter (Robert Wilson/Toshi Reagon/Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon). She's currently working with Geoff Sobelle and Nichole Canuso and is a PITC company member, a Wilma Theater Associated Artist, a Co-Director of the theater company Lightning Rod Special and a co-founder of JACK. Her writing has been published in movement research Performance Journal #45 and In 2013, she was awarded the TCG/Fox Resident Actor Fellowship (with PITC), naming Underground Railroad Game as her primary project. She is a 2016 Pew Fellow.

Scott R. Sheppard is a performer, creator, director and teacher living in Philadelphia. As Co-Director of the Philadelphia-based theater company Lightning Rod Special, he has been a creator/performer for all of their productions. Scott is a member of the inaugural class at Pig Iron's School for Advanced Performance Training (2011-2013) and was a creator/performer for Pig Iron Theatre Company's 99 Breakups and a performer in PITC's Gentlemen Volunteers (2015-16 remount). In 2014 he was a guest faculty member at Colgate University where he directed and co-created the student production, Seeing the Beast. Recent credits: co-creator/performer in Holden (Ice Factory, NYC and FringeArts, Philadelphia) and Sans Everything (AS220, Providence and Charlestown Working Theater, Boston) and performer in The Stinky Cheeseman and Other Fairly Stupid Tales (Arden Theatre Co., Philadelphia). Scott is also a 2016 recipient of the Independence Foundation Fellowship in the Performing Arts. He would like to thank Ars Nova for their mentorship and insistence on dreaming big.

Taibi Magar is an Egyptian-American director based in New York, and a graduate of the Brown/Trinity MFA program. In New York, Taibi has directed and developed work with TFANA, the WP Theater, Rising Phoenix Rep and INTAR Theatre. Regionally, she has directed and developed work with Trinity Repertory Company, Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival, Shakespeare & Company and Oregon Shakespeare Festival. She is the recipient of a Stephen Sondheim Fellowship, an Oregon Shakespeare Festival Fellowship, a Public Theater Shakespeare Fellowship, the TFANA Actors and Directors Project Fellowship and is an alumna of the Lincoln Center Directors Lab. Taibi is a member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers union and is represented by Ross Weiner at ICM Partners. Upcoming 16/17 Season: Juilliard, Alley Theatre and Guthrie Theater.

Lightning Rod Special is a raucous and contemplative physical theatre company based in Philadelphia. Exploding complex questions with precision and play, Lightning Rod Special makes live performance from the ground up. Their work engages a highly collaborative, actor-driven approach. With artistic roots in the Pig Iron School for Advanced Performance Training, Headlong Performance Institute, Double Edge Theatre, The Atlantic Theater Company and long-form improvisation, LRS creations are a finely orchestrated extension of the raw and thunderous discoveries born from spontaneous inspiration. Lightning Rod Special is Philadelphia-based theatre artists Katie Gould, Jennifer Kidwell, Mason Rosenthal, Scott R. Sheppard and Alice Yorke.

Ars Nova is committed to developing and producing theater, comedy and music artists in the Early Stages of their professional careers. Our unique development programs are designed to support cross-pollination and outside-the-box thinking to encourage innovative work. Dubbed by The New York Times as a "fertile incubator of offbeat theater," Ars Nova blurs genres and subverts the status quo. With our feverish bounty of programming, we are the stomping ground and launching pad for visionary, adventurous artists of all stripes. By providing a safe environment where risk-taking and collaboration are paramount, Ars Nova gives voice to a new generation of artists and audiences, pushing the boundaries of live entertainment by nurturing creative ideas into smart, surprising new work.

Ars Nova has been honored with an OBIE Award and a Special Citation from the New York Drama Critics' Circle for sustained quality and commitment to the development and production of new work. Notable past productions include: New York Times' "Best of 2016" Underground Railroad Game by Jennifer Kidwell and Scott R. Sheppard with Lightning Rod Special; Outstanding Musical Lortel Award-winner Futurity, by César Alvarez with The Lisps; the New York Times and New York Post's "Best of 2015" Small Mouth Sounds by Bess Wohl; Time Out New York's "Best of 2014," Jacuzzi by The Debate Society; Drama Desk nominated Charlatan by Vinny DePonto and Josh Koenigsberg; the award-winning smash-hit Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 by Dave Malloy (now playing on Broadway); Jollyship the Whiz-Bang by Nick Jones and Raja Azar; the world premiere of the 2009 season's most-produced play boom by Peter Sinn Nachtrieb and directed by Alex Timbers; Drama Desk and Outer Critic Circle nominated From Up Here by Liz Flahive; audience favorite Dixie's Tupperware Party by Kris Andersson; the show that pur Bridget Everett on the map At Least It's Pink by Everett and Kenny Mellman; and Lin-Manuel Miranda's and Thomas Kail's first New York production, Freestyle Love Supreme, by Anthony Veneziale and Miranda.

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