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Wesleyan University​'s ​Theater Department​ Presents ​'Re-Evaluating the Ground on Which We(s) Stand(s)

The event will take place Friday, September 25, 2020 at 4:30pm.

Wesleyan University​'s ​Theater Department​ Presents ​'Re-Evaluating the Ground on Which We(s) Stand(s)

Wesleyan Universitya??'s a??Theater Departmenta?? presents a??"Re-Evaluating the Ground on Which We(s) Stand(s): An Evening of August Wilson with Broadway's Crystal Dickinson and Brandon Dirden," on a??Friday, September 25, 2020 at 4:30pm on Zoom. Registration is required for access to this free virtual event.

Assistant Professor of Theater Maria-Christina Oliveras and Associate Professor of Theater, English, and African American Studies Rashida Z. Shaw McMahon will explore August Wilson's work, featuring scenes and excerpts from his 1996 keynote address to the Theater Communications Group, "The Ground on Which I Stand," performed by acclaimed actors Crystal Dickinson ("Clybourne Park" and "You Can't Take It With You" on Broadway; Showtime's "The Chi") and Brandon Dirden (Martin Luther King, Jr. in "All the Way" starring Bryan Cranston and "Jitney" on Broadway; FX's "The Americans;" Netflix's "The Get Down"). Please see below for more details about the participants.

A Q&A and conversation will follow focused on these artists' specific journeys, the importance and relevance of August Wilson's work today, the challenges of exploring and presenting his material, particularly in predominantly white spaces, and the role of his work in academia versus professional performance.

This is the inaugural event of "a??Re-Evaluating the Ground on Which We(s) Stand(s)," a series of panel discussions and performances amplifying voices of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) artists and engaging the community in conversations about the challenges of BIPOC theater in white spaces.

"With this initiative, the Theater Department aims to further our efforts to de-center whiteness within our curricula and campus culture, and introduce or re-acquaint the Wesleyan community with more BIPOC artists," said Assistant Professor of Theater Maria-Christina Oliveras. "We hope to engage the Wesleyan community with the difficult questions around race that these artists pose in their plays and incite folks to action, or at the very least, embrace the conversation."

About the Artists:

Crystal Dickinson made her Broadway debut in the Tony Award-winning play "Clybourne Park," for which she received the Theater World Award. She subsequently starred alongside James Earl Jones and Rose Byrne in the Tony Award-nominated revival of "You Can't Take It With You," also on Broadway. Off-Broadway credits include Lincoln Center, the Signature Theater, The Public Theater, Playwrights Horizons, and The Atlantic, among numerous others, where she has worked with Thomas Kail '99, Michael Grief, Scott Ellis, Bryan Cranston, Wendell Pierce, Pam MacKinnon, Lila Neugebauer, Leigh Silverman, and Kenny Leon. She is also a four-time AUDELCO Award Nominee. Her film and television credits include "Collateral Beauty," "I Origins," "This Is Where I Leave You," "The Good Wife," "New Amsterdam," and a recurring role on Showtime's "The Chi." Dickinson has also had an illustrious career teaching acting at Stella Adler Studio, Spelman College, New York University, Princeton, Pace University, and both of her alumni schools, the University of Illinois and Seton Hall. A proud M.F.A. graduate of The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, she also studied at the London Academy for Music and Dramatic Art and is an elite member of the Lincoln Center Directors Lab.

Brandon J. Dirden starred on Broadway as Martin Luther King, Jr. in the Tony Award-winning production of "All the Way" with Bryan Cranston, and as Booster in the Tony Award-winning revival of August Wilson's "Jitney" directed by frequent collaborator Ruben Santiago-Hudson. Additional Broadway credits include "Clybourne Park," "Enron," and "Prelude to a Kiss." Off-Broadway, he has appeared in "The Piano Lesson" by August Wilson, for which he won Obie, Theatre World, and AUDELCO awards; "The First Breeze of Summer" and "Day of Absence" at Signature Theatre; "Detroit '67" at The Public Theater and Classical Theatre of Harlem; "Peter and the Starcatcher" at New York Theatre Workshop, and as Brutus in Theatre for a New Audience's production of "Julius Caesar." On screen he has appeared in "The Good Wife," "The Big C," "Public Morals," "Manifest," "The Get Down," "The Accidental Wolf," "Blue Bloods," "The Quad," and four seasons of FX's "The Americans" as Agent Dennis Aderholt. He recently starred in the ABC series "For Life," and was seen in the FX miniseries "Mrs. America." He has directed numerous plays by Dominique Morriseau and August Wilson. Dirden holds B.A. degrees in Mathematics and Drama from Morehouse College, and an M.F.A. in Acting from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Associate Professor of English, Rashida Z. Shaw McMahon is originally from the island of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. She is a Wesleyan alumna, class of '99, who majored in Theater (with a concentration in Acting) and Sociology. Her Wesleyan honors B.A. thesis in Theater is "Color Aware Enough to Be Color-Blind: A Look at Color-Blind Casting from the Perspective of the Black Actor." After Wesleyan, she attended Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois where she received her Ph.D. in Theater and Drama. Her dissertation, "Theatrical Events and African American Audiences: A Study of Contemporary 'Chitlin Circuit' Theatre," examines Chitlin Circuit (a.k.a. gospel musical) theatrical productions and the reception practices of African American spectators through interdisciplinary methods of research that span across theater, performance studies, sociology, film, and dance studies. She is a member of the American Society of Theatre Research, the Association of Theatre in Higher Education, the Black Theatre Association, and the International Federation for Theatre Research. In 2016, she was awarded the Mellon Mays Mentor of the Year Award at Wesleyan.

Assistant Professor of Theater Maria-Christina Oliveras is an actor, singer, and educator whose career spans theater, film, television, and voice-overs. On Broadway, Oliveras originated the role of Gina in "Amelie," and also appeared in "Machinal" and "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson." Off-Broadway credits include the world premieres of "Here Lies Love" by David Byrne and Fat Boy Slim (The Public; cast album), "Pretty Filthy" by Bess Wohl and Michael Friedman (The Civilians; cast album), "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson" (The Public), "Romeo and Juliet" (The Public), "Zorba!" (Encores), and Taylor Mac's "A 24-Decade History of Popular Music" (St. Ann's Warehouse), among numerous others. Selected regional world premieres include "Kiss My Aztec!," a new musical by John Leguizamo, Tony Taccone, Ben Velez, and David Kamp (Berkeley Repertory Theatre/La Jolla Playhouse), "Soft Power" by Jeanine Tesori and David Henry Hwang (Center Theater Group), and "El Huracán" by Charise Castro Smith (Yale Repertory Theatre). Her other regional credits include Williamstown Theatre Festival, Long Wharf Theatre, Baltimore Center Stage, Eugene O'Neill Theater Center, and Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival. Film and television credits include "St. Vincent," "Manhattan Night," "The Blacklist," "Madame Secretary," and "Law & Order: SVU." She received her B.A. from Yale University, where she also serves as a Visiting Professor, and her M.F.A. in Acting from The National Theatre Conservatory.

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