Writers Talk Diversity in Free 'Staging Our Stories' Panel

Writers Talk Diversity in Free 'Staging Our Stories' PanelIn celebration of Immigrant Heritage Week, the Immigrant Arts Coalition and Dramatists Guild of America, in collaboration with the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene (NYTF) will present Staging Our Stories, an interactive panel discussion with playwrights, composers, and lyricists on heritage and diversity in theatre. An official partner with the Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs, this free event will take place on Friday, April 20th, 1pm in the Dramatists Guild of America's Mary Rodgers Room.

"We are proud to be a part of Immigrant Heritage Week 2018 and we thank the Mayor's Office on Immigrant Affairs for including us," says Immigrant Arts Coalition Chair and NYTF CEO Christopher Massimine, "Storytelling has always been central in ensuring cultural legacy and continuity. The performing arts provides an important platform for authors to share their diversity, heritage and identity. The impact of using live performance as the vehicle for the platform allows for an immediate and direct cross-cultural dialogue that informs a greater understanding of how Immigrant Arts have influenced, enhanced, and continue to expand the richly varied composition of United States."

Staging Our Stories participants include social media star Jean Lodescar AKA Papa Jean (Growing Up Haitian), MacArthur Award winner Martyna Majok (Queens at Lincoln Center Theater, Cost of Living at Manhattan Theater Club), Penny Pun (Blue at Pan Asian Rep), and Tony Award nominees and Drama Desk Award winners Irene Sankoff & David Hein (Broadway's Come From Away). Film & Broadway producer, arts activist, and former MGM Studio Head Michael Alden will moderate the discussion.

"Immigrant theater artists and their communities have always been a primary driver of theatrical energy and innovation in America," says Lisa Kron, Vice President, Dramatists Guild of America, "The Dramatists Guild is pleased to join with the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene and the Immigrant Arts Coalition to highlight the continuity of that contribution by sponsoring a dynamic conversation between playwrights from both established and more recent immigrant communities."

Staging Our Stories will take place on Friday, April 20, 1pm, at the Dramatists Guild of America, 1501 Broadway, 7th Floor. Lite fare will be served. There are a very limited number of seats still available. Call (212) 213-2120 ext. 206 to inquire about admission.

Formed in July 2017, the Immigrant Arts Coalition is a network of multi-disciplinary arts organizations and artists united to empower immigrant arts, advocate for diversity and fair representation of all cultures, and celebrate the immigrant arts contributions to American culture. The Coalition recognizes the importance and ongoing contribution of artists and arts organizations, who represent America's diverse cultural mosaic. Members - represented by artists and organizations - will serve as the united front for advocacy, audience development, and work to collaborate with ongoing and continuous shared programs, including an annual Immigration Arts Summit. To learn more visit ImmigrantArts.org

With its beginnings in 1912 as the Authors' League of America, the Dramatists Guild of America now serves over 7,000 playwrights, composers, lyricists, and librettists. Members range from beginning writers to the most prominent authors represented on Broadway, off-Broadway, and in regional theaters nationwide. The Guild maintains model contracts for all levels of productions, (including Broadway, regional, and smaller theaters) and encourages its members to use these contracts when negotiating with producers. These contracts embody the Guild's overarching objectives of protecting the dramatist's control over the content of their work, and ensuring that the dramatist is compensated for each use of their work in a way which will encourage them to continue writing for the living stage. In addition to its contract services, the Guild acts as an aggressive public advocate for dramatists' interests and assists dramatists in developing both their artistic and business skills through its publications, which are distributed nationally, and the educational programs which it sponsors around the country. For further information visit dramatistsguild.com

Entering its 104th season, Tony Award-nominated and Drama Desk Award-winning National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene (NYTF) is the longest consecutively producing theatre in the U.S. and the world's oldest continuously operating Yiddish theatre company. Led by CEO Christopher Massimine and Artistic Director Zalmen Mlotek, NYTF is dedicated to creating a living legacy through the arts, connecting generations and bridging communities. NYTF aims to bring history to life by reviving and restoring lost and forgotten work, commissioning new work, and adapting pre-existing work for the 21st Century. Serving a diverse audience comprised of performing arts patrons, cultural enthusiasts, Yiddish-language aficionados and the general public, the company presents plays, musicals, concerts, lectures, interactive educational workshops and community-building activities in English and Yiddish, with English and Russian supertitles accompanying performances. NYTF provides access to a century-old cultural legacy and inspires the imaginations of the next generation to contribute to this valuable body of work. Learn more at NYTF.org.

Jean Lodescar, Jr. AKA Papa Jean is a Haitian-American artist with a message. Best known for his barrage of characters on Instagram, he is currently finishing his debut show, Growing Up Haitian. Born in Brooklyn to Haitian parents and raised in Queens, Jean has always used writing and acting to tell stories, expose truths, and, most importantly, inspire anyone who will listen. Although his talent for entertainment began at a young age, he at first only pursued it as a hobby for friends and family, while tirelessly attempting every job out there, from fireman to engineer. Still, Jean kept on writing, fleshing out his thoughts, hearing them take passionate shape in his head. His path was inevitable. Eventually, he had no choice but to acknowledge that his true calling was the stage, and when he did, he found that his experience in the workforce had left such an indelible image on him that it became the crux of his frustration in later writings and desire to promote his culture through his comedic works. As an award-winning, Meisner-trained actor, Jean has performed lead roles in plays like A Raisin in the Sun, Antigone, and Romeo and Juliet. His resume also includes films and solo productions, most notably his 2010 portrayal of Toussaint Louverture, a former slave and the leader of the Haitian Revolution. Where there are people ready for a change, Jean is always ready to perform. He is driven by a passion for the stage and a genuine yearning to leave an uplifting mark on the lives of those who need it most. Comedy in its purest therapeutic form. For Jean every joke is an opportunity to reach new and eager audiences ready to listen to his story, move with laughter, and respond to his messages.

Martyna Majok was born in Bytom, Poland, and aged in Jersey and Chicago. Her plays have been presented at LCT3/Lincoln Center, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Williamstown Theatre Festival, Manhattan Theatre Club, Actors Theatre of Louisville, WP/Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, Ensemble Studio Theatre, The Eugene O'Neill Theatre Center, Sundance Theatre Lab, The Geffen Playhouse, La Jolla Playhouse, and The Kennedy Center, among others. Awards include The Dramatists Guild's Lanford Wilson Award, The Lilly Awards' Stacey Mindich Prize, The Greenfield Prize (first female recipient in drama), Helen Merrill Emerging Playwright Award, Charles MacArthur Award for Outstanding Original New Play or Musical at The Helen Hayes Awards, The Ashland New Plays Festival Women's Invitational Prize, The Kennedy Center's Jean Kennedy Smith Award, Marin Theatre's David Calicchio Emerging American Playwright Prize, New York Theatre Workshop's 2050 Fellowship, Aurora Theatre's Global Age Project Prize, National New Play Network's Smith Prize for Political Playwriting, Jane Chambers Student Feminist Playwriting Prize, and The Merage Foundation Fellowship for the American Dream. Commissions from The Public, Lincoln Center, The Bush Theatre in London, The Geffen Playhouse, La Jolla Playhouse, South Coast Rep, and Manhattan Theatre Club. Publications by Dramatists Play Service, Samuel French, TCG, and Smith & Kraus. Residencies at The Vineyard Arts Project with The Public Theatre, Ground Floor at Berkeley Rep, SPACE on Ryder Farm, Fuller Road, Marble House Project, and Ragdale. BA: University of Chicago; MFA: Yale School of Drama, The Juilliard School. She has taught playwriting at Williams College, Wesleyan University, SUNY Purchase, Primary Stages ESPA, NJRep, and as an assistant to Paula Vogel at Yale. Alumna of EST's Youngblood and Women's Project Lab. Martyna is a Core Writer at Playwrights Center and a member of The Dramatists Guild, The Writers Guild of America East, and New York Theatre Workshop's Usual Suspects. Martyna was a 2012-2013 NNPN playwright-in-residence and the 2015-2016 PoNY Fellow at the Lark Play Development Center. She is a 2018-2019 Hodder Fellow at Princeton University.

Penny Pun is a New York-based playwright, born and raised in Hong Kong. She graduated as Valedictorian from Marymount Manhattan College with a B.A. in Theatre Arts (Writing for the Stage) and English and World Literatures. She receives Honorable Mention in the concentration of Writing for the Stage and the Gold Key in English and World Literatures. Her play, Blue was produced as part of Pan Asian Repertory's Nuworks Festival 2017 at Theatre Row. She has been published by The Dramatist magazine. She has worked at Theatre Communications Group, Primary Stages, the Dramatists Guild and Williamstown Theatre Festival, and PEN America. She is a proud member of the Dramatists Guild of America.

Irene Sankoff and David Hein are a Canadian married writing team. Their first show, My Mother's Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding (based on David's mother's true story) was the hit of the Toronto Fringe Festival, and then picked up for a commercial run by Mirvish Productions. It has now played and won best musical awards in the New York Musical Theatre Festival and across North America, with Sankoff and Hein performing in most productions. Come From Away was developed at the Canadian Music Theatre Project and Goodspeed Musicals' Festival of New Artists, showcased at the NAMT Festival of New Works and enjoyed a record setting world premiere at the La Jolla Playhouse and Seattle Repertory, followed by Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C., the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto and the Gander Community Centre Hockey Rink. Come From Away won three 2017 Dora Mavor Moore Awards, four Helen Hayes Awards, five Outer Critics Circle Awards and three Drama Desk Awards including Best Musical. David and Irene were nominated for Tony Awards for Best Book and Score, as well as a Grammy for Best Musical Theatrer Album. They won the 2017 Outer Critics Circle and Drama Desk awards for Best Book. They are currently writing the screenplay for Come From Away, to be produced by Mark Gordon. Irene and David Are proud members of the Dramatists Guild and ASCAP. Find them online @sankoffandhein

Producer Michael Alden has been at the helm of film, theater and special event production in a career that has spanned over thirty years. From rock and roll concerts and tours to feature films and Broadway plays. A native of Southern California, Mr. Alden began his career on the stage and in motion pictures and television at an early age. As a child actor, he appeared in numerous family shows during the late fifties and early sixties. In 1977 Mr. Alden stepped behind the scenes working in various aspects of production. In 1984 Mr. Alden joined Cannon Films in their post-production department. Quickly moving up the ranks, 1986 found him supervisor of the department, overseeing the creative and technical post-production of over one hundred feature films. Mr. Alden assumed Vice Presidency at Pathe Communications in 1989, where he headed their public post production facility, Pathe Services. He served as a corporate officer of the newly formed company taking them into profit in their first year. During his term, Mr. Alden was instrumental in locating, analyzing and supervising the rejuvenation of over 1500 feature film elements that had been stored worldwide which comprised the company's film library. These feature elements served as the equity foundation for Pathe's purchase of MGM/UA where Mr. Alden went on to serve as their vice president of post-production. As a producer, Mr. Alden has been represented in the West End with David Seidler's original play, "The King's Speech" and "Bat Boy The Musical." On Broadway with "Come From Away" "Disgraced" (2015 Tony Nomination for Best Play, 2013 Pulitzer Prize - Drama.) "Grey Gardens" (2007 Tony Nomination for Best Musical) and "Bridge & Tunnel (Special Tony Award.) Off Broadway and regional; "Not That Jewish", "Becoming Dr. Ruth,", "Admit One," the Brochu-Schalchlin musical, "The Last Session." "Bat Boy The Musical," " Sarah Jones Bridge & Tunnel," "Spalding Gray: Stories Left To Tell" and the Los Angeles productions of Howard Crabtree's "When Pigs Fly" and Theresa Rebeck's "Bad Dates" directed by Judith Ivey. Film works include: "Just Cause" with Sean Connery, the fashion forward documentary "UnZipped" for Mirimax, Stephen Daldry's "The Hours," the multi-award-winning feature comedy, "Kissing Jessica Stein" and Ralph Ziman's foreign feature film, "The Zookeeper" starring Sam Neill. For 2017-18, Ian Holt's feature film, "UnHinged" and two feature length documentaries, "My Beautiful Stutter," following five children from bullying to bravery and "When Reagan Killed Roosevelt."

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