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Ars Nova Extends UNDERGROUND RAILROAD GAME Through October

In response to critical acclaim and popular demand, Ars Nova, New York's incubator for boundary-pushing theater, extends the sold-out, New York premiere of Underground Railroad Game to October 29. The provocative production, which opened on September 26, is created by Jennifer Kidwell and Scott Sheppard with Philadelphia based theater company Lightning Rod Special and directed by Taibi Magar.

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 new production to New York audiences."

Performances of Underground Railroad Game will now take place through October 29 (see above schedule). Tickets for the initial run (September 13 - October 15) are $35, while tickets for the extension are $49 and are available at or by calling 212-352-3101. From October 17-29, a limited number of $25 student rush tickets (one ticket per valid student ID) will be available at the box office 30 minutes prior to curtain. Ars Nova is located at 511 West 54th Street, between 10th & 11th Avenues.

In conjunction with Underground Railroad Game, Ars Nova presents the Off Color Salon Series which features artists, scholars, writers and community leaders in post-show discussions examining race, sex and education. Upcoming discussions include The Miseducation of Children (October 3) with professor Christine Barron, creator/performer Scott Shepherd, and social worker Margarita Roldan;and Race, Sex and Power (October 10), with author Melissa Febos, comedian and writer Christian Polanco, BDSM educator and storytelling Mollena Williams-Haas and composer Georg Friedrich Haas.

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 inspired by 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, "we would wage a civil war of learning, rewriting history as we 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 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 Women's Project Theatre, 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 alumni 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 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 outside-the-box thinking and cross-pollination 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 was honored with a 2015 OBIE Award and a 2015 Special Citation from the New York Drama Critics' Circle for our sustained quality and commitment to the development and production of new work. Notable past productions include: Outstanding Musical Lortel Award-winner Futurity, by César Alvarez with The Lisps; New York Time's "Best of 2015" Small Mouth Sounds by Bess Wohl (Off-Broadway transfer production currently running); Time Out NY'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 (Lortel, Obie, and Richard Rodgers Awards; Broadway transfer production 2016); Jollyship the Whiz-Bang by Nick Jones and Raja Azar directed by Sam Gold; 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 put Bridget Everett on the map, At Least It's Pink, by Everett and Kenny Mellman; and Lin-Manuel Miranda and Thomas Kail's first New York production, Freestyle Love Supreme, by Anthony Veneziale and Miranda.

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