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Ars Nova to Present UNDERGROUND RAILROAD GAME This Fall

Ars Nova, New York's incubator for boundary-pushing theater, is pleased to present Underground Railroad Game (September 13-October 15), created by Jennifer Kidwell and Scott Sheppard with Philadelphia based theater company Lightning Rod Special and directed by Taibi Magar.

Underground Rail Road 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, 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."

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, "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.

Underground Railroad Game plays September 13 - October 15 (see above schedule). Regular priced tickets are $35 and available at arsnovanyc.com or 212-352-3101. Ars Nova is located at 511 West 54th Street, between 10th & 11th Avenues.

The creative team includes Tilly Grimes (production design), Steven Dufala (scenic design), Oona Curley (lighting design), and Mikaal Sulaiman (sound design).

ABOUT THE ARTISTS:

Jennifer Kidwell is a performing artist. Recent projects - Antigone (The Wilma Theater), I Understand Everything Better (David Neumann/advanced beginner group), I Promised Myself to Live Faster and 99 Break-Ups (Pig Iron Theatre Company), Dick's Last Stand (Whitney Biennial 2014, as the controversial Donelle Woolford), Zinnias: the Life of Clementine Hunter (Robert Wilson/Toshi Reagon/Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon). She has also had the opportunity to work with 600 Highwaymen & Hoi Polloi (NYC), Orbiter 3, The Bearded Ladies and Flashpoint Theatre Company (Philly). She is a co-artistic director of the theater company Lightning Rod Special as well as a Wilma Hothouse member (Philadelphia) and a co-founder of JACK (Brooklyn). Her writing has been published in movement research Performance Journal #45 and hyperallergic.com. Jennifer Kidwell and Pig Iron Theatre Company are participants in the Fox Foundation Resident Actor Fellowships, funded by the William & Eva Fox Foundation and administered by Theatre Communications Group.

Scott Sheppardis a performer, director, creator, and teacher living in Philadelphia. A Co-Director of the Philadelphia based theater company Lightning Rod Special, he has been a creator and performer for all of their the productions. Scott is a proud 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 as well as Gentlemen Volunteers (remount 2015). His most recent projects include Holden with George & Co and Sans Everything with Strange Attractor Theatre Company and Lightning Rod Special.

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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