Mosaic Theater Company Of DC Presents The American Premiere Of Norman Yeung's THEORY
Mosaic Theater Company of DC presents the second offering in its "Stages of Awakening" Season 5 with the American premiere of Theory by Norman Yeung, directed by Associate Artistic Director, Victoria Murray Baatin, making her Mosaic directorial debut. The play, Winner of Canada's Herman Voaden National Playwriting Competition and produced to acclaim at Toronto's Tarragon Theatre last fall, runs at the Atlas Performing Arts Center from October 23 through November 17, 2019. Opening press night takes place Monday, October 28 at 7:30 pm following 5 preview performances, including a full Pay-What-You- Can performance October 23, with additional Pay-What-You-Can tickets available throughout the preview period.
The 85 minute techno-thriller features Musa Gurnis (Mosaic's Les Deux Noirs: Notes on Notes of a Native Son) as Isabelle, an idealistic young professor, and Andrea Harris Smith (Roundhouse theatre's Small Mouth Sounds) as Isabelle's tenured wife, Lee, along with Helen Hayes Award winner Josh Adams (Theater Alliance's The Events) as one of a diverse group of students challenging their professor's pedagogic, and then personal, well-being.
A hot button play for our digital moment, Isabelle is an idealistic tenure-track professor of film theory who encourages her students to liberate the canon, dismantle the patriarchy, and democratize the study of great films by posting their responses to an unmoderated discussion board. Lee, who knows from a lifetime's exposure to racialized hate speech, advises caution. But Isabelle advocates for her students' freedom to think and speak. Soon anonymous postings of questionably offensive comments and videos force Isabelle to decide whether to intervene or let the assignment play out. As the posts turn increasingly abusive, Isabelle and her unknown tormentors engage in a high-stakes game of cat-and-mouse that not only has Isabelle questioning her beliefs, but fearing for her life.
The Toronto-based playwright Norman Yeung will be in residence at Mosaic courtesy of support from the Embassy of Canada. In discussing the play's evolution, the playwright notes, "I wrote the first draft of Theory in 2009. Over the years, the play's politics, along with Isabelle and Lee, grew in lockstep with our zeitgeist: Liberalism itself was being stretched further to the left to the point where political correctness could be unforgiving. Oppression was getting recognized with more rigor and nuance. And so, as our interracial, female couple contended with their own complex, liberal values, Theory's themes grew more intersectional. To write a play about progressiveness means including - or foregrounding - female characters, among other marginalized and under-represented people. I have been humbly and gratefully listening to women's voices and stories, learning from people who experience pain and happiness from a perspective that I do not possess. From racial micro-aggressions to the antagonist's abhorrent, abusive, and inexcusable behavior, this play has benefitted from people offering their personal insight and ideas. My process of writing Theory, especially recently, is reflected in another of this play's themes: Empathy. If we learn that, we can progress and move forward."
Victoria Murray Baatin, now in her third season with Mosaic, was a fortunate recipient of a travel grant from the Embassy of Canada, where she experienced the first preview of the world-premiere of Theory, on the last night of her productive research trip. "With this play, I found a work that was so very arresting and in Norman, I found a kindred spirit. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to share this play with my Mosaic family because it deftly grapples with the "theories" inherent in intersectionality. Collectively, we get to unravel the interconnected nature of the human constructs of social categorization; individually, we can tackle our own points of privilege and bias. I love the key relationships at the center of this play, and each of the beautifully crafted personalities. It's intriguing to watch them navigate power dynamics at home and within the classroom. I couldn't imagine a piece more fitting to bring to the Mosaic stage as my initial directorial offering."
Ms. Murray Baatin's directing credits include the DC premiere of Stew's Passing Strange at Studio Theatre along with productions for the Lincoln Center Theatre Director's Lab, Women's Project Producer's Lab and residencies in Ashland, Oregon (Oregon Shakespeare Festival FAIR Fellow); Washington, DC (Allen Lee Hughes Fellow, Arena Stage); Italy (LaMaMa, ETC. International Symposium for Directors); Brazil (Center for the Theatre of the Oppressed); and London (British Academy of Dramatic Arts Shakespeare Program).
"This is a play and production with a youthful, hard-driving, rigorous, vigorous voice" notes Mosaic Founding Artistic Director Ari Roth. "It isn't patient with its argumentation. It's eager to tackle the problem or privilege and free speech. It's fitting that this grouping has two somewhat older characters voicing concern, largely destabilized by more aggressive voices, on multiple sides of the political spectrum, pushing the issues forward. The blackboard that Isabelle offers as a canvass for portraying her students ideas becomes a portrait of the dangerous fractiousness of our moment."
Rounding out the cast are Benairen Kane as Davinder (Hand to God at NCDA), Camilo Linares (Picasso at GALA Hispanic) as Jorge; Tony H. Nam (Mosaic's Sooner/Later) as Isabelle's Department Chair, Owen; and Tyasia Velines (Mosaic's Milk Like Sugar) as Safina. The design team includes Daniel Ettinger (sets), Brittany Shemuga (lights), Danielle Preston (costumes), David Lamont Wilson (sound), Dylan Uremovich (projections), and Willow Watson (props).
As always and in advancement of its mission, Mosaic will host a series of post-show discussions exploring resonant themes present in Theory, featuring a diverse set of panelists. These free post-show discussions, beginning immediately after the performance, will cover topics such as:
a-? Public vs Private Discourse: The Sh!t We Say at Home
a-? White Savior Complex
a-? Who Has the Power? Students & Teachers: Control, Dynamics, and Hierarchies
a-? Juggling Intersectional Privilege
a-? Teachable Moments: (Im)Possibility of Objectivity
a-? Unplugging: You Can't Turn the Internet Off . . . Can You?