Upcoming: THE FORD’S THEATRE LEGACY COMMISSIONS: A FIRST LOOK (Ford’s Theatre in Washington D.C.)

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by Lamont Williams on January 9, 2024

in Theater - Washington D.C.,Theater-Regional

The Ford’s Theatre Legacy Commissions: A First Look is a free, two-day festival, providing a preview of new plays in development, with opportunities for expanded conversations around the work. Tickets for the readings (described below) are free and available to reserve now. Each reading runs approximately two hours. Experience the power of the Legacy Commissions with A Designer of Note, A Woman of Style by Charlayne Woodard (Jan. 26 at 7:30), SISTER X by Nambi E. Kelley (Jan. 27 at 2:30) and The American Five by Chess Jakobs (Jan. 27 at 7:30). More information here.

On Wednesday, January 24, 2024 at 5:45pm, writers of all levels are invited to work on elements of playwriting centered around building a narrative based on a historical figure or event. Themes covered will include historical research and the use of primary sources, creative license, crafting the storyline and characters and connecting the past to the present. Playwright Nambi E. Kelley will share insight into her process in the creation of the play SISTER X in a Q&A-style interview at the top of the workshop. Time will be allotted to in-session writing, after which participants will share their work with the group. Register here.

A Designer of Note, A Woman of Style

By Charlayne WoodardDirected by Delicia Turner SonnenbergDramaturgy by Sydné MahonePublic Reading: Friday, January 26, 2024 at 7:30 p.m.A Designer of Note, A Woman of Style by Charlayne Woodard gives us a window into the life of fashion designer Ann Lowe. Ann Lowe designed dresses for high society women and movie stars before she was commissioned to design Jacqueline Bouvier’s wedding dress. Her remarkable artistry set her apart from her male counterparts, but her achievements as a couturier and artist remained unknown for decades despite having stores on the fashion avenues of NYC. In a journey that begins in 1898 in Clayton, Alabama, Charlayne Woodard’s work traces the remarkable life and artistry of a true original American designer.“I chose to write a play about this extraordinary woman because I must give credit where credit is due. As a creative, I know what it’s like to follow your dream, in spite of numerous obstacles, foreseen and unforeseen,” says playwright Charlayne Woodard. “However, the story of Ann Lowe is a tale of perseverance, creative excellence – never giving in to victimhood. A single mom for most of her life, Ms. Lowe ran over hurdle after hurdle: Racism, sexism, financial instability, health issues. After discovering this ‘hidden figure,’ and researching her life, I am empowered and inspired. I trust others will feel the same. Ann Lowe’s very unique story must no longer be ‘their little secret.’”According to the Washington Post, “What is ultimately fascinating about Lowe’s designs – in addition to the story of the woman behind them – is their very Americanness. They are glamorous, to be sure, but they share a triumphant sense of pragmatism, even in their embellishments.”Delicia Turner Sonnenberg directs Charlayne Woodard in a reading of this work in progress. Ford’s Theatre Legacy Commissions Advisor Sydné Mahone serves as the dramaturg. Brandon Prendergast is the stage manager.Charlayne Woodard (Playwright/Performer) is an American playwright and actress. Woodard’s two-character play, The Garden, commissioned by La Jolla Playhouse, had productions in 2021 at both Baltimore Center Stage (summer) and La Jolla Playhouse (fall). Woodard’s solo plays, which she has originated to great acclaim, include Pretty Fire, Neat, In Real Life and The Night Watcher. Her plays are published by Dramatists Play Service and performed at regional theatres around the country. Audio versions are available at Audible.com. As an actress, Woodard has extensive film, television and theatre credits, including playing the role of Kate in The Taming of the Shrew at the Shakespeare Theatre Company (2007).


By Nambi E. KelleyDirected by Hana S. SharifDramaturgy by TBDPublic Reading: Saturday, January 27, 2024 at 2:30 p.m.With SISTER X, Nambi E. Kelley has given us the story of Ameilia, a young mother and a social and political activist who seeks a meeting with Malcolm X during a time of social and political upheaval. Seeking guidance and answers, Ameilia reveals the haunting truth of her life. Kelley has written Ameilia’s galvanizing story in verse, thus amplifying the voices of a generation of young women whose unique stories and perspectives have seldom come to light.“The role of women in the Nation of Islam, as both a religious and political organization, has been muted. I began to search for who these women were and what their role in the movement was,” says playwright Nambi E. Kelley. “The information available was scarce, but early on, I hit upon the stories of young women who had been impregnated by leaders of the movement. Excavating their specific stories gave me a focus that began my quest to hear their voices.”Arena Stage Artistic Director Hana S. Sharif will direct. Constance Swain will portray the character of Ameilia. Joan Foster McCarty is the stage manager.Nambi E. Kelley (Playwright) is an actress and playwright with an extensive résumé in the United States and internationally. Most recently, she appeared in the lead role of Dominique Morisseau’s Pipeline (City Theatre) and the Off-Broadway production of Kunstler (59 E. 59). Her television credits include Elementary, Person of Interest, Madam Secretary, Chicago PD and Chicago Justice. Kelley is a former playwright-in-residence at the National Black Theatre and the Goodman Theatre. She is a former Dramatists Guild Fellow. Kelley was the recipient of the 2020 National New Play Network annual commission, the Prince Prize (2019) and a Dramatists Guild Foundation Writers Alliance Grant (2018-19). She was chosen by Toni Morrison to adapt Morrison’s Jazz, which premiered at Baltimore Center Stage in 2017. Kelley’s adaptation of Richard Wright’s Native Son (Samuel French) premiered Off-Broadway at The Duke on 42nd Street (The Acting Company; AUDELCO Award for Best Play). She is currently developing a Broadway-aspiring play about Dr. Maya Angelou and is a writer on Showtime’s The Chi.

The American Five

By Chess JakobsDirected by Aaron PosnerDramaturgy by José CarrasquilloPublic Reading: Saturday, January 27, 2024 at 7:30 p.m.The American Five offers an incisive look into a single, society-shifting moment in American history while turning our perspective toward a horizon of plurality. This play’s kaleidoscope structure examines the multi-generational relationship of Black and Jewish Americans. When a perspective-challenging professor invokes the “Rules of Engagement” inside the classroom, tensions rise over a discussion about anti-Semitic headlines. A viable framework for understanding present political discord and social paradigms is found in Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.“What does it mean when the history that helps us achieve understanding often excludes critical moments and people? It means that historical giants such as Bayard Rustin, Stanley Levison, Clarence Jones and Coretta Scott King are left out of critical retellings of the March on Washington and the ‘I Have A Dream’ speech,” says playwright Chess Jakobs. “Through this play, I am inquiring into our collective perception of each other, our presumed alignment based on shared background and how identity manifests through us in how we speak, relate and dream. Where do we go when our plurality causes friction in a singular-driven world? How do we retain our individuality when communities are built through homogeneity? What can vulnerability and change do for us when masculinity and tradition are insufficient to remain powerful? Why do race, ethnicity, religion, nationality, ability, sex and sexuality define us? Who is allowed to undefine themselves?”Aaron Posner will direct an ensemble that includes Yoni Bronstein, John Floyd, Jay Frisby, Noah Keyishian and Fatima Quander. Ford’s Theatre Director of Artistic Programming José Carrasquillo serves as the dramaturg. Craig A. Horness is the stage manager. Learn more about Chess Jakobs and the next commissions below.

The New Cohort of The Ford’s Theatre Legacy Commissions

Ford’s Theatre is proud to announce the second cohort of the Ford’s Theatre Legacy Commissions. This cohort expands the scope of the commissions. They include diverse trailblazers in the American theatre, including a Pulitzer Prize winner, multi-hyphenate artists and noted stars of the stage and screen. Their works will receive development and support from Ford’s in the next few years. Learn more about them at www.fords.org/whats-happening/the-fords-theatre-legacy-commissions.

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