The Phillips Collection

08/24/2016 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 08/24/2016 09:53

Local Playwrights to Share Commissioned Work at The Phillips Collection


August 24, 2016 Sarah Corley, 202.387.2151 x235

Amanda Hunter, 202.387.2151 x243

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Playwrights Draw Upon Themes in Jacob Lawrence's Migration Series

in Staged Readings on October 20 and November 3

WASHINGTON-On October 20, The Phillips Collection will celebrate the work of local playwrights as actors read plays commissioned by the museum and inspired by Jacob Lawrence's Migration Series (1940-41). The event is a public program planned alongside the Phillips's special fall exhibition People on the Move: Beauty and Struggle in Jacob Lawrence's Migration Series, which reunites all 60 panels of Lawrence's masterwork. The exhibition opens on October 8, 2016, and runs until January 8, 2017.

The five plays will be presented as staged 10-minute, one- act readings that directly and indirectly respond to and reflect themes found in the series, such as Beauty and Struggle; Transitions and Transformations; Family Ties and Community Building; Separation and Dislocation; and Tension and Conflict. The October 20 performance will include a panel discussion led by Dramaturg Otis Cortez

Jacob Lawrence, The Migration Series, Panel no. 1: During World War I there was a great migration north by southern African Americans, 1940-41.

Casein tempera on hardboard, 12 x 18 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC, Acquired 1942

© The Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation, Seattle / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Ramsey-Zöe and including Playwright and Producing Artistic Director Jacqueline E. Lawton along with Phillips Curator Elsa Smithgall.

During the museum's Phillips after 5 event on November 3, there will be an additional performance of the staged readings. Tickets for both performance dates this fall will be available for purchase here:


Since 2010, The Phillips Collection has presented several staged readings in conjunction with special exhibitions to encourage dialogue on relevant and related issues. The museum has also collaborated with several of the region's leading theaters. For the upcoming staged production at the Phillips,

playwrights explore the universal struggle of the human spirit and associated themes in Lawrence's epic masterwork.

Playwrights are Jacqueline E. Lawton, Norman Allen, Tearrance Chisholm, Annalisa Dias, and Laura Shamas. Actors are Nora Achrati, Jeff Allin, Desmond Bing, James Johnson, Natalie Graves Tucker, and Craig Wallace. For the dramatic readings at the Phillips, Lawton is Producing Artistic Director; additional members of the production team are Derek Goldman as Director and Otis Cortez Ramsey-Zöe as Dramaturg.

Official biographies for the playwrights and production team are included below.

Jacqueline E. Lawton, Producing Artistic Director and Playwright

Jacqueline E. Lawton was named one of 30 of the nation's leading black playwrights by Arena Stage's American Voices New Play Institute. Lawton received her MFA in Playwriting from the University of Texas at Austin, where she was a James A. Michener Fellow. Her plays include: Anna K; Blood-bound and Tongue-tied; Deep Belly Beautiful; The Devil's Sweet Water; The Hampton Years; Intelligence, Love Brothers Serenade; Mad Breed; and Noms de Guerre. Lawton is a 2012 TCG Young Leaders of Color award recipient and an alumna of the National New Play Network (NNPN), Arena Stage's Playwrights' Arena, and Center Stage's Playwrights Collective. Lawton is an Assistant Professor at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, a dramaturg at PlayMakers Repertory Theatre Company, and a proud member of the Dramatist Guild of America.

Derek Goldman, Director

Derek Goldman is Professor of Theater and Performance Studies at Georgetown University and co- Director of the Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics, which he co-founded with Ambassador Cynthia Schneider in 2012. He is an award-winning stage director, playwright, adapter, developer of new work, teacher, and published scholar, whose artistic work has been seen internationally, Off-Broadway, and at numerous major regional theaters around the country, such as Steppenwolf Theatre, Lincoln Center, Arena Stage, Center Stage, Ford's Theatre, Folger Theater, Round House, Everyman Theatre, Theater J, Mosaic Theater, Synetic Theater, Forum Theater, the Kennedy Center, McCarter Theater Center, Segal Center, Northern Stage, and Olney Theater Center. He is the author of more than 30 professionally produced plays and adaptations, including work published by Samuel French and produced internationally, and he has directed over 80 productions. He received his Ph. D. in Performance Studies from Northwestern University. In 2016, he was honored with Georgetown's prestigious President's Award for Distinguished Scholar-Teachers.

Otis Cortez Ramsey-Zöe, Dramaturg

Otis Cortez Ramsey-Zöe is a Lecturer of Theatre Arts at Howard University, Series Editor for NoPassport Press's Dreaming the Americas series, and freelance dramaturg. Recent projects include dramaturg for she took me back so tenderly (banished? productions), The Who and the What and Father Comes Home From the Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3) (Round House), and Blackberry Winter (Forum Theatre). Previously, he was Company Philosopher at banished? productions, Future Classics Program Coordinator at The Classical Theatre of Harlem, and Literary Manager at Center Stage in Baltimore.

Norman Allen, Playwright

Norman Allen's work has been commissioned and produced in the Washington area by the Shakespeare Theatre Company, the Kennedy Center, the Olney Theatre Center, Adventure Theatre, Rorschach Theatre, and Signature Theatre; and internationally in Prague, Ljubljana, Tokyo, Cape Town, and

Budapest. His play In The Garden received the Charles MacArthur Award for Outstanding New Play and his Nijinsky's Last Dance was honored with the Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Play. He received the first of two Capitol Region Emmy Awards for a PBS documentary on The Phillips Collection titled Renoir to Rothko: The Eye of Duncan Phillips, which makes this project a happy homecoming. Currently studying to be ordained in the Unitarian Universalist church, Allen's essays and commentary can be found on websites for OnBeing, OnFaith, and Tikkun, and in leading print publications, such as The Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, Washingtonian, Smithsonian, and Yes! magazines.

Tearrance Arvelle Chisholm, Playwright

Tearrance Arvelle Chisholm is a playwright, a title that is an indelible part of his character. His produced work includes Bhavi the Avenger (Convergence Theatre), In Sweet Remembrance (Endstation Theatre Company), A Month of Sundays (Midwinter Madness Short Play Festival), and the upcoming Hooded or Being Black for Dummies (Mosaic Theatre of DC, 2017). He has developed new works with Signature Theatre, Theatre J, Theatre Alliance, The Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, and NNPN MFA Workshop and has held residencies at The Bay Area Playwrights Festival Arts and The Eugene O'Neill National Playwrights Conference. He was a finalist for the Inaugural Relentless Award and received two of the 2016 National KCACTF awards. Chisholm holds an MFA in Playwriting from the Catholic University of America and is currently a member of the Lila Acheson Wallace American Playwrights Program at Julliard.

Annalisa Dias, Playwright

Annalisa Dias is a performer, director, and playwright. Her work has been staged in DC, New York, London, and Glasgow. She is a Producing Playwright with The Welders, a DC playwright's collective; and she is Co-Founder of the DC Coalition for Theatre & Social Justice. Recent collaborators include Signature Theatre's SigWorks Program, the Mead Theatre Lab Program, WSC Avant Bard, the Atlas Intersections Festival, Convergence Theatre, Forum Theatre, and Longacre Lea. Bias frequently teaches theatre of the oppressed workshops nationally and internationally and speaks about race, identity, and performance. She is currently participating in TCG's Rising Leaders of Color program.

Laura Shamas, Playwright

Laura Shamas is a writer and mythologist. Some of her published plays include Picnic at Hanging Rock, Portrait of a Nude, Amelia Lives, Lady-Like, The Other Shakespeare, Molière in Love, and Up to Date. Her new play Circular is part of Artemisia Theatre's 2016 Fall Festival in Chicago; it was on The Kilroys List in 2015 (Honorable Mentions). In late September to early October of this year, Amelia Lives, about Amelia Earhart, runs in San Diego at the Women's Museum of California, produced by American History Theater. For Amelia Lives, Shamas received a grant from the Mary Roberts Reinhart Foundation to interview Earhart's sister, Muriel Morrissey, in Boston. Shamas's books include Pop Mythology: Collected Essays (2012) and her dissertation We Three: The Mythology of Shakespeare's Weird Sisters (2007).

Current projects include a new play in 2016 called Merrion Square and a novel.


Jacob Lawrence's Migration Series portrays the mass exodus of more than a million African Americans from the rural South to the industrial North, following the outbreak of World War I. This Great Migration, fueled by wartime labor shortages in the North and oppressive conditions in the South, resulted in the largest population shift of African Americans since the time of slavery.

Using bold forms, colors, and gestures, Lawrence distilled the migration experience into a powerful expression of the human condition. From lynching in the South to the bombing of African American

homes in the North, Lawrence's panels delve deeply into the struggles of people in search of greater economic, social, and political freedom.

Lawrence approached the panels methodically as part of a series. He wrote captions, made preparatory drawings, and primed the hardboards with gesso before painting each one with a hand-mixed casein tempera. To ensure a uniform appearance, he applied a given color onto each panel in succession, starting with the darkest hue of black and proceeding to the lighter values. Integrating text and image, Lawrence created his epic statement in poetic cadences of simple shapes and colors as well as recurring symbols of movement: the train, the station, and people traveling.

New York art dealer Edith Halpert arranged for The Migration Series to be published in Fortune (November 1941), exhibited at her Downtown Gallery (November 1941-January 1942), and jointly purchased in 1942 by The Phillips Collection (odd-numbered panels) and the Museum of Modern Art (even-numbered panels). At the young age of 24, Lawrence received national acclaim for a series he later deemed the "creative highlight" of his career.


The Phillips Collection, America's first museum of Modern art, is one of the world's most distinguished collections of Impressionist and Modern American and European art. Stressing the continuity between art of the past and present, it offers a strikingly original and experimental approach to Modern art by combining works of different nationalities and periods in displays that change frequently. The setting is similarly unconventional, featuring small rooms, a domestic scale, and a personal atmosphere. Artists represented in the collection include Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Vincent van Gogh, Edgar Degas, Henri Matisse, Pierre Bonnard, Paul Cézanne, Pablo Picasso, Paul Klee, Claude Monet, Honoré Daumier, Georgia O'Keeffe, Arthur Dove, Mark Rothko, Milton Avery, Jacob Lawrence, and Richard Diebenkorn, among others. The permanent collection has grown to include more than 1,000 photographs, many by American photographers Berenice Abbott, Esther Bubley, and Bruce Davidson, and works by contemporary artists such as Anslem Kiefer, Wolfgang Laib, Whitfield Lovell, and Leo Villareal. The Phillips Collection regularly organizes acclaimed special exhibitions, many of which travel internationally. The Intersections series features projects by contemporary artists responding to art and spaces in the museum. The Phillips also produces award-winning education programs for K-12 teachers and students, as well as for adults. The University of Maryland Center for Art and Knowledge at The Phillips Collection is the museum's nexus for academic work, scholarly exchange, and interdisciplinary collaborations. Since 1941, the museum has hosted Sunday Concerts in its wood-paneled Music Room. The Phillips Collection is a private, non-government museum, supported primarily by donations.

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