Theater and Policy Salon To Host Conversation with Alliance for New Music-Theatre This Saturday

The Theater and Policy Salon looks at the role of story, music, and culture in resilience and response in three area productions: 'Black Pearl Sings!,' 'Spunk,' and 'Jubilee.'

The post-show Salon conversation, in partnership with the Alliance for New Music-Theatre, will take place on Saturday, May 4, at the Spooky Action Theater space at the Universalist National Memorial Church, 1810 16th Street NW in Washington, DC following the 3 pm performance of New Music Theatre’s “Helen Hayes Recommended” Black Pearl Sings!.

Roz White as Alberta 'Pearl' Johnson and Susan Galbraith as Susannah Mullaly in 'Black Pearl Sings!' at the Alliance for New Music-Theatre. Photo by Thom Goertel.
Roz White as Alberta ‘Pearl’ Johnson and Susan Galbraith as Susannah Mullaly in ‘Black Pearl Sings!’ at the Alliance for New Music-Theatre. Photo by Thom Goertel.

The Theater and Policy Salon is convening arts experts and advocates from the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, Arena Stage, and Americans for the Arts to discuss how three current DMV theater productions explore the power of story and music. The conversation will also look at who gets to control the narrative, in the past and in the present day. The discussion will focus on depictions of art and music as a tool for survival in Spunk at Signature Theater and Black Pearl Sings! at Alliance for a New Music-Theatre, both of which draw upon explorations of African American music and culture by Zora Neale Hurston and John and Alan Lomax. The conversation will also look at Arena Stage’s premiere production of Jubilee, which highlights the role of Fisk University’s Fisk Jubilee Singers in overcoming racial barriers and strengthening both the Fisk and broader African American communities.

The panel will use these productions to launch conversations on the role of story, music, and culture in strengthening resilience and finding effective responses to challenges facing struggling communities. The session will also provide an opportunity to examine how stories about communities of color are framed in the current day, especially in the context of advocacy and policy debates.

Panelists include:

Naysan Mojgan, Literary Manager, Arena Stage
Naysan Mojgan is a dramaturg and the Literary Manager for Arena Stage, having started in June 2018. Prior to joining Arena, he worked at La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego, and also worked as a freelance dramaturg, including on GREAT SOCIETY at Arena in Winter 2018. As a theatre scholar, director, and dramaturg, Naysan has worked on new and classic work with theatres in San Diego and Minnesota, including MOXIE, Theatre de la Jeune Lune, and Malashock Dance, and has taught at UC San Diego and George Mason University. Naysan holds a PhD in Theatre & Drama from UC San Diego, specializing in the adaptation of Shakespeare, and a BA from Carleton College.

Diana Baird N’Diaye, Cultural Specialist and Curator, Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage
Diana Baird N’Diaye developed and leads The Will to Adorn: African American Dress and the Aesthetics of Identity, a pan-institutional, multi-sited research project that included a program in the 2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Her training in anthropology, folklore, and visual studies and her experience as a studio craft artist support over thirty years of fieldwork, exhibitions, programs, and publications focusing on expressive culture in Africa, the Caribbean, and their diasporas in the United States; children’s play and performance; and dress traditions and fashion in Oman, Mali, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Japan. After the Haiti earthquake in 2010, she led the Smithsonian’s support of Haitian traditional artists at the Folklife Festival. She has served on national and international juries, advisory, policy, and funding panels including UNESCO, the NEA, and the American Folklore Society. She is a graduate of the 2010 Smithsonian Leadership Development Program. She holds a Ph.D. in anthropology and visual studies from The Union Institute.

Cristyn Johnson, Local Arts Advancement Program Manager, Americans for the Arts
Cristyn Johnson is the Local Arts Advancement Program Manager at Americans for the Arts. In this capacity, she develops Americans for the Arts’ comprehensive full-career-spectrum field education offerings to advance competent and informed local, regional, and national arts professionals. She also develops a suite of programs and resources centered around the full leadership pipeline and organizational needs of a diverse workforce. A current resident of Baltimore City, Cristyn has a passion for social justice issues and is an advocate for the role arts and culture play in creating more equitable communities. Cristyn is an avid presenter and facilitator, with a specialty in discussions on race and inclusion. In this light, she has done research and presentations highlighting the impact and role of the arts in healing Baltimore City during and following the uprising that occurred following the death of Freddie Gray.

Moderated by NJ Mitchell, co-Facilitator of the Theater and Policy Salon (TPS)
NJ Mitchell, co-Facilitator of the Theater and Policy Salon (TPS), is the granddaughter of a pastor, born to a gospel recording artist and professional sports family, a film, TV, commercials actress. She was a 2012 Billboard Actress for Mothers Against Gun Violence Campaign and 2008 CA Regional Committee Member Women for Obama campaign. NJ Mitchell is also a Teaching Artist for Creativity First Creative Kids Drama elementary school program. NJ has worked in DC with amazing leadership at Mosaic Theater, Theater J, Woolly Mammoth Theater, Alliance for a New Music-Theatre, THEARC Theater, and Theater and Policy Salon. She has also created community social justice eduTainment programs such as FROM SELMA TO FERGUSON TO BALTIMORE, SALT and Blacks & Jewish Unity Poetry Slam which have been hosted at facilities like Mt Gilead/National Baptist Educational Conference and John Wesley AME Zion Church. She is the founder of SALT, Social Justice & Art Lessons using Theater, and Blacks and Jewish Unity Poetry Slam productions.

Black Pearl Sings! plays through May 4, 2019, at Alliance for New Music-Theatre performing at the Universalist National Memorial Church in the Spooky Action Theater – 1810 16th Street NW, Washington, DC. Tickets may be purchased online.