Mosaic Theater Company has canceled its plans to open Alexandra Petri’s Inherit the Wind in August and announced suspension of its on-stage season through 2020. At the same time, Mosaic announced, Founding Artistic Director Ari Roth will be on leave for three months.
“Conditions remain too uncertain for a resumption of in-person performances at this time,” said Bill Tompkins, Mosaic Theater’s Board Chair. “Like so many other arts organizations, we have to do what’s best for the whole community: postpone and pivot. Mosaic will build its online presence with exciting initiatives and hopes to return to producing live theater in early 2021.”
“We had hoped to safely gather in person this Fall,” Roth said, “but the rising number of COVID cases throughout the country coupled with other factors made the risks insurmountable. We are committed to employing artists to create online content and recently welcomed Director of Outreach and Education Angelisa Gillyard and Literary Manager Chelsea Radigan to the Mosaic team to assist with these efforts.”
“Mosaic has engaged Lisa Koonin DrPH, MN, MPH, founder of Health Preparedness Partners, to develop protocols that will, when external conditions permit, enable Mosaic to reopen in the safest manner,” said Serge Seiden, Managing Director and Producer. Dr. Koonin is the originator of private sector pandemic response programs at CDC and assists clients in building actionable plans to mitigate the impact of infectious disease threats.
“We remain steadfast in our resolve to work together to address the challenges brought on by this pandemic,” said Douglas Yeuell, Executive Director of the Atlas Performing Arts Center. “Mosaic is a pillar at the Atlas and we look forward to emerging on the other side as organizations whose art is more vital, engaging and impactful.”
“In this unprecedented moment, forged by a pandemic, a recession, and a much-too-delayed national dialogue on race and equity,” said Roth, “those closest to the work must step back to ensure an objective evaluation of how our mission and values are manifested, not just externally in our programing, but also internally in our culture.” Roth is being granted a three-month sabbatical to complete his new play and engage in research, reflection, and writing about new organizational processes that will allow Mosaic to fully realize its unique mission, values, and goals. Managing Director and Producer Serge Seiden will assume interim responsibility for day to day operations.
“In partnership with the staff and artists who represent the true lifeblood of Mosaic, the Board of Directors remains committed to ensuring that we emerge from this moment stronger than ever,” said Bill Tompkins. “While our stages may be dark, the work continues.”
Mosaic‘s staff is galvanized in their support and amplification of two affiliated playwrights: Ifa Bayeza and Psalmayene 24. Bayeza was recently named a finalist for the 2020 American Theater Critics Francesca Primus Prize. Her essential work on The Till Trilogy continues and evolves with Mosaic thanks to The Roy Cockrum Foundation; and local multidisciplinary artist Psalmayene 24, joins Mosaic in a new partnership as an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Playwright in Residence.
Ifa Bayeza’s The Till Trilogy is now slated for a June 2021 opening. In anticipation of the spring production, Bayeza and The Till Trilogy team are working on a series of online activities. ”I am grateful to Ari and Mosaic for their continued commitment to The Till Trilogy during this unprecedented time,” says Bayeza. “As disturbing as it may be, this crisis has created an opportunity to reimagine ourselves as a nation, as artists and as a company.”
Literary Manager Chelsea Radigan said, “Both relationships carry with them a commitment to nurturing new work, and subverting the typical, transactional model between playwrights and staff in the regional American Theater.” Director of Marketing and Communications Chris Wren said, “Creating in the digital space and sharing this work virtually is a wonderful opportunity to increase accessibility and expand our reach.” In our isolation we’re all discovering new ways to create, new ways of being ‘in touch’ with each other. Building on the excellent online discussion series Mosaic has been running since last March, we have some exciting digital programming for The Till Trilogy in the works, including a Zoom public reading of the upcoming world premiere of That Summer in Sumner, a music sampler from the three plays and continued Public Square conversations about the legacy of the Till saga in this critical time of social activism. Every day, someone, somewhere, still calls his name.”
Psalmayene 24’s new work, Dear Mapel, chronicling the playwright’s relationship with his deceased father through hand-written letters, will be presented online as a public reading and discussion with additional programming featuring work currently in development also possible. Psalmayene 24 said, “I’m excited to creatively respond to this fraught moment and see how theater can best nourish the human spirit. Through Dear Mapel, I’m also curious to discover how this deeply personal play can illuminate universal truths during this time of reckoning.”
The creative team behind Washington Post humorist Alexandra Petri’s Inherit the Windbag will create a video adaptation for online release this fall. Led by director Lee Mikeska Gardner, Inherit the Windbag features Paul Morella as Gore Vidal, John Lescault as William F. Buckley, and Tameika Chavis and Stephen Kime as a host of unforgettable “demons” from the televised debates of 1968. The world premiere of Inherit the Windbag is supported by a Trish Vradenburg Play Commission.
Director of Outreach and Education Angelisa Gillyard said, “We look forward to deepening our relationships with the community and to providing continuing opportunities for DC residents to explore and express themselves creatively.” Manager of Public Programming, Partnerships and Social Media Laley Lippard said, “Mosaic’s Public Programming highlights themes and emerging modern resonances that touch each of our lives—from the hyper-local community to international collaborators.” These Creative Conversations, Peace Cafes, Book Clubs, and more allow audiences to engage with artists, scholars, local thinkers and each other through weekly in-depth conversations on Facebook Live and Zoom. The full list of programming is available online.
Derek Goldman, head of Georgetown’s Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics and the director of Remember This: The Lesson of Jan Karski, said, “We are committed to bringing this production with Academy Award nominee David Strathairn to live audiences as soon as the public health situation allows. In the meantime, we are thrilled to be developing online content for future screening and streaming. Mosaic Theater subscribers will have access to this material when it becomes available.”
“Mosaic‘s supporters have kept us running and allowed us to continue to provide important funds to our staff and artists. The spirit of philanthropy is in the air—and new support from grassroots donors have paved the way for more generosity. As we continue into this new future, the people will decide the power and importance of the arts through their actions and financial support,” said Development Director Alexandra Cantalupo. “We also encourage the community to engage politically: with our artform shuttered indefinitely several legislative initiatives that help artists are gaining traction. The allyship of our community will help push these actions forward: extending Pandemic Unemployment Compensation and protecting theater professionals who have lost their health care are vital. Also consider supporting emergency supplemental arts funding administered by the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.”
Mosaic’s Mission Statement, as adopted in 2017:
Mosaic Theater Company is committed to making transformational, socially-relevant art, to producing plays by authors on the front lines of conflict zones, and to building a fusion community to address some of the most pressing issues of our times. Dedicated to making our theater a model of diversity and inclusion at every strata, on stage and off, Mosaic invests in the new as we keep abreast of our changing and challenging times to ensure that our theater is a responsive gathering space, all the while nurturing and producing art of the highest order. We complement our productions with comprehensive engagement through free pre- and post-show programming, an annual intercultural festival, like our “Voices From a Changing Middle East” series, and educational initiatives, including our touring “Mosaic on the Move.” We strive to foster a culture of listening and welcoming, embracing complexity and a multi-focal perspective. Our plays speak truth to power and to the private parts of our soul. In short, we make art with a purpose and strive for impact.