Mosaic Theater will dedicate its fifth season to the stories of men and women who come to political awareness, and the consequences of that awareness. The company’s eight-production 2019-2020 season begins with Lynn Nottage’s scabrous tragi-comedy Fabulation and culminates with a three-part world premiere about the murder of Black teenager Emmet Till.
(The productions) “hurtle our characters, and by extension, us, forward to new levels of awareness, puncturing bubbles of pretension along the way,” Artistic Director Ari Roth explains. “To be ‘woke’ is to be no longer in the dark about what’s happening around us; about the systems of oppression and persistence of racism that permeate daily life. But it can be tricky terrain, these states of ‘wokeness,’ leading to pats-on-the-back of self- congratulations and new forms of denial.”
In Fabulation, or the Re-Education of Undine, an African-American woman from Brooklyn achieves success as a public relations agent after abandoning her birth family — who she says all died in a fire — and her name. But when her wealthy husband abandons her, and her business goes south, she is forced to return to her parents and her impoverished roots. Ben Brantley, reviewing for the New York Times, called it a “busy, robustly entertaining comedy”. Playwright Lynn Nottage is a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and MacArthur Genius Grant recipient.
— From August 21 to September 22, 2019; Eric Ruffin directs.
On October 22, Mosaic will put Theory into practice. Isabella is a professor of film who seeks to bring relevance and diversity to her class by pruning the curriculum of dead white males and inviting her students to comment anonymously on an online discussion board; she promises to leave every comment untouched. Soon, however, the discussion board is teeming with messages that are racist, homophobic — and threatening, some of them aimed at Isabella and her wife. “Theory is an absolute thrill,” says Stephen Lubin of Toronto’s Mooney on Theatre.
— Victoria Murray Baatin directs Norman Yeung’s play from October 22 to November 17 of this year.
For the holiday season, Mosaic will go back to school — specifically, the Eureka Day School, where a relentlessly woke Executive Committee of parents try to reach consensus on vaccinations when there is an outbreak of mumps. Jonathan Spector’s Glickman Award-winning Eureka Day is “a play that’s explicitly about the difference between respectfully hearing out different opinions and treating all viewpoints as equally valid regardless of evidence when children’s health is at stake,” according to the San Jose Mercury-News’ Sam Hurwitt. This trailer gives you a sense of some of the shenanigans involved.
— From December 14, 2019 to January 5, 2020; Serge Seiden directs.
Another award-winner — this one the recipient of the $25,000 Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award — kicks off the new year for Mosaic: Pilgrims Musa and Sheri in the New World. In Yussef El Guindi’s play, a man engaged to a very proper and appropriate woman falls — hard — for a woman who is both improper and wildly inappropriate. The twist is that the man is a devout Muslim, an Egyptian working in America, and the woman is a fantastically appealing New York waitress. “The title alone tells you where the plot is headed, but it gets there on a tankful of wit. El Guindi has an ear for argument, which bubbles up any time two or more characters are on stage” says Lynn Jacobson of Variety. This play is part of Mosaic’s annual Changing Voices of the Middle East festival.
— Shirley Serotsky directs this production, which will run from January 16 to February 16 of next year.
Mosaic closes its season with original work. The first will be a new effort by local playwright — and Washington Post humor columnist — Alexandra Petri called Inherit the Windbag. This play imagines a further conversation between conservative icon William F. Buckley and the (mostly) liberal gadfly Gore Vidal, who famously locked horns doing commentary on the 1968 Presidential conventions which nominated Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey. Additional characters, including Aaron Burr and Ayn Rand, will second the combatants.
— Lee Mikeska Gardner comes back to DC to direct; from March 11 to 29, 2020.
Mosaic closes its main season with a trilogy about the murder of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old African-American boy who was killed because he allegedly looked appreciatively at a White woman. In Part I, The Ballad of Emmett Till, we follow young Emmett over the last two weeks of his life, when he travelled from Chicago to Mississippi and encountered Caroline Bryant, the young woman who accused him of whistling at and then threatening her. In Part II, That Summer in Sumner, we witness the trial of the two men who murdered Till, both of whom admitted their guilt after an all-White jury acquitted them. In Part III, Benevolence, we move forward in time and more broadly in space to get a picture of the effect of Till’s murder on Mississippi and on American society. Talvin Wilkes will direct Ifa Bayeza’s trilogy, which was funded through a grant from the Roy Cockrum Foundation.
— The Till Trilogy will run from April 1 to June 21 of next year.
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