THE THEATER AND POLICY SALON
How Theater Repairs Our World
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THEATER AND POLICY SALON SEASON FOR 2019-2020
July 29, 2025
The Theater and Policy Salon season for 2019-2020 features a series on Refuge, Journey, and Compassion and another on Attainment, Fulfillment, and Resilience in Sports and Society.
The Refuge, Journey, and Compassion series will focus on migrants and refugees who face being separated from their home cultures and being outsiders in new communities. The series will look at migrants both as sufferers of displacement as well as courageous individuals who take control of destiny in the face of substantial risks.
The Attainment, Fulfillment, and Resilience in Sports and Society series will focus on how superstar culture in the U.S. seduces and fails young people from challenged backgrounds and struggling communities, while diverting attention and urgency from systemic obstacles and problems. Defining success in terms of a few superstar examples of success – be it in sports or in academic attainment - covers up deep-rooted problems in these settings and promotes an all or nothing, high risk attitude toward life choices.
The Salon season started on October 18, 3pm with an Attainment, Fulfillment, and Resilience Salon at New York University’s Washington DC campus at 1307 L Street, NW. The conversation focused on policy and societal themes implicit in two DC productions: Shakespeare Theater Company’s production of Everybody by MacArthur Fellow Branden Jacobs-Jenkins and Ford’s Theatre's production of August Wilson’s Fences.
Confirmed Panelists Include April Lawson, the Associate Director of Weave: The Social Fabric Project at The Aspen Institute and Director of Better Angels Debates;
P. S. Perkins, Founder and CEO of the Human Communication Institute, and a Professor at University of the District of Columbia and Prince George’s Community Colleges; and Drew Lichtenberg, Literary Manager and Resident Dramaturg at the Shakespeare Theatre Company.
The conversation looked at how society privileges "stuff" and "status" over self-actualization and how that ethic hinders efforts to create a more equitable and more fulfilled nation.
Using the lens of “Attainment, Fulfillment, and Resilience,” the panel discussed situations in that plays inform this Salon - Fences and Everybody. They saw examples in which people from challenged backgrounds and struggling communities lost out on life satisfaction and meaningful relationships.
Spring Salons will start with a focus on Studio Theatre’s Pipeline by Dominique Morisseau and continue with Arena Stage’s production of Toni Stone by Lydia Diamond. These productions will frame the Attainment, Fulfillment, and Resilience conversation around the dilemma of how to thrive in an unforgiving society, whether in education or sports, or other fields.
The Refuge, Journey, and Compassion series will feature productions from around the Washington area. The series will open with a Refuge, Journey, and Compassion Salon around Thai-Australian writer Anchuli Felicia King’s White Pearl at Studio Theatre. The series will continue on January 23 with a Salon at Theater J around Alex Sobler’s Sheltered and Mosaic Theater Company’s Pilgrims Musa & Sheri in the New World. An early March Refuge, Journey, and Compassion Salon will focus on Arena Stage’s productions of Octavio Solis’ Mother Road and Eduardo Muchado’s Celia and Fidel, along with other new works at the Women Composers Festival in DC.
REFUGE, JOURNEY, AND COMPASSION SALON ON NOVEMBER 21 FOLLOWING 8PM PERFORMANCE OF WHITE PEARL AT STUDIO THEATRE.
November 21, 2019
This Refuge, Journey, and Compassion Salon focuses on migrants and refugees who face being separated from their home cultures and being outsiders in new communities. In particular, we will look at migrants both as sufferers of displacement as well as courageous individuals who take control of destiny in the face of substantial risks. The conversation will seek to highlight opportunities to succor the estranged and shift the portrayals of those who migrate. The discussion will focus on the definitions of national identity and how those interact with - and hopefully transcend - race, ethnicity, and - given the premise of the play White Pearl - skin color. This conversation will also be framed by the end of the so-called “White Australia” policy and the vibrant multicultural society of Australia today.
The panel will be followed by an informal gathering featuring Australian refreshments and a chance to talk further about the issues of inclusion, national identity, and migration. Additional artists and advocates working in the “Refuge, Journey, and Compassion” space will be there, including Tim Nelson, Artistic Director of InSeries, whose upcoming immersive production of L’Enfance du Christ at the Foundry United Methodist Church focuses on migrants and compassion. Foundry’s Director of Justice Ministries Ben Roberts will also attend. The Salon is organized in partnership with the Australian Embassy.
There's a discount code POLICY20 available for 20% off tickets for each performance.
WATCH THE 2019 SALON "WHO GETS TO FEEL SAFE?"
Watch the archived video of the Theater and Policy Salon with Mosaic AD Ari Roth at NYU Washington
Watch the video of the April 25 Theater and Policy Salon event, hosted by NYU Washington, titled “Who Gets to Feel Safe?” and organized in connection with Mosaic Theater Company of DC repertory series of Native Son and Les Deux Noirs: Notes on Notes on A Native Son. At the event, Mosaic Artistic Director Ari Roth discussed how these Mosaic Theater Company of DC productions relate to issues of justice and community. Ari was joined by a panel of policy experts such as Dr. Houston of the Criminology Department of George Mason University, Karen Volker of Cure Violence and Ajmel Quereshi of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. Theater and Policy Salon Co-Facilitator NJ Mitchell moderated the panel.
PLAY READING AND CONVERSATION LAUNCH OF THEATER AND POLICY SALON
A sold-out play reading with Swedish playwright and director Paula Stenström Öhman on the evening of July 30, 2018 from 630 to 830pm at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company launched the Theater and Policy Salon series.
The Theater and Policy Salon is designed to build a community of theatergoers who are passionate about policy and plays that speak to policy issues. The Salon includes group ticket rates to selected plays, policy conversations with experts and practitioners, and social events. The conversations in the Theater and Policy Salon (TPS), are convened and moderated by experienced facilitators Artistic Director NJ Mitchell and DC-based Arts Advisor Michael Feldman.
The evening featured semi-staged excerpts (in English) from Ms. Öhman’s People Respect Me Now and comments by the Stockholm-based playwright and her American counterparts. Ms. Öhman’s play provides a Nordic perspective on school shootings and domestic violence, seen from the perspective of a dramatist with schooling in criminology. The play asks but doesn’t answer who is culpable: male identities defined by aggression and violence, broken individuals and families, as well as a collapsing social safety net.
The reading was being presented in partnership with Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company’s Connectivity Department as a related event for Woolly’s presentation of The Story of the Gun by noted dramatist and performer Mike Daisey. The reading, discussion, and Ms. Öhman’s visit to the U.S. is supported by the Embassy of Sweden in the USA and the Swedish Arts Council.
PEOPLE RESPECT ME NOW CAST
Robert Hamilton.............Police Officer / Christian
Dulcie Pham................................ Arnie
Noelle Robinson.................... Epilogue
SALON ON NATIVE SON: "TAKING CARE"
NYU WASHINGTON CENTER
The Salon hosted a conversation at NYU's Washington campus centered on how we as a community have continued to fail our young people in crisis and what can be done to serve them better into the future. Still too many contemporary persons of color feel hemmed in by limited opportunities and a hostile environment, as was dramatized in Native Son. The discussion considered how tools of control and punishment fall short in addressing systemic failures and ensuring that those who write and enforce the laws remain accountable to the communities they serve. The panel explored opportunities to take a comprehensive approach —in public and behavioral health, education, jobs, and housing—in order to prevent crime; reduce violence and recidivism; and close opportunity gaps.
Ari Roth, Founding Artistic Director, Mosaic Theater Company
A producer, playwright, dramaturg, and educator, Ari founded Mosaic Theater Company in December 2014, after serving as Artistic Director of Theater J for 18 years where he produced 129 productions, including 44 world premieres, and created the annual festivals “Voices From a Changing Middle East” and “Locally Grown: Community Supported Art” alongside forums like the Peace Café (co-founded by Mimi Conway and Andy Shallal). In 2005, the New York Times praised Theater J as “the premier theater for premieres. . . and its artistic director, Ari Roth, [who] offers a rare mix of professional polish, thoughtful dramaturgy and nervy experimentation.” As a playwright, his work includes The Born Guilty Cycle, commissioned and produced by Arena Stage, directed by Zelda Fichandler, and more than 50 productions across the country; The Wolf in Peter, produced by Theater J, Jewish Theatre of the South; and fused as a diptych for Epic Theatre at Manhattan Theatre Club and CUNY; a prequel, Andy and The Shadows produced at Theater J, directed by Daniela Topol, and Reborn In Berlin, workshopped at The Orchard Project, (in progress). Other produced plays include Oh, The Innocents (directed by Joe Mantello at GeVa); Goodnight Irene; Life In Refusal; Love and Yearning in the Not for Profits; Still Waiting (companion to Waiting For Lefty), and a dozen one-acts. He is a two-time recipient of the Avery Hopwood Award from the University of Michigan where he has taught since 1988, currently for their “Michigan in Washington” program, as well as for Brandeis, NYU, and Carnegie Mellon Universities.
Ajmel Quereshi, Senior Counsel, NAACP Legal Defense Fund
Ajmel Quereshi serves as Senior Counsel at LDF. Before joining LDF, Ajmel worked as Staff Counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Prison Project, where he litigated complex class action claims involving the United States’ most inhumane correctional facilities. He served as one of the lead counsel in Dockery v. Epps, challenging conditions at the East Mississippi Correctional Facility, and assisted in the representation of the Plaintiff class in Parsons v. Ryan, a statewide class action concerning the lack of health care and conditions of confinement in Arizona’s prisons. Ajmel previously co-directed the Civil Rights Clinic at Howard University School of Law, where he also taught courses in Torts and Federal Civil Rights. Under his direction, the Clinic filed amicus briefs in several cases before the United States Supreme Court, as well as in Fletcher v. Lamone, in which the United States District Court for the District of Maryland upheld the nation’s first statewide law to prohibit prison-based gerrymandering. Prior to joining Howard Law School, Ajmel received a Skadden Fellowship and directed the Immigrants’ Rights Project at the ACLU of Maryland. In that capacity, he argued before Maryland’s highest court and regularly testified before the Maryland legislature. He currently serves on the ACLU of Maryland’s Board of Directors. Ajmel’s editorial writings have appeared in various newspapers; he has published articles in several legal journals; and his cases have been featured by the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, among others. In 2010, the Maryland Daily Record named him one of the top legal professionals in Maryland under 40. Ajmel is a magna cum laude graduate of the University of Minnesota Law School. After graduating, Ajmel clerked for the Honorable Damon J. Keith of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and the Honorable James G. Carr of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio.
Stacey L Houston, II, Assistant Professor, Criminology, Law & Society, George Mason University
Dr. Houston's research interests center around understanding the causes and consequences of justice system involvement. Schooling and racial health disparities are two causes and consequences that are central to his research agenda. Dr. Houston's recent work explores the link between education, justice system involvement, and well-being. More specifically, his work investigates how disciplinary practices in early education contribute to involvement with the justice system, which, in turn, leads to health disparities across racial groups. Dr. Houston is working on a series of projects which focus on life course outcomes for youth as a function of justice system presence, or what he calls justice system toxic reach. These projects investigate the role that residential proximity to justice facilities plays in deteriorating health of youth. In other words, this line of work investigates the ways in which justice system presence is a systematic environmental health hazard. Dr. Houston utilizes a wide-range of quantitative methods with large, longitudinal data-sets. He has expertise in quasi-experimental research designs and has several years of experience with program evaluation. Dr. Houston is currently leading the evaluation of a United Planning Organization reentry program funded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance He holds a PhD in Sociology from Vanderbilt University.
Karen Volker, Director for Strategic and International Partnerships, Cure Violence
Karen Volker is the Director for Strategic and International Partnerships at Cure Violence, an international NGO that uses a health approach to interrupt and stop the spread of violence. Karen plays a key role on strategic planning, developing strategic partnerships, and pursuing opportunities to expand the Cure Violence global footprint, with emphasis on expanding Cure Violence’s work in the Middle East. Karen leads Cure Violence’s work in Syria, including a new project that includes both top-down and bottom-up approach to preventing violence in Syria.
Prior to joining Cure Violence in January 2012, Ms. Volker spent over 25 years in the U.S. Foreign Service, including as Director of the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), a $500 million program that supports civil society organizations in the Middle East and North Africa, leading up to and during the Arab Spring. Ms. Volker has devoted her professional life to promoting pluralism, peace, and democracy, defending human rights, and preventing violence. As Director of Strategic and International Partnerships, Ms. Volker interacts with donors, policy-makers, and other NGOs on behalf of Cure Violence and represents Cure Violence at national and international events and meetings.
TPS held a well-attended post-show conversation on “Justice” in Criminal Justice, following a packed performance of Twelve Angry Men. The panel featured representatives from Human Rights Watch, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and the Delegation of the European Union to the USA. A substantial portion of the audience stayed for the post performance discussion. We also appreciated the thoughtful and respectful atmosphere that characterized the conversation. Ford’s Theatre’s innovative production of a decades-old play serves to illuminate topical discussions about capital punishment and the criminal justice system, including the possible role of prejudice in adjudication and sentencing, and moral and legal issues surrounding capital punishment. This Talkback was promoted in cooperation with the Delegation of the European Union to the USA.
The policy Talkback featured the following panelists:
Aymeric Dupont, Counsellor, The Delegation of the European Union to the USA.
Aymeric Dupont has been a Counsellor at the Delegation of the European Union to the USA, in Washington DC, since August 2015. In this role, he liaises between the EU institutions and the United States on a whole range of policies in the Justice and Home Affairs area, from data protection to human rights. He has been working with the European Union since 2007.
Ajmel Quereshi, Senior Counsel, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Legal Defense Fund (NAACP LDF)
Ajmel Quereshi serves as Senior Counsel at LDF. Before joining LDF, Ajmel worked as Staff Counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Prison Project, where he litigated complex class action claims involving the United States’ most inhumane correctional facilities. He served as one of the lead counsel in Dockery v. Epps, challenging conditions at the East Mississippi Correctional Facility, and assisted in the representation of the Plaintiff class in Parsons v. Ryan, a statewide class action concerning the lack of health care and conditions of confinement in Arizona’s prisons.
Ajmel previously co-directed the Civil Rights Clinic at Howard University School of Law, where he also taught courses in Torts and Federal Civil Rights. Under his direction, the Clinic filed amicus briefs in several cases before the United States Supreme Court, as well as in Fletcher v. Lamone, in which the United States District Court for the District of Maryland upheld the nation’s first statewide law to prohibit prison-based gerrymandering. Prior to joining Howard Law School, Ajmel received a Skadden Fellowship and directed the Immigrants’ Rights Project at the ACLU of Maryland. In that capacity, he argued before Maryland’s highest court and regularly testified before the Maryland legislature. He currently serves on the ACLU of Maryland’s Board of Directors. Ajmel’s editorial writings have appeared in various newspapers; he has published articles in several legal journals; and his cases have been featured by the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, among others. In 2010, the Maryland Daily Record named him one of the top legal professionals in Maryland under 40. Ajmel is a magna cum laude graduate of the University of Minnesota Law School. After graduating, Ajmel clerked for the Honorable Damon J. Keith of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and the Honorable James G. Carr of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio.
Jasmine L. Tyler, Advocacy Director, US Program, Human Rights Watch
Jasmine L. Tyler is the Advocacy Director for the US Program at Human Rights Watch. She currently handles federal criminal justice, immigration, and national security policy. Prior to joining HRW, she was the senior policy advisor for drug policy and global health in the Washington, D.C. office of Open Society Foundations, where she worked with Congress and the executive branch to shape domestic and international policy.
Previously, Jasmine served as deputy director of National Affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, where she helped lead reform efforts to address the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine which culminated in the passage of the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010. She has also worked as research director for the Justice Policy Institute and as a sentencing advocate in public defenders’ offices in Fairfax, VA and Washington, D.C. Jasmine’s firsthand understanding of the harms of our criminal justice system began as a child visiting her father in prison. She holds an MA from Brown University and a BS from James Madison University, both in sociology.
Behind closed doors, tensions run high as a lone juror argues the innocence of a teenager accused of murder. In this provocatively resonant American drama, 12 jurors from all strata of society revisit the evidence, debate the issue of reasonable doubt and confront each other's personal biases.
We hope many Salon friends had a chance to see Woolly’s production of Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’s play Gloria on September 30. Another production, The Events at Theater Alliance, also wrestles with the question of narrative and healing after a mass shooting.
For further investigation, a feature that reviews recent research and published by the American Psychological Association says that long-term outcomes for survivors of mass shootings are improved with the help of community connections and continuing access to mental health support. See the full report at
Both plays provided the opportunity to examine communication and the healing process after an act of mass violence, and sadly we have similar examples right in our backyard with the recent shooting at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis and the baseball field in Alexandria. One of the key questions for us remains how do communities get beyond trauma and grief and focus on specific actions to prevent similar tragedies in the future.
Looking ahead, the Salon series for 2018-19 is looking at policy conversations around productions at Ford’s (Twelve Angry Men), Rep Stage (“Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992”) as well as Mosaic (Notes on A Native Son and The Shooting Gallery: A Play About Guns in America).
Another production which opened this month, The Events by David Grieg at Theater Alliance, also wrestles with the question of narrative and healing after a mass shooting. We recommend Theater and Policy Salon friends see this show.
THEATER AND POLICY SALON AT THE GATHERING
The Theater and Policy Salon staff and partners participated in THE GATHERING, four full days and evenings of activities at Georgetown from Wednesday May 8 through Saturday May 11. It was a convergence of more than 200 artists and changemakers from around the world. Participants included the Alliance for New Music-Theatre, our Embassy partners, and collaborating theaters. It was a groundbreaking four-day event with forums, workshops, pop-up performances and discussions featuring visionary artists and thought-leaders from around the world, including Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka, Former Secretary of StateMadeleine Albright, Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Martyna Majok, author Azar Nafisi, actress Kathleen Chalfant, and hundreds more from more than 40 countries. The event is available to watch via HowlRound Theatre Commons. The schedule of events and the videos can be found on this webpage.
SALON ON STORY IN RESILIENCE
Join us for a Salon on Saturday, May 4, at 515pm, following the 3pm performance of Black Pearl Sings! 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 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 would also touch on 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.
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 PhD 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)
Theater is the Pursuit of Social Action by Other Means
Washington, DC, USA