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Across the River Theater and Policy Salon

Thursday, October 19

630pm to 8pm 

Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library

901 G St. NW

Penn Quarter, downtown Washington, DC

This free public event tells a story of parallel turning points in America’s troubled journey to a more perfect democracy - the 1804 Hamilton-Burr duel and January 6 - then digs into the issues facing our democracy today.  The Salon kicks off with a sneak peek of Across the River: a new play that provides a new look at Aaron Burr beyond the saga depicted in Hamilton. In this new work, syndicated columnist and historian Jamie Stiehm explores the conflict between individual responsibility and ego through Aaron Burr’s odyssey after the fatal duel with Alexander Hamilton, and its fateful impact on American democracy and the growth of slavery in the early United States.

Across the River introduces Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton as "brothers (and orphans) from another mother" and twin Yankee avatars of  enterprise, immigration, and commerce. Tragically, these Revolutionary War frenemies were compelled by ego and honor to mutual annihilation in the 1804 duel. Hamilton's literal death and Burr's political demise left the early American Republic in the hands of a succession of slaveholding Presidents, resulting in the early U.S. Republic remaining in thrall to slavery and oligarchy until the Civil War.

The discussion continues with public conversation moderated by Jane L. Campbell, President/CEO of the US Capitol Historical Society, to discuss America's flawed democracy from its founding to the January 6, 2021 Capitol insurrection.


These distinguished panelists will discuss America's flawed democracy from the Founding through January 6 right up to the present day.

The Across the River Theater and Policy Salon’s venue - the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library main auditorium - symbolizes the hope that “the arc of history bends toward justice.”  This Theater and Policy Salon has been supported by a grant from HumanitiesDC.

The Across the River Theater and Policy Salon will be held in the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library main auditorium on Thursday, October 19 from 630pm to 8pm in downtown Washington, DC (Metro: Gallery Place)

May 3, 2023 Theater and Policy Salon- NYU DC event on Ukrainian Children and the War in Ukraine.  Wednesday, The Salon hosted on May 3, 2023 a DC premiere performance of "The Clear Blue Skies: Diaries from Ukraine” followed by a policy conversation about Ukrainian Children and the War in Ukraine featuring a former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine and an expert on global children’s issues.  

The event featured the DC Premiere performance of this moving play and a Salon conversation with policymakers and experts on Ukraine and children in conflict zones.


Professors Scott Illingworth from NYU’s Tisch School and Alex Oliinyk of the Actors Studio Ukraine developed ”The Clear Blue Skies: Diaries from Ukraine.” It’s a brand-new documentary, verbatim theater piece, amplifying the voices and experiences of children and teenagers living through the war in Ukraine.


Theater and Policy for Art and Action Preview Panel for Ocean Filibuster

The Theater and Policy Salon co-curated an arts and policy event on March 28 in Middletown, CT. Founder Michael Feldman moderated a preview panel discussion on Art and Action for Wesleyan's upcoming production of Ocean Filibuster in May 2023. Ocean Filibuster serves as an outstanding example of intergrating theater and policy as part of a collaboration with the Harvard Center on the Environment. The Theater and Policy Salon also assisted the PearlDamour theater collectve in its development. We promoted the online version after it premiered at ART at Harvard in February 2022. A preview of Ocean Filibuster was also featured in the Earth Day 2021 Theater and Policy Salon.


New Theater and Policy Salon video documentary on DC's School Without Walls and Fulfillment and Attainment

The Theater and Policy Salon co-organized a premiere and discussion of a its new video documentary “School Without Walls: Oral Histories of Then and Now” on Monday, November 21, 2022 in the Commons at the School Without Walls Building in Foggy Bottom in Washington, DC. 

“School Without Walls: Oral Histories of Then and Now” grew out of a School Without Walls (SWW) DC History class project that interviewed alumni and teachers from the 1970s and 1980s. This video document captures insights and stories from the school’s early years since its founding in the 1970s. The work also features insights from 2022 SWW graduates as recorded during SWW's celebration of its 50th anniversary. The video document covers joyful memories, meaningful challenges, and consequential experiences of alumni and faculty who joined the SWW community at the beginning in 70s and 80s. In particular, these stories depict how School without Walls experiences provided pivotal stepping stones to finding meaning and fulfillment in students’ professional and personal lives, both in the school’s early years and in the present day.

This video document is based on the collection of oral history interviews conducted by students of Social Studies teacher Kerry Sylvia.

It was striking that self-actualization, personal responsibility remained the enduring hallmarks of the School Without Walls experience. The Walls project built on past Theater and Policy Salons on the topics of education, self-actualization versus external status, and the impacts on youth in DC, especially from under resourced backgrounds. Prior to the start of the COVID pandemic in Fall 2019, we organized a Salon at NYU DC that focussed on how youth from under-resourced backgrounds balance competing pressures for outward attainment and self-fulfillment.  As part of this conversation, the TPS audience had a chance to attend Shakespeare Theatre Company’s production of Everybody by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins and Ford’s Theatre production of August Wilson’s Fences. TPS  also curated a February 2020 Theater and Policy Salon with DC’s Studio Theatre following Dominique Morisseau’s Pipeline. The panel featured an expert on juvenile justice; Kennedy Center arts activist Marc Bamuthi Joseph; and a service provider for at-risk youth.

This project is supported by a grant from HumanitiesDC as part of their DC Oral History Collaborative Public Programming grant program and the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities. Support for events related to the project has been provided by the SWW Home School Association.  


The Theater and Policy Salon Goes to the Art Gallery. The Salon co-curated a May 12, 2022 art and action panel for the opening of the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities's environmental justice exhibition titled "Fragile Beauty."


To celebrate the opening of the exhibition "Fragile Beauty", Theater and Policy Salon Founder Michael Feldman moderated a panel on Environmental Justice in art and action. The panel featured DC-based artists Noel Kassewitz and Werllayne Nunes, and activist Kelsye Adams.  

While the exhibition has since closed, more information is available at the link.

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Theater and  Policy Friends got a taste of Ocean Filibuster in progress, now see the full finished work in a digital version available on demand in March 2022.


Attendees of the Theater and Policy Salon’s Earth Day digital event had the opportunity to see a short excerpt of a new play titled Ocean Filibuster and hear from director Katie Pearl. Pandemic notwithstanding, the full play opened at the American Repertory Theater in Boston on March 2. Theater and Policy Salon staff got a chance to see the compelling and immersive live production in Boston. For those who cannot travel to the American Repertory Theater in person, there’s a limited opportunity to see the digital version of the fulll production via  Stream anytime on demand beginning on March 9 through March 27. M ore information and tickets are available at American Repertory Theater website.

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Theater and Policy Salon Humanitini - Visions in Progress: Climate and Community ​held on November 8, 2021.

In cooperation with Arctic Cycle’s Climate Change Theater Action

 A wake-up call through theater, followed by a challenge: what can we all do - as individuals and community  - to energize climate change resilience and climate action - in DC and around the globe. 


As the critical global climate change talks enter the home stretch in mid-November 2021, this Humanitini conversation will combine theater, community, and policy perspectives on climate change and climate resilience for waterfront and coastal communities in DC and around the world.

The event started with a taste of theater that captures and communicates the magnitude of the climate challenge: Us in The Past by Nathan Ellis and an excerpt from America Rex by DC-based African American playwright Tom Minter. Following these brief plays, a panel conversation with advocates, experts, and community leaders explored how residents can seize their own agency and take action to shape climate change resilience in DC and communities globally.  We discussed tangible ways that communities in DC can expand climate resilience through influencing Board of Zoning Appeals zoning decisions, DC’s Comprehensive Plan, and choices in transportation, housing, and energy.  Participants will be asked to imagine actionable visions for a balanced and equitable climate future for waterfront and coastal communities in DC and beyond. 

The event is part of an international arts initiative, Arctic Cycle’s Climate Change Theater Action 2021 and will coincide with the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26)  global climate change negotiations in Glasgow. The COP26 annual negotiations scheduled for November 1 -12 represent a crucial 5 year review of Paris Agreement commitments on reducing climate change. With expert assessment that global warming can no longer be stopped, this climate change summit also focuses on climate resilience to deal with the unstoppable damage that will occur even in the best case. This Theater and Policy Salon represents part of a global effort to support ambitious policies on climate and resilience just as Heads of State convene during this “last chance” opportunity to prevent disastrous impacts from global warming.

Panelists included leaders of the FH Faunteroy Community Enrichment Center’s Resilience Hub in Ward 7, the Chair of DC’s Climate Commission, and theater artists and college professors.

This program is co-sponsored by the Corcoran School of the Arts of The George Washington University, in cooperation with Arctic Cycle’s Climate Change Theater Action 2021 and Westminster Presbyterian Church.

This Humanitini is a program of HumanitiesDC and is supported by a grant from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities and a Fellowship grant from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities.


Digital Salon Visions in Progress: Climate Beneath the Surface celebrated Earth Day 2021

On April 21, the eve of Earth Day 2021, the Theater and Policy Salon held a Salon on How Art Enables Community Visioning for Climate Action and Resilience.  The event, titled Visions in Progress: Climate Beneath the Surface was held in partnership with the Shakespeare Theatre Company.

The event opened with a sneak peek into a new play on climate change and global activism. Ocean Filibuster is a new music theater experience that draws from myth, stand-up, and science to imagine a showdown between a Global Senate Majority Leader and the Ocean itself. This short sample from Ocean Filibuster was followed by an interactive conversation exploring how policy, theater, and activism can help marginalized communities respond to climate change. Theater artists, hands-on activists, and policy experts shared how they are incorporating community and equity into climate action and climate resilience.


Most of Washington, DC’s coastal areas overlap with traditionally marginalized communities, from Southwest to the Anacostia. Collective action hinges on all parts of the community having a stake in coastal environments. Bringing in more stakeholders can also create avenues for improving quality of life and economic opportunities for whole neighborhoods. Theater and the arts, unlike any other method of communication, can transport us into different possible climate futures: either disasters or paradises, or maybe both at the same time.


Panelists include a policy expert from the Georgetown Climate Center (GCC), the Co-Artistic Director of climate action group Superhero Clubhouse, community activists, and the Director of Ocean Filibuster.

This program was supported by a grant from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities


On November 9, 2020, right after the election, the Theater and Policy Salon partnered with Mosaic Theater Company for a Peace Cafe on the intersection of Art and Policy, in partnership with Seeds of Peace.  


This virtual conversation and breakout room discussions explored theater and the arts’ role in building support and coalitions for policy changes. The panelists talked about the proposition that theater has the potential to bring abstract governmental and societal choices into focus by depicting the human impact of these decisions and inspiring us to see one anothers' humanity. Artists and theater makers can bridge the gap for the audience between an artistic experience and direct action.  


With special guests Katie Pearl (PearlDamour), Manuel Oliver (GUAC: My Son, My Hero), and Willa Taylor (Goodman Theater), Theater and Policy Salon Facilitator Michael Feldman moderated a panel that explores the intersection between theater and policy. 


This project is supported by a grant from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities.


In October 2020, Theater and Policy Salon Facilitator and Co-Founder Michael Feldman was awarded a 2020-2021 District of Columbia Commission on the Arts and Humanities (DCCAH) Fellowship for work on theater and policy in the context of the Theater and Policy Salon. The support and collaboration from partners that helped us reach this milestone is greatly appreciated.

Analyzing Graphs


Research on the Theater and Policy Salon’s 2019-2020 season carried out by Creative Generation concluded that 90% of Salon audiences surveyed had a positive experience.  The researchers concluded that “audiences are hungry for productions and experiences that allow them to engage with a policy theme.”  

Last fall, the Theater and Policy Salon partnered with Creative Generation, though its Incubator for Creative Impact, to evaluate the Salon season for 2019-2020 as a way to test whether audiences in the DC area were becoming increasingly interested in hard-hitting topical plays.  The survey and analysis used an innovative Aesthetics Perspectives Framework, which was developed by the Animating Democracy project of Americans for the Arts.  

Across the Salons evaluated, the average response value landed near the top of the Aesthetics Framework’s five-point scale, consistently above 3.8 points and frequently achieving a 4 out of 5 score. The researchers concluded that this indicated that DC audiences remain hungry for productions and experiences that allow them to engage with a policy theme.  Importantly, the pre-pandemic Creative Generation research is also reinforced by recent Shugoll survey of DC area theatergoers that concluded that “theatergoers would not be more likely to return if the fare was lighter and fun”. 

The full evaluation is available at the link. 

Politician News Interview



Please join a distinguished Theater and Policy Salon panel for a conversation on “Conservatives, Liberals, and How We All Got Here” on Thursday, March 19, following the 8pm performance of Washington Post writer Alexandra Petri’s Inherit the Windbag.  This world premiere production uses the Buckley-Vidal debates from 1968 to explore a wide range of contemporary and historic policy issues.   

Assessing the liberal-conservative divide then and now helps the Theater and Policy Salon to frame our policy conversations between the proverbial 40 yard lines.  Confirmed panelists include Steve Clemons, Editor at Large, The Hill, Norm Ornstein, Resident Scholar, American Enterprise Institute, and Cynthia Schneider, Distinguished Professor in the Practice of Diplomacy and Co-Director, Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics at Georgetown University

This event is a co-curated event with the Mosaic Theater Company.   Use SALON25 for $25 tickets for the March 19 performance.   Tickets are available at the link:

Here’s the précis of the play:

In the summer of 1968, liberal Gore Vidal and conservative William F. Buckley met for a series of debates that rocked America and defined the genre of punditry.  In the play, for one evening, Vidal and Buckley meet in the Dismal Beyond (also known as the Richard Nixon Library in Yorba Linda, CA) to reprise their infamous debate. What ensues is a battle for history itself, in a no-holds-barred sesquipedalian brawl and satirical battle of wits, assisted by an ever revolving cast of characters from Truman Capote to James Baldwin to Ayn Rand.

Fish Puzzle


Important Update: the March 6 Theater and Policy Salon on Refuge, Journey, and Compassion at Mexican Cultural Institute has been cancelled because health issues prevented the travel of the key participant.  We very much regret that cancellation of the conversation due to circumstances beyond our control.

The opera Ana y su sombra and the whole Women Composers’ Festival is going on as planned.  Performances of Ana y sombra will be at 3pm on Saturday, March 7 and Sunday, March 8.

Tickets for Ana and the other plays and concerts in the festival can be purchased at the link:

Ana y su sombra lasts about an hour, so attendees will still have time to attend other performances in the Festival.

A number of current productions, including Ana y su sombra, are examining the meaning of migration, borderlands and home: I Miss You Like Hell at Olney Theatre Center and Mother Road at Arena Stage.  

For those who are interested in exploring these themes further, the Theater and Policy Salon recommends the March 10 program on Women and Migration: Responses in Art and History organized by our stalwart partner, NYU Washington, DC.  Information about this timely and relevant discussion is provided below.  Please RSVP at the NYU link below.

Women and Migration
Tuesday, March 10 | 6:15 PM

Join NYU Washington, DC in welcoming NYU Tisch's Deb Willis and Ellyn Toscano for this special DC Dialogue on Women and Migration(s).  This panel’s perspective on migration seeks to capture a breadth of experience: an account of the migration of women is the totality of many stories. Women have been part of global and historical movements of peoples, to escape war, to avoid persecution, for work, for security. Women have been uprooted, stolen, trafficked, enslaved. Women have been displaced from land despoiled of resources and habitats lost to extreme weather patterns and climate change. The topic of migration generates thoughts of memory, belonging and identity, borders and home, objects and affects, deprivation and indulgence, self-imagining, family and loss. Women have moved and migrated for deeply private and personal reasons - to reach potential freely, to lead meaningful lives, to secure a future for themselves and their families. Women have sailed, flown, driven and walked. Some have not survived the journey.

The Women and Migration(s) research group convened first in Florence and subsequently in Abu Dhabi, involving scholars, artists and writers from each national community. In Washington, DC, a panel of artists, activists, historians, and organizers will discuss their work in this area.

This co-curated Refuge, Journey, and Compassion Salon 

Sunset Romance


On February 6, 2020, the Theater and Policy Salon co-curated a post show panel at 8pm at Mosaic Theater Company following Pilgrims: Musa and Sheri in the New World. The panel is titled "Immigration Then & Now” and the conversation focussed on changing narratives impacting the level of support for refugees and immigrants.  This was a companion event to the Theater and Policy Salon Refuge, Journey, and Compassion series.

Colored Theatre Lights


On January 30, Theater and Policy Salon organized a Salon on Attainment, Fulfillment, and Resilience at Studio Theatre following the 8pm show of Pipeline. The panel discussion was followed by an informal gathering with refreshments and a chance to talk further with panelists.  The conversation focussed on policy and societal themes implicit in Studio Theatre’s production of Dominique Morisseau’s acclaimed play. The conversation examined how young people of color in particular suffer from an academic system fixated on standout achievers.  

The panel for January 30 Theater and Policy Salon featured:

Samantha Paige Davis is Founder & Executive Director of the Black Swan Academy which creates a pipeline to civic leadership for Black youth who are committed to improving themselves, their communities, and the world around them.  Davis is the former field engagement manager for YWCA USA, where she has developed a new state-level advocacy initiative, a nationwide get-out-the vote effort and mobilized over 200 associations to do racial and gender justice work and also worked as the senior advocacy and community specialist of SOME (So Others Might Eat).

Eduardo Ferrer is the Policy Director at the Juvenile Justice Initiative as well as a Visiting Professor of Law at the Juvenile Justice Clinic at Georgetown University Law School.   He is the former Legal and Policy Director of the DC Lawyers for Youth.

Marc Bamuthi Joseph is a playwright, director, scholar, and teaching artist who currently serves as Vice President and Artistic Director of Social Impact at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

Pipeline highlights an educational paradigm in which young people of color in particular suffer from an academic system fixated on standout achievers: Young people can either escape their communities by amassing academic credentials or remain trapped on a path to poverty and prison. This Theater and Policy Salon considered policies to support and nurture the aspirations of all young people in the community, not just superstars—especially building structures to catch kids when they fall. The panel also looked at changing the dominant narrative to embrace multiple paths toward fulfillment for young people – particularly describing paths to building stable, safe lives by staying in the community.

Subway Tracks


Join the Theater and Policy Salon for a panel titled “We are all ordinary people in extraordinary times” following the 8pm show of Sheltered at Theater J on January 23.

The panel features Jen Smyers, the Director of Policy and Advocacy at the Immigration and Refugee Program of the Church World Service, Eskinder Negash, President and CEO of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, Cindy Huang, Vice President of strategic outreach at Refugees International, and Laley Lippard, Manager of Partnerships and Public Programming at Mosaic Theater Company. 

The conversation will focus on the moral implications of responding to crisis and refugees, as well as the policy challenges for spurring action, addressing impossible choices, and sustaining compassion.  As depicted in the play, the dilemmas faced by those fleeing persecution and violence before World War II and the Holocaust echo the desperate situations of threatened men, women, and children in today’s crises.  Issues for discussion include how to change the narrative about refugees and migrants, to promote a welcoming approach, and to reinforce the weakened commitment to protection.  The conversation will also focus on expanding the options for providing protection, resettlement, and integration for refugees and migrants. 

There’s a discount code for an 18% discount on the evening’s performance of Sheltered  - POLICY.

The Refuge, Journey, and Compassion Salon series focuses on migrants and refugees who face being separated from their home cultures and being outsiders in new communities.  The conversations will seek to highlight opportunities to succor the estranged and shift the portrayals of those who migrate.  In particular, the Salons frame migrants both as sufferers of displacement as well as courageous individuals who take control of destiny in the face of substantial risks.   

Urban View from Window


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.

Artist Holding a Paintbrush



Washington Area Abstract Group visual arts show at Friendship Gallery

Village Hall

April 6 – Sunday, May 3, 2020.

Opening Reception Sunday, April 19 

11am to 1pm

4433 South Park Ave

Chevy Chase, MD 

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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.

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