George Mason University’s School of Theater announces spring 2023 dates for its Guest Artist Series: Creating Anti-Racist Theater with leading voices from the theatrical industry discussing the logistics of making and cultivating anti-racist theater. This installment of the series will focus on theatermakers who identify as LGBTQ+ and are leading practices around inclusion and anti-racism in theatrical spaces. The conversations are hosted and led by Djola Branner, director of Mason’s School of Theater, and are free and open to the public, with registration required for access. The conversations will take place on February 6, March 6, and April 17 from noon to 1:30 p.m. via Zoom.
For the spring 2023 series, Branner will be joined by Yale’s Windham Campbell Prize winner Sharon Bridgforth (Monday, February 6), Tony Award-winning playwright Lisa Kron (Monday, March 6), and Northwestern University’s Dean of the School of Communications E. Patrick Johnson (Monday, April 17).
Knowing that it is critical for students to engage with their industry while studying at Mason, Branner decided to create opportunities for exactly that with this program. “The series seeks to develop more awareness of ways in which the underrepresentation of marginalized voices persists in the American theater, to become more familiar with BIPOC artists and scholars engaged in conversations for radical change and racial justice, and to cultivate more comfort and proficiency when discussing race, power, and privilege,” said Branner. “I love that people from across the country tune in for these inspiring talks.”
The inaugural 2021–2022 Guest Artist Series spanned the fall and spring semesters, with a focus on exploring race and power in the work of each guest artist. The fall 2021 lineup included writer and director Tlaloc Rivas, artist, scholar, and facilitator Omi Osun Joni L Jones, and playwright/television writer Julia Cho alongside playwright/director Chay Yew. Each guest joined Branner for 90-minute conversations that drew audiences of up to 70 guests. Participants tuned in from across the United States, including Texas, California, Massachusetts, and Georgia. The spring 2022 series brought actress, playwright, and activist Nikkole Salter, playwright, activist, and lawyer Mary Kathryn Nagle, and director, artist, writer, and activist Luis Alfaro, while the fall 2022 series had talks with designer, educator, and creative producer Clint Ramos, artist Daniel Alexander Jones and author P. Carl. The previous conversations are available to watch on the series’ website.
About the Spring 2023 Artists:
A 2022 Winner of Yale’s Windham Campbell Prize in Drama, Sharon Bridgforth is 2020-2023 Playwrights’ Center Core Member, a 2022-2023 McKnight National Fellow, and a New Dramatists alum. She has received support from The Doris Duke Performing Artist Award, Creative Capital, MAP Fund, and the National Performance Network. A MAP Fund Scaffolding for Practicing Artists Coach, her work is featured in Volume 110, No. 4, Winter 2022 of The Yale Review, Teaching Black: The Craft of Teaching on Black Life and Literature, Mouths of Rain an Anthology of Black Lesbian Thought, Feminist Studies Vol 48 Number 1, honoring 40 years of This Bridge Called by Back and But Some of Us Are Brave! Sharon’s new book, bull-jean & dem/dey back (53rd State Press 10/2022) features two performance/novels that will be produced by Pillsbury House + Theatre in Minneapolis 2022/2023. Sharon’s dat Black Mermaid Man Lady/The Show is streaming on the Twin Cities PBS platform (7/10/21. Episode #131). She has served as a dramaturg for: the Urban Bush Women Choreographic Center Initiative’s Choreographic Fellowship program and was writer, dramaturg, and voice over performer for Ananya Chatterjea Dance Theatre’s, Dastak: I Wish You Me. More at: www.sharonbridgforth.com.
Lisa Kron has been creating and performing theater since moving to New York City from Michigan in 1984 and finding a home at the WOW Cafe, a lesbian theater collective in the center of that era’s rich East Village performance scene. She’s best known for writing the book and lyrics for the musical Fun Home, with music by composer Jeanine Tesori, which won five 2015 Tony awards, including Best Book, Score, and Musical, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Lisa’s other plays include In The Wake, Well, and the Obie Award-winning 2.5 Minute Ride. As an actor, she received a Tony nomination for her performance in Well and a Lortel Award for her turn in the Foundry Theater’s acclaimed production of Good Person of Szechuan. She is the recipient of Guggenheim, Sundance, and MacDowell fellowships, a Doris Duke Performing Artists Award, a Cal Arts/Alpert Award, a Helen Merrill Award, the Kleban Prize for libretto writing, and grants from Creative Capital and NYFA. Lisa is a founding member of the OBIE- and Bessie-Award-winning collaborative theater company The Five Lesbian Brothers. She’s served as an elected member of the National Council of the Dramatists Guild of America since 2010. Lisa is VERY proud to be part of a theater-based giving circle called Save Our States that raises money as a community every election cycle to support The States Project, an organization working successfully to shift the balance of power in state legislatures, where it matters most!
E. Patrick Johnson is Dean of the School of Communication and Annenberg University Professor at Northwestern University. He is a 2020 inductee into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Johnson is a prolific performer/scholar, and an inspiring teacher, whose research and artistry has greatly impacted African American studies, Performance Studies, Gender and Sexuality studies. He is the author of Appropriating Blackness: Performance and the Politics of Authenticity (2003); Sweet Tea: Black Gay Men of the South—An Oral History (2008); Black. Queer. Southern. Women.—An Oral History (2018); and Honeypot: Black Southern Women Who Love Women (2019), in addition to several edited and co-edited collections, essays, and plays. Johnson’s written and performance work dovetail intimately. His staged reading, “Pouring Tea: Black Gay Men of the South Tell Their Tales,” has toured over 100 college campuses since 2006. The full-length stage play, Sweet Tea—The Play, premiered in Chicago, toured across eight other cities, and to the National Black Theater Festival. Johnson is also among the subjects and co-executive producer of the film, Making Sweet Tea, which has received several awards, including Best LGBTQ Film at the San Diego Film Festival, Best Documentary Audience at the Out on Film Festival, and the Silver Image Award from the Association of American Retired Persons (AARP) for Positive Representation of LGBTQ People over Fifty at the Chicago Reeling LGBTQ Film Festival. More at: www.epatrickjohnson.com
Guests for Fall 2023 will also be announced at a later date. For up-to-date information, visit https://theater.gmu.edu/about/
About the School of Theater
The School of Theater prepares its vocational graduates for entry into the professional world and/or graduate study with rigorous, concentrated, and individualized training. Theater students develop the ability to solve problems creatively, think critically, write clearly, and express themselves comfortably through speech and movement. In addition, students establish a personal work ethic and take responsibility for personal and group efforts. Mason’s School of Theater offers every style of theater imaginable, including period pieces, contemporary plays and musicals, all produced in state-of-the-art venues. Students participate in those productions from day one, working with faculty members who are active professionals in their fields. theater.gmu.edu.
About the College of Visual and Performing Arts
The College of Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA) provides an academic environment in which the arts are explored as individual disciplines and interdisciplinary forms that strengthen one another. The college prepares students for careers as creators, performers, teachers, scholars, arts leaders, and arts entrepreneurs. Understanding that an education in the arts is deepened by regular contact with the work of distinguished visiting artists, the Center for the Arts, the Hylton Performing Arts Center, Mason Exhibitions, the Visiting Filmmakers Series, and the Virginia Serious Game Institute all welcome a variety of professional and world-renowned artists to campus. Students have the opportunity to perform, create and exhibit their work in a wide variety of public venues, including a 2,000-seat Concert Hall. CVPA is home to the Schools of Art, Dance, Music, and Theater, as well as programs in Computer Game Design, Arts Management, and Film and Video Studies. www.cvpa.gmu.edu.
George Mason University is Virginia’s largest public research university. Located near Washington, D.C., Mason enrolls nearly 40,000 students from 130 countries and all 50 states. Mason has grown rapidly over the last half-century and is recognized for its innovation and entrepreneurship, remarkable diversity and commitment to accessibility. Learn more at www.gmu.edu.