Curtain Up: New Works for the Stage at Sundance Institute’s 2017 Theatre Lab


2013 Theatre Lab
Credit: Jonathan Hickerson
2015 Theatre Lab
Credit: Fred Hayes
2015 Theatre Lab
Credit: Jonathan Hickerson

Los Angeles, CA — Sundance Institute today announced a characteristically diverse and eclectic slate of projects that will be developed at their Theatre Lab, July 14-30 at Sundance Resort in Utah. The Lab is the centerpiece of the Institute’s year-round work with the theatre community, and for nearly four decades has creatively supported projects including Indecent, Appropriate, Fun Home and A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder.

Under the supervision of Artistic Director Philip Himberg and Producing Director Christopher Hibma, Fellows at the Lab enjoy a continuum of support from the theatre community, with dedicated time, space and resources for creative development, rehearsals and constructive guidance and feedback.

“The 2017 Sundance Theatre Lab artists represent the Institute’s core belief in amplifying the voice of independent artists across the globe. Though countries may have borders, storytellers do not, and these artists are finding a range of ways to build bridges rather than walls.” said Himberg. “These extraordinary writers, directors and composers will engage in a rigorous opportunity to deepen their work and move it forward in a supportive setting and under the guidance of the best dramaturgs and advisors.”

This is one of 24 residency Labs the Institute hosts each year for independent artists in theatre, film, new media and episodic content. The Theatre Program’s international activity supports mentorship and cross-cultural exchange, focused on artists from the Middle East and North Africa, and has included Labs, workshops and retreats in Germany, Morocco, East Africa, France and the U.S.

The acting company and creative advisors for the Lab will be announced at a later date. The Fellows and projects selected for the 2017 Theatre Lab are:

Black Lady Authority
By Tearrance Arvelle Chisholm
Directed by Lisa Marie Rollins

The year is 2020, and the Race Wars have left America all but decimated. Three women take refuge in a theatre; they take control of their destiny and devise a revolution that puts the black woman in charge.

Tearrance Arvelle Chisholm holds an MFA in Playwriting from the Catholic University of America. He is currently in the Lila Acheson Wallace American Playwrights Program at Juilliard and is an upcoming 2050 Fellow at New York Theater Workshop. Upcoming: NNPN Rolling World Premiere of his play Br’er Cotton.

Lisa Marie Rollins is a director and writer. Most recently she co-directed Young Jean Lee’s The Shipment and will be directing the West coast premiere of Tearrance Arvelle Chisholm’s HOODED: Being Black for Dummies in 2018. She is a 2017 Directors Lab West Fellow and a recipient of multiple awards for her playwriting, poetry and theater production work. She has been a writing fellow with San Francisco Writers Grotto, CALLALOO London, VONA Writing Workshop and Just Theater Play Lab. Regional work includes Crowded Fire Theater, Playwright Foundation, Playground at Berkeley Rep, San Francisco Playhouse and new plays by Lauren Gunderson, Geetha Reddy, Idris Goodwin, Philana Omorotionmwan and comedic artists W. Kamau Bell and Zahra Noorbakash.

I Hate Theatre I Love Pornography
Conceived and devised by Zoukak Theatre Company
Directed by Omar Abi Azar
Performed by Lamia Abi Azar, Hashem Adnan, Junaid Sarieddine & Maya Zbib

I Hate Theatre I Love Pornography is an investigation on the various forms of corruption plaguing today’s world. It questions how we position ourselves as artists and individuals with regards to this corruption, by creating a parallelism between the performative body, the pornographic body and the corpse.

Zoukak is a non-hierarchical structure, dedicated to theatre practice as a political and social involvement, with a faith in collectivity as a position against marginalizing systems. Their work was shown in the Middle East, Europe, the United States, Africa and South Asia. Zoukak received the Ibsen Scholarship Award (2012), and the Anna Lindh Foundation’s Euromed Dialogue Award for social resilience and creativity (2014).

We the Aliens
By Mo’min Swaitat
Directed by Wissam Arbache

An experimental solo show inspired both by an ancient Arab storytelling starting with Ibn Tufail’s novel from the 11th century, and by Palestinian author Emile Habibi’s 1974 science fiction novel about an alien encounter. As both a Bedouin and a Palestinian refugee from 1948, Swaitat blends family history and folklore with his own recollections of growing up in a world turned upside down, at a crossroads between the past, present and future.

Momin Swaitat is an actor, writer and director who has trained at the Freedom Theatre, Jenin and LISPA, in London and Berlin. He has performed in numerous shows with the Freedom Theatre, working alongside director Juliano Mer Khamis on international tours in Palestine, Europe and the U.S. He has collaborated with acclaimed directors such as Thomas Ostermeier (Schaubühne Theatre) and Rufus Norris (The National Theatre), as well as writing and directing several solo and ensemble pieces in Palestine and abroad.

Wissam Arbache is a director and an actor living between Paris and Geneva. Wissam dedicated the first years of his career to French literature, and presented his work in major venues in Paris. Later on, he decided to go back to his mother tongue and explore bringing Arabic literature to the stage, directing in Arabic (Metamorphoses by Saadallah Wannous, which premiered at Damascus Opera House, The First day presented in Beirut, and an adaptation of Mahmoud Darwhish’s Mural, performed in Arabic and French at La Maison de la Poésie, with the presence of Darwish himself); and designing cycles to present Arabic poetry and theatre to French audiences in a contemporary and non-exotic way (Le Poème terre de la langue Arabe at L’Odéon, L’Atelier at L’Institut du Monde arabe in Paris). In the opera, he worked with artists like Olivier Py, Mr Eschenbach, Minkowski, Patrica Petibon, Elena Granca, and Jonas Kaufman; in addition to directing operas in Sofia and at Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris.

Untitled New Musical
Book & Lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire
Music by Jeanine Tesori
Musical Direction by Chris Fenwick
Director TBA

David Lindsay-Abaire is a playwright, lyricist and librettist. He’s the author of Rabbit Hole, Good People, Ripcord, Fuddy Meers, and (with Jeanine Tesori) Shrek the Musical, among others. His awards include the Pulitzer Prize, the NY Drama Critics Circle Award, the Horton Foote Prize, and the Kleban Award for lyrics.

Jeanine Tesori’s projects for Broadway include Fun Home (2015 Tony Award winner); Violet; Caroline, or Change; Shrek the Musical; Thoroughly Modern Millie; Twelfth Night (LCT) and John Guare’s A Free Man of Color. For the Public Theater’s Delacorte Mother Courage (starring Meryl Streep). Her opera work includes A Blizzard on Marblehead Neck (libretto, Tony Kushner; Glimmerglass) and The Lion, the Unicorn and Me (libretto, J.D. McClatchy; Washington National Opera). Her songs will be featured in the upcoming Netflix revival of Gilmore Girls. She is the artistic director/co-founder of A Broader Way, an arts empowerment program for girls from underserved communities; the founding artistic director of Encores! Off-Center; and a lecturer in music at Yale University and Columbia University. Ms. Tesori is a member of the Dramatists Guild.

Chris Fenwick most recently music directed the Broadway revival of Sunday in the Park with George, starring Jake Gyllenhaal. He music directed the Public Theater and Broadway productions of Fun Home (2015 Tony Award, Best Musical) and is music supervisor of the current national tour. Music director, City Center Encores! Off-Center.

There’s Always the Hudson
By Paola Lázaro
Director TBA

T and Lola met in support group and the support group ain’t doing shit for them. So, tonight they have decided to take it upon themselves to right the wrongs that have been done to them. Spend the night with two fucked up people who are going to fuck up the people who fucked them over.

Paola Lázaro is a playwright and actress from Puerto Rico. She holds an MFA from Columbia University and is Atlantic Theater’s 2016/2017 Tow Playwright-in-Residence. She was a member of the Public’s 2015 Emerging Writers Group and was selected as Playwright-in-Residence for the 2016 Sundance Theatre Lab. Her plays include Tell Hector I Miss Him and There’s Always the Hudson. In 2015, she was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play.

Tuvalu or the Saddest Song
By Antoinette Nwandu
Directed by Danya Taymor

Los Angeles, California in the mid-nineties, and Jackie-girl is at a crossroads. Tuvalu or The Saddest Song, a coming of age story with a soundtrack, asks how the girls whose mother’s lives have been tainted by abuse, violence, poverty and shame ever grow into healthy and empowered women.

Antoinette Nwandu is a New York-based playwright via Los Angeles. Her play Pass Over will receive a World Premiere production at Steppenwolf in June 2017, and her play Breach will receive a World Premiere at Victory Gardens in February 2018.

Danya Taymor is a director and translator. She was a 2014-2016 Time Warner director fellow at Women’s Project, a 2050 fellow at NYTW, a current artist in residence at TFANA, an associate artist at the flea and a member of EST. Upcoming: Antoinette Nwandu’s Pass Over at Steppenwolf and Martyna Majok’s Queens.

The Greatest
By Michele Lowe

December 1963. The Neve family and their neighbors on the south shore of Long Island are getting ready for more than the new year, they’re feeling the stirrings of great change in America. Murder and violence, homophobia, PTSD, the longing for creative fulfillment, beginnings of feminism, and hints of war in Southeast Asia all suffuse this story, set to the music of Miles Davis, about a community struggling with how to move forward when they can’t see what’s ahead.

Michele Lowe received the Francesca Primus Prize for Inana. She made her Broadway debut with The Smell of the Kill. Other plays: String of Pearls Map of Heaven, and Victoria Musica. Upcoming: The Proxy Marriage with Adam Gwon and a commission for Transport Group with Zoe Sarnak.

The Sundance Institute Theatre Program is supported by an endowment from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, with generous additional support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; Time Warner Foundation; Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art; Perry and Martin Granoff; LUMA Foundation; National Endowment for the Arts; The Shubert Foundation, Inc.; Wendy vanden Heuvel; John and Marcia Price Family Foundation; and The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust.

Sundance Institute
Founded in 1981 by Robert Redford, Sundance Institute is a nonprofit organization that provides and preserves the space for artists in film, theatre, and new media to create and thrive. The Institute’s signature Labs, granting, and mentorship programs, dedicated to developing new work, take place throughout the year in the U.S. and internationally. The Sundance Film Festival and other public programs connect audiences to artists in igniting new ideas, discovering original voices, and building a community dedicated to independent storytelling. Sundance Institute has supported such projects as Boyhood, Swiss Army Man, Manchester By the Sea, Brooklyn, Little Miss Sunshine, Life, Animated, Sonita, 20 Feet From Stardom, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Fruitvale Station, Sin Nombre, Spring Awakening, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder and Fun Home. Join Sundance Institute on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.

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