Jesse Alick, Rachel Hauck, Lisa Kron, Amauta Marston-Firmino & Others Join Creative Team
Acting Company to Include Cherise Boothe, Elise Kibler, Tony Plana, Ari’el Stachel & Others
New York — Sundance Institute’s 2019 Theatre Lab convenes Monday, July 8; the Institute announced
this year’s participating acting company and creative advisors today. The Lab, which runs through July 28 at Utah’s
Sundance Resort, will be led by the program’s Director,
Christopher Hibma in collaboration with
Ana Verde; the
eight projects were selected by Hibma and former Theatre Program Artistic Director
with support of a
six-member Advisory Committee. At the 2019 Lab, Hibma will collaborate with director and Theatre Lab alumna
, who will serve as Guest Artistic Director and Jumana Al-Yasiri will join in her
capacity as Manager for the
Program’s Middle East / North Africa year-round initiatives.
“The Lab is a place and time where theatre-makers of all stripes can get their work off the page” said Hibma. “We
design a space with the support of an attentive staff and rigorous expertise — dramaturgs and creative advisors, in
addition to the acting company — with the goal of gracious experimentation, enabling these artists to explore and
realize stories that live in real time and space.”
More than 85% of Sundance-supported plays and musicals find production. Recent projects include 2015’s Tony Award
Winner for Best Musical, Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori’s
Fun Home, and 2014’s winner, Robert L. Freedman &
A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, as well as titles such as the Tony Award nominee
Indecent, Taylor Mac’s A 24 Hour Decade of Popular Music, The Treasurer, Between the World and
Me, Where can I find someone like you, Ali?, Skeleton Crew, Sell/Buy/Date, ToasT, Appropriate, Circle Mirror
Transformation, An Iliad, The Good Negro, The Light in the Piazza, Passing Strange, Stuck Elevator, Spring
and I Am My Own Wife.
This year’s participants include:
Abdullah Al-Kafri (Ettijahat – Beirut, Lebanon)
Jesse Cameron Alick (Public Theater – New York, NY)
Lisa Kron (Fun Home)
Amauta Marston-Firmino (Slave Play)
Omar Abi Azar (Zoukak Theatre Company – Beirut, Lebanon)
Oskar Eustis (Public Theater – New York, NY)
Rachel Hauck (Hadestown, What the Constitution Means to Me)
Indhu Rubasingham (Kiln Theatre – London, UK)
Abubakr Ali (We Live in Cairo)
Cherise Boothe (Fabulation, or the Re-Education of Undine)
Yetta Gottesman (The Last Days of Judas Iscariot)
Elise Kibler (The Heidi Chronicles)
Keren Lugo (Privacy)
Zdenko Martin (A View from the Bridge)
Bruce McKenzie (A Streetcar Named Desire)
Tony Plana (Ugly Betty)
Brenda Pressley (The Lyons)
Ari’el Stachel (The Band’s Visit)
Phindi Wilson (The Lion King)
Henry Russell Bergstein, C.S.A.
Helen Irene Muller
Adam Ashraf Elsayigh
Roberta Levitow (Theatre Without Borders)
Mara Isaacs (Octopus Theatricals)
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; Perry and Martin Granoff; Luma Foundation; National
Endowment for the Arts; Wendy vanden Heuvel; John and Marcia Price Family Foundation; The Shubert Foundation, Inc.;
The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust; Wyncote Foundation—Leonard Haas; Richenthal Foundation; The Carrie
Louise Hamilton Foundation; and Francena T. Harrison Foundation.
As previously announced, the projects selected for the Theatre Lab are:
The Blind King
By David Adjmi
Directed by Sarah Lunnie
A renowned male playwright has written a play about the ignominious downfall of a powerful business magnate. But when
the lead actress meets with him to discuss a small problem with his writing of her character, the problem builds and
magnifies and eventually unleashes a pandora’s box of issues plaguing America in this frightening and deeply
precarious historical moment.
The Blind King is a play about the nature of tragedy, and the nature of human
David Adjmi is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, The Steinberg Prize, and the Whiting Award,
Lot Six is forthcoming from HarperCollins. His play The Stumble is a commission from LCT,
Stereophonic (with music by Will Butler/Arcade Fire) is a co-commission from Second Stage and CTG. Other
Marie Antoinette, Elective Affinities, 3C, Stunning and The
. Stunning and Other Plays and Marie Antoinette/3C are both published by TCG.
Sarah Lunnie is a dramaturg. Based in New York, she is the Associate Artistic Director of the Jungle
(Minneapolis) and a company member with The Mad Ones. Recent projects:
What The Constitution Means To Me
(Broadway, NYTW, Clubbed Thumb), Hillary and Clinton (Broadway), Mrs. Murray’s Menagerie (Ars
Nova). Other work at Actors Theatre of Louisville, the Bushwick Starr, the Denver Center, The Kennedy Center, The
Lark, Ma-Yi, New Dramatists, the O’Neill, and Playwrights Horizons.
Written & directed by Whitney White
Definition is a new musical that takes a surrealist look at a contemporary African American woman’s
monotonous, disconnected city-existence. A visit to the museum breathes life into her inner world, and she falls in
love with a Magritte painting. A look at delusion and how we walk with our demons every day.
Whitney White is a director, musician, and playwright based in New York. Directing: What to Send
Up When It Goes
(The Movement, NYT Critics’ Pick), JUMP (PlayMakers Rep, NNPN Rolling World Premiere),
Canyon (IAMA, LA Times Critics’ Choice), An Iliad (Long Wharf), Rita También Rita
(Juilliard), Othello (Trinity Rep), and BR’ER COTTON (Endstation). Writing: Macbeth in
(2019 Under the Radar, The Public), Lover I’ll Bring You Back to Life (Ars Nova, 2017),
Abduction (Soho Rep FEED Series).
Don’t Eat The Mangos
By Ricardo Pérez González
Directed by David Mendizábal
Don’t Eat the Mangos tells the story of three sisters living outside of San Juan, Puerto Rico. The
sisters are faced with the daunting task of caring for their cancer-stricken Mami and their wheelchair-bound Papi.
Despite being paralyzed, Papi still rules his family through fear, intimidation, and the ringing of a small bell. Over
the course of a hurricane ravaged night, family secrets surface, relationships are tested, and the sisters are forced
to contend with a legacy of trauma.
Ricardo Pérez González is a queer Puerto Rican writer with bacalao on his breath and Salsa on his
finished writing on the third season of Netflix’s
Designated Survivor. After developing Don’t Eat the
at Sundance, his play On the Grounds of Belonging about racially segregated gay bars in 1950s
Houston will premiere at Long Wharf this fall. Other upcoming projects include
Orlando, a pilot with Nina
Tassler about the Puerto Rican diaspora after Hurricane María.
David Mendizábal is a director/designer, a Producing Artistic Leader of The
Movement Theatre Company, and Associate Artistic Director of The Sol Project. Select directing credits include:
iNegro (Mentor Project), And She Would Stand Like This (TMTC), On the Grounds of Belonging
(Public), & Tell Hector I Miss Him (Atlantic – Drama League Nomination). Former Artistic Associate at
Atlantic Theater Company, current member of Latinx Theatre Commons, & Wingspace. Alumnus of Drama League, LCT
Director’s Lab, NALAC, & artEquity. BFA NYU/Tisch.
By Somi Kakoma
Directed by Lileana Blain-Cruz
Dreaming Zenzile is a play with music based on the extraordinary life of late South African singer and
political activist Miriam Makeba.
Dreaming Zenzile is set in Castel Volturno, Italy on the night of Makeba’s
final performance and her death. Throughout the play, Makeba moves between the memory and evocation of real and
dreamed experiences about her life journey while weaving through a musical landscape of modern jazz and South African
musical traditions. ‘Zenzile’ is Makeba’s true first name. In her mother tongue Xhosa, it means “you have done it to
yourself.” In short,
Dreaming Zenzile is an exposition of the burdens and freedoms that accompany the gift of
song and a meditation on the lasting power of the disembodied voice.
Dreaming Zenzile is made with the permission and courtesy of Miriam Makeba Foundation, Miriam Makeba
Estate, and Mama Africa Cultural & Social Trust
Somi Kakoma was born in Illinois to
immigrants from Uganda and Rwanda, and is an acclaimed vocalist-songwriter known simply as “Somi”. Her blend of
modern jazz with African musics and the innate poetry of her songwriting often give voice to issues of social
justice. Her latest recording,
Petite Afrique (Sony/OKeh), is a song cycle about the dignity of
immigrants and the gentrification of Harlem’s vibrant West African quarter. The album won the 2018 NAACP Image
Award for Outstanding Jazz Album. Somi is a TED Senior Fellow, a Soros Equality Fellow, and a Doris Duke USA
Dreaming Zenzile is her first original play.
Lileana Blain-Cruz is a theater director. She won an Obie Award for her
The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World at Signature Theater. Other
recent projects include
Faust (Opera Omaha), Marys Seacole (LCT3), Fabulation
Signature), Pipeline (Lincoln Center), Thunderbodies and Revolt. She Said. Revolt
Soho Rep), The House That Will Not Stand and Red Speedo (New York Theater
Henry IV Part One and Much Ado About Nothing (OSF), WAR (Yale Rep and
The Bluest Eye (The Guthrie). She was awarded a 2018 United States Artist Fellowship.
Upcoming is Branden Jacobs-Jenkins
Girls at Yale Rep.
By Charlayne Woodard
Directed by Liz Diamond
The Garden explores the relationship between an elderly
African-American mother, Claire Rose, and her middle-aged daughter, Cassandra. Set in Claire Rose’s precious
vegetable garden outside her tidy little house, the play runs in real time for an hour and a half of their
lives. Claire Rose loves her daughter. With tough love and self sacrifice, she has prepared Cassandra, creating
an achiever, an overcomer – a bulldog, in her own image. At the same time she’s at odds with Cassandra’s
lifestyle, her life choices, and even her success as a film editor – all opportunities that Claire Rose never
had. Two alpha women, who give as good as they get, take us on rollercoaster ride full of humor and pain: Mother
and daughter shine a light on their secrets and betrayals.
Charlayne Woodard is a two-time Obie Award winner & Tony Award nominee.
DADDY; Hamlet (Gertrude); WAR (Mother); Substance of Fire (Marge
The Witch of Edmonton (Witch); In The Blood (Hester); Fabulation
(Undine); The Caucasian Chalk Circle (Grusha); Twelfth Night (Maria); Stunning;
Sorrows and Rejoicings. Regional: A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Titania); The Taming of the
(Katherine); The Good Person of Szechuan. B’way: Ain’t Misbehavin’ (Original
Hair (revival). Film: Glass; Unbreakable; The Crucible; Eye for
; Sunshine State. TV: Pose (series regular); recurring roles: Sneaky
; Law and Order, Special Victims Unit: ER: Guest Star: The Leftovers;
The Blacklist. Playwright: Pretty Fire, Neat, In Real Life, The Night
Liz Diamond serves as Resident Director
at Yale Rep and Chair of Directing at Yale School of Drama. She has directed new and classical works at Yale
Rep and at theatres across the US including A.R.T., Public Theater, American Conservatory Theatre, Arena
Stage, Oregon Shakespeare Festival. She has won OBIE and Connecticut Critics Circle Awards for Outstanding
Direction. Her translation and production of Stravinsky’s
l’Histoire du Soldat recently premiered at
Zankel Hall in New York.
Devised and Performed by Faisal Abu Alhayjaa & Alaa Shehada
Written by Khawla Ibraheem
Directed by Oliver Butler
Large is the distance between the city of London and Jenin. Jenin is the small grey city, where every bit of a life
is an endless Sisyphean battle, crowded streets cracked like wrinkles on an old skin, sieged by the gazes of paddlers
that stopped wondering. Dark are the roads of Jenin. The distance between London and Jenin lies by the difference
between the great city of fog, and the small city of dust. In an immigration office in East London, Faisal and Alaa,
two actors from Jenin with big dreams for success in the City of theatre, wait to apply. They practice for their
interview, asking all the bureaucratic questions, and they find themselves struggling with fear, love and longing.
Faisal Abu Alhayjaa is a Fellow at the Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics at Georgetown
and was born in the Jenin Refugee Camp in Palestine. When Juliano Mer-Khamis opened an acting school as a part of The
Freedom Theatre in the Camp, Faisal was part of the inaugural class. After graduating, he was a resident artist of The
Freedom Theatre for the next five years and taught the next generation of students. Faisal has performed with The
Freedom Theatre throughout Palestine, as well as in Brazil, India, the UK, the US, and across Europe. As a member of
Red Noses International and a graduate of their International School of Humour in Austria, he has performed as a clown
in refugee camps across Greece with their Emergency Smile initiative, and in children’s hospitals in the West Bank.
Faisal’s directing credits include
At-Tuwani (Palestine), A Skate Play (Palestine) and Hamesha
(India). He was a leading artist for The Freedom Bus, a project that toured Palestine to
promote cultural resistance. Faisal toured the UK with celebrated British comedian, Mark Thomas, performing
Showtime from the Frontline.
Khawla Ibraheem is a Syrian/Palestinian theatre artist considered an up-and-coming talent in
Palestine. Khawla is
regular suspect in the National Palestinian Theatre where she has recently created two shows as writer director for
the national main stage,
Story Keeper and Soon to be gone. She is a long time collaborator of Amir
Nizar Zuabi, and a part of the United Theatres of Europe project of International Super Objective Theatre.
Alaa Shehada is a theatre maker who was trained at The Freedom Theatre Acting
School in Jenin camp, Palestine. He has performed all over the world: US, Europe, Turkey, Asia, and the UK. He is
also a specialist in mask theatre, trained at Theatre Hotel Courage, Amsterdam. Alaa does clowning with Red Noses
International. Recently, he won the Special Jury Award for Best Actor at the International Festival of Liberal
Theatre in Jordan, and also won the Best Theatre Performance in 2018 for
Return to Palestine.
Oliver Butler, director: Broadway:
What the Constitution Means to Me (2019 Tony Award nomination for Best Play); Off-Broadway: Thom
(Signature Theatre) and The Open House (Signature Theater, Lortel Best Play, Obie Award);
world premiere of Jordan Harrison’s
The Amateurs (Vineyard Theater). Regional: The Whistleblower
(Denver Center), Thom Pain (Geffen Playhouse, starring Rainn Wilson), Legacy (Williamstown),
Bad Jews (Long Wharf), An Opening in Time (Hartford). International: Timeshare
(Australia). He is a Sundance Institute Fellow and a Bill Foeller Fellow. Oliver is Co-Artistic Director of
The Debate Society, productions include
The Light Years (Playwrights Horizons), Jacuzzi (Ars
Blood Play (Bushwick Starr), Buddy Cop 2 (Ontological), Cape Disappointment
(PS122), and 4 other TDS plays.
On That Day in Amsterdam
By Clarence Coo
Directed by Kareem Fahmy
Two young men, an American backpacker and a Syrian refugee, meet in a gay club in Amsterdam and spend a day together
knowing their paths will never cross again. As they visit the homes of Rembrandt, Van Gogh, and Anne Frank, they
discover the meaning of love, art, and escape in the context of Europe’s migrant crisis.
Clarence Coo is a recipient of a 2017 Whiting Award and the 2012 Yale Drama Series Prize. His plays
The Birds of Empathy, Beautiful Province (Belle Province), People Sitting in Darkness, and The God of Wine. He
is a resident playwright at New Dramatists, a member of the Ma-Yi Writers Lab, and the manager of academic
administration of Columbia University’s MFA Writing Program.
Kareem Fahmy is a Canadian-born director and playwright of Egyptian descent. His world premieres
3/Fifths (3LD, New York Times Top 5 Must-See Shows), This Time (Sheen Center, New York
Critics’ Pick) and Refuge*Malja (Portland Stage). 2019 Phil Killian Directing Fellow (Oregon
Shakespeare Festival). 2017 National Directors Fellow (The O’Neill/NNPN). Kareem’s plays include
, Pareidolia, The In-Between, and an adaptation of the acclaimed Egyptian novel
The Yacoubian Building. MFA Directing: Columbia University.
By Bassem Youssef
Directed by Oliver Butler
This is a one-man show that follows the unusual story of a heart surgeon turned satirist in the wake of the Arab
Spring. Bassem Youssef takes the audience on a funny — yet scary — journey to show people the cost of laughing in
the face of tyranny. The show follows Bassem as he escapes from Egypt to land in America at a very unwelcoming time
for an immigrant. Through storytelling, standup, multimedia and music, Bassem tells a unique story in a unique style.
Bassem Youssef, dubbed the Jon Stewart of the Arab World and originally a heart surgeon, was the
host of the
popular TV show
Al-Bernameg, which was the first-of-its-kind political satire show in the Middle East region.
His show became the most watched show in the history of Egyptian TV with an average of 40 million viewers every week.
After having to escape from Egypt, Youssef is now starting a third career as a comedian in the US.
[For information on director Oliver Butler, please see London-Jenin, above.]
Ritesh Batra was nominated for BAFTA
for his first feature film
The Lunchbox which he developed at the Sundance Feature Film Program, it
starred Irrfan Khan and Nimrat Kaur. Since then he has worked on
The Sense of an Ending based on the
Booker Prize-winning book,
Our Souls at Night with Robert Redford and Jane Fonda, based on the novel by
Kent Haruf. His new movie
Photograph was screened at the Sundance and Berlin Film Festivals in 2019. He
lives and works in New York.
Heather Christian is an Obie Award winning composer/performer and Sundance Time
Warner Fellow. She makes original performance work (
Animal Wisdom Bushwick Starr, Mission Drift
Nat’l Theater London, The World Is Round BAM,) as well as scores film (The Shivering
(Adult Swim), Lemon, Gregory Go Boom, Sundance Grand Jury Prize). She has
released 8 records with her band, the Arbornauts, owns and operates
The Arbor recording studio in
Beacon, NY, and can be seen all over the world avant-torching.
Dima Mikhayel Matta is a university
instructor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Balamand, a writer, and an actress. She
received a Fulbright scholarship and completed her MFA in creative writing at Rutgers University. She has been
acting for the stage since 2006. In 2014, she founded Cliffhangers, the first bilingual storytelling platform
in Lebanon. In 2018, she curated the first LGBTQ+ art exhibition in Lebanon. She is currently working on her
Fadi Toufiq is a writer & artist, born in Beirut 1975. Fadi works with
different mediums: books, videos, and performance art. His primary interest lies in deconstructing grand
narratives by means of reassembling fragmented events, as close as possible to the way it unfolds and
strikes who experiences it at firsthand. His performance and art installations have been shown in different
art venues around the world, such as MUMOK in Vienna, the Centre chorégraphique de Rennes in France, and
Performa Biennial in New York.
Founded in 1981 by
Robert Redford, Sundance Institute is a nonprofit organization that provides and preserves the space for
artists in film, theatre, and 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
Sorry to Bother You, Eighth Grade,
Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, Hereditary, RBG, Call Me By Your Name, Get Out, The Big Sick, Top of the
Lake, Winter’s Bone, Dear White People, Brooklyn, Little Miss Sunshine, 20 Feet From Stardom, Beasts of
the Southern Wild
, Fruitvale Station, I’m Poppy, America to Me, Leimert Park, Spring
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