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Arena Stage Partnership Puts Spotlight on Learning


January 19, 2010 – All the world’s a stage for students capitalizing on a partnership, now in its fourth year, between Georgetown and one of the nation's major regional theater houses, Arena Stage.

This academic year, Georgetown and Arena added two collaborative projects to their list. One focuses on issues in new play development with a series of symposia through Arena’s American Voices New Play Institute, while the other resulted in a stage adaptation by Derek Goldman, artistic director of the Davis Performing Arts Center and associate professor of theater and performance studies.

“This is not just about conversations between artists and students. It’s about giving Georgetown students access to the thinkers and trend-makers in theater today,” says Goldman.

This past fall, Goldman presented Will the Circle Be Unbroken: Reflections of Death, Rebirth, and Hunger for a Faith, based on the award-winning book by the late author and activist Studs Terkel. The production put noted actors, such as Oscar-nominee David Strathairn, on stage performing with Georgetown students in Gaston Hall.

The new play development symposium, which just wrapped up its second event in a series of three Jan.16-17, has addressed diversity in the theater and challenges faced by black playwrights. The last symposium will focus on examining ensemble-driven, devised and interdisciplinary theater Feb. 19-20.

“For Arena, the multifaceted approach with Georgetown gives us access to some of the brightest young minds, who are the future artists and art administrators,” says Jamie Gahlon (SFS’07), coordinator of American Voices New Play Institute.

Gahlon calls the comprehensive approach to collaboration a “win-win” for Arena and Georgetown. The work puts students in direct contact with theater experts and rising stars. Students may see Arena productions for free and participate in discussions about the plays. They also collaborate with playwrights and their input may impact the final version of a work.

Georgetown professors also have led Q-and-A sessions with Arena audiences, and faculty members have produced works for Arena Stage that are the subject of workshops at the university.

“Very few university-theater partnerships are as interactive as this,” says Maya Roth, assistant professor of theater and performance studies. “It’s impossible to overstate how distinctive, inspired and inspiring this partnership is.”

The partnership seeks to create networks that Georgetown students can continually draw from as they establish theater careers, Goldman says.

He notes that Arena Stage currently employs four Georgetown alumni. Another alumnus, Reg Douglas (C’09), is in the middle of a yearlong directing and producing apprenticeship at McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton, N.J. He says he continues to collaborate with playwrights he met while participating in the Georgetown-Arena partnership.

“We’re building a foundation for a lifetime of networking,” Goldman says. “These are relationships that will stay with students long into the future.”

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