The National Civil War Project

Atlanta Press Release

National Partnership between Major Theaters and Universities to Create Original Theatrical Productions and Innovative Academic Programming Inspired by the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War

The National Civil War Project, a radical multi-city, multi-year collaboration between four universities and five performing arts organizations to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War, launched today during a presentation in Washington, D.C. The American Civil War is arguably one of the most significant times in American history, an era that raised issues still relevant today. The National Civil War Project will include the commissioning of original works for the stage, as well as create new arts-integrated academic programs.

Inspired by noted choreographer and MacArthur “Genius” Fellow Liz Lerman, the project involves four multi-city partnerships facilitated through the launch by Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater and The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. The other three partners include Alliance Theatre and Emory College Center for Creativity & Arts at Emory University in Atlanta, GA; American Repertory Theater and Harvard University in Cambridge, MA; and CENTERSTAGE in Baltimore, MD and The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland in College Park, MD. These diverse localities symbolize the emotional scope of the American Civil War.

“Every anniversary is an opportunity to reflect," Lerman notes. "Our Civil War was 150 years ago: What does it still mean? What is the aftermath? Where is the damage? How is it absorbed? Who does the absorbing? These questions are too big for the arts alone, or for academia alone; my interest is in collaborations that will allow new understandings.”

The theatrical centerpiece of The National Civil War Project is the commissioning and development of new works about or inspired by the American Civil War in each region. The universities will convene leading experts for national conferences and symposia and will produce public lecture series, community programs and dramaturgy, student playwriting projects, student-generated exhibitions, artist and academic roundtables and post-show discussions. Public presentations from each partnership will be shared through an interactive Media Wall at CENTERSTAGE and connected by satellite to high-definition video display, connecting the regions simultaneously. 

Highlights of The National Civil War Project Artistic Programming (as of 2/28/13):

Alliance Theatre and Emory College Center for Creativity & Arts at Emory University

  • Collision Project devised theater workshop in Summer 2013 focusing on the documentation of the Civil War featuring playwright Pearl Cleage;
     
  • A collaborative development between Emory and the Alliance Theatre of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book Native Guard by Poet Laureate and head of Emory’s Creative Writing Program Natasha Trethewey, directed by Alliance Theatre Artistic Director Susan V. Booth.  This will include panels, discussions and research activities hosted by the Emory Center for Ethics about the Civil War and Atlanta’s development as a city, tying research and discussion back to this specific project.  The Native Guard workshop will be part of the Emory University Playwriting Center’s Brave New Works Program in the Winter of 2014.  The Alliance will then present the full theatrical production. 
     
  • Projects around dramatizing and researching the Civil War involving playwrights from the Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition and Emory theatre department students.
     

American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.) and Harvard University

  • Roundtables

Through support from the Harvard Initiative for Learning and Teaching and the Mellon Foundation, the A.R.T. has hosted a series of roundtables designed to bring artists and scholars together in dialogue about a range of subjects related to the Civil War, possibly leading to newcourses at Harvard University and new readings, workshops, and productions on the A.R.T. stages.  The topics of the three roundtables have been “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” “Medicine, Weaponry, War Wounds, and The Soldier’s Body,” and “Civil War Photography, Painting, Reenactment, and Memoir.”

  • Work in Development
     

The Boston Abolitionists will be an ensemble-devised piece directed by Steven Bogart (director, A.R.T. 2011/12 Cabaret) about the abolitionist movement in Boston and the trial of the fugitive slave Anthony Burns. This will be performed in May 2013 with the graduating students of the A.R.T. Institute for Advance Theater Training. 

War Dept. will be a new music theater piece by Jim and Ruth Bauer (co-creators of The Blue Flower A.R.T. 2011/12 Season) set in Ford’s Theater that explores the lives of friends and family who search for answers among the records of the Civil War dead and wounded.   

Memoranda During The War, Walt Whitman’s account of being a medic during the Civil War, is the inspiration for a new opera being composed by Matt Aucoin, 2012 graduate of Harvard University, graduate composition student at Juilliard School of Music, and assistant conductor at the Metropolitan Opera.

  • Education

The A.R.T. will facilitate a Proclamation Project, a writing immersion project that empowers an ensemble of creative teenagers to deconstruct, remix and perform a primary source drawn from literature, history, or popular culture, using Civil Wars documents as source material Simultaneously, all other theaters participating in The Civil War Project will facilitate the same process with local teens in their respective areas. The three-week workshop will culminate in a local performance and a potential convening of all four teen ensembles in Washington, D.C. to share each city’s Emancipation Story.

Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater and the George Washington University

  • National conference in December 2013 investigating the Civil War in Washington, DC and how scholarship and artistry can inspire each other towards a deeper level of understanding;
     
  • World premiere of Healing Wars (June 6–29, 2014)by Liz Lerman–a theatrical dance piece that explores the experiences  of the healers tasked with treating the physical and psychic wounds of battle. Joined by narrator Bill Pullman (Independence Day1600 Penn), an ensemble of dancers represent medics and soldiers from the American Civil War to today. The work will be informed by interviews with students at GW’s School of Nursing;
     
  • National commissioning of 25 playwrights titled Our War, which is a multiplicity of voices about the American Civil War, reconstruction and its aftermath and the reverberations in our lives as Americans today;
     
  • World premiere of an original piece by award-winning playwright and performer Daniel Beaty, portraying the depth and breadth of humanity involved in the American Civil War—from slaves to generals and abolitionists to slave owners, to those who went to war and those who were left behind. A stirring exploration of experiences during the war, this piece will fuse song and poetry, personal narrative and art as a means of asking what it was really like and how each person survived through their art. 
     
  • Arena Stage’s internationally renowned Voices of Now program will create an ensemble of young emerging artists to devise an original one act play in response to source material from the Civil War and contemporary issues in the nation’s capital, which will be part of a partnership-wide devised theater project;
     
  • Collaborations between theater and university on faculty innovations integrating artistic and academic approaches with new curricula for fall 2014;
     
  • Multiple panel series held at and hosted by George Washington University.


CENTERSTAGE and the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland

  • Interactive Media Wall at CENTERSTAGE;
     
  • National conference on Civil Rights and the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, University of Maryland. September 6, 2013;
     
  • Commissioning and Production of New Works:
     

A world premiere production, as yet untitled, of an original commission at CENTERSTAGE by a leading British playwright. The piece will explore the British (and international) perspective on the Civil War from diplomatic and economic to literary and personal angles; inspired by historical realities like those chronicled in such recent works as Amanda Foreman’s World on Fire;

At War With Ourselves, a world premiere of a newly commissioned piece by Kronos Quartet that will also feature a legendary American composer, a 500-voice choir, and spoken word by a leading voice in American poetry.  The work will debut at a historic site of monumental significance to the history of the Civil War;

  • Creative Dialogues series, moderated by Kojo Nnamdi;
     
  • Student-focused projects:

A student-generated exhibit at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center

Encounter (CENTERSTAGE’s high school outreach/community program) student exploration and engagement with themes and topics emerging from conversations around the Civil War from the local context in Baltimore & Maryland to lingering legacies today

  • CENTERSTAGE will announce on March 11, along with the rest of its 2013-14 Season, the regional premiere of a Civil War-themed work around which significant artistic and community engagement programming will take place;
     
  • Additional artists, projects, performances, events with thematic ties to civil war and civil rights throughout the Clarice Smith Center’s 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons


About The National Civil War Project

The National Civil War Project is a radical multi-city, multi-year collaboration between four universities and five performing arts organizations to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War. The American Civil War is arguably one of the most significant times in American history, an era that raised issues still relevant today. The National Civil War Project will include the commissioning of original works for the stage as well as create new arts-integrated academic programs. A national initiative symbolizing the geographic scope of the Civil War, the Project is inspired by noted choreographer and MacArthur “Genius” Fellow Liz Lerman and includes Alliance Theatre and Emory College Center for Creativity & Arts at Emory University in Atlanta, GA; American Repertory Theater and Harvard University in Cambridge, MA; Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater and The George Washington University in Washington, D.C.; and CENTERSTAGE in Baltimore, MD and The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland in College Park, MD. 

About the Alliance Theater
 
Founded in 1968, the Alliance Theatre has become the lead producing theatre in the Southeast, creating the powerful experience of shared theatre for diverse people on two stages.  The Alliance values excellence, pursued with integrity and creativity, and achieved through collaboration.  Under the leadership of Susan V. Booth, Jennings Hertz Artistic Director, the Alliance received the Regional Theatre Tony Award® in recognition of sustained excellence in programming, education and community engagement.  Reaching more than 200,000 patrons annually, the Alliance delivers powerful programming that challenges adult and youth audiences to think critically and care deeply.  Each year, the Alliance Theatre Acting Program and Education Department reaches 50,000 students through performances, acting classes, drama camps, and in-school initiatives with programs like the Collision Project for teens and the Theatre for the Very Young for audiences 18 months – 5 years old.  The Alliance also nurtures the careers of playwrights through the Alliance National Graduate Playwriting Competition, producing a premiere for the competition winner as part of the regular season with national networking opportunities for four finalists.  www.alliancetheatre.org
 
About Emory University
 
Emory University, recognized internationally for its outstanding liberal arts colleges, graduate and professional schools as well as one of the Southeast's leading health care systems, is located on a beautiful, leafy campus in Atlanta, Georgia's historic Druid Hills suburb. Emory maintains an uncommon balance for an institution of its standing: our scholars and experts generate more than $500 million in research fundingannually, while also maintaining a traditional emphasis on teaching. The university is enriched by the legacy and energy of Atlanta, and by collaboration among its schools, centers and partners.