The National Civil War Project

The National Civil War Project Conference

Arena Stage and the George Washington University will host a national, two-day creative and scholarly conference at the Marvin Center on the campus of GW focused on exploring the American Civil War and its aftermath, through presentations, panels and performances. Workshops will focus on specific topics and issues of life during the war and its connection to the present, creating new theatrical, visual and movement-based work from these discoveries. A goal of the conference is to bring scholars and artists together in dialogue about the significance of the Civil War and its resonances in our present lives. The participants will have the opportunity to explore aspects of Civil War history and how this history may reverberate in their own personal narratives, as the participants are invited to create expressive responses based on this collision of the personal and historic.


The overarching goal of the project is to find ways to continually interweave performance and scholarship, crossing traditional boundaries by bringing together the perspectives and resources of the artistic and academic communities in a wide-ranging, humanities-based exploration of civil conflict.


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The National Civil War Project

The National Civil War Project Logo

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 12 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 geographic 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 12 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 devised theater 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.

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Project Partners