Arena Stage Artistic Director Molly Smith
Arena Stage Artistic Director Molly Smith
(© Tony Powell)

Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater has announced its third international partnership between the U.S. Department of State and its Voices of Now program. On the heels of a two-and-a-half-week program in India in October 2012 and a three-week residency in December 2013 in Zagreb, Croatia, the D.C. theater will send nine members of its community engagement department to the Indian cities of Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai, and Hyderabad to create original plays inspired by the cities and based on the lives of the local participants.

Now in its 11th year, Voices of Now facilitates the creation and performances of autobiographical theater that explores social, cultural, and emotional issues. For the upcoming program, scheduled for January 13-29, 2014, Arena Stage arts educators will send teams to each city where they will collaborate with partner organizations to devise original plays. The plays will then be performed in front of audiences on the final day of workshops, followed by post-performance discussions. Both performances and discussions will be live-streamed publicly.

The Arena Stage team will also conduct professional development training seminars in each of the selected cities. The team includes Arena Stage Director of Community Engagement Anita Maynard-Losh and Director of Education and designer of the Voices of Now process Ashley Forman, along with Rebecca Campana, Raymond Caldwell, Anthony Jackson, Sean-Maurice Lynch, Fareed Mostoufi, Psalmayene 24, and Ariel Warmflash.

"We are so grateful to have forged this partnership with the State Department, and can build on the success of our time in India last year," said Artistic Director Molly Smith. "It is meaningful to see this locally grown program, which reaches hundreds of youth annually in the D.C. area, extend its scope and impact to our participating artists and audiences in India." Forman added, "With the additional resources of time and staff, we are incredibly eager to delve deeper into dialogue with our participants as they create plays that are dynamic and nuanced. It is such an honor to use the tools of Voices of Now to facilitate the transformation of these brave artists' stories into theater."