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Welcome to OpenForum.  We love plays that start a good conversation and there are many ways and places to have that conversation! This is your one-stop place to join in on the discussions going on about all the shows at Forum.

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Meet the Ensemble: An Interview with Jess Jung

Posted on February 9, 2015 in Season 11
Forum Theatre is proud to have an amazing ensemble of playwrights, actors, directors, designers, and dramaturgs. This new series of interviews with members will give you a chance to get to know the artists whose work you see onstage and why they call Forum home. 

With 5 episodes down and 4 to go of Walking the City of Silence and Stone, allow us to introduce you to the director, Forum Ensemble member Jess Jung. She answered some questions for us about her background, her work, and her relationship with Forum Theatre. 
 
The Facts
 
Name: Jess Jung
Hometown: Minneapolis, MN
 
The Low-Down 
 
Amanda: What was different about directing an audio play than a stage play?
 
Jess: Although it may be obvious, we found that we (the actors and I) had to be very clear regarding vocal choices. Moments that would be more easily articulated through movement/gesture in a "regular" play needed to be expressed through voice. I spent a lot of time with my eyes closed in rehearsal to make sure we were expressing these nuances. It was a great new challenge and a lot of fun.
 
Amanda: Tell me about an event from your past that has shaped you as an artist.
 
Jess: My mother took me and a group my friends to see Snow White ​when I was six or seven years old. I remember meeting the actor who played the witch after the show and was captivated by her stage makeup. I was so sucked in by the production that it never occurred to me she was a young actor that didn't look like a witch. At that moment I was hooked. A few years later I sat in front of my VCR with a pencil and wide-ruled notebook scribing every word of Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. I then cast (I played the witch of course) and directed a scrappy version of the play with the girls in my neighborhood.
 
Amanda: When did you know you wanted to work in theatre?
 
Jess: ​High school. I don't know the exact moment, but I had the most amazing high school drama teacher, Ertwin Jones-Hermerding. Herm (as we called him) helped me find my voice...and my confidence...in theatre. He started my journey and I am forever grateful.
 
Amanda: What kind of material or subject matter draws or inspires you the most?
 
Jess: Magic. Fairytales. Romance. I love worlds that push the boundaries of realism--worlds that are built for dreamers. Sarah Ruhl, Melissa James Gibson, Caryl Churchill, Charles Mee are just a few of my favorite writers.​
 
Amanda: What is your favorite type of work to experience as an audience member?
 
Jess: The same as above :)​
 
Amanda: What is the toughest (or your least favorite) part about your artistic process?
 
Jess: ​When directing you always hit a moment in which you just don't know if the production is going to come together. Everybody knows the goal, time is ticking down, and there is not much you can do except wait for the material to click into place. I dislike this moment simply because it is out of my control.
 
                            
Production photo of Happy Days by Samuel Beckett, directed by Jess Jung at CulturalDC’s Mead Theatre Lab.
 
Amanda: What engages or excites you the most about working at Forum Theatre?
 
​Jess: The people. The leadership, staff, and ensemble are people that care deeply about others and their community. ​It's a great group to be a part of.
 
Amanda: How has being an ensemble member of Forum Theatre affected your work?
 
Jess: I think more about accessibility. Does a work engage the community? Is it accessible in terms of casting, ticket price, space, etc.? I think Forum does a great job investigating these questions.
 
This Season 
Walking the City of Silence and Stone by Stephen Spotswood, Forum Theatre
The Women of Lockerbie by Deborah Brevoort, North Dakota State University
(a love story) by Kelly Lusk, CulturalDC's Source Festival 
Charlotte's Web, Rapunzel, & The Berenstain Bears, Boji Bantam Children's Theatre
 
 
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Announcing: It's All Relevant

Posted on January 30, 2015 in Season 11

Announcement: It’s All Relevant: The Forum Theatre Podcast has arrived!

 

It’s here! The new podcast from Forum Theatre and From Block2Block, a community audio storytelling project! We have partnered to produce a podcast bringing you real stories from the DC community as they relate to themes featured in Forum Theatre’s productions. The podcast will discuss not only questions raised by the plays, but also the ways the plays can relate to everyday lives of the people in our community.   

Forum and From Block2Block have partnered before for multiple events in the (Re)Acts series, including Stronghold and Chinatown, both examining the character of DC neighborhoods.

Episode 1 features cast members of our recent production, The T Party, talking about how they related their own experiences to the interviews of members of the local transgender community that provided the framework for the script. Episode 2 will feature stories of discovery and reflection from trans individuals in the metro area.
 

Upcoming episodes will feature interviews with Forum artists, original audio performances from the Forum (Re)Acts series, as well as content created specifically for the podcast.
 

It’s All Relevant: The Forum Theatre Podcast's first episode is available for download on iTunes for free! Use the hashtags #Forum11 #ItsAllRelevant on social media to continue the conversation and subscribe to be the first to get new episodes as they come out.
 

Amanda C. Herman, Artistic Development Intern

Amanda is thrilled to join the team at Forum Theatre as Artistic Development Intern and an Assistant Director. Amanda was an Associate Director/ Teaching Artist at Moonlit Wings Productions and recently completed a season-long Arts Administration apprenticeship at Asolo Repertory Theatre. She spent the summer as Assistant to the General Manager at Berkshire Theatre Group. Amanda grew up in Northern Virginia and holds a BA in Theatre and Dance from James Madison University, where she directed Awake and Sing!, Beyond the Horizon (KCACTF) and They're Playing Our Song. www.amandacherman.com.

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How We Got On Interactive Resource Guide: Part Two

Posted on November 17, 2014 in Season 11

WATCH & LEARN
 
Yo! MTV Raps was a two-hour American television music video program, which ran from August 1988 to August 1995. The program (created by Ted Demme and Peter Dougherty) was the first hip hop music show on the network, based on the original MTV Europe show, aired one year earlier. Yo! MTV Raps produced a lively mix of rap videos, interviews with rap stars, live in studio performances (on Fridays) and comedy. The show also yielded a Brazilian version called Yo! MTV and broadcast by MTV Brasil from 1990 to 2005. 
 
 
 
Hip-Hop is the form of music expression and artistic culture that originated in African-American communities during the 1970s in New York City. DJ Afrika Bambaataa outlined the four pillars of Hip-hop culture: MCing, DJing, breaking and graffiti writing. Other elements include beatboxing.
 
Graffiti: is understood as a visual expression of hip hop
 
 
Breaking:  also called B-boying or breakdancing, is a dynamic style of dance which is understood as the physical expression of hip hop 
 
 
 
 
 
DJing: also known as Turntablism is the technique of manipulating sounds and creating music using phonograph turntables and a DJ mixer
 
 
 
 
 
MCing/Rap: refers to "spoken or chanted rhyming lyrics with a strong rhythmic accompaniment"
 
 
 
Beatboxing: popularized by Doug E. Fresh, is the technique of vocal percussion.
 
 
Big Daddy Kane is a Grammy Award-winning American rapper who started his career in 1986 as a member of the rap group the Juice Crew. He is widely considered to be one of the most influential and skilled MCs in hip hop.
 
 
 
MC Lyte is an American rapper who first gained fame in the late 1980s, becoming the first solo female rapper to release a full album with 1988's critically acclaimed Lyte as a Rock. She has long been considered one of hip-hop's pioneer feminists
 
 
 
 


Raymond Caldwell, How We Got On dramaturg
is a DC based artist who holds an MFA with a focus in outreach and developing new work from The Ohio State University and a BFA in acting from the University of Florida. Recent dramaturgical credits include How the B-Side Won, Read White and Blue, and Trojan Women. He has toured nationally and internationally as an actor, director and deviser working with playwrights including Ntozake Shange, Edward Albee, Tarell Alvin McCraney, and Sally Oswald. As a devisor/director/dramaturg he has developed work throughout India, Ukraine, Greece, Germany, and the UK. Caldwell recently joined the faculty at Howard University, where he teaches acting. 
 
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Meet the Ensemble: Alina Collins Maldonado

Posted on November 17, 2014 in Season 11

Forum Theatre is proud to have an amazing ensemble of playwrights, actors, directors, designers, and dramaturgs. This new series of interviews with members will give you a chance to get to know the artists whose work you see onstage and why they call Forum home.

The Facts
Name: Alina Collins Maldonado
Hometown: Alexandria, VA

The Low-Down

Amanda: Why did you choose to live/work in the DC area?
 
Alina: I am from the DC area and after graduating college in 2012. I moved back home, to figure out the next step in my career path, that whole thing. Actually, my plan was not to stay in the area for longer than 6 months. But when I started auditioning, I quickly saw the amount of opportunities and the amazing artistic works presented in this city. It is a community of diverse artists producing powerful work that inspires me and is ultimately what keeps me here.
 
Amanda: Tell me about an event from your past that has shaped you as an artist.
 
Alina: My artistic ambitions changed when I started working with teenagers, particularly when I realized the positive influence theatre can have on young women. I realized I could inspire young women to be unafraid of pursuing their passion by pursuing my own. To me, theatre is a powerful venue to give voice to people’s inner thoughts and questions and the audience response makes them realize they are not alone. Through my art, I want to try to seek out ways to give their stories and experiences a voice on the professional stage, something that I certainly could have used growing up.
 
Amanda: When did you know you wanted to work in theatre?
 
Alina: The first time I watched Whoopi Goldberg’s one woman show, “Spook Show”. I swear I watched it twice a night for two weeks straight. Her ability to transform fully into different characters and share their stories impressed and amazed me on a very deep level. Her characters’ humanity, combined with humor and vulnerability left a lasting impression. To draw people in with just one person on stage made me realize that this is what I wanted to do. To remove oneself and allow someone else to step in in order to raise consciousness, to give people a voice. That is power.

 
Amanda: What kind of material/subject matter draws or inspires you the most?
 
Alina: I am inspired by theatre that promotes dialogue and challenges people, including myself, to think. Subject matter that raises consciousness to the experience of all genders, sexualities, and races, stories regularly untold. 
 
Amanda: What is your favorite type of work to experience as a theatregoer?

Alina: I like experiencing theater that makes me feel included in the storytelling taking place on stage. I love when the fourth wall is broken, when you can actually take the journey with the actors. I’m always in awe when the story unfolds and the audience is directly involved in the journey, fourth wall or not. The work is potent and inviting. I’m not allowed to be a spectator.
 
Amanda: What is the toughest (or least favorite) part about your artistic process?
 
Alina: I wouldn’t say least favorite, but the toughest: letting go of the “homework” and living on stage. That’s the last step. To cover the ground I stand on, rely on the work I’ve done, and then to LET GO. It’s the toughest yet the most rewarding.
 
Amanda: What engages/excites you the most about working at Forum Theatre?
 
Alina: What excites me the most about Forum is the fearlessness we show in picking plays for the season. The shows tell stories across all subject matters that can reach out to our diverse community in the DC area. Also, I really reaaally love how accessible Forum is. In terms of location and the “Forum for All” policy of pay what you can, I really appreciate and am a full supporter of making theater accessible.
 
Amanda: How has being an ensemble member of Forum Theatre affected your work?
 
Alina: It has helped me integrate myself into a network of professional artists that look out for and support each other in ALL of their endeavors. I also feel like part of a team working to a common goal and mission.

This Season

Selector in How We Got On
Doña Ana in Los empeños de una casa at GALA Hispanic Theatre


Amanda C. Herman, Artistic Development Intern
Amanda is thrilled to join the team at Forum Theatre as Artistic Development Intern and an Assistant Director. Amanda was an Associate Director/ Teaching Artist at Moonlit Wings Productions and recently completed a season-long Arts Administration apprenticeship at Asolo Repertory Theatre. She spent the summer as Assistant to the General Manager at Berkshire Theatre Group. Amanda grew up in Northern Virginia and holds a BA in Theatre and Dance from James Madison University, where she directed Awake and Sing!, Beyond the Horizon (KCACTF) and They're Playing Our Song. www.amandacherman.com
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How We Got On Interactive Resource Guide: Part One

Posted on November 13, 2014 in Season 11

DRAMATURGICAL NOTE

"Getting ahead,” “climbing the ladder,” “Movin’ on up." The process of social uplift is an idea celebrated in African American culture, The process of “getting on” has been captured in popular film, music, and television. From the plantation to the suburbs, African Americans have navigated the far-from-easy, more-chutes-than-ladders social process of progress.

From the Great Migration to the later shift to the suburbs in the 1980s and early 90s, this cultural journey has informed the very essence of black culture -- from literature and drama to, yes, hip-hop.

At the turn of the century, white southerners found their economic systems dilapidated by the Civil War and identified a scapegoat for these woes in a growing and, for the first time, politically empowered African-American population. News of opportunities in the north and out west for housing and employment sparks a movement. Finding little space for success in the economically depressed south and often threatened with violence, African Americans begin a great migration moving into northern and western urban centers.

Between the turn of the 20th century up until the 1960s, close to 6 million African Americans left the south for urban metropolises spanning the North -- New York, Chicago Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Detroit. Their labor would build a modern America. And it is within these urban centers that African-American culture is given the space (both literally and figuratively) to develop and flourish.

It was during the 1970s, that from this culture sprang what we call hip-hop. African-American youth in the Bronx, the northernmost borough of New York City, first began experimenting with the percussive breaks of popular music. Some scholars have pinpointed hip-hop’s birth at a back-to-school block party thrown by Clive Campbell in 1973, where the DJ first scratched the vinyl, cementing his place in hip-hop history. Through much of the 70’s, the DJ and his turntable was a budding star of hip-hop, mixing and spinning beats for breakdancers.

MC’s and rappers weren’t on the scene yet, but that was beginning to change by the long hot summer of 1977. A chance bolt of lightning struck a power station, plunging New York City into a blackout that led to days of looting and vandalism. These riots, as odd as it may sound, proved pivotal in the development of hip-hop, giving poor African American youth access to DJ equipment that they otherwise would not have been able to afford. Grandmaster Caz, an early hip-hop pioneer, recalled in an article for Slate many years later, "After the blackout, all this new wealth … was found by people and they just—opportunity sprang from that. And you could see the differences [in their sound] before the blackout and after."



But riots, violence and the crack epidemic of the 1980s, splintered the urban communities that were borne from the great migration. A slow trickle of African Americans began leaving these communities in search of greater stability. Black flight, the out-migration of African Americans from urban centers to the suburbs, marks yet another pivotal moment in the development of African American culture. A rising African American middle class begins seeking out better school districts and safer neighborhoods. Following years of civic neglect and decay, many others followed.

And as African American’s moved into the ‘burbs, so too did hip-hop culture.

Today, hip-hop culture has rightfully earned its place in the pantheon of wider American culture. But in the late 1980s, when this first wave -- a trickle, really -- of Black flight to the suburbs began, it was still seen by many as a sort of fringe culture, something dangerous -- something to fear.

The teenagers in How We Got On are a part of this first wave of African-Americans in the burbs and the first wave of young people to bring hip-hop into their ‘burb. MTV helped spread the word, but the original B Boys and B Girls -- and the artists they supported -- helped shift not just African-American culture, not just white culture, but American Culture.

Yo MTV Raps single handedly diversified MTV, and played a major role in breaking down cultural barriers across America. It's devotees, who were of every ethnicity, rep'ed and became a major part of hip-hop culture moving it into mainstream society. It's no wonder that this Yo MTV Raps generation would be the same generation that would go on to elect America's first black president, Barack Obama.

The cultural phenomenon that we call hip-hop has ultimately played a major role in how we ALL "got on."

 
 


Raymond Caldwell, How We Got On dramaturg
is a DC based artist who holds an MFA with a focus in outreach and developing new work from The Ohio State University and a BFA in acting from the University of Florida. Recent dramaturgical credits include How the B-Side Won, Read White and Blue, and Trojan Women. He has toured nationally and internationally as an actor, director and deviser working with playwrights including Ntozake Shange, Edward Albee, Tarell Alvin McCraney, and Sally Oswald. As a devisor/director/dramaturg he has developed work throughout India, Ukraine, Greece, Germany, and the UK. Caldwell recently joined the faculty at Howard University, where he teaches acting. 
 
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