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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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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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Meet the Ensemble: An Interview with Thony Mena

Posted on November 13, 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.




Gracing the stage as Vic Vicious (or as his parents call him, Julian) with confidence like it ain’t no thing in How We Got On this season, Thony Mena is settling in as one of the newest ensemble members with (80’s) style. He answered some questions for us about his background, his work, and his relationship with Forum Theatre.

 

The Facts

Name: Thony Mena

Twitter Handle: @ThonyBMena

Hometown: Born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Raised mainly in Silver Spring.
 

The Low-Down
 

Amanda: Why did you choose to live/work in the DC area?
 

Thony: It’s been home for most of my life. I love going to different cities, but I can’t see myself being too far from family permanently. Also, DC is an incredible theatre town! So much variety when it comes to what you can be in and what you can watch. And the theatre family is just incredible. So much love and support all around.
 

Amanda: Tell me about an event from your past that has shaped you as an artist.

 

Thony: The first time I saw an actor stand up to a director in rehearsal was incredible. Now, I don’t condone being a diva or an actor that is hard to work with. This actor did it with class and respect (Just a hint of edge). Until that moment I was somewhat scared to take ownership of my work. It’s a collaborative art. If I’m just a puppet, then there’s no point in calling me the artist.
 

Amanda: When did you know you wanted to work in theatre?
 

Thony: I declared my major pretty late into my collegiate career at the University of Maryland (second semester sophomore year). I was still testing the waters of theatre entering my junior year. I had gotten into my first show, To Be Young, Gifted, and Black by Lorraine Hansberry. The first day of rehearsal was just mind-blowing! Table work, making choices, objectives, talking about why characters do what they do. I just loved it and it changed the way I saw not only Theatre, but everyday life. Pardon the cheesiness, but it really felt like that one scene in the Matrix when Neo can see in code!
 

Amanda: What kind of material or subject matter draws or inspires you the most?
 

Thony: Plays that I could sink my teeth into and probably rehearse for 2 years and run for 8 years. When I work on something I love to have a solid foundation, but a play is a living, breathing thing. It will change. Something is off if I feel stale or laminated.
 

Amanda: What is your favorite type of work to experience as an audience member?
 

Thony: Anything that tugs at my heart without TRYING to make me cry, but it just happens anyway. I could be laughing one second and then balling at the end. It gets me thinking once the play is done. I love especially not “getting” the play 100%. Again, I want to think about the play once it’s done. Working on The Last Days of Judas at Forum this past summer was incredible. It’s one of my favorite plays, by one of my favorite playwrights, Stephen Adly Guirgis. I was able to laugh with the audience at some points, and at the end I would be balling watching the final scenes.
 

Amanda: What is the toughest (or your least favorite) part about your artistic process?
 

Thony: It’s very hard for this not to happen at some point in my process, but I monitor my performance and myself. Get in the way of myself. It used to be way worse! Now it goes away once I get enough rest and tell Tony (The evil twin in my head without the H in his name) to be quiet.  
 

Amanda: What engages or excites you the most about working at Forum Theatre?
 

Thony: They actively try and succeed at producing plays that speak to all walks of life. The same goes for the people involved in the ensemble. We have the beautiful common ground of theatre, but everyone is so different!
 

Amanda: How has being an ensemble member of Forum Theatre affected your work?

 

Thony: I’m one of the babies. So for now I’m just observing. It seems like everyone is pretty good at doing his or her job. From getting the coffee, to writing grant proposals, to shaving and putting on a suit in order to accept one of the 2014 National Theatre Company grants. But seriously, as an actor I knew that a lot went into running a theatre. Being on the inside is a different world. If I have a part to play, I do not want to slip up. This company is solid!
 

This Season

How We Got On at Forum Theatre playing Julian through November 22, 2014

Coyote Mischief Tales at Discovery Theater playing Hashtali/Ensemble through through November 20, 2014

Mockingbird at the Kennedy Center TYA as Josh January 17- February 1, 2015

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz at Adventure Theatre MTC as Cowardly Lion April 3- May 25, 2015



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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An Interview with How We Got On Playwright Idris Goodwin

Posted on October 20, 2014 in Season 11
On November 2nd, Forum Theatre will kickoff our 11th Season with Idris Goodwin's How We Got On. Set to the music of the late 80's rap scene, the play is a coming-of-age story about three suburban kids, Hank, Julian, and Luann and how they navigate tumultuous family relationships, cultural isolation, and the search for authenticity. A sultry DJ re-mixes their lives as they use music to discover and express themselves in places words fail. How We Got On premiered at Actors Theatre of Louisville in the 2012 Humana Festival. Idris Goodwin, playwright, essayist, and spoken word artist, uses his cross-discipline talent to tell this contemporary ode to the roots of rap.
 
Goodwin answered a few questions for us -- and gave us a playlist to get us through 'til opening night. 
 
Natalie: What was the generative idea for How We Got On?

Idris: So I wanted to write something familiar (the coming of age story) in an unfamiliar way. It sprung from the well of my experience. I grew up in Michigan and Illinois. I grew up writing and spouting and recording rap music. I know a lot of people who’re similar. I wanted to write a coming of age story drawn from that experience.

Natalie: Have there been differences in audience reactions around the country?

Idris: More or less, the reaction has been the same from Louisville to Boston to Sacramento folks across all walks of life. The play’s themes and spirit seem to resonate.

Natalie: How did you come to start writing plays?

 
Idris: I went to film school. I was most interested in the writing part. The actors I was using for my bad student films came from the theatre dept. Theatre parties are way better than film parties so I became friends with a lot of people from that realm. It was a natural progression. I believe I wanted community and nobody does theater unless they really love it. My first play was in a fringe festival in Chicago. A 60, maybe 70 seat house—no budget. I loved every second of it. So I kept doing it. 
 
Natalie: Do you have any strange writing habits?
 
Idris: The way I type is pretty strange. Two fingers. It’s not exactly hunt and peck--I been doing it so long I know where all the keys live—I go pretty fast but it’s just two fingers darting all over the place. Ridiculous. I have tried to learn to type so many times but I think I am a lost cause.

Natalie: What are the essential songs for a How We Got On playlist?

Idris: Well just to get started you gotta have Run Dmc’s "Runs House", Big Daddy Kane "Set it Off", MC Lyte "Paper Thin", Kool G Rap "Road To the Riches", Salt N Pepa "Push It", any and everything from Public Enemy’s It Takes A Nation of Millions album, "Children’s Story" by Slick Rick, "My Philosophy" by BDP, Eric B and Rakim "Paid in Full"---that oughta get you off to a good start.

 


Natalie Piegari (@nataliepiegari), Assistant to the Artistic Director Intern
Natalie is a DC-based playwright and actor with a BA in Theatre from the University of Maryland. Plays she has written include Safe as Houses, Left/Right, Sunday at St. Jude’s, Trash, the Knight’s Tale in Pointless Theatre Company’s production of Canterbury andMonster Match in Rorschach Theatre's Fall 2014 Klecksography: Haunting Monsters. Her plays have been workshopped and read at the University of Maryland and Mobtown Players in Baltimore. She has worked as an actor at the University of Maryland, the National Portrait Gallery, Damascus Theatre Company, Odd Act, Pointless Theatre Company, Pace Productions, Montgomery College, and as a company member of Pussy REP in That Kind of Girl at Capitol Fringe Festival 2014. 
 
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