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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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Untying Gidion's Knot: Part 2

Posted on July 23, 2014 in Season 11

Throughout this week, Forum will be delving into the fascinating world of Gidion's Knot in a series of blog posts written by some of our Season 11 class of interns! #forumKNOT 

By Madelyn Paquette, Artistic Intern 

On the evening of the 7th, Team Forum enjoyed a delicious dinner and facilitated an in-depth discussion and analysis of Forum’s upcoming production, Gidion’s Knot, with the Footlights Drama Discussion Group. Artistic Director Michael Dove, director Christina Alicea, actress Katy Carkuff, and assistant stage manager Brittany Truske answered questions from the attendees for an hour and a half. Below are some of our favorite quotes and anecdotes from the evening: 
Katy Carkuff, who portrays schoolteacher Heather Clark in the production, explained her own take on the show in the evening’s opening remarks: 

“It’s an exercise in putting all of these puzzle pieces together and seeing how they fit, if they fit” she said. “This is, at its core, a conversation between Gidion’s two caregivers…they have to find a way to come together in order to complete the picture. And then there’s a cat.” 
On the difference between the mythical Gordian Knot and the metaphorical knot that is Gidion:
“If the knot becomes a human being, you have to untie that very differently, or you risk destroying what it is.”

Early in the discussion, Michael Dove explained what initially drew him to Gidion’s Knot, explaining that after he found himself reading the play for a third time, he realized that he Forum had to produce it:

“One of the things that I find so fascinating and that I find so important in the shows that I’m drawn to are plays that don’t give you a lot of answers, and this play has two actors, so it’s two very distinct points of view, and I felt while reading it, that every other page I switched allegiances, and I felt I was on one side and I was like ‘I understand her point that’s what I’m going to get behind’ and the next page it would flip. And I think it comes down to the quality of the writing I obviously knew that that was, that’s the goal, that’s the challenge of putting this play on its feet, and I really wanted to see that happen.”
On what makes powerful theatre:
“Great drama is about people who make big decisions and then have to deal with these decisions.”
With the largely looming shadow of gun violence entwined throughout the plot of Gidion’s Knot, and also a shared theme with this season’s earlier production of Pluto, Artistic Director Michael Dove spoke to the unique perspective these two plays provide on the issue:

“I think that what you run into when you try to depict this issue or situation in art or storytelling or the media is that it has become such an issue that there are two sides and nothing in between, and I think the reason I really love these two plays and the way they approach it is that they actually don’t talk about gun control,” said Dove, to murmurs of agreement from the crowd, “Because in some ways that may be an issue that we haven’t found our way into yet…[These plays] are talking about this issue in a way that the news and media never do. We quickly jump to gun control before talking about humans. We quickly talk about legislation which isn’t going to go anywhere because of the divisiveness of our legislature before talking about the whys and the hows and not immediately vilifying the people who do this instead of trying to understand or trying to listen.”
On what Gidion’s Knot is really about:
“It wasn’t about bullying, it wasn’t about gun violence, it was about lack of communication between teachers and parents.”
The crowd was packed with current and former educators, many of whom had strong reactions to the events of the play. The debate about the extent of a teacher’s responsibility to her students resurfaced again and again throughout the night, with Footlights members exploring a tremendous variety of angles. Some delved into the chasm between a teacher’s obligation to the group versus a parent’s to the individual. Others analyzed the play through the lens of a confrontation between Gidion’s two parental figures. Still, others lamented the cookie-cutter nature of our education system, where children who are outside the norm are forced to fit the mold. Most of all though, the teachers in the audience lamented their inability to save children who fall through the cracks. As one audience member observed,
“We aren’t observant enough, nor are we sensitive enough, and we’re missing so much.”
A behind the scenes tidbit: to lighten the mood on breaks from rehearsing such a heavy show, the cast watches clips from SNL!
On the night as a whole:
“I can’t wait to see the play, this has been a really wonderful discussion!”
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Untying Gidion's Knot: Part 1

Posted on July 21, 2014 in Season 11

Throughout this week, Forum will be delving into the fascinating world of Gidion's Knot in a series of blog posts written by some of our Season 11 class of interns! #forumKNOT 

By Quill Nebeker (@quillnebeker, FYSD), Directing & Producing Intern 

In our upcoming production of Johnna Adams' Gidion's Knot, Gidion's mother and his teacher battle over the circumstances which led to his tragic and untimely death. As the story unravels, the "truth" becomes increasingly more complicated than either one had imagined. The play is, in part, an extraordinarily contemporary look at the way with think about teachers and teaching.

That being said, Gidion's Knot also resounds with echoes from antiquity. The title references the Hellenic myth of the Gordian Knot, widely associated with the one and only Alexander the Great
In kingless ancient Phrygia, the oracle declared that the next man entering the city with an ox-cart should be the new king. Lo, and behold, the next ox-cart that came through the town belonged to a peasant farmer, Gordias, to whom the God's sent a great eagle heralding his kingship. Gordias, in thanks to the Gods, tied up his ox-cart in the town square with a great and bundled knot - it was said, supposedly, that one who could reveal the ends of the knot was fit to rule.
Flash forward to 333 BC. Alexander the Great, on his campaign to conquer Asia, is wintering in a (once again) kingless Phrygia. Approaching the cart, clever Alex thinks he has a solution. He takes out his sword, slices the knot in two - bada bing, bada boom, his oracles declare him the rightful king of all of Asia.
Or did he? Reports differ. While some of Alexander's historians contest he solved the puzzle with his sword, a few argue that what he did was far less violent. Some argue that Alexander, after studying the cart for a time, removed the rope from the yoke of the cart and the post it was tied to, revealing the regal ends.
Regardless, the Gordian Knot still holds today as a symbol for a seemingly unsolvable problem requiring an outside-the-box solution. So, then, this raises the question ... What exactly is Gidion's knot?
What is the problem he poses to his mother and teacher, and is there an outside-the-box solution they aren't seeing? Are there, as was with Gordian's Knot, more than one answer?
You'll have to see it to find out!
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Posted on May 8, 2014 in Season 11

All this week, we will be announcing our 2014/2015 season, Forum's 11th. We have asked members of Team Forum to talk about why the shows were selected and why they are so excited to see them onstage.


Our "fourth" show:




by Stephen Spotswood
directed by Jess Jung
Starting in the Fall of 2014 and continuing all season



Twitter feed: @SilenceAndStone





By Hannah Hessel Ratner (@hanvnah), Production Dramaturg



There are some secrets you want to keep. That thing your friend made you promise not to tell. The names and faces around the table at a private first-read of a new play. When you know how the most fascinating, mysterious adventure story ends, but you don’t want to spoil it for anyone else. And the moment you are about to embark on a new way of producing theatre.

There is a secret I’ve been holding on to. Actually there are nine of them. Each one a beautifully written part of a larger whole. Each of them uncovering something new about this city and the people within it.

Here it goes: this season Forum will have the opportunity to embark on an ambitious theatrical experience unmatched in this city, or any other. Ensemble member Stephen Spotswood, whose We Tiresus played at Forum in early 2013, brought to the company the idea for a project earlier this year, and there was no questioning our interest.

WALKING THE CITY OF SILENCE AND STONE is a podcast play. It expands the boundaries of theatrical presentation and the timeline for storytelling in a way that Forum has never had the opportunity to explore. Stephen played around with the form in a short podcast he created for the National New Play Network , designed to be listened to as you walked South out of Woolly Mammouth Theatre. He became interested in how the city added a layer of story as an intimate scene of a soldier with PTSD played while one walks amongst tourists against the background of the monuments.

WALKING THE CITY.. tells a longer story at once personal and public one episode at a time, and unfolds over the course of months. There is an intimacy to the storytelling - a directness from sound hitting your ear alone. And yet, the stage is the city. Each episode takes place in a specific location. You can listen from anywhere, but by entering that physical place, be it on the metro, at the National Portrait Gallery or Dupont Circle the layers unfold and the realization hits that you, too, are part of the heartbeat of the District.

For all it’s adventurousness in form, WALKING THE CITY is familiar like the city surrounding us. Like Stephen’s other work, he uses a poetic ear, aptitude for creating varied characters and depicting a world to explore our own mythologies.

Which mythologies, I can’t say. My lips are sealed until the final episode has been downloaded.

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Posted on May 7, 2014 in Season 11

All this week, we will be announcing our 2014/2015 season, Forum's 11th. We have asked members of Team Forum to talk about why the shows were selected and why they are so excited to see them onstage.


Our third show:


written by

Winter/Spring of 2015







by Michael Dove, Forum's Artistic Director


"[The Shipment explores] just how much skin color continues to frame the way we see each other—even in a post-race, Barack Obama-electing America. It’s an early example of what will hopefully be an avalanche of smart, fearless work that brings the same fresh feel to the artistic conversation about race that is said to imbue today’s politics." 
There is a moment in THE SHIPMENT that, when I saw it in 2009, stopped my heart.
Not a heart attack---but an honest moment of revelation that hit me harder than any piece of theatre ever had before. It stopped my body from functioning: my heart, my lungs...I was frozen and it changed the way I saw the world around me in an instant.
THE SHIPMENT was my introduction to Young Jean Lee. She is one of the most fearless and provocative writers around, in any medium. Lee famously starts each project by asking herself "what's the play I least want to write about?" She dives into the play that challenges her the most, the play that most scares her.
This spirit to push one's boundaries transferred to me when I was directing, CHURCH, Forum's first Young Jean Lee play. As someone raised in an evangelical home, its portrayal of honest and earnest Christianity scared (pardon the phrase) the hell out of me. It made me confront some aspects of my identity that I had buried or written off as no longer in need of further exploration.
At the same time I knew it would also be a piece that a majority of our community would find somewhat foreign and exceedingly alien. It would provoke our audience to look at people of a particular faith differently.
When Howard Shalwitz, Woolly Mammoth's Artistic Director, came to see the show, we talked about that idea and how it was what appealed to me in Young Jean Lee's work. He asked if I'd ever consider producing any other her other scripts and I admittedthat, "I love THE SHIPMENT---but that play really scares me."
He's been daring me to do it ever since.
Not only does THE SHIPMENT confront our notions of race and challenge our preconceptions of those all around us, it challenges the way theatre, itself, has approached this discussion. This is not a "race" play like you've ever seen. It is not a tidy package of cathartic, "guilt-inducing-so-we-can-all-go-home-having-felt-something" theatre. It is a play that will stop your heart and stick with you for days, weeks, and years to come.
A great play makes you see, hear, or even smell the world around you in a new way. It gives you insight into the lives of others that you didn't have, before.
THE SHIPMENT is that type of play, and once you see it, your world won't be the same, after.
Young Jean Lee on how she started as a playwright:


The trailer for the Young Jean Lee 's Theatre Company production of The Shipment:

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Show #2: THE T PARTY

Posted on May 6, 2014 in Season 11

All this week, we will be announcing our 2014/2015 season, Forum's 11th. We have asked members of Team Forum to talk about why the shows were selected and why they are so excited to see them onstage.

Our second show:

written and directed by

Winter of 2015





by Laura Esti Miller, dramaturg and Forum's Literary Manager


…Telling someone you’ve known for a long time is much harder than telling someone you’ve just met.

It’s like you are taking away the person they’ve known and loved. 

Not just taking away, but killing that person. …

And so, some people choose deception. …

It’s been eighteen years.  A couple of months ago while viewing a few of Victoria’s pictures, she asked what I called myself while I was dressed.  When I told her my femme name was Victoria, she said that I looked more like an … Elizabeth.

I thought that sounded like a beautiful name and if she could accept me as Elizabeth, then I would change my name.

I mean, a woman should have the prerogative to change her mind, right?



Forum Theatre is thrilled to once again showcase the creative mind of Natsu Onoda Power and to present this celebratory and moving piece.

We believe in supporting the work of our Ensemble Members work and giving more people a chance to have THE T PARTY experience. Since this piece resonated with our community so strongly, we are excited to present it for a full run in the Winter of 2015. We are overjoyed and proud to revisit this important work and to see how it will grow and expand.

When we first staged a workshop production of THE T PARTY in the summer of 2013, we were overwhelmed by the positive and embracing response from our audiences. It seemed that everyone who attended the limited run made a point to seek out an actor, designer, crew member or staff member to make sure they knew how meaningful this play was to them.

The first act of THE T PARTY involved an immersive party-going atmosphere inside and outside of the full theatre space, complete with invitations to a rotating roster of parties, music – everything from ‘90s grunge karaoke to high school prom fare – , rainbow streamers, animal costumes, glitter, and gender fluidity. Not only did audiences love dancing at the prom and playing flip-cup at the tailgating party, but later, they found characters' shared stories in the second act resonant and powerful.  

Based on real and local stories, Natsu and the ensemble will continue to update the piece and grow it in new and very exciting ways for this full production.

We cannot wait to Transgress, Transform, and Transcend once more. For our friends who will join us again – welcome back and enjoy the new elements! For those who will join us for the first time – welcome to the party!



Natsu Onoda Power and THE T PARTY were featured on WAMU's Metro Connection


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