CulturalDC News

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Tour de Source


Tour de Source

For nine years, D.C.’s Source Festival has given playwrights a stage to experiment on.

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Topher Payne had been writing plays for more than 10 years, but hardly anyone outside of Atlanta was seeing them. That’s not a slight against Payne—his work has received many awards and accolades over the years—but when you’re embedded in a regional theater scene, it’s hard to break out to a national audience.

Born in Mississippi, Payne moved to Atlanta in 1999 and quickly built a following. “With a near-constant output of broadly appealing plays often written specifically for Atlanta audiences, the self-described ‘goofy ginger’ has built up a faithful core of local fans for his clever, zingy Southern comedies,” Creative Loafing wrote of Payne last year, in a review of one of his recent plays, Angry Fags.

He’s something of a superstar in Georgia’s capital city, but for a while, he felt like his work would never reach a broader audience. “I carved out a nice little spot for myself in the Atlanta theater community,” Payne says, “but I was facing the same struggle a lot of regional playwrights experience, where you can launch a production in your home market, but that’s about it. If you’re a playwright who’s not basically working in NYC or L.A., you’re working without representation, and without representation, you can’t get your script to anyone outside of your own market.”

But in 2013, he got his big break. His script for Perfect Arrangement, a biting satire set in the 1950s about a pair of closeted State Department employees tasked with outing suspected homosexuals within the agency, was selected to be produced for D.C.’s Source Festival, now in its ninth year.

Perfect Arrangement was a smash hit, thanks in no small part to the timing of its debut: The Supreme Court struck down key sections of the Defense of Marriage Act during its run. “We went from being a topical play to a very topical play,” Payne says. “It was the first time Source extended a play; there was such an audience demand to see it.”

Perfect Arrangement’s success didn’t stop with sold-out shows at that year’s Source Festival. In 2014, the American Theatre Critics Association named it best new play by an emerging playwright. “That led me to a whole new theater crowd, which led me to New York, which led me to an Off-Broadway production, which led to the script getting a publisher,” Payne says.

It might sound like a too-perfect narrative for Payne’s career—years spent cranking out plays that would never be seen outside of Atlanta, until the Source Festival gave him a shot—but that’s how he frames it. “That’s how I got my agent and everything started happening,” Payne says. “You want to believe that everything doesn’t happen because of a lucky break, and there are certainly arguments to say that it isn’t, but for me, it did.”

But Payne’s story isn’t unique. For the past nine years, the Source Festival has evolved from a homegrown local theater showcase to a nationally recognized festival. It’s become known for helping new and emerging playwrights—or veterans like Payne who’ve been sequestered in their regional markets—break through to the next level. And for more established playwrights, it’s an invaluable opportunity to try out their latest work in front of an audience.

On a recent muggy Friday afternoon, scores of sweaty people walk by Source on 14th Street NW. Inside, the air conditioning is blasting, but you wouldn’t know that by looking at the Source Festival crew members, who are perspiring heavily as they set up this year’s iteration. It officially kicked off on June 8 and runs until July 3.

Jenny McConnell Frederick, the festival’s artistic director, leads me on a tour of the stage and backstage area, which will host three full-length plays, 18 10-minute plays culled from more than 500 submissions, and three “Artistic Blind Dates”—workshops in which artists from different disciplines are randomly paired with each other to collaborate on original work over a six-month period.

It’s a lot for a theater festival, especially one that takes place on a single stage (which means the festival’s producers need to create sets that can easily be broken down after each performance). But that’s how the Source Festival has always done it.

From 1977 until the early aughts, Source was home to the Source Theatre Company, one of the most prominent in the District. During that time, they hosted an annual summer event called the Washington Theatre Festival. “It was very guerilla theater,” Frederick recalls of the festival.

But in the late ’90s, the company ran into financial problems. They ceased productions in 2002 and legally disbanded in 2006, leaving their 14th Street home on the market. In October of that year, local arts nonprofit CulturalDC bought the building, renovated it, and made it a shared arts space. As part of their agreement with Source Theatre Company, CulturalDC had to keep the Washington Theatre Festival going, in one form or another.

“When we bought the building, we had a kind of handshake agreement with the leadership of Source Theatre Company that we would continue some sort of summer festival,” Frederick says.

A year prior, another guerilla-style summer theater festival popped up in the District—Capital Fringe. That posed a different kind of challenge for CulturalDC: How do you start a summer theater festival that doesn’t compete with Fringe?

The big difference between the Source Festival and Fringe, Frederick says, “is that everything [Source] does is curated,” with about 100 readers helping to select plays, whereas with Fringe, almost anyone can submit a play and put on a production.

“With the Fringe Festival, you have to have a team of collaborators on a project and you come there and you get to put it on and there’s an amazing set of resources around that,” Frederick adds. “For us, if you’re new to town or new to school and you don’t really have your tribe yet, you can come to us and apply as an individual, and we’ll give you a tribe.”

Jennifer Fawcett is no stranger to the world of theater. She’s a graduate of the University of Iowa’s MFA Playwrights Workshop, and her work has received awards over the years and has been commissioned and produced all over the country—from Iowa City and Nashville, to Chicago and New York. The Source Festival may not help her career in the same way it did Payne’s, but it’s essential to her in other ways.

Each year, the Source Festival selects three new full-length plays—sometimes written by established playwrights like Fawcett—to anchor its lineup. For Fawcett, it’s a rare and valuable opportunity to bring a play that’s in an advanced stage of development—but not quite done—to a live audience to see what works and what doesn’t. This year, her latest work,Buried Cities, is one of the three full-length plays premiering at the festival.

Debuting a new show is a scary experience for playwrights, but it’s also a risky move for Source. However, that challenge has come to define the festival over the years.

“The reality is that new work is risky and it’s expensive, and it’s difficult to take those risks when most theaters are in a precarious place anyway,” Fawcett says. “Source is all about the risk.”

As good as the experience is for artists like Fawcett, it’s even more valuable for playwrights whose short scripts are selected as one of the 10-minute plays.

“One of the hardest things to do as a playwright is to get your work put up somewhere,” says Patrick Flynn, whose short play The Ferberizing of Coral is being produced in this year’s festival, “which is something I just didn’t understand for a while.”

Nathan Alan Davis, whose play Dontrell, Who Kissed the Sea was produced at the Source Festival in 2014 and later at other theaters across the country, says that the opportunity is everything.

“I got to kind of see the play fully produced with an audience and have the time and space to work on it,” he says. “It became, in a way, like the on-ramp for the world premiere.”


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Source Festival opens June 8: “Dive in and don’t be afraid”

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Source Festival opens June 8: “Dive in and don’t be afraid”
May 31, 2016 by Keith Loria

Two dozen new works will be on display as part of Washington D.C.’s Ninth Annual Source Festival, running June 8 through July 3, and theater fans will surely be intrigued by what’s being staged.SF_Postcard_Front

“Dive in and don’t be afraid,” says Jenny McConnell Frederick, artistic director of the event. “There are so many things to choose from that you can’t make a bad choice.”

As it does each year, The Source Festival selected three full-length productions to headline the event, and this year’s impressive group comes from more than 140 scripts that were sent in.

“We use these plays to serve as our themes for the festival,” McConnell Frederick says. “This year’s themes are Dreams & Discord, Heroes & Home, and Secrets & Sound. Each is an inspiration for the groupings of 10-minute plays and for the creation of our three Artistic Blind Dates.”

The Heroes & Home theme is led by Jennifer Fawcett’s Buried Cities, a tale about getting lost in hidden spaces.

Buried Cities was born out of another project I did in grad school (University of Iowa Playwrights Workshop) when I worked with a group of actors to create a play about gun ownership in America,” Fawcett says. “I was really interested in the idea of a couple, one of whom could not feel safe without a gun and one who couldn’t feel safe with one. This question of how to feel safe is a big one these days, I think. There’s a lot of fear, there’s even more fear mongering.”

Fawcett has wanted to be part of the Source Festival for years and is excited that she’s finally getting the chance.

“I like the ethos of the festival, which is a testament to the people who run it. There’s a willingness to risk, a willingness to take on the huge challenge of mounting three new works at the same time with limited resources and trusting the audiences to support the work and dig into it,” she says. “I don’t think this exists in a lot of regional theatre today. Theatre is expensive and therefore risky, so safe choices are often made usually at the cost of new plays. Source is different.”

Tom Horan’s Static heads the theme of Secrets & Sound. The play, a ghost story with lots of mystery surrounding it, will be directed by Bridget Grace Sheaff.

“I would want anyone who has ever been fascinated by the things people leave behind—the keepsakes in a bedside table, a box under the bed, an abandoned house—to be ready for a production you wouldn’t want to miss,” Horan says. “I don’t know of any other festival where I could see a series of 10-minute plays and an experimental piece that would be in conversation with my work. By exploring these ideas in a multifaceted way, the festival provides this wonderful possibility for audiences to make connections and have discussion that resonant deeply with their own lives.”

Representing the Dreams & Discord theme is the play Ballast, written by Georgette Kelly and directed by Margo Manburg. The play explores what it means to love someone in a moment of great transition, following the couples of Zoe and Grace, who recently transitioned from male to female; and Savannah and Xavier, who are dealing with cisgender issues.

“I’m very excited for this workshop production of Ballast because it is an opportunity for me to get to know D.C. artists and audiences,” Kelly says. “I have been impressed by the way the Source Festival uses themes from its full-length plays to inspire new artistic collaborations in the form of 10-minute plays and artistic blind dates. There should be a very interesting variety of options for audiences.”

Of course, as Kelly notes, in addition to these three plays, the Source Festival has curated a host of additional theatrical experiences on these themes.

For the Artistic Blind Dates, nine performers were selected from a group that includes musicians, filmmakers, dancers and other theater artists, and were put into groups of three to put together a theatrical experience based on one of the three themes.

“We chose those that were the most artistically exciting and they had six months and a small budget to put together whatever they wanted based on the theme,” McConnell Frederick says. “By joining together, they learn to speak each other’s artistic language and create something that will hint at some new angles on their collaboration together.”

The three performances include Crossroads, exploring the intermediary between the natural and the supernatural; Entanglement, created and performed by Claire Alrich, Maryam Foye, and Britney Mongold, which shows the story of three women traipsing through their own mythology, celebrating heroes who made them strong; and lost&SOUND, performed by Jacy Barber, Maverick Lemons and Veronica Lancaster, which challenges audiences to pursue the truths and revelations hidden sound waves.

Then there are the 18 10-minute plays, featuring some of the brightest D.C.-based actors and directors around.

There’s certainly something for every theater lover during the three weeks of performances.

“It’s an absolutely amazing way to see fresh, hot theatre being made across the country,” McConnell Frederick says. “The writers are people getting noticed and it’s a great way to see the next generation of top theatre artists as this is the first opportunity people have to see those who have a really bright future.”

May 2016 - Location of the Month

May 2016 – Location of the Month – CulturalDC’s Performing Arts Spaces

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May 2016 - Location of the Month

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

In conjunction with Mayor Muriel Bowser’s InnoMAYtion initiative, the Office of Cable Television, Film, Music and Entertainment is proud to select two of CulturalDC’s creative arts spaces ‘Flashpoint’ and ‘Source’ as Locations of the Month.

CulturalDC was established in 1998 by a coalition of government, business and creative leaders. The nonprofit organization was formed to support DC’s creative economy infrastructure and ensure there are spaces and resources for artists and arts organizations to live, create, exhibit and perform throughout the city.

Flashpoint, located in Northwest DC’s Penn Quarter neighborhood, features a flexible 60-seat black box with modular risers with chairs. Configurations for the space include thrust, proscenium arch and in the round. The space also comes with a dressing room, full lighting, audio and communication systems. The space is set up to accommodate events ranging from plays/musicals, staged readings, screenings, live music, improvised comedy and dance performances. Flashpoint also features a dance studio with 400-square feet of open space with 13-foot ceilings. This versatile, column-free space is equipped with mirrors and a sprung floor with Marley covering. The gallery shares a movable wall with the Mead Theatre Lab allowing both spaces to be combined and configured to up to 900-square-feet. There is also a comfortable conference room, which seats 12 people.

Source is located on 14th Street in Northwest Washington. The venue’s black box is a multipurpose, flexible performing arts space, which can be configured to suit a variety of entertainment needs. Events at Source have included modern dance, film screenings, improvisational theatre, and public meetings. The space can seat a maximum of 120 patrons on its modular risers. Rental of the black box includes the use of the front lobby, reception desk, patron restrooms, loading dock and dressing rooms. The rehearsal studio at Source is a 590-square-foot multipurpose space and has a sprung plywood and Masonite wood deck. Source also features a 300 square foot carpeted classroom and conference room complete with full-length pin board suitable for workshops, educational activities and more. Occupancy is 10 people active and 20 people seated.

Each year, CulturalDC serves over 1,000 artists and arts groups and 30,000 audience members through the activation of art space and presentation of contemporary visual and performing arts at their two spaces, Flashpoint and Source, and in nontraditional venues across the city. They opened DC’s first arts incubator, Flashpoint, and incubated ten emerging arts organizations there including Artomatic, Fringe Festival, Step Afrika! and Washington Improv Theater.

If you are interested in using CulturalDC’s Flashpoint and Source performing art spaces as a filming location, please contact us at To view more images of this and other Locations of the Month, please visit our location scouting page.

May 2016 LOTM Press Release


Summer 2016 at Flashpoint Gallery

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Wild Hand (BYT Article-3)

Rooms Of Their Own: Wild Hand Workspace


Wild Hand (BYT Article-3)
svetlana | Jeff Martin | May 3, 2016

Washington D.C. (which we, it goes without saying, LOVE) is many things but “a safe haven for creative careers” is probably not at the top of the list. The army of makers and artists that live in it often hold down 9-to-5 jobs in order to be able to afford it, and the struggle for finding a space to work in (that is not your tiny dining nook in your tiny apartment) is a constant one. And, as much as more traditional small businesses turn to coworking spaces, so do the artists and artisans. A month or so ago we launchedRooms Of Their Own, where we visit and explore collaborative work environments inhabited by women.

We kicked things off with a visit to Brewmaster Studios in Dupont, our second stop was at The Lemon Bowl, on Georgia Ave studio, and now we head to Brookland and Wild Hand Workspace , the shared studio and multi-use art space of photographer/curator Victoria Milko and A Creative DC’s / Panda Head Morgan Hungerford West. The bright space also hosts many events, exhibitions and collaborations. Come on in and meet Morgan and Victoria, and get ready for some major workspace and life decisions envy AND inspiration.

Tell us a little about yourself and what you make?

Morgan: I’m Morgan Hungerford West, and I primarily focus on visual content creation + creative marketing strategies for clients across the food, fashion, and lifestyle realms. If I’m not narrowing it down, I’m all about hands-on visuals and creative lifestyle, and I’m a consultant, photographer, and founder/director of A Creative DC. I’m also an artist specializing in site-specific decor + installations: most recently I combined a ton of spraypaint, lava lamps, and an unheard of number of ceramic cats to transform a restaurant at The Saguaro Palm Springs into a psychedelic-desert-dreamland. The installation projects are a little fewer and further between, and you can mostly find me working online or on my phone, behind a camera, or just generally behind-the-scenes.

Victoria: My name is Victoria Milko and I am an independent multimedia photojournalist. While you’ll typically find me with a camera in my hand, I also do a fair amount of writing too.

How long have you been at Wild Hand?

Morgan & Victoria: Three years this August!

Before Wild Hand Workspace, where did you work / what can you tell us about the experience?

Morgan: When we first got the studio I was heavily focused on large-scale textile installations, and I was working out of a warehouse in Anacostia – my family had a printing business and there was a ton of space and really high ceilings over there, which made it possible for me to say YES to a lot of projects that I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to take on. So when my Dad retired and the warehouse was no longer an option, I had to move operations to my Adams Morgan apartment, and there was about six months of spray-painting and structural testing going on the alley behind my place. It was mostly terrible: I was just starting out and wasn’t even at the point where I knew that I had to price my work in a way that supported the space it took to actually get the work done. Now that most of my projects are consulting-based it’s easier for me to camp out at home from time to time, and I’m far enough along in my career that I appreciate (at least the pretense of) work-life separation by way of address in ways I couldn’t a few years ago!

Victoria: My work has really only evolved into what it is today in the last year or so. I’ve been doing photography, curating shows and organizing large-scale art events for years—each time using a nonconventional space. For years I used coffee shops, warehouses and private properties to do work.Having the studio has provided me a creative home-base and place to always come back to. Simply walking in the door given me a sense of creative calm and helps me feel better connected to the D.C.’s incredible creative community.

How did you stumble upon / settle into Wild Hand?

Morgan: The stumbling-upon part was all Victoria! Once we knew about the opportunity – CulturalDCwas working with the Monroe Street Market to fill 27 studio spaces on an as-yet-built Arts Walk in Brookland – the simple fact that this was advertised as Metro-accessible, ground-floor, AFFORDABLE space was kind of all we needed to hear. Was it scary? YES. I’d been working for myself for less than two years and the thought of taking on a lease literally/actually kept me up at night. I was still working like four part-time jobs to make up for what I wasn’t making in my creative career. But going in on it with someone else made the decision a lot easier – Victoria is an amazing collaborator, and I mean that in every sense of the word. Financial collaboration is maybe the least-talked about partnership in the realms of art and creativity but ultimately it can help accelerate the results of both hard and good work.

Victoria: I have Cory Oberndorfer and PhilippaHughes to thank for tipping me off about the studio. During lunch at Philippa’s one afternoon Cory mentioned that artists had been invited to take a hardhat tour of the construction site. Later that night I hopped on my bike and peddled over to Brookland. There was a gap in the fence, so I slipped through (I’ve been begging for forgiveness rather than asking for permission for YEARS now) and took a walk around the construction site. Even when it studio nothing by cement and steel beams, I knew I had found something with incredible potential.I found myself, at 23, I was getting ready to sign a lease for my first small business space and I knew that I needed someone reliable, creative and flexible to share the space with. Morgan was the first person I thought of and texted. I feel incredibly lucky that she was willing to take the plunge with me.

Describe (each of you) what your typical work day looks like?

Morgan: At any given time I’ve got a handful of retainer clients and 2-3 major projects that I’m balancing, plus all things A Creative DC! Every day is different, but they start and end with social media. A typical day will see a few conference calls or IRL meetings, a ton of emailing, and usually a little bit of time gets set aside to attend or pay attention to something in the realm of DC creative community/creative economy. That can mean an art show or a site/shop visit, and I try to make time, also, to get inspired or learn something new: I’ll listen in on a grant-writing webinar or just catch up on podcasts or blog posts. Once or twice a week I’ll have a photo shoot and I’m usually con camera – iPhone or DSLR – so there’s a solid portion of the day spent in editing apps or software. A ton of admin + team meetings happen at Wild Hand, and if the weather is good the garage door is rolled up and Hailu Mergia is on Spotify.

Victoria: I spend part of every day out in the field, whether it be for an assignment or for a longer-term project. From day to day my work takes me across an incredible spectrum of places. One morning I’m photographing someone’s secret marijuana grow room in D.C.—the next day I’m interviewing an oyster farmer in Maryland.One thing people don’t typically see is the incredible amount of time I spend staring at a screen. Countless hours are dedicated to emailing with clients, researching topics, editing photos and video, writing and keeping my portfolio up to date. I’ve also been steadily applying for grants and scholarships, which can take quite some time.

On top of that, I’m also pursuing a Master’s degree, so two morning a week I am in class or out working on new skills I’ve learned from the week before.

Did you know each other before you moved in and how?

Morgan: YES! In DC years we have known each other forever, which is….what? Seven years, Victoria? We were both working at Urban Outfitters. We’ve gotten along tremendously since we first laid eyes on each other. Her work ethic is insane and I can’t imagine a better person to share space with.

Victoria: I met Morgan when I was 18 and we were working at Urban Outfitters. It didn’t take us long to realize that we both had an invested interest in D.C.’s creative scene.

Have there been any collaborations?

Morgan: We’ve worked together in a few different capacities on projects here and there – Victoria is an amazing photographer and content creator – and honestly I feel like the biggest collab we have is an ongoing level of support for each other’s projects. She’s in my corner and I’m in hers and we know the other one will pick up the phone if we need help/advice/love/support.

Victoria: I second Morgan on this one. While the majority of my work involves me working independently, I’ve received an incredible amount of support and advice from Morgan. Sometimes a simple out-of-the-blue text full of heart emojis can really be all a girl needs to lift her head off the desk and push through final edits late at night.

You host other artists and creatives in the space too – for gallery openings and more- any highlights, any amazing discoveries?

Morgan: I’ll let Victoria take this one!

Victoria: I’ve loved all the artists that we’ve had the pleasure of hosting in the space. Before Morgan and I moved in we spoke at length about the desire to provide an accessible location for artists looking to show their work. We lucked out with being given a beautiful wall, surrounded by windows and perched right next to a high-traffic metro stop.Every artist that comes into the space brings something different, and teaches us something as well. It’s interesting and informative to see your workspace through someone else’s eyes.

Creative space is at a premium in DC and we see sharing of the same more and more – what do you think are some of the benefits and disadvantages of working together?

Morgan: No disadvantages on my end, other than the closeness of sharing a space means that there’s, unfortunately, one more person in the universe privy to what a patented Morgan H. West low-blood-sugar-situation looks like.

We’re incredibly lucky to have known and trusted each other for a while – again, we met and became friends in a work environment. There was never any doubt on my end that this was a complete fit, on a friendship level and in the context of a business partnership.

I have so many thoughts on creative space in Washington DC, but to answer this question specifically – financial collaboration gives you a huge advantage. If you’re going at it alone, that means figuring out a way to reconcile the financial piece without taking away from your art/project/craft. If you’re going in with someone else, that’s a few more hours a week you can spend getting better at what it is you do. It took me eleven years to figure out how to get good enough at a handful of things so that I could make a decent living from a diversified income stream – and it took major shifts in the city’s creative economy that had NOTHING to do with me that helped me along the way. By sheer coincidence my skills were sharp + ready at a time when they became marketable in a way they’d long been in other places. A creative career takes patience no matter where you are, but artists need space, and while there’s a ton here that’s usable, very little of it is cost-accessible. Artists who choose to live in DC make a very real choice to make do with less than would be available to them in other cities. So yes – SHARE.

Space costs money and it’s an investment – literally – in your art or your project. Getting a studio in your name means signing a lease and passing a credit check and calling State Farm and getting an insurance policy and a bunch of other shit that no one wants to do, but once you do it you’re really proud that you did, and then you start to think of yourself as a business person, and you speak a slightly different language than you did before. Artists and creatives MAKE THIS CITY BETTER. Space is empowering and everyone deserves empowerment. If you’ve got it, you’re in the privileged position of having been able to advocate for yourself along the way. Pay that forward.

We need to set multiple successful models for what being part of a creative space in DC looks like, and being supportive of your neighbor’s rights/hopes/dreams/needs to figure out what their own model looks like is vital. Want to work with a developer or larger entity? Get what’s yours. A 52 O Street or Union Artssort of situation more your bag? More power to you. Cutting through red tape and bureaucracy and starting a membership-based incubator like MOUSAi HouseWard 8 Arts & Culture Council, or Pleasant Plains Workshop? Thank you for putting in that work, because it benefits SO. MANY, and it helps build a foundation. Ultimately, the most important thing is that we all raise our voices to champion this community’s and this city’s need for affordable space. We’re DIY to the point that we’ll make it happen with nothing, but the cultural contributions of the creative economy are wayyyyy more than is quantifiable with numbers and metrics: quality of life is at stake here, and we need to start speaking the same language as the powers-that-be if we want them to give us more than, well, nothing.

Victoria: There have been countless benefits and not a single disadvantage. Whether it be bouncing ideas off Morgan, splitting rental costs, or just sitting in the same room hunched over our laptops deprived of real human interaction… I’m glad we have each other.

As the three year anniversary approaches – are there any shared co-creative lessons you learned, anything you’d like to celebrate?

Morgan: It’s been really amazing to see both of our careers change – Victoria’s had work featured everywhere from Food & Wine to the Washington Post this year and I am such a proud friend! Also,Wild Hand Workspace is just one studio out of twenty-seven – from our neighbor Cheryl Edwards to our guy-across-the-way Cedric Baker and a whole bunch of artists up the path, that community has been growing over the last three years and there’s a real sense of “we’re all in it together.” That’s worth celebrating.

Victoria: Since we moved into the space so much has happened in both of our careers. Morgan has launched A Creative DC as well as countless other projects—she blows me away every day with her dedication, passion and savvy ways.The larger creative community in DC has flourished, despite major setbacks such as affordable spaces and an inflated cost of living—if that’s not something to celebrate I don’t know what is.

And of course I’d like to celebrate and thank every person who has walked through our door, whether they be a visiting artist, neighbor, client or collaborator. Without them we wouldn’t be where we are today.

What is next for each of you? And what’s next for Wild Hand?

Morgan: I’m excited to have been working with Think Local First and the DC Department of Small and Local Business Development to help launch the Made in DC Program. It’s in place to promote and support the sector of the DC creative economy that M A K E S and having grown up in a family of DC printers/manufacturers, it’s super near to my heart. I’ve got so many other projects going on at the same time (in the very best way!) and next up on the calendar is this weekend’s Broccoli City Festival: my team and I are helming the pop-up marketplace and we’re working with over 70 amazing vendors!

Wild Hand-centric? We’re excited for the Historic Brookland Farmer’s Market to have kicked off earlier this month. Spring/Summer on the Arts Walk is the actual best.

Victoria: I’ve accepted a summer position as an entry-level photojournalist for a weekly news magazine in Myanmar, so between local assignments and meetings I’ve been listening to Burmese rap and trying to get a grasp on basic Burmese phrases.When I get back to D.C. in the Fall, I’ll have a couple months to work locally before heading to the Middle East where I’ll spend a month working on a photodocumentary about LGBTQ culture in orthodox communities thanks to a generous grant from A Wider Bridge.

Between assignments I will be continuing to pursue a Masters in Multiplatform Journalism (with a concentration on video storytelling) at the University of Maryland, and working on assignments with my local editors and clients. I also have two solo shows in the Fall and Winter, which I’ll be excited to share more about in a few months—stay tuned!


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April 28, 2016

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Source Festival!

Over 30 people enjoyed the wonderful weather Sunday at the 2016 Source Festival Salon, presented by CulturalDC and hosted by Olwen and Don Pongrace (Akin Gump). Here, CulturalDC board chair and Bank of America’s Maurice Perry, Source Festival associate producer Lee Cromwell, and CulturalDC board member and the salon’s host, Olwen Pongrace.




At Flashpoint Gallery, Pondering Grief Through Fragile Photography



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At Flashpoint Gallery, Pondering Grief Through Fragile Photography

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In her multimedia exhibit “Sound of Butterfly,” D.C.-based artist Soomin Ham ingeniously blends form with theme.

Her Flashpoint Gallery exhibit dwells on themes of grief and loss, specifically Ham’s loss of her mother. She channeled her heartache by sifting through her mother’s possessions and photographing them. The items themselves are prosaic–articles of clothing, a watch, bottles of pills, even her mother’s fingerprint on a jar. Other images depict scenes with special meaning for Ham, such as the highway turnoff sign for the memorial park where her mother was laid to rest.

It’s Ham’s artistic treatment that makes them exceptional.

In one series consisting of more than two dozen square images, Ham starts with a photograph of one of her mother’s possessions, then freezes it in a layer of ice before re-photographing it. The resulting work both deadens the clarity of the image and adds a sprinkling of air bubbles around the edges, producing something almost mystical.

A second series is even more engrossing. It consists of a dozen reproductions of old family photos–vacations, weddings, group portraits. Ham scanned these images, printed them on rice paper, left them in water, then washed and dried them repeatedly until the images became murky. Then she left them out in the falling snow and photographed them again when they were almost covered.

The resulting images are visually stunning–the complex process dulls individuals’ faces to blankness and turns panoramic views into indistinct, pictorial fantasies seemingly photographed using 19th century paper negatives.

What gives these works added power, though, is the idea that they have been defined as artworks by something as ephemeral as snow or ice. The result is as eloquent as it is elegiac.

Through April 30 at Flashpoint Gallery, 916 G St. NW. Wed-Sat 12 p.m.-6 p.m




Annalisa Dias’ One Word More at Flashpoint (review)


DC Theatre Scene (Logo)
Annalisa Dias’ One Word More at Flashpoint (review)
April 11, 2016 by

Before Prospero, Miranda, Ferdinand, and even Caliban…there was Sycorax. In One Word More, writer and performer Annalisa Dias offers a bold, mind-bending vision of Shakespeare’s The Tempest that stretches from the remote desert island all the way to the American frontier.

 Dias, director Bridget Grace Sheaff, and their ambitious creative team have turned back the clock to when Prospero first crashed, confused and afraid, on the storied island ruled by the powerful Sycorax. In Shakespeare’s text, Sycorax is never seen and merely referenced as a cruel and dangerous witch. In One Word More, Dias transforms her into a sympathetic centerpiece and reverts Prospero to a disembodied voiceover. From this novel angle, Dias’ examines the colonialism, patriarchy, and native erasure that have followed Western explorers for centuries. Interestingly enough, her biggest scorn is reserved for American pioneers Lewis and Clark.

Annalisa Dias performing One Word More

Dias blends her imagined encounters between Sycorax and Prospero with verbatim readings from Lewis and Clark’s shocking expedition journals. The explorers’ xenophobic insights on first contact with Native Americans force the audience to confront the uncomfortable implications of Prospero’s rule. By the start of The Tempest, the Milanese Duke has simply overthrown or enslaved the natives, and Sycorax is nowhere to be found. Her son Caliban is treated as an outcast and villain by the virtuous Western leads. If nothing else, Dias’ thought experiment exposes an uncomfortable imperialist through-line bridging 17th Century England and 19th Century America.

We talk with Annalisa Dias

The confident Dias has no trouble commanding the stage alone for 60 uninterrupted minutes. In her troubled historian role, she alternates between dry academic humor and growing unease at Lewis and Clark’s racist, sexist musings. As Sycorax, she stalks the dirt-covered Mead Theatre Lab stage waging emotional and physical battle with the strengthening Prospero.

The quick transitions between writing studio, American frontier, and remote island can be confusing – the show works best when Dias has time to really dig into a particular scene without interruption. The only pieces that just don’t work are two dance sections where she seeks to imitate a mighty storm, but instead looks more like she’s caught inside a wind-tossed garbage bag.

April 8 – 30
Mead Theatre Lab
Flashpoint Gallery
916 G Street NW
Washington, DC 20001
Tickets: $20

The production’s most clever trick is creating a convincing likeness of Prospero onstage with only voiceover and an assortment of broken statues. Sculptor Brian Fernandes-Halloran employs a variety of materials and styles to create a graveyard of parts collectively representing the stranded Duke. With help from the well-timed sound and lighting work by designers DeLesslin George-Warren and E-hui Woo, the statues channel Prospero with a surprising degree of realism.

One Word More follows Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead’s lead by tracking minor Shakespearean characters in the space between pages to ask tough questions about life and shared experience. Dias and company turn the “great explorer” mythos of Prospero and Lewis & Clark on its head and slowly restore stolen agency to Sycorax, Caliban, and Native Americans – one performance at a time.

One Word More:

Writer and Performer: Annalisa Dias
Director: Bridget Grace Sheaff
Costume Designer: Tori Boutin
Sound Designer: DeLesslin George-Warren
Lighting Designer: E-hui Woo
Sculpture Artist: Brian Fernandes-Halloran
Stage Manager: Amanda Zeitler
Production Support: CulturalDC





The Washington City Paper 2016 Best of D.C. winners have been announced, and CulturalDC is thrilled that the excellent work by Arts Walk at Monroe Street Market artists and residents at Source have been recognized.  #WeMakeSpaceForArt:

Arts Walk at Monroe Street Market Artist – Best Commercial Art Gallery 2016:

Arts Walk at Monroe Street Market Artist – Best Local Crafter 2016:

*RUNNER-UP – Arts Walk at Monroe Street Market Artist Kuzeh Pottery (Studio #18)

Source Theatre Resident – Best Theater Company 2016:




Annalisa Dias on How Theater Can Change the World


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Annalisa Dias on How Theater Can Change the World
April 1, 2016 by

I have yet to come across a theater artist who dreams bigger than Annalisa Dias. She has facilitated and studied theater on several continents. She has produced, directed, dramaturged, devised, designed and performed in a plethora of productions on DC stages. Not only has she done all of these things, but she has developed and is developing through her work the kind of philosophy that may alter DC’s theatrical landscape and perhaps change the world. So I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to chat with her at Busboys and Poets about social justice, capitalism, how bodies can change the world, and why a pencil may be more than just a pencil.

Annalisa Dias, theater-maker

Alan Katz: What do you do?

Annalisa Dias: I make theater. The other day a friend tried to introduce me to somebody, and he didn’t know how to say what I do. He said, “Well, she’s an actor, but she’s a playwright, but she’s a director, but…” What I say is that I make theater by any means. So, if I need to be a playwright, I’ll be a playwright. If I need to be a director, I’ll be a director. If I need to be a performer in the piece then I’ll be a performer. I’ve done scenic art. Costumes. The only things I haven’t tried to do yet are scene design and sound design. I’ve done most everything else.

AK: What are you focusing on right now?

AD: I would call it devising, but maybe creating is the best way to talk about it. And, in creating new work, I’m taking on a a few different roles: partly as performer, partly as a playwright and partly as a devising artist.

The thing that unifies my work is social justice. Everything that I do has something to say about a social injustice that I perceive in the world.

AK: So you work toward awareness? Solutions?

AD: Both. There’s never an easy solution to any systemic injustice, but I do think that you can instigate productive dialogue by making art. And it’s through dialogue in a shared space that solutions, multiple solutions, can be found.

AK: Why social justice?

AD: What do you mean?

AK: Most theater artists I know, while they might be for social justice – that’s usually not the reason that they do theater. So why social justice? 

AD: I see my training in physical theater as integrally linked to the work that I do in the [social justice-oriented] Theater of the Oppressed because the American system of training actors is so reliant on psychological realism and theStanislavski system. So much that I find that actors, broadly, not all of them, but broadly-speaking, don’t know how to use their bodies generally and specifically don’t know how to use their bodies in abstract ways to create art. It becomes all about “psychological intention,” putting the words and the text first.

I find that to be problematic societally. We are so conditioned to sit at a computer, be “productive members of a society” and output, output, output. The meaning of life is all about the things that you’re producing. And we forget that we have bodies. We sit at these computers, in front of these screens, and, although we’re connected virtually in all of these different ways, we forget that our bodies are expressive and our bodies can do things and communicate connectively.

Annalisa Dias performing One Word More

AK: What is the connection between engaging the body and social justice?

AD: Capitalist society benefits from people forgetting their embodiment and their humanity. Capitalist society relies on people becoming parts of the machine and less and less human. And I think that’s destroying the world.

So, for me, a way to combat that at a very grassroots level is to work with the body. When I work with women at  N Street Village who have never done actor training before, I get to do this introductory workshop with them where I get to see them accessing the expressiveness of their own bodies at a fundamental level. When we’re young, we play and our bodies are connected to our minds in a way that they’re not now. We forget that as we go through life and become capitalist output machines.

AK: So, for you, the separation of the mind and the body is the fundamental instrument by which social injustice is perpetuated.

AD: Yes, but there’s another layer to it. There is the problem of separation of mind and body but that then functions to allow people to separate themselves from community.

AK: How so?

AD: It allows people to envision themselves as separate from the people—the bodies—that are around them. Like all of these people in this restaurant have no effect on me because I envision myself as not related to them because I can, for example, go on my phone and connect to whatever is virtual and is not part of my embodied space.

A line in One Word More —which I stole from John Donne— is “No man is an island.” That’s fucked up.  And I hate that. I hate that we think we’re all these little islands. That we don’t have any effect on each other.

AK: So the way that you can heal or combat social injustice is bringing someone’s self, their mind, and connecting it with their body. Then connecting that now whole organism with other whole organisms. And that’s hope. So, how does that work, practically?

AD: [laughing] Sometimes it doesn’t!

If I’m the primary generative artist in a room where art is being made, I tend to delegate my authority in that room so that we’re all creating a piece of work together. In the United States, we’re very reliant on the playwright and director as authoritative figures in the artistic process. But for me as an artist, it is important to value people’s voices, value their artistic input into my work and allow the other artists to influence them as they’re generating ideas and words. We can’t exist in these little island bubbles of “I only do this one thing.”

People are so trained not to step on each others’ toes by the American theater system. We’re trained to be dictators over our own little worlds. We don’t want to trespass in the yard of another artist. People just want to do their thing and then go home. And that’s the end of that. So it’s difficult sometimes if people aren’t used to a co-creative process to, like, break out of the training. That’s the work I do in Theater of the Oppressed.

Theater of the Oppressed aims to flip traditional power structures on their heads.  In a traditional power structure in a theater space, you would have the director or the playwright who dictates what happens, then the actors follow what they say when they present a piece of work to an audience. The audience sits there and receives information from the artist. Then they go home and that’s the end of the relationship. With Theater of the Oppressed, you ask for input from both the actors and from the audience, then the director/playwright puts that into the piece of art. So it’s more about a communal process of art-making.

AK: You have a couple of different projects coming up; let’s talk about how you try to invert power structures in them.

AD: Right now, I am working at the N Street Village and doing a series of movement workshops, beginning theater workshops with women who are experiencing homelessness. In those workshops, we’re doing a combination of Theater of the Oppressed games.

AK: Give me an example of one.

AD: My favorite Theater of the Oppressed game is a game called “Homage to Magritte.” You know the painting “The Treachery of Images?”. It’s a painting of a pipe that has “This is not a pipe” written on it in French. You get to talk about the questions of, “What is reality?” “Are things what they appear to be?” and “Can they have other meanings?” Then you take an object and put it in the center of a circle where all the participants are sitting around. You ask people to pick up that object and use it in a way that shows it as something that it is not.

So, put a pencil in the middle of the room. Maybe pick up the pencil and use it as a rolling pin. You could make it into a baseball bat, or whatever your idea is. You can’t use any words or sounds. It’s just about picking up an object and using your body to show it as something other than it is.

And it’s pretty stunning to see people who aren’t asked to use the muscle of their imagination on a daily basis struggle, at the beginning, with play. Then people get the hang of it. They open up, and it’s amazing to watch people access that space of creative play. The best part is having a dialogue at the end about why is it so difficult to imagine, to really see an object as having functions other than what we were taught they had. The conversation usually turns on this: if we can’t imagine the world other than it is, then who is going to?

If I can’t imagine a world in which homelessness is not a problem, then who’s going to do that? Who is going to create that world? You have to be able to imagine the change and then enact it. Imagination is a thing that capitalist society, to go back to my apparent loathing for capitalism, teaches us not to have. We’re conditioned not to use our imagination. We’re conditioned to be part cogs of this machine. Do our thing. Go home. Watch TV. Go to bed. That’s that’s what we do. We don’t imagine the world as different. For the most part.

AK: The next thing after your N Street village classes is a play called One Word More. What is that?

AD: Briefly, it’s a reimagining of Shakespeare’s The Tempest from the perspective of Sycorax, who is the erased female voice. She never appears in The Tempest, but she’s referred to by Prospero and Caliban. We never see her body. So this piece is really an interrogation of the historical erasure of women’s voices and bodies from both society and history.

AK: How is that process?

AD: The group of folks that I’m working with are incredible. In December 2014, we did a draft workshop at Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Happenings at the Harman. That draft is about 30 minutes long and I haven’t really touched it since then.

That is our common starting place for how are we going to evolve together as artists. It’s difficult for me in a surprising way  to relinquish authority over this piece because it’s so personal for me. This piece, in its previous iteration, meant a lot to me as an artist. It was the first time that I gave myself permission to be a performer as a professional. It means a lot to me. So it has been surprisingly difficult to relinquish my authority over what the piece is, but, if we’re going to have an authentically co-creative experience, I need to be okay with allowing other artists to influence the product.

It’s scary. But at the same time, it’s exciting to me to create art that is built on relationships with people. Rather than like relationships with ideas.

AK: You create your own community, and that’s a model for how you want the rest of society to look. These are two pretty neat and pretty different projects you’ve got running.

AD: Oh, they’re not separate at all. The work that I’m doing at N Street Village is directly connected to One Word Morein that I’m hoping for two things: that some of the women who I work with will come and be part of the audience forOne Word More. And I’ve invited a couple of them to lead post-show dialogues about the erasure of women’s voices and what that means in the DC community specifically. There’s a very important and symbiotic relationship between the actual art that I’m producing and the work that I’m doing in the community, and with the Welders.

AK: Why is it important to you that they not be separate?

AD: It goes back to that idea that no man is an island. Like people, Art doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It should exist in the community. Art should be made for the community. Art needs to be part of the community. No art should be an island.

One Word More now through April 30 at CulturalDC’s Mead Theatre Lab at Flashpoint.


[The interviewer thanks Meghan Tucker-Carafano for her help in transcribing this interview.]


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