Sundance Institute Announces 2019 Theatre Lab Acting Company, Dramaturgs and Advisors

Jesse Alick, Rachel Hauck, Lisa Kron, Amauta Marston-Firmino & Others Join Creative Team

Acting Company to Include Cherise Boothe, Elise Kibler, Tony Plana, Ari’el Stachel & Others

New York —Sundance Institute’s 2019 Theatre Lab convenes Monday, July 8; the Institute announced this year’s participating acting company and creative advisors today.

The Lab, which runs through July 28 at Utah?s Sundance Resort, will be led by the program?s Director,Christopher Hibmain collaboration with ManagerAna Verde;the eight projects were selected by Hibma and former Theatre Program Artistic DirectorPhilip Himberg, with support of a six-member Advisory Committee. At the 2019 Lab, Hibma will collaborate with director and Theatre Lab alumnaLisa Peterson, who will serve as Guest Artistic Director andJumana Al-Yasiriwill join in her capacity as Manager for the Program?s Middle East / North Africa year-round initiatives.

?The Lab is a place and time where theatre-makers of all stripes can get their work off the page? said Hibma. ?We design a space with the support of an attentive staff and rigorous expertise — dramaturgs and creative advisors, in addition to the acting company — with the goal of gracious experimentation, enabling these artists to explore and realize stories that live in real time and space.?

More than 85% of Sundance-supported plays and musicals find production. Recent projects include 2015?s Tony Award Winner for Best Musical, Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori?sFun Home, and 2014?s winner, Robert L. Freedman & Steven Lutvak?sA Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, as well as titles such as the Tony Award nomineeIndecent,Taylor Mac?sA 24 Hour Decade of Popular Music,The Treasurer, Between the World and Me, Where can I find someone like you, Ali?, Skeleton Crew, Sell/Buy/Date, ToasT, Appropriate, Circle Mirror Transformation, An Iliad, The Good Negro, The Light in the Piazza, Passing Strange, Stuck Elevator, Spring AwakeningandI Am My Own Wife.

This year?s participants include:

Dramaturgs/Creative Consultants
Abdullah Al-Kafri (Ettijahat – Beirut, Lebanon)
Jesse Cameron Alick (Public Theater – New York, NY)
Lisa Kron (Fun Home)
Amauta Marston-Firmino (Slave Play)
Janice Paran

Creative Advisors
Omar Abi Azar (Zoukak Theatre Company – Beirut, Lebanon)
Oskar Eustis (Public Theater – New York, NY)
Rachel Hauck (Hadestown, What the Constitution Means to Me)
Indhu Rubasingham (Kiln Theatre – London, UK)

Acting Company
Abubakr Ali (We Live in Cairo)
Wilma Bonet
Cherise Boothe (Fabulation, or the Re-Education of Undine)
Eston Fung
Yetta Gottesman (The Last Days of Judas Iscariot)
Obehi Janice
Russell Jones
Elise Kibler (The Heidi Chronicles)
Keren Lugo (Privacy)
Zdenko Martin (A View from the Bridge)
Bruce McKenzie (A Streetcar Named Desire)
Zoe Modiga
Tony Plana (Ugly Betty)
Brenda Pressley (The Lyons)
Vusi Sondiyazi
Vuyo Sotashe
Ari’el Stachel (The Band?s Visit)
Phindi Wilson (The Lion King)

Casting Director
Henry Russell Bergstein, C.S.A.

Production Manager
Amanda Spooner

Stage Management
Shelley Miles
Helen Irene Muller
Kristin Herrick
Adam Ashraf Elsayigh

Production Assistants
Karishma Bhagani
Kate Carolan
Cortney Gilliam
Chelsey Greene

Special Guests
Roberta Levitow (Theatre Without Borders)
Mara Isaacs (Octopus Theatricals)

The Sundance Institute Theatre Program is supported by an endowment from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, with generous additional support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; Perry and Martin Granoff; Luma Foundation; National Endowment for the Arts; Wendy vanden Heuvel; John and Marcia Price Family Foundation; The Shubert Foundation, Inc.; The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust; Wyncote Foundation?Leonard Haas; Richenthal Foundation; The Carrie Louise Hamilton Foundation; and Francena T. Harrison Foundation.

As previously announced, the projects selected for the Theatre Lab are:

The Blind King
By David Adjmi
Directed by Sarah Lunnie

A renowned male playwright has written a play about the ignominious downfall of a powerful business magnate. But when the lead actress meets with him to discuss a small problem with his writing of her character, the problem builds and magnifies and eventually unleashes a pandora?s box of issues plaguing America in this frightening and deeply precarious historical moment.The Blind Kingis a play about the nature of tragedy, and the nature of human nature.

David Adjmiis the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, The Steinberg Prize, and the Whiting Award, among others. His memoirLot Sixis forthcoming from HarperCollins. His playThe Stumbleis a commission from LCT, andStereophonic(with music by Will Butler/Arcade Fire) is a co-commission from Second Stage and CTG. Other plays includeMarie Antoinette,Elective Affinities,3C,StunningandThe Evildoers.Stunning and Other PlaysandMarie Antoinette/3Care both published by TCG.

Sarah Lunnieis a dramaturg. Based in New York, she is the Associate Artistic Director of the Jungle Theater (Minneapolis) and a company member with The Mad Ones. Recent projects:What The Constitution Means To Me(Broadway, NYTW, Clubbed Thumb),Hillary and Clinton(Broadway),Mrs. Murray?s Menagerie(Ars Nova). Other work at Actors Theatre of Louisville, the Bushwick Starr, the Denver Center, The Kennedy Center, The Lark, Ma-Yi, New Dramatists, the O?Neill, and Playwrights Horizons.

Written & directed by Whitney White

Definitionis a new musical that takes a surrealist look at a contemporary African American woman’s monotonous, disconnected city-existence. A visit to the museum breathes life into her inner world, and she falls in love with a Magritte painting. A look at delusion and how we walk with our demons every day.

Whitney Whiteis a director, musician, and playwright based in New York. Directing:What to Send Up When It Goes Down(The Movement, NYT Critics? Pick),JUMP(PlayMakers Rep, NNPN Rolling World Premiere),Canyon(IAMA, LA Times Critics? Choice),An Iliad(Long Wharf),Rita Tambi?n Rita(Juilliard),Othello(Trinity Rep), andBR?ER COTTON(Endstation). Writing:Macbeth in Stride(2019 Under the Radar, The Public),Lover I?ll Bring You Back to Life(Ars Nova, 2017),Abduction(Soho Rep FEED Series).

Don’t Eat The Mangos
By Ricardo P?rez Gonz?lez
Directed by David Mendiz?bal

Don’t Eat the Mangostells the story of three sisters living outside of San Juan, Puerto Rico. The sisters are faced with the daunting task of caring for their cancer-stricken Mami and their wheelchair-bound Papi. Despite being paralyzed, Papi still rules his family through fear, intimidation, and the ringing of a small bell. Over the course of a hurricane ravaged night, family secrets surface, relationships are tested, and the sisters are forced to contend with a legacy of trauma.

Ricardo P?rez Gonz?lezis a queer Puerto Rican writer with bacalao on his breath and Salsa on his hips, recently finished writing on the third season of Netflix?sDesignated Survivor. After developingDon?t Eat the Mangosat Sundance, his playOn the Grounds of Belongingabout racially segregated gay bars in 1950s Houston will premiere at Long Wharf this fall. Other upcoming projects includeOrlando, a pilot with Nina Tassler about the Puerto Rican diaspora after Hurricane Mar?a.

David Mendiz?balis a director/designer, a Producing Artistic Leader of The Movement Theatre Company, and Associate Artistic Director of The Sol Project. Select directing credits include:iNegro(Mentor Project),And She Would Stand Like This(TMTC),On the Grounds of Belonging(Public), &Tell Hector I Miss Him(Atlantic – Drama League Nomination). Former Artistic Associate at Atlantic Theater Company, current member of Latinx Theatre Commons, & Wingspace. Alumnus of Drama League, LCT Director’s Lab, NALAC, & artEquity. BFA NYU/Tisch.

Dreaming Zenzile
By Somi Kakoma
Directed by Lileana Blain-Cruz

Dreaming Zenzileis a play with music based on the extraordinary life of late South African singer and political activist Miriam Makeba.Dreaming Zenzileis set in Castel Volturno, Italy on the night of Makeba?s final performance and her death. Throughout the play, Makeba moves between the memory and evocation of real and dreamed experiences about her life journey while weaving through a musical landscape of modern jazz and South African musical traditions. ?Zenzile? is Makeba?s true first name. In her mother tongue Xhosa, it means “you have done it to yourself.” In short,Dreaming Zenzileis an exposition of the burdens and freedoms that accompany the gift of song and a meditation on the lasting power of the disembodied voice.

Dreaming Zenzileis made with the permission and courtesy of Miriam Makeba Foundation, Miriam Makeba Estate, and Mama Africa Cultural & Social Trust.

Somi Kakomawas born in Illinois to immigrants from Uganda and Rwanda, and is an acclaimed vocalist-songwriter known simply as ?Somi?. Her blend of modern jazz with African musics and the innate poetry of her songwriting often give voice to issues of social justice.Her latest recording,Petite Afrique(Sony/OKeh), is a song cycle about the dignity of immigrants and the gentrification of Harlem?s vibrant West African quarter. The album won the 2018 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Jazz Album. Somi is a TED Senior Fellow, a Soros Equality Fellow, and a Doris Duke USA Fellow.Dreaming Zenzileis her first original play.

Lileana Blain-Cruzis a theater director. She won an Obie Award for her production ofThe Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire Worldat Signature Theater. Other recent projects includeFaust(Opera Omaha),Marys Seacole(LCT3),Fabulation (Signature),Pipeline(Lincoln Center),ThunderbodiesandRevolt. She Said. Revolt Again (Soho Rep),The House That Will Not StandandRed Speedo(New York Theater Workshop),Henry IV Part OneandMuch Ado About Nothing(OSF),WAR(Yale Rep and LCT3), andThe Bluest Eye(The Guthrie). She was awarded a 2018 United States Artist Fellowship. Upcoming is Branden Jacobs-JenkinsGirlsat Yale Rep.

The Garden
By Charlayne Woodard
Directed by Liz Diamond

The Gardenexplores the relationship between an elderly African-American mother, Claire Rose, and her middle-aged daughter, Cassandra. Set in Claire Rose?s precious vegetable garden outside her tidy little house, the play runs in real time for an hour and a half of their lives. Claire Rose loves her daughter. With tough love and self sacrifice, she has prepared Cassandra, creating an achiever, an overcomer ? a bulldog, in her own image. At the same time she?s at odds with Cassandra?s lifestyle, her life choices, and even her success as a film editor ? all opportunities that Claire Rose never had. Two alpha women, who give as good as they get, take us on rollercoaster ride full of humor and pain: Mother and daughter shine a light on their secrets and betrayals.

Charlayne Woodardis a two-time Obie Award winner & Tony Award nominee. Off-B’way:DADDY;Hamlet(Gertrude);WAR(Mother);Substance of Fire(Marge Hackett);The Witch of Edmonton(Witch);In The Blood(Hester);Fabulation(Undine);The Caucasian Chalk Circle(Grusha);Twelfth Night(Maria);Stunning;Sorrows and Rejoicings. Regional:A Midsummer Night’s Dream(Titania);The Taming of the Shrew(Katherine);The Good Person of Szechuan. B’way:Ain’t Misbehavin’(Original cast);Hair(revival). Film:Glass;Unbreakable;The Crucible;Eye for an Eye;Sunshine State. TV:Pose(series regular); recurring roles:Sneaky Pete;Law and Order,Special Victims Unit: ER: Guest Star:The Leftovers;The Blacklist. Playwright:Pretty Fire,Neat,In Real Life,The Night Watcher,Flight.

Liz Diamondserves as Resident Director at Yale Rep and Chair of Directing at Yale School of Drama. She has directed new and classical works at Yale Rep and at theatres across the US including A.R.T., Public Theater, American Conservatory Theatre, Arena Stage, Oregon Shakespeare Festival. She has won OBIE and Connecticut Critics Circle Awards for Outstanding Direction. Her translation and production of Stravinsky?sl?Histoire du Soldatrecently premiered at Zankel Hall in New York.

Devised and Performed by Faisal Abu Alhayjaa & Alaa Shehada
Written by Khawla Ibraheem
Directed by Oliver Butler

Large is the distance between the city of London and Jenin. Jenin is the small grey city, where every bit of a life is an endless Sisyphean battle, crowded streets cracked like wrinkles on an old skin, sieged by the gazes of paddlers that stopped wondering. Dark are the roads of Jenin. The distance between London and Jenin lies by the difference between the great city of fog, and the small city of dust. In an immigration office in East London, Faisal and Alaa, two actors from Jenin with big dreams for success in the City of theatre, wait to apply. They practice for their interview, asking all the bureaucratic questions, and they find themselves struggling with fear, love and longing.

Faisal Abu Alhayjaais a Fellow at the Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics at Georgetown University, and was born in the Jenin Refugee Camp in Palestine. When Juliano Mer-Khamis opened an acting school as a part of The Freedom Theatre in the Camp, Faisal was part of the inaugural class. After graduating, he was a resident artist of The Freedom Theatre for the next five years and taught the next generation of students. Faisal has performed with The Freedom Theatre throughout Palestine, as well as in Brazil, India, the UK, the US, and across Europe. As a member of Red Noses International and a graduate of their International School of Humour in Austria, he has performed as a clown in refugee camps across Greece with their Emergency Smile initiative, and in children?s hospitals in the West Bank. Faisal?s directing credits includeAt-Tuwani(Palestine),A Skate Play(Palestine) andHamesha Shamida(India). He was a leading artist forThe Freedom Bus, a project that toured Palestine to promote cultural resistance. Faisal toured the UK with celebrated British comedian, Mark Thomas, performingShowtime from the Frontline.

Khawla Ibraheemis a Syrian/Palestinian theatre artist considered an up-and-coming talent in Palestine. Khawla is regular suspect in the National Palestinian Theatre where she has recently created two shows as writer director for the national main stage,Story KeeperandSoon to be gone. She is a long time collaborator of Amir Nizar Zuabi, and a part of the United Theatres of Europe project of International Super Objective Theatre.

Alaa Shehadais a theatre maker who was trained at The Freedom Theatre Acting School in Jenin camp, Palestine. He has performed all over the world: US, Europe, Turkey, Asia, and the UK. He is also a specialist in mask theatre, trained at Theatre Hotel Courage, Amsterdam. Alaa does clowning with Red Noses International. Recently, he won the Special Jury Award for Best Actor at the International Festival of Liberal Theatre in Jordan, and also won the Best Theatre Performance in 2018 forReturn to Palestine.

Oliver Butler, director:Broadway:What the Constitution Means to Me(2019 Tony Award nomination for Best Play); Off-Broadway:Thom Pain(Signature Theatre) andThe Open House(Signature Theater, Lortel Best Play, Obie Award); world premiere of Jordan Harrison?sThe Amateurs(Vineyard Theater). Regional:The Whistleblower(Denver Center),Thom Pain(Geffen Playhouse, starring Rainn Wilson),Legacy(Williamstown),Bad Jews(Long Wharf),An Opening in Time(Hartford). International:Timeshare(Australia). He is a Sundance Institute Fellow and a Bill Foeller Fellow. Oliver is Co-Artistic Director of The Debate Society, productions includeThe Light Years(Playwrights Horizons),Jacuzzi(Ars Nova),Blood Play(Bushwick Starr),Buddy Cop 2(Ontological),Cape Disappointment(PS122), and 4 other TDS plays.

On That Day in Amsterdam
By Clarence Coo
Directed by Kareem Fahmy

Two young men, an American backpacker and a Syrian refugee, meet in a gay club in Amsterdam and spend a day together knowing their paths will never cross again. As they visit the homes of Rembrandt, Van Gogh, and Anne Frank, they discover the meaning of love, art, and escape in the context of Europe?s migrant crisis.

Clarence Coois a recipient of a 2017 Whiting Award and the 2012 Yale Drama Series Prize. His plays includeThe Birds of Empathy, Beautiful Province (Belle Province), People Sitting in Darkness, and The God of Wine.He is a resident playwright at New Dramatists, a member of the Ma-Yi Writers Lab, and the manager of academic administration of Columbia University?s MFA Writing Program.

Kareem Fahmyis a Canadian-born director and playwright of Egyptian descent. His world premieres include3/Fifths(3LD,New York TimesTop 5 Must-See Shows),This Time(Sheen Center,New York TimesCritics? Pick) andRefuge*Malja(Portland Stage). 2019 Phil Killian Directing Fellow (Oregon Shakespeare Festival). 2017 National Directors Fellow (The O?Neill/NNPN). Kareem?s plays includeThe Triumphant,Pareidolia,The In-Between, and an adaptation of the acclaimed Egyptian novelThe Yacoubian Building. MFA Directing: Columbia University.

By Bassem Youssef
Directed by Oliver Butler

This is a one-man show that follows the unusual story of a heart surgeon turned satirist in the wake of the Arab Spring. Bassem Youssef takes the audience on a funny — yet scary — journey to show people the cost of laughing in the face of tyranny. The show follows Bassem as he escapes from Egypt to land in America at a very unwelcoming time for an immigrant. Through storytelling, standup, multimedia and music, Bassem tells a unique story in a unique style.

Bassem Youssef,dubbed the Jon Stewart of the Arab World and originally a heart surgeon, was the host of the popular TV showAl-Bernameg, which was the first-of-its-kind political satire show in the Middle East region. His show became the most watched show in the history of Egyptian TV with an average of 40 million viewers every week. After having to escape from Egypt, Youssef is now starting a third career as a comedian in the US.

[For information on director Oliver Butler, please seeLondon-Jenin, above.]


Ritesh Batrawas nominated for BAFTA for his first feature filmThe Lunchboxwhich he developed at the Sundance Feature Film Program, it starred Irrfan Khan and Nimrat Kaur. Since then he has worked onThe Sense of an Endingbased on the Booker Prize-winning book,Our Souls at Nightwith Robert Redford and Jane Fonda, based on the novel by Kent Haruf. His new moviePhotographwas screened at the Sundance and Berlin Film Festivals in 2019. He lives and works in New York.

Heather Christianis an Obie Award winning composer/performer and Sundance Time Warner Fellow. She makes original performance work (Animal WisdomBushwick Starr,Mission DriftNat?l Theater London,The World Is RoundBAM,) as well as scores film (The Shivering Truth(Adult Swim),Lemon,Gregory Go Boom,Sundance Grand Jury Prize). She has released 8 records with her band, the Arbornauts, owns and operatesThe Arborrecording studio in Beacon, NY, and can be seen all over the world avant-torching.

Dima Mikhayel Mattais a university instructor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Balamand, a writer, and an actress. She received a Fulbright scholarship and completed her MFA in creative writing at Rutgers University. She has been acting for the stage since 2006. In 2014, she founded Cliffhangers, the first bilingual storytelling platform in Lebanon. In 2018, she curated the first LGBTQ+ art exhibition in Lebanon. She is currently working on her first play.

Fadi Toufiqis a writer & artist, born in Beirut 1975. Fadi works with different mediums: books, videos, and performance art. His primary interest lies in deconstructing grand narratives by means of reassembling fragmented events, as close as possible to the way it unfolds and strikes who experiences it at firsthand. His performance and art installations have been shown in different art venues around the world, such as MUMOK in Vienna, the Centre chor?graphique de Rennes in France, and Performa Biennial in New York.

Sundance Institute
Founded in 1981 by Robert Redford, Sundance Institute is a nonprofit organization that provides and preserves the space for artists in film, theatre, and media to create and thrive. The Institute’s signature Labs, granting, and mentorship programs, dedicated to developing new work, take place throughout the year in the U.S. and internationally. The Sundance Film Festival and other public programs connect audiences to artists in igniting new ideas, discovering original voices, and building a community dedicated to independent storytelling. Sundance Institute has supported such projects asSorry to Bother You, Eighth Grade, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, Hereditary, RBG, Call Me By Your Name, Get Out, The Big Sick, Top of the Lake, Winter’s Bone, Dear White People, Brooklyn, Little Miss Sunshine, 20 Feet From Stardom, Beasts of the Southern Wild,Fruitvale Station,I?m Poppy, America to Me, Leimert Park, Spring Awakening,A Gentleman?s Guide to Love and MurderandFun Home. JoinSundance InstituteonFacebook,Instagram,TwitterandYouTube.