Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Click here
to view Millennium Stage performance of music from Visible Language

Visible Language Music

In the rapidly changing world of the 1890s, two powerful and egotistical men fight for dominance in the field of deaf communication.  Meanwhile, in the upper class drawing rooms of Washington, DC., a young girl named Helen Keller learns what it means to be a woman in an era of progress.

narrator/discussion moderator 
Jacqueline E. Lawton

Scott Sedar, David Berkenbilt, Richard Pilzer and Rob McQuay
Patti Papworth, Jaclyn Young, Katy Carkuff, and Eric Siegel.
sign interpretation by Mark Rust

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Our Creative Team

Mary Resing, Playwright/Artistic Director Active Cultures Theatre
Mary is an award-winning playwright whose play, Hansel and Gretel Eat Crabs, was recently produced at Joe’s Movement Emporium. She was co-creator of the microbiology vaudeville Petri Dish Circus, also produced at Joe’s as well as the ten-minute musical Individual Medley. She has dramaturged eleven world premieres, including plays by Carlos Murillo, Craig Wright and Mark Medoff. Her dramaturgical work includes productions at Actors Theatre of Louisville, Arena Stage, Theatre of the First Amendment and Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company. Mary has served on panels for the Theatre Communications Group, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Fulbright Organization and the Maryland State Arts Council. She is a proud alumna of IPS, Spring Hill College, NYU, Leningrad State University (LGU) and U-Mich, Ann Arbor.

Suzanne Richard, Artistic Director Open Circle Theatre/Co-Director
SUZANNE is an actress/director and the founder of Open Circle Theatre. She has worked as an Accessibility Specialist with the National Endowment for the Arts and has a BA in Theatre from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is the author of the chapter “Dealing with Being Different” for the Osteogenesis Foundation’s book on growing up with OI and is a speaker on genetics and disability in the arts. She has performed with the following companies in the Greater DC area: Ford’s Theatre,The Folger, Washington Shakespeare Company, Studio Secondstage, Project Y, Imagination Stage, Kaiser Permanente Educational Theatre Program, Seize the Day, Venus Theatre, Baltimore Shakespeare Festival; and her film credits include The Snowflake Crusade, Franmeister, and La Ver. She frequently directs at Open Cirlce and is a company member of the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange.

Tom Prewitt/Co-Director
Tom Prewitt is a professional director, educator and administrator with over twenty five years in the field. He has directed widely in the Washington, DC region, staging many productions for Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Round House Theater, Theatre of the First Amendment and Signature Theatre, among others. He has also directed numerous New York and regional productions, from Portland, Maine to Carmel, California. He served as Associate Artistic Director at Woolly Mammoth for nearly ten seasons, during which time he not only directed for the mainstage but helped create and produce a new play reading series and many of the theatre’s acclaimed outreach programs, such as the Community Playbuilding project, which yielded fully-staged productions of Invisible City (2001) and The Other River (2006), about the 14th Street corridor and Southeast, DC, respectively. Mr. Prewitt also served as the first Executive Director of the DC Arts and Humanities Education Collaborative, and currently serves on the Board of Directors and as Managing Director for City at Peace, a non-profit youth development and performing arts group in Washington.

Monique Holt, Associate Artistic Director Open Circle/Sign Master
Monique Holt, a storyteller/actress/director/ASL translator/theater producer... - was born in Seoul, South Korea, and was adopted by a white American deaf family. Being an Asian was not cool until the late 1980's and it took her a long time to embrace her origins. Monique realized it was okay to be Asian through reading many Asian stories. She created an original play: THE NIGHT WAS SO HUNGRY THAT ATE THE MOON which she premiered at Draumasmidjan - Iceland's International Deaf Theatre Festival in 2006. Monique resides in Washington, DC. She is now in her final semester at Towson University and expects to graduate in December 2008 with an MFA in Theatre. She is, also a Gallaudet University Presidential Fellow and Adjunct Professor. She teaches for the Theatre Arts Department.

Andy Welchel, Composer
Andy Welchel (Composer) has composed music for Active Cultures’ productions Hansel and Gretel Eat Crabs and Petri Dish Circus. Andy served as music director for Shawn Northrip's "Cautionary Tales for Adults" at the 2007 CapFringe Festival and in 2009 at Round House Silver Spring and for Northrip and Mike Pettry's "Wonderful World of Zidney" at the 2007 Kennedy Center Page-to-Stage Festival. He is currently composing music for Visible Language, an Active Cultures/Open Circle Theatre musical about deaf communication.

Jacqueline E. Lawton, Dramaturg, Active Cultures Theatre/Dramaturg
In May of 2003, Jacqueline E. Lawton completed her MFA in Playwriting from the University of Texas at Austin. Since then, she has worked diligently to remain actively involved in theatre as an actress, dramaturg, playwright and teaching artist. Jackie has dramaturged References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot at Rorshach Theatre, After Darwin at Didactic Theatre, Jitney at Ford’s Theatre and The Clean House at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company. As an actor and writer, she has worked with CHAW, Extreme Exchange, Folger Shakespeare Library, Ford’s Theater Society, Journeymen Theater Ensemble, Shakespeare Theater Company, Stage Door, Woolly Mammoth, and Young Playwrights’ Theater.

Ian Armstrong, Executive Producer, Open Circle Theatre
Ian Armstrong is a nationally known educator and artist. As an independent producer, he has steered productions of Edward III at Washington Shakespeare Theatre and Evita, Jesus Christ Superstar (recipient of four Helen Hayes nominations), Low Level Panic, and The Caucasian Chalk Circle at Open Circle Theatre. A DC native, Ian has served on the faculty of the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, McLean High School and The Kennedy Center Theatre for Young People. Ian was artistic director of Voices from the Street, a homeless advocate theatre company, founded by the Community for Creative Non-Violence. Outside DC, he has worked for the Governor's Committee for the Employment of Disabled Persons in Los Angeles, directing the 15th annual Media Access Awards; was literary associate for The Mark Taper Forum's New Works festival; artistic director of Laughing Dog Productions; and has directed for CollaborAction in Chicago, Illinois. In his spare time, he acts--Ian has appeared at Arena Stage, The Shakespeare Theater, Studio Secondstage, The Washington Shakespeare Company, and was a member of the Source Theater's resident acting company. He currently serves on the boards of Active Cultures Thealtre (, The Washington Shakespeare Company ( and Open Circle Theatre ( He is a graduate of the Corcoran School of Art and The Catholic University of America.

James Hesla, Producer, Active Cultures Theatre
James is in his second year at Active Cultures where he contributes to all things visual, technical and artistic. A playwright, his work at Active Cultures includes Long Shot and Petri Dish Circus. Other productions include Home/Abroad (Beowulf Alley Theatre, Tucson), Behold! (Rorschach Theatre, DC), Relative Gravity (Late Night Theatre, Honolulu), and Graves' Rule
(Inkwell, DC). He is a national member of the Playwrights' Center and the Writers' Guild.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Join us for a Reading of Visible Language

Be part of the creative process!
Join us for a reading/discussion of Visible Language

Saturday, June 20th at 7:30pm
in the Black Box Theatre at

Gallaudet University - Theatre Arts Department
Elstad Building - Gilbert C. Eastman Studio Theatre
800 Florida Avenue, NE
Washington, DC 20002
Post show discussion feature Dr. Joseph Murray of Gallaudet U.*
The reading is FREE. Donations are welcome.

* this project and discussion are funded in part by a grant from the Humanities Council of Washington, DC.

We are off and running with the creative process for the joint Active Cultures/Open Circle production of Visible Language. As we continue to develop the script, start to work our way through the sign/speech communication style and add music and movement, we will have several public performances of the work in progress. Come join us for the reading and stay to give us your feedback.

Save the Date!
on August 3rd at 6pm on the JF Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage we will be showcasing the music from VISIBLE LANGUAGE

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Visible Language workshop at Gallaudet

June 19, 2009
Active Cultures and Open Circle Theatres have embarked on a year-long project to produce a musical, VISIBLE LANGUAGE, for hearing and deaf audiences. Directed by Tom Prewitt and Suzanne Richard and written by Mary Resing, this lively work explores the competition between Alexander Graham Bell (whose father invented a system for teaching the deaf to speak) and Edward Miner Gallaudet (whose father brought sign language to America).

This week we have been working with professional actors as well as students at Gallaudet University on the sign and spoken texts. We will present a sampling of scenes from the VISIBLE LANGUAGE at 7:30 pm. This performance will be followed by a panel discussion with Professor Joseph Murray from Gallaudet University, Deaf Communication specialist Diana Markel, Historian James Hesla, Sign Master Monique Holt and writer Mary Resing.

We hope to see you Saturday.

We will be continuing of work on Visible Language at the Kennedy Center later this summer. Our work at the Kennedy Center will culminate in a presentation of a sampling of the text and songs from the play on the Millennium Stage, Monday, August 3rd at 6pm.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

August 3rd @ 6pm Millenium Stage Performance

Join Us
for a peformance of the music*
a musical about the battle for control of deaf communication.

Book and lyrics by Mary Resing, music by Andy Welchel
Directed by Suzanne Richard and W. Thompson Prewitt
David Berkenbilt,
Katy Carkuff, Rob McQuay, Patti Papworth, Richard Pelzman, Scott Sedar, Erica SiegelJaclyn Young.

Be part of the creative process!

Monday, August 3rd at 6pm
on the Millennium Stage at

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
2700 F Street, NW Washington, DC 20566
Tickets and Information: 800-444-1324 or 202-467-4600

performance will be simulcast at

*This project and discussion are funded in part by grants from the Humanities Council of Washington, DC, the DC Commission for the Arts and Humanities. We have also received support from the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and Gallaudet University.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Carrie Harrison and Laura Redden Searing

I recently had a meeting with co-director Suzanne Richard and sign master Monique Holt about the script for Visible Language. They suggested I incorporate two new characters into the play,
Laura Redden Searing, a deaf journalist and poet, and Carrie Harrison, the first lady of the United States in 1892. I didn't know who these two women were so I started to dig.

Searing is definitely the more well known of the two. She became famous as a Civil War correspondent and, under the name Howard Glyndon, wrote a very popular volume of poetry about the war called Idyls of Battle and Poems of the Rebellion.

Carrie Harrison is not as well known. Her main claim to fame is she drove the (literal) rats out of the White House and led a restoration effort that turned the mansion from an embarrassing shambles to a show piece. She is also known for her staunch support of women's rights and and education.