Over the past few decades, reality TV has become such a popular form of entertainment and some might even say it has influenced our way of thinking, treating each other, as well as how we expect others to behave. There are people who absolutely LIVE for it and others who believe it has caused a decline in our society. Either way, reality television has had a huge influence.
In recent years, tension has mounted around US immigration laws which has divided the country, friends, and families. There was a time prior to the Covid-19 pandemic that stories about immigrants and immigration were front and center of every news broadcast, articles, Social Media platforms, conversations, etc.
‘American Dreams’ is a play which combines the reality TV sensationalist format with the topic of immigration and adds a spin of overzealous patriot to the mix. While watching, I couldn’t help but notice that it felt all to real to me. It makes you stop and think what could be down the line for us as a country while causing you to stop and examine what has already taken place/is currently taking place right in front of us.
“Imagine a world where the only way to gain U.S. citizenship is by competing in a live online game show run by the government. Welcome to American Dreams where each night the audience gets to choose who will be their new neighbor. This timely, participatory performance takes a page from America’s favorite game shows and uses voting, polling, trivia and more to explore what it means to be(come) a citizen.”
In a still Covid affected world, the show is being offered for online viewing which actually adds to the theme perfectly while allowing for interaction by having some of the audience participate on camera while everyone gets to contribute to the voting process throughout the performance. There are also very important voting themed messages, questions, polls, and reminders at a time when this is all much needed.
I am thrilled to see my friends in live theater finding ways to continue to bring their impact to audiences even though we are currently distanced from them and each other. Just as we have seen with musicians, the shows must go on just as they always have and artists will find ways for their voices to be heard because at the end of the day their voices represent ours.
in partnership with
Round House Theatre, Salt Lake Acting Company, Marin Theatre Company, HartBeat Ensemble, The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts and University of Connecticut’s Thomas J. Dodd Center
Co-commissioned by ASU Gammage and Texas Performing Arts with support from the JKW Foundation
presents the national virtual co-production of
Written by Leila Buck
Directed by Tamilla Woodard
Online for Seven Weeks
–Off Broadway’s Working Theater leads unprecedented national partnership of ninetheaters and cultural institutions to bring live interactive production to audiences across the country–
September 26: ASU Gammage
October 2-3: Texas Performing Arts
October 5-11: Round House Theatre
October 14-18: Salt Lake Acting Company
October 20–25: Working Theater,
October 27-Nov 1: HartBeat Ensemble, The Bushnell and UCONN
November 10-15: Marin Theatre Company
Working Theater, a Drama Desk and AUDELCO award winning Off Broadway company,in partnership with Round House Theatre (Bethesda, MD), Salt Lake Acting Company (Salt Lake City, UT)), Marin Theatre Company (Mill Valley, CA), a consortium of cultural institutions representing greater Hartford lead by HartBeat Ensemble, The Bushnell and UConn’s Thomas J. Dodd Center, (Hartford, CT), Arizona State University Gammage (Tempe, AZ) and Texas Performing Arts (Austin, TX) join forces to present an unique co-production– leading the theater industry (and the 2020-2021 season) with the return of a full-scale production this fall—of American Dreams. Written by and featuring Leila Buck (HKEELEE: (Talk to Me) – Mosaic Theater at Arena Stage, international tour), American Dreams is directed by Working Theater’s Co-Artistic Director Tamilla Woodard (Where We Stand, WP Theater, associate director, Hadestown on Broadway) and is premieres as a live interactive event, September 26 – November 15.
American Dreams is a participatory performance that imagines a world where the only way to gain U.S. citizenship is by competing in a nationally-televised game show run by the government. Through America’s most valued democratic process — voting — audience members decide who will win instant citizenship. Taking a page from America’s favorite game shows, this playful interactive production uses voting, polling, trivia and more to explore what it means to be a citizen and how we choose our neighbors.
“American Dreams is a play that needs to happen now as we are approaching an election,” says Working Theater Co-Artistic Director Mark Plesent. “I think that the American Experiment is failing on so many levels. American Dreams offers us a safe opportunity, full of humor, to experience our individual complicity in the dangers facing our nation, and also points to ways to change course, beginning with ourselves.”
In a unique partnership with a cross section of leading theaters and cultural organizations, representing every region of the United States, the 2020 live interactive production of American Dreams follows a much celebrated and sold-out run at The Cleveland Public Theatre in 2018.
“Though our theater buildings may be closed, the need to gather around provocative storytelling is still present,” says Tamilla Woodard, Co-Artistic Director of Working Theater. “With this unique partnership we get to do something we most certainly wouldn’t have been able to do before- create a national collaboration with nine institutions and theaters across the country to engage audiences in local conversations about immigrants rights, the power of the vote and what it means to be a citizen. The agility all of the producing partners are able to bring to this collaboration is truly remarkable. Their appetite for innovation and invention is inspiring. This is the power of theater that makes room for radical access, radical inclusion and a new model of collaboration.”
“Round House was immediately excited to be part of a national tour of American Dreams because the show asks questions every person in America should have on their minds right now, especially as we approach the election. This partnership represents the best of what theatre can do to build collaboration, respond and adapt to the world around us, and foster meaningful conversations in our communities.” Ryan Rilette, Artistic Director of Round House Theatre.
“Salt Lake Acting Company is honored to be a co-producer of American Dreams,” said SLAC Executive Artistic Director Cynthia Fleming. “During this unprecedented time, we have been aching for an opportunity to bring exciting new theatrical works to our audiences, and this one-of-a-kind partnership with Working Theater, Round House, and others, speaks to the resilience of the artistic spirit and the power of collaboration.”
The newly conceived digital production, developed and produced by Working Theater, features unique technical innovations that invite theater-going audiences to not only be part of the show, but to decide each night’s winning contestant. Each theater partner will host their own performance dates and engage audiences in local town hall events with artists, activists and policy makers on the subject of “What it means to be a citizen”.
Hailed as one of the Top 10 productions of 2018 by Cleveland’s Plain Dealer, “This smart, provocative play deserves to go on to be produced in as many U.S. cities as are on the map.”
To learn more about the American Dreams schedule, tour partners and ticketing information, visit each individual theater’s websites listed below.
American Dreams was originally created and developed by Leila Buck and Tamilla Woodard in collaboration with Jens Rasmussen. Devised with Jens Rasmussen, Osh Ghanimah, Imran Sheikh and company. The cast features Ali Andre Ali, Leila Buck, India Nicole Burton, Jens Rasmussen, Imran Sheikh and Andrew Valdez.
Design by: Katherine Freer (Video); ViDCo (Virtual Performance Design); Stacey Derosier (Lighting); Sam Kusnetz (Sound); Kerry McCarthy (Costumes); Ryan Patterson (Scenic). Colleen McCaughey (Production Stage Management); Carolina Arboleda (Assistant Stage Management); Lory Henning (Production Manager); Amanda Cooper (Consulting Producer).
Leila Buck (Writer/Co-creator/Performer) is a Lebanese American playwright, actor, facilitator and educator. She has performed and developed her work at the Public, NYTW, Culture Project, BRIC Arts, Brooklyn Museum, Cleveland Public, Cal Shakes, Mosaic Theater at Arena Stage, and the Wilma (Barrymore Award), and performed and taught theatrical tools for literacy, conflict resolution, and intercultural engagement to youth, educators, aid workers, UN delegates and others across the U.S., Europe, China, Australia and 11 Arab countries. She is a member of the Public’s inaugural Emerging Writers Group, a Usual Suspect with NYTW, and teaches Creation and Representation in U.S. Theater at NYU.
Tamilla Woodard (Director/Co-Creator) is the new Co-Artistic Director of Working Theater, former BOLD Associate Artistic Director at WP Theater, and the co-founder of PopUP Theatrics. She also served as the associate director of Hadestown on Broadway. Recently named one of 50 Women to Watch on Broadway, Tamilla is a graduate of Yale School of Drama, where she currently teaches. Last season her work included the Lucille Lortel nominated Where We Stand by Donnetta Lavinia Grays for WP Theater and Baltimore Center Stage, Caryl Churchill’s Top Girls at American Conservatory Theater and direction and co-conception of Warriors Don’t Cry, a Co-production of The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts and TheaterWorksUSA.
Working Theater believes the transformative experience of live theater should not be a luxury, but a staple. Now in its 36th season, Working Theater continues its mission to produce theater for and about working people — the essential workers of any city or town — and to make play-going a regular part of our audiences’ cultural lives. By making productions relevant, accessible and affordable regardless of geography or socio-economic status, Working Theater strives to always acknowledge the city’s diversity while seeking to unite us in our common humanity. Working Theater is under the leadership of Co-Artistic Directors Mark Plesent and Tamilla Woodard and Managing Director, Laura Carbonell Monarque.
For Tickets: www.theworkingtheater.org