Locally Grown: Community Supported Art 
From Our Own Garden 2011-2012

This robust new initiative is inspired in part by the “locovore” and Community Supported Agriculture movements which focus on cultivating, appreciating and utilizing local resources for local consumption. Theater J’s dynamic new initiative translates these principles to DC’s burgeoning theatre scene, fostering the talent of DC playwrights through four mini-commissions, round-table discussions and readings throughout the summer and fall, culminating in staged readings throughout January and February. Artistic Director Ari Roth comments on the festival’s ambitions to “place value on that which has taken root within our community, and to invest in our own artists and their professional development and then export that talent to the rest of the nation."

The 2011-2012 Community Supported Art: Locally Grown festival featured works from area writers at every stage of development, and incorporates three main components:  

  • The world premiere of  THE RELIGION THING, a new play by emerging playwright Renee Calarco

  • Workshop presentations of THE PROSTATE DIALOGUES, a new solo performance piece by established artist Jon Spelman

  • And four readings of new works by local playwrights Jacqueline Lawton, Stephen Spotswood, Gwydion Suilebhan, and performance artist Laura Zam


  Funded in part by the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, an agency supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.  

MARRIED SEX by Laura Zam

A one-woman show exploring a woman’s quest to understand her body and her past.  Describing her play, Zam writes, “In my play, I look at trauma healing, comprehensively.  Therefore, I hope my audience comes away with a greater understanding about the long-term effects of different kinds of trauma as well as what measures individuals may take to heal themselves.  Because my play also deals with the aftermath of sexual abuse, I hope to encourage people to speak openly about these matters. Indeed, my aim is to offer new ways to have this conversation--ways that allow for laughter as well as anger, ways that focus on effects as well as prevention, and ways that encourage men to see themselves as healers not just perpetrators or would-be perpetrators.”


THE HAMPTON YEARS by Jacqueline Lawton

The Hampton Years explores the relationship between art professor Viktor Lowenfeld and his students, John Biggers and Samella Lewis. Lowenfeld joined the Hampton Institute in Virginia in 1939 as assistant professor of Industrial Arts and studio art teacher. He was later appointed as Chairman of the Art Department and in 1945, he was named curator of the distinguished collection of Black African Art at the Hampton Institute. Burgeoning artist John Biggers, who went on to become an internationally acclaimed painter, sculptor, teacher and philosopher, was his student. As was Samella Lewis, artist, printmaker and educator, with whom Lowenfeld had a contentious, but respectful relationship. The Hampton Years examines the impact of World War II on Jewish immigrants living in the United States and their role in shaping the lives and careers of African American students in the segregated south.


COLD NOVEMBER LIGHT by Stephen Spotswood

A portrait of two artists whose personal tragedies have left them isolated from the rest of humanity, and who help each other find a place in the world. Harry has spent his entire life retreating from society and immersing himself in his paintings. His talent is only equaled by his intense social coarseness and his dislike of people. Gwen, Harry’s latest model, lost the use of her legs as a child. Newly arrived in the city, this is her first attempt to create an autonomous life in what she is finding to be a hostile world. From their last meeting to their first, this play follows Harry and Gwen as they form a surprising relationship.


HOT AND COLD by Gwydion Suilebhan 

HOT & COLD probes the horror of disease that lives beneath the surface of reality by juxtaposing the hot zone of a Biohazard Lab and the cold chill of a seemingly ordinary kitchen on Christmas morning. In the lab, what appear to be a pair of scientists — accidentally exposed to a rare virus and subsequently quarantined — struggle to remain rational.  In the kitchen, meanwhile,  what appears to be an out-of-her-depth Jewish mother tries her best to prepare and serve an authentic Christmas dinner for her hapless son, his Catholic fiancé, and her family — while they all negotiate the terms of the children’s interfaith wedding ceremony. The play explores viruses of both the body and of the mind, where nothing is quite what it appears to be. 



The Prostate Dialogues by Jon Spelman

Throughout January and February, Theater J will collaborate with local storyteller and performance artist Jon Spelman on several workshop presentations of his newest work-in-development: THE PROSTATE DIALOGUES. This one-of-a-kind solo piece is also set in the DC metro area, and the material is drawn from Spelman’s experience with prostate cancer and his recovery from a radical prostatectomy in 2009. Spelman is currently cancer-free, but he is still coping with the surgery’s effects on both his physiology and relationships. In the piece, Spelman includes scenes of other cancer survivors, exploring the impact that their illness and treatment has had on their sexuality and relationships.