FEED presents What Is A History Play?

When we hear the term ‘history play’ we mostly think of the War of the Roses plays of Shakespeare, but history as a theme is alive and well amongst contemporary American dramatists. What forms are these plays taking today? Join Todd London, Artistic Director of New Dramatists, as he unpacks this subject with some exemplary writers who are taking up this genre in unexpected and fresh ways: The Debate Society (playwrights Paul Thureen and Hannah Bos who use history in eccentric ways), as well as McCarter Theater’s Artistic Director and the playwright Emily Mann (Execution of Justice on Broadway, Mrs Packard at The McCarter and The Kennedy Center).

Hannah Bos  is a founding member and a co-Artistic Director of The Debate Society, co-writing and starring inBuddy Cop 2, Cape Disappointment, You’re Welcome, The Eaten Heart (for which Gothamist named her Best Actress of 2007), The Snow Hen and A Thought About Raya. Other acting credits include Andrei Serban’sLysistrata (with Cherry Jones), Hostage Song (The Kraine), The Pumpkin Pie Show: Ringside Seats (The Belt), Cardiac Shadow (P.S. 122), Junta High (P.S. 122), and Three Farces and a Funeral, and Janos Szasz’ Marat/Sade at (The American Repertory Theatre). She is also the co-creator/writer/”Flo” of The Mimi and Flo Show, a choose-your-own-adventure web series which has been seen by over 3 million people. She studied at The Piven Theatre Workshop, Vassar College, and holds an M.F.A. from The Institute for Advanced Theater Training at Harvard University/Moscow Art Theater. She is a recent recipient of The Six Points Fellowship.

Paul Thureen
 is a founding member and co-Artistic Director of The Debate Society, co-writing and starring in A Thought About RayaThe Snow HenYou’re WelcomeThe Eaten HeartCape DisappointmentDetroit and Buddy Cop 2. Recent New York and international performances include Uncle Vanya (Soho Rep.), Hostage Song, Clay McLeod Chapman’s The Pumpkin Pie Show at P.S. 122, One Year Lease’s tour of Oresteia in Athens and Milan, and Tango ’til They’re Sore at The Flea. Regional: The Description of the WorldFacade, and Pulcinella (Theatre de la Jeune Lune) and The Odyssey Experience (McCarter). TV: The Late Show with David Letterman and The Revolution (History Channel).

In 2009 Todd London (moderator) became the first recipient of Theatre Communications Group’s (TCG) Visionary Leadership Award, for “an individual who has gone above and beyond the call of duty to advance the theatre field as a whole, nationally and/or internationally.” He is beginning his sixteenth season as artistic director of New Dramatists, where he has worked closely with more than a hundred of America’s leading playwrights and advocated nationally and internationally for hundreds more. 2010 saw the publication of his book,Outrageous Fortune: The Life and Times of the New American Play (written with Ben Pesner), the product of a five-year study he led for Theatre Development Fund about new play production in America and the lives and livelihoods of playwrights. That year, he traveled across the country to lead meetings in 10 cities, intended to address the study’s findings and encourage a more vital environment for new work. A former Managing Editor of American Theatremagazine and the author of The Artistic Home, published by TCG, he has written, edited, and/or contributed to over a dozen books. His new book, An Ideal Theatre, an anthology of founding visions for American theatres that Todd collected, edited and introduced, is due out in spring 2012 (TCG). A series of his tributes to contemporary theatre writers, “A Lover’s Guide to American Playwrights” appears on howlround.com. Todd’s particular brand of advocacy journalism has focused on both the lives and livelihoods of individual artists and on the not-for-profit theatre movement, especially the impact of institutionalization on the field. His essays and articles have been translated for publication in Russia, North and South Africa, Scandinavia, Serbia, and Romania. Todd is a frequent featured speaker at conferences, universities and theatres. This summer he delivered keynote addresses at the Chicago Theatre Symposium, the Dramatists Guild of America’s first national conference, and TCG’s 50th anniversary national conference. He has won the prestigious George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism for his essays inAmerican Theatre and a Milestone Award for his first novel,The World’s Room, published by Steerforth Press. In 2001 he accepted a special Tony® Honor on behalf of New Dramatists, and in 2005 he represented New Dramatists at the Obie Awards, where the organization was honored with the Ross Wetzsteon Award for excellence. Todd has taught at Harvard and New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and currently serves on the faculty of Yale School of Drama. He’s a past Literary Director of the American Repertory Theatre at Harvard and Associate Artistic Director of CSC Rep off Broadway and New Playwrights Theatre in Washington, D.C. He has two sons, Guthrie and Grisha, and is married to playwright and ND alumna Karen Hartman.ht (and New Dramatists alumna) Karen Hartman.

The Debate Society’s Hannah Bos and Paul Thureen
Todd London
Playwright and Artistic Director of The McCarter Theater Emily Mann
Playwright and Artistic Director of The McCarter Theater Emily Mann

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