The Washington Post

Backstage: Woolly Mammoth hosting ‘Till to Martin’ town hall event

Correction: An earlier version of this column misquoted Jocelyn Prince, connectivity director for Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, on a town hall meeting the theater will host to discuss issues raised by its plays. She used the words “race and class,” not “rape and class,” in saying: “The plays we produce . . . are about the human experience, everyday life, dealing with issues such as race and class, issues that affect our society.” This version has been corrected.

Jocelyn Prince is leading up the event “From Emmett Till to Trayvon Martin: A Town Hall Meeting on Black Bodies and American Racism” at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company. (Courtesy Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company)

Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company will host “From Emmett Till to Trayvon Martin: A Town Hall Meeting on Black Bodies and American Racism” at 7 p.m. Friday.

Might not seem like typical theater territory, but Jocelyn Prince, Woolly’s connectivity director (Woolly-speak for someone who finds ways to engage and expand the theater’s audience) says she believes that activism is as crucial a part of Woolly’s mission as the art the theater stages.

“The plays we produce . . . are about the human experience, everyday life, dealing with issues such as race and class, issues that affect our society,” Prince said. “I’m an African American woman and was particularly horrified by the verdict” in the trial of George Zimmerman in the death of the Florida youth. “I was horrified by the fact that Trayvon Martin was killed and that there was no justice for his death.”

Artistic director Howard Shalwitz said, “For me, what made it a no-brainer for us at Woolly is race has been an important conversation for us at Woolly for many years, and it’s a big part of our season coming up.” Woolly, he said, tries to “align the conversations that are happening in the plays themselves with the conversations that have been happening in our city and in our country.”

Woolly’s upcoming season is “about class, race and politics,” said Shalwitz. “And I think it’s our responsibility to kind of find the relevance for our work in exactly what’s happening in the world around us.”

Two new plays the company will stage — “We are proud to present . . .” and “Appropriate” — are by young African American writers (Jackie Sibblies Drury and Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, respectively) and “deal directly with race and racism and black bodies and what it means for our society to always have the issue of race under the surface,” Prince said.

The “Emmett Till to Trayvon Martin” event will include a panel discussion facilitated by Prince and featuring Carolyn Boyd, minister of organizational development at Plymouth Congregational United Church of  Christ; Louisa Davis, activist and adjunct professor of religion and ethics at Montgomery College; Dennis B. Rogers, assistant professor of political science at Bowie State University; and Woolly company members Dawn Ursula and Jessica Frances Dukes.

Prince sees the event’s purpose as providing “a safe, communal space” for diverse members of the District community to talk about “the issues that this case has brought to the forefront: racial profiling here in D.C., the criminal justice system and how it relates to young black men in particular.”

The town hall, which combines interfaith prayer and performance with panel and breakout-group discussions, is free and open to the public (RSVP to reserve a spot in the theater, upgraded from the 100-seat rehearsal hall to accommodate anticipated turnout). Rock the Vote will be doing voter registration as well.

7 p.m., Aug. 23 at 7:00 p.m., 641 D Street NW,, 202-289-2443

Summer Hummer success

How you feel about the success of TheatreWashington’s Summer Hummer, a burlesque benefit to support Taking Care of Our Own, sort of depends on how you feel about G-strings.

More specifically: How do you feel about an all-male 10-person ensemble stripping down to said G-strings? You know, for charity.

If you’re still on board, Taking Care of Our Own, introduced at last year’s Helen Hayes Awards and modeled after Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and the Actors Fund, is devoted to providing emergency financial aid for theater professionals in need.

Under the direction of Signature Theatre artistic director Eric Schaeffer and staged at Signature Theatre, the Summer Hummer raised $24,500 Monday. That ­G-string bit alone was responsible for $5,000. Not bad, Magic Mikes of Washington!

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