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Lessons In Survival

Part 1: October 6 - November 29

Conceived by Marin Ireland, Peter Mark Kendall, Tyler Thomas, Reggie D. White
Directed by Tyler Thomas
Video Design and Editing by Josiah Davis
Music by Daniel Kluger
Mixed by Daniel Kluger
Production Design by You-Shin Chen
Production Coordinator Clarissa Marie Ligon
Live Streaming and Audio Production Services provided by Five OHM Productions

Performed by The Commissary
With Kyle Beltran, Dan Butler, Helen Cespedes, Adam Chanler-Berat, Kalyne Coleman, Crystal Dickinson, Brandon J. Dirden, Ricardy Fabre, Yonatan Gebeyehu, Peter Gerety, Birgit Huppuch, Marin Ireland, Bill Irwin, Peter Mark Kendall, Nicole Lewis, Kristolyn Lloyd, Sevrin Anne Mason, April Matthis, Nana Mensah, Joe Morton, Deirdre O’Connell, Keith Randolph Smith, Ryan Spahn, Chris Stack, Myra Lucretia Taylor, TL Thompson, Nicole Villamil, Victoria Villier, Reggie D. White


Tickets

Buy an All Access Pass to LESSONS IN SURVIVAL and stream all 8 episodes, 4 open rehearsals, and 4 community conversations now through November 29! If you need any assistance, contact boxoffice@vineyardtheatre.org or call 646-931-4711.


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Read the feature on the creators of Lessons In Survival here and check out Jesse Green's piece on Political Theater in which he referred to Lessons In Survival as "THRILLING!" here.

“How do you talk about 300 years in four minutes? Was it ever so apparent we need this dialogue?” -- Lorraine Hansberry, 1964

“This country is your problem and it is my problem.” -- James Baldwin, 1968

Fueled by the urgency of our present moment, The Commissary, a multigenerational collective of more than 40 ​theatre artists, have come together to reinvestigate the words​ ​of trailblazing artists​ ​and activists ​who survived and created in times of revolution in our country​. Baldwin. Giovanni. Davis. Lorde. Hansberry. Rustin. Hamer. ​In LESSONS IN SURVIVAL, a cohort of actors channel historic conversations, interviews and speeches, listening to original broadcasts on an in-ear feed and speaking exactly what they hear. In bringing these words to new life in the present, they ask what these voices can teach us about our country now and the opportunity for true change that stands before us. How might they propel us to look courageously at the effects of systemic racism, to imagine ourselves outside of its prescriptions, and to create, together, a shared future of collective liberation?

LESSONS IN SURVIVAL will continue to develop throughout the season, with The Commissary as an artistic-collective-in-residence at The Vineyard, and will be shared with audiences at different stages over the coming months. Join us in October for the first round of eight performances and four open rehearsals. Each Sunday, free weekly community conversations with current leaders will build on the legacy of daring conversations that reflect the times and inspire the future.

Episodes | Open Rehearsals | Community Conversations


EP 1: “Survival Is Not A One Time Decision”
Excerpts of conversations and speeches with Nina Simone (1968), Lorainne Hansberry (1964), and Audre Lorde and Blanche Cook (1982), tackling radicalism, survival, and the role of the artist in times of revolution. (Runtime: 27 minutes)
Featuring: Kalyne Coleman, Nicole Lewis, Deirdre O’Connell, Myra Lucretia Taylor

EP 2: “I'm Trying to Make You See Something”
Dick Cavett hosts a conversation with James Baldwin and Yale professor of philosophy Paul Weiss, where they discuss what it is to be Black in America in 1969. (Runtime: 33 minutes)
Featuring: Dan Butler, Ricardy Fabre, Chris Stack

EP 3: “When You Say Revolution... What Do You Mean?”
Women leaders of the Civil Rights Movement: Angela Davis discusses the role of Communism in the Black Power Movement and breaks down the path to true revolution (1972 and 2008); Georgia Gilmore reflects on organizing the Montgomery Bus Boycott (1979); and Fannie Lou Hamer offers a critical diagnosis of the moral state of America in 1968. (Runtime: 35 minutes)
Featuring: Helen Cespedes, Crystal Dickinson, Ricardy Fabre, Nicole Lewis

EP 4: “The Old Leadership is Dead”
Three different actors take on Bayard Rustin's 1968 speech "Firebombs or A Freedom Budget", in which he presents a plan for the redistribution of wealth to the Black American poor. (Runtime: 32 minutes)
Featuring: Kyle Beltran, Yonatan Gebeyehu, TL Thompson

EP 5: “Something is Beginning to Crack”
Maya Angelou speaks with British television host Mavis Nicholson in 1987 about her writing, personal life and growing into courage; James Baldwin speaks with Mavis that same year, during London rehearsals for his play "The Amen Corner", about the invention of race and the breakdown of the social contract. (Runtime 40 minutes)
Featuring: Marin Ireland, Joe Morton, Deirdre O’Connell, Myra Lucretia Taylor

EP 6: “This Country's My Problem and Your Problem”
In a 1968 interview turned debate with conservative commentator R.H. Darden, James Baldwin discusses the erupting racial tensions in the country and challenges mythologies of American history and institutions. Twenty-five years later, Toni Morrison speaks with Charlie Rose about the psychology of racism and whiteness as ideology. (Runtime 35 minutes)
Featuring: Dan Butler, Yonatan Gebeyehu, Nana Mensah, Ryan Spahn

EP 7: “Lie To Me”
In part one of this celebrated 1971 interview, Nikki Giovanni and James Baldwin talk about their generational approaches to the movement for Black liberation, and the responsibility of Black men and women to each other. (Runtime 46 minutes)
Featuring: Kalyne Coleman, Crystal Dickinson, Ricardy Fabre, Reggie D. White

EP 8: “To Teach is a Revolutionary Act”
In part two of this intimate 1971 conversation, Nikki Giovanni and James Baldwin discuss their Black literary forebears, and the role of language in liberation. (Runtime 40 minutes)
Featuring: Kyle Beltran, Kalyne Coleman, Nana Mensah, Joe Morton

Live Open Rehearsal 1*
Each week, a group of actors and director Tyler Thomas will explore material not seen in other episodes, working on it and talking candidly about the content and the process. (Runtime: 80 minutes)
Interviews: Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis/Angela Davis (2002); Richard Pryor/Dick Cavett (1985)
Featuring: Crystal Dickson, Brandon J. Dirden, Peter Mark Kendall, Victoria A. Villier, Reggie D. White
In conversation with: Dan Butler, Kalyne Coleman, Marin Ireland, Nicole Lewis, Deirdre O'Connell, Chris Stack

Live Open Rehearsal 2*
Each week, a group of actors and director Tyler Thomas will explore material not seen in other episodes, working on it and talking candidly about the content and the process.
Interviews: Bobby Seale (1968), Bobby Seale/Bob Costas (1992), Ericka Huggins/Angela Davis/JoNina Abron/Barbara Rogers (1989)
Featuring: Adam Chanler-Berat, Brandon J. Dirden, Nicole Lewis, Clarissa Marie Ligon, Kristolyn Lloyd, Sevrin Anne Mason, April Matthis, Reggie D. White

Live Open Rehearsal 3*
Each week, a group of actors and director Tyler Thomas will explore material not seen in other episodes, working on it and talking candidly about the content and the process.
Interviews: Miles Davis (1988), Muhammed Ali/Nikki Giovanni (1971), Joan Baez (1984), Pete Seeger (2006)
Featuring: Kalyne Coleman, Peter Gerety, Jennifer Ikeda, Peter Mark Kendall, TL Thompson, Nicole Villamil

Live Open Rehearsal 4*
Interviews: Lucille Clifton/Sonia Sanchez (2001), Sarah Keys Evans (2019), John Lewis (1963), Paul Robeson (1960)
Featuring: Helen Cespedes, Kalyne Coleman, Nicole Lewis, Kristolyn Lloyd, Peter Mark Kendall, Joe Morton, Keith Randolph Smith
In Conversation with: Tyler Thomas, TL Thompson, Nicole Villamil, Reggie D. White

Live Community Conversation 1**
Conversations with leading artists and thinkers of today. (Runtime: 60 minutes)
Special Guests Colman Domingo, Joe Morton, Lisa B. Thompson
Moderated by Sarah Stern, Reggie D. White
Click to view this conversation!

Live Community Conversation 2**
Conversations with leading artists and thinkers of today.
With special guest Pearl Cleage, Andy Jean, Cody Renard
Moderated by members of The Commissary Crystal Dickinson and Brandon J Dirden
Click to view this conversation!

Live Community Conversation 3**
Conversations with leading artists and thinkers of today.
Special Guests Casey Llwellyn, Michael R. Jackson, Claudia Rankine
Moderated by members of The Commissary Kyle Beltran and TBA
Click to view this conversation!

Live Community Conversation 4**
Conversations and reflections on Lessons In Survival Part 1 and the moments they will most take forward.
Moderated by Marin Ireland, Peter Mark Kendall, Tyler Thomas, Reggie D. White with special guests Crystal Dickinson, Deirdre O'Connell, and TL Thompson
Click to view this conversation!


*Open Rehearsals are ticketed events that provide an inside look into The Commissary's process of rehearsing and creating LESSONS IN SURVIVAL. Each week, a group of actors and director Tyler Thomas will explore material not seen in other episodes, working on it and talking candidly about the content and the process.

**Community Conversations are free and open to the public and can be viewed on The Vineyard's YouTube and Facebook pages.
Lessons in Survival is the recipient of a grant from the Venturous Theatre Fund of the Tides Foundation.

LEADERSHIP SUPPORT FOR VINEYARD THEATRE IS PROVIDED BY
The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust, The Howard Gilman Foundation, The John and Robyn Horn Foundation, The Laurents/Hatcher Foundation, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the New York Community Trust COVID-19 Response and Impact Fund, The Shubert Foundation, the Tournesol Project, and our Board of Directors

PUBLIC FUNDS ARE PROVIDED BY
The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council; The New York State Council on the Arts, and The National Endowment for the Arts

We gratefully acknowledge the support of so many other individuals and institutions in our community.

Tyler Thomas

Tyler Thomas, Director (She/Hers), is a director and choreographer, currently based in NYC. Her work has most recently been shown at The New Ohio, Signature Theatre, The Flea, HERE Arts Center, NYMF, Paradise Factory, and NYU Tisch. As an associate and assistant, she has worked with directors such as Lear deBessonet, Taibi Magar, Whitney White, Young Jean Lee, Lee Sunday Evans, Niegel Smith, and Jo Bonney, as well as with the Builders Association as Associate Dramaturg. Tyler is a former SDCF Observer, member of the Lincoln Center Directors’ Lab, Visiting Artist at the Athens Conservatoire in Greece, Resident Director at The Flea, current 2050 NYTW Fellow and Foeller Fellow at Williamstown Theatre Festival. She holds a BFA in Drama and MA in Arts & Politics from the Tisch School of the Arts.

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Marin Ireland

Marin Ireland, Actor (She/Hers), theatre credits include Reasons to be Pretty, for which she won a Theatre World Award and was nominated for a Tony. Her other New York credits include The Big Knife and After Miss Julie (Broadway), Ironbound at Rattlestick, Kill Floor at Lincoln Center, Blasted and Marie Antoinette, both at Soho Rep, Three Sisters at Classic Stage, Cyclone at Studio Dante (Obie Award), and In The Wake at the Public Theatre. Some of her TV and film work includes the second season of the “Umbrella Academy”, “Girls”, “Homeland”, “Masters of Sex”, The Divide, “The Slap”, “Sneaky Pete”, Glass Chin (Independent Spirit nomination 2016), Sparrows Dance, The Family Fang, 28 Hotel Rooms, The Irishman, Hell or High Water, and the Lifetime movie Flint, about the Flint water crisis, playing activist Melissa Mays. She co-founded the website hrforthearts.org with civil rights and liberties lawyer Norman Siegel, which aims to be a resource to help address harassment and bullying within the arts community.

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Peter Mark Kendall

Peter Mark Kendall (He/Him), Broadway: Six Degrees of Separation (Tony Nom for “Best Revival”), The Rose Tattoo (The Acting Company: with Patti LuPone & Bobby Cannavale). Off-Broadway: Blue Ridge (The Atlantic), The Harvest (LCT3), Mercury Fur (The New Group), Joe’s Pub (with Whitney White), Judson, Partial Comfort. Regional: Lake Lucille Chekhov, Bay Street, Baltimore Center Stage, Trinity Rep., Chautauqua, Gloucester Stage, Baltimore Shakespeare, Studio Theatre (DC), Rep Stage, Kennedy Center. Film: Entangled, Time Out of Mind, Louder Than Bombs, The Ticket (TriBeCa), The Rest of Us, Seven Lovers. Television: “Strange Angel”, "Outpost” (series regular); “Girls,” “The Americans,” “Chicago Med,” “Eye Candy” (recurring); “Awkwafina...from Queens;” “The Good Fight;” “Gotham;” “Law and Order: SVU;” “The Leftovers;” “Blue Bloods;” “Public Morals.” Upcoming films: The Scottish Play, Top Gun: Maverick. Education: M.F.A., Brown/Trinity Rep. Peter is also a musician, and creates music with the band Hickory.

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Reggie D. White

Reggie D. White, Actor (He/Him), Broadway: The Inheritance (Drama Desk Award for Best Play), International: Flood In The Valley (China). Off-Broadway: Hundred Days, I & You, For The Last Time. Regional: The Luckiest (La Jolla Playhouse),The Bluest Eye (Arden Theatre), And She Would Stand Like This (The Movement Theatre Company), Frontieres Sans Frontieres (Bushwick Starr), The Last Tiger in Haiti (Berkeley Rep/La Jolla Playhouse), Party People (Berkeley Rep). Film & TV: “Gotham”, “Blindspot”, “The Parent ‘Hood”, Buzzer, Medias Res, Stranger In Blood. Training: Atlantic Theater School, Cal State Hayward. Reggie is a Company Member of The Williams Project - a living wage theatre company. Reggie is also a recipient of the TBA Titan Award and the TCG Fox Fellowship. www.reggiedwhite.net

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You-Shin Chen

You-Shin Chen (Scenic Designer) is a USA based Taiwanese scenic designer. As a storyteller, she centers human in the process of creating a three dimensional space for the characters to live in as well as the viewers’ experience. She is committed to diversity and humanity. She is a recipient at The Lilly Awards and Lucille Lortel Awards. Recent theater credits include: SKiNFoLK (the Bushwick Starr & National Black Theatre); UGLY (the feath3r theory & the Bushwick Starr); Mrs. Murray’s Menagerie (ArsNova); Monsoon Season (AFO Theatre); Man of God (InterAct Theatre Company); Eclipsed (Berlind Theater, PQ’19 inclusion) ]. Associate scenic designer for Moby Dick (A.R.T., Des. Mimi Lien.) You-Shin is a member of Local USA829, IASTE. www.youshinchen.com

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Kyle Beltran

Kyle Beltran (He/Him) Broadway: The Cherry Orchard (Roundabout), In The Heights (Broadway, first national tour). Off-Broadway: Blue Ridge (Atlantic Theater Company), Fire in Dreamland (The Public), Tin Cat Shoes (Clubbed Thumb), The Amateurs (Vineyard Theatre), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (The Public, Delacorte), Head of Passes (The Public), The Flick (Barrow Street Theatre), Gloria (Vineyard Theatre), The Fortress of Solitude (The Public), Choir Boy (Manhattan Theatre Club), The Netflix Plays (Ars Nova), 10 Things to Do Before I Die (Second Stage) Regional: Williamstown Theatre Festival, Goodman Theatre, Dallas Theater Center, Steppenwolf Theatre, Yale Rep, The Old Globe. Film/TV: “Inventing Anna” (Netflix, upcoming), “The Shivering Truth” (Adult Swim), Equity (Sony Pictures Classics), “Horace and Pete” (Pig Newton), “The Big C” (Showtime) “Unforgettable” (CBS, recurring.) BFA in Drama, Carnegie Mellon.

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Dan Butler

Dan Butler, Actor (He/Him), is an actor, writer, director, and producer, Dan’s many acting credits most recently include Irish Rep’s highly acclaimed on-line production of The Weir. Other favorites include - Broadway: Travesties (Roundabout), Twentieth Century (Roundabout), The Hothouse (Broadway). Off-Broadway/Regional: Slow Food (Dorset Playhouse), WarholCapote (A.R.T.), Crime and Punishment (Trinity Rep.), Irish Curse (Soho Playhouse), Old Money (Lincoln Center), The Only Thing Worse You Could’ve Told Me … (Writer. Actor’s Playhouse, Drama Desk/Outer Critics nominations), Beast, Emerald City (New York Theatre Workshop), Lisbon Traviata (Manhattan Theatre Club/Mark Taper Forum), The Widow Claire (Circle in the Square Downtown). Film: Crazy Stupid Love, Karl Rove, I Love You (co-writer/director), Pearl (adaptor/director), Enemy of the State, Fixing Frank, Silence of the Lambs. TV: “Modern Love”, “The Mist”, “Prayers for Bobby”, “Hey, Arnold”, “Frasier” (7 seasons as Bulldog). Upcoming: Blonde (Netflix), All My Life (Universal). Co-founder of Fuller Road Artist Residency in Vermont with Jackson Gay and Richard Waterhouse.

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Helen Cespedes

Helen Cespedes (She/Her) Broadway: The Cripple of Inishmaan. Off-Broadway: Fefu and Her Friends and Timon of Athens (TFANA), Paul Swan is Dead and Gone (Civilians), The School For Scandal (Red Bull), A Picture of Autumn (The Mint). Regional credits include Doug McGrath’s world premiere adaptation of The Age of Innocence directed by Doug Hughes (McCarter/Hartford), Taking Steps (Barrington Stage Co.), The Women of Padilla (Two River), the world premiere of José Rivera's Another Word for Beauty (Goodman Theatre and NYSF), The Importance of Being Earnest (Williamstown and The Old Globe). Film/TV: The Way I Remember It, The Knick. Helen trained at The Juilliard School where she received the John Houseman Prize.

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Kalyne Coleman

Kalyne Coleman (She/Hers) is from Richmond, Virginia and is a graduate from the Brown/Trinity Rep MFA in Acting program. She has a BA in Communications and Theater from the University of Pennsylvania and additional training from the Black Arts Theater Intensive, Actors Studio Drama School, and Goldsmiths University of London. Coming up, she will participate in the 2020 ABC Discovers Talent Showcase. Last summer, she originated the role of Leigh in the World Premiere of America v. 2.1: The Sad Demise and Eventual Extinction of the American Negro by Stacey Rose at Barrington Stage Company. This production won the 2019 Broadway World Berkshires Outstanding Play Production Award. Theater credits include Nella Pea in Black Odyssey (Trinity Rep), Gabriella in References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot, Brutus in Julius Caesar, Selector in How We Got On, Mrs. Sauce in Marie Antoinette, and Henrietta in Last Days of Judas Iscariot (Brown/Trinity Rep),Young Fannie Lou/Myrlie Evers, A Seat at the Table (Rites and Reason), Lady Anne, Richard III and Rosaline, Love’s Labour’s Lost (Shakespeare Academy at Stratford) Beneatha, Raisin in the Sun and Latisha, The Story (4A, UPenn). Fun Fact: I used to work at Drama Book Shop in NYC and credit them with a 2nd MFA education.

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Josiah Davis

Josiah Davis (He/Him) is a multi-disciplinary artist. A director, choreographer, performer, designer; the work intersects expressive movement, live music, emerging technology, and ritual to breathe new life into physical storytelling. Asking, how can we create space for people to be in sync when we are pulled apart by invisible systems? He is the Associate Artistic Director of On The Verge Theatre Company-Santa Barbara, a New York Theatre Workshop 2050 Fellow, a Theatre Lumina company member. He has collaborated as an associate/assistant with Regina Taylor, Tyne Rafaeli, John Rando, Oliver Butler, Jose Luis Valenzuela, Helena Kaut-Howson & Kathryn Hunter. He received an MFA from Brown/Trinity in Directing and a BA from UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television. josiah-davis.com | onthevergefest.com

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Crystal Dickinson

Crystal Dickinson (She/Her) is an Actor, Educator and a New Jersey Native. Her Broadway credits include in the Tony Award Winning Play, Clybourne Park, for which she received an illustrious Theater World Award, and Tony Nominated Play, You Can’t Take It With You, alongside James Earl Jones and Rose Byrne. She has also performed Off Broadway at Lincoln Center, The Public Theater, Playwrights Horizons and The Signature Theater and most recently Theater for A New Audience. She has worked with Thomas Kail, Michael Greif , Scott Ellis, Bryan Cranston, Wendell Pierce, Pam Mackinnon, Lila Neugebauer, Leigh Silverman and Kenny Leon. Film and Television credits include: Collateral Beauty, I Origins, This Is Where I Leave You, “The Good Wife”, “New Amsterdam”, a recurring role on Showtime’s “The Chi” and an upcoming appearance on ABC’s “For Life”. Crystal has also had an illustrious career teaching acting and coaching at Julliard, Stella Adler Studio, Spelman College, NYU, Princeton, Pace University and both of her Alumni schools, University of Illinois and Seton Hall University. A proud MFA graduate of The University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, she also studied at the London Academy for Music and Dramatic Art and is an elite member of the Lincoln Center Directors Lab.

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Brandon J. Dirden

Brandon J. Dirden starred on Broadway as Martin Luther King, Jr. in the Tony Award-winning production of "All the Way" with Bryan Cranston, and as Booster in the Tony Award-winning revival of August Wilson's "Jitney" directed by frequent collaborator Ruben Santiago-Hudson. Additional Broadway credits include "Clybourne Park," "Enron," and "Prelude to a Kiss." Off-Broadway, he has appeared in "The Piano Lesson" by August Wilson, for which he won Obie, Theatre World, and AUDELCO awards; "The First Breeze of Summer" and "Day of Absence" at Signature Theatre; "Detroit ‘67" at the Public Theater and Classical Theatre of Harlem; "Peter and the Starcatcher" at New York Theatre Workshop, and as Brutus in Theatre for a New Audience’s production of "Julius Caesar." On screen he has appeared in "The Good Wife," "The Big C," "Public Morals," "Manifest," "The Get Down," "The Accidental Wolf," "Blue Bloods," "The Quad," and four seasons of FX’s "The Americans" as Agent Dennis Aderholt. He recently starred in the ABC series "For Life," and was seen in the FX miniseries "Mrs. America." Dirden holds B.A. degrees in Mathematics and Drama from Morehouse College, and an M.F.A. in Acting from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Proud member of Actors Equity Association, SAG-AFTRA and Fair Wage on Stage.

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Ricardy Fabre

Ricardy Fabre (He/Him) is thrilled about having the opportunity to work with Vineyard Theatre. Ricardy is a Native New Yorker and recent graduate of the Brown/Trinity Rep MFA Acting program. Theatre credits include: The Christians (Chautauqua Theatre Company), As You Like It (Chautauqua Theatre Company), A Raisin in the Sun (Seattle Rep), Our Town (Portland Center Stage), A Christmas Carol (Trinity Rep).

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Yonatan Gebeyehu

Yonatan Gebeyehu (He/Him) is an actor based in Brooklyn. NEW YORK: Timon of Athens (Theatre for a New Audience), I Thought I Would Die, But I Didn’t (New Georges / The Tank ). REGIONAL: Timon of Athens, Everybody (Shakespeare Theatre Company ), Go. Please. Go. (Montana Rep), The Tempest (Shakespeare on the Manor), Noises Off, Romeo and Juliet (Chautauqua Theater Company), Christmas Carol (Portland Stage), Revolt. She said. Revolt Again., Strange Men, How to Use a Knife ( UCSD / La Jolla Playhouse ). TELEVISION: “Elementary”, “Madame Secretary” (CBS). WEB: “86’d” (Bric Arts). BA in English Literature: Columbia University; MFA in Acting: UCSD.

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Peter Gerety

Peter Gerety’s film credits include Michael Mann’s Public Enemies, Robert Zemeckis' Flight, Clint Eastwood’s Changeling, George Clooney’s Leatherheads, Mike Nichols’ Charlie Wilson’s War, Spike Lee’s Inside Man, the independent feature Things That Hang from Trees, Syriana, War of the Worlds, K-Pax, People I Know, Magic Hour, Montana, The Legend of Bagger Vance, Mrs. Winterborne, Surviving Picasso, Ed Burn’s Ash Wednesday, A Most Violent Year, Cymbeline, Get the Gringo, Paul Blart: Mall Cop, God's Pocket, The Sea Is All I Know, Hollywood Ending, The Curse of the Jade Scorpion, A Change in the Air and Working Man. Television credits include Showtime's Ray Donovan HBO’sThe Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight; Brothers And Sisters, the Tom Fontana/WB series The Bedford Diaries, HBO’s The Wire, Homicide, Law and Order, Ed, Ed Burns’ Public Morals, Kidnapped, Daredevil, Madam Secretary, The Black Donnelly's, Elementary, The Good Wife, Brotherhood, The House of Mirth, Central Park West, Third Watch, The Return to Lonesome Dove and the PBS Mini-Series Mercy Street. Theatre credits include the Broadway productions of the late Nora Ephron’s play Lucky Guy opposite Tom Hanks and Martin McDonaugh’s The Lieutenant of Inishmore which transferred after a successful run off-Broadway at the Atlantic Theatre Company, the Broadway production of Never Gonna Dance, Susan Lori Park's Fucking A, and Henry V at N.Y.'s Shakespeare in the Park. Peter worked on stage for over 30 years, performing in over 100 productions with the legendary Trinity Repertory of Providence, R.I. alone (Adrian Hall, dir.). He has also performed with the Seattle Rep., the Dallas Theater Center, ART in Cambridge, the Huntington in Boston, and in Edinburgh, Scotland; Madrid, Spain; Bombay, Calcutta, and Damascus, Syria. Peter has been in numerous Broadway and Off-Broadway plays including playing Roderigo to James Earl Jones’ Othello and finally, is an accomplished director, primarily with the Dallas Theater Center and Trinity Rep.

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Nicole Lewis

Nicole Lewis has been seen on television in “New Amsterdam”, “The Good Fight”, “The Blacklist”, “Mozart in the Jungle”, “Odd Mom Out”, “Blue Bloods”, “A Gifted Man”, “Law & Order SVU”, “Mercy”, “As the World Turns”, “Naked Brothers Band”, and in the feature films The Comedian, Across the Universe, A Beautiful Mind and London Betty. Nicole has also performed on Broadway in Rent (Joanne); and the original companies of Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune (2019 Revival), Hair (2009 Tony Award Best Revival), and Lennon. Off Broadway she has played Angela in Zawe Ashton’s For All The Women Who Thought They Were Mad (Soho Rep., Whitney White dir.), Isabella in Measure for Measure and Lady Macduff in Macbeth (The Public Theater), Grace in Abby Rosebrock’s Blue Ridge (Atlantic Theatre Company), Kate Hamill’s Sense and Sensibility (Bedlam Theatre Company, dir. Eric Tucker), Boy Gets Girl and Murder Ballad (Manhattan Theatre Club). Regionally, she has worked with Paula Vogel at Baltimore Center Stage, played Ann Deever in Arthur Miller’s All My Sons (Intiman Theater in Seattle), Kate in David Lindsay Abaire’s Good People (Geva Theater/Indiana Rep), and Jory in Disgraced by Ayad Akhtar (ATC); in addition to works at Philadelphia Theater Company, The Old Globe (San Diego), Hartford Stage and ACT (San Francisco) amongst others. Special Engagements include the Original Works: Far But Close by/with Daniel Beaty (Dance Theater of Harlem), Flowers are Sleeping by/with Eisa Davis (Symphony Space) and Revival: Son House by Keith Glover (Geva Theater Festival). Nicole is a prolific Voice Artist, having recorded for Dreamworks’ Madagascar, PBS’s “NOVA” and several podcasts and audiobooks for Penguin Audio, Simon & Schuster and Audible including Kiley Reid’s Such a Fun Age (New York Times #7 best seller Audio Fiction), Michelle Harper’s The Beauty in Breaking, Zinzi Clemmons’ What We Lose, a novel, and Sarah Kuhn’s Star Wars: Doctor Aphra. She is a Proud member of AEA, SAG-AFTRA, The Commissary Play Group, The Actor’s Center, and graduate of Yale University (BA) and ACT (MFA). She adds to her honors, an NHT Award Nomination for her portrayal of Asaka in Once On This Island at Weathervane Theater where she also directed Annie Baker’s Circle Mirror Transformation, David Mamet’s Race and Ken Ludwig’s Moon Over Buffalo. In addition to her extensive career as an Actor and Director, she is an Assistant Professor of Acting at Emerson College.

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Sevrin Anne Mason

Sevrin Anne Mason (She/Her) Actor/ Musician: The Crucible on Broadway with Liam Neeson and Laura Linney; Body: an Anatomy of Being (Blessed Unrest at the New Ohio); Maria in Twelfth Night (dir. Sara Thigpen with Boomerang Theatre Co.) Charles Mee’s Summertime (Between two Burroughs, dir. Jenn Haltman) ); I Can’t Explain it Better Than That, by Sarah Shaefer (Rising Phoenix Rep); Charles Mee’s Trojan Women 2.0 (CSC First Look Festival); Charlotte Miller’s Rocks, a part of the triptych, Zurich, NY (Ensemble Theatre Group at The Tank); Four Hundred Parts Per Million (Blessed Unrest); The Calmative and Baal both directed by Scott Ebersold; Much Ado About Nothing (Boomerang, dir. Daniel Talbot); and Row after Row, by Jessica Dickey (Rising Phoenix Rep); regional - Michael Greif's Street Scene and Annie Dorsen's The Blue Bird (Williamstown), The Comedy of Errors (Vineyard Playhouse). Select film: Buffalo Girl (Patch Darragh), Public Hearing (Automatic Moving Co.), and A Quintet (Omnibus Productions). Webseries: Help Wanted; and the award winning, Downsized . Sevrin is also a member of the ukulele trio, The Buttery Barmaids, with whom she’s played The Rainbow Room, White Eagle Hall, The House of Yes, The Red Room, as the house band for New Ambassador’s Heartbroke, and many more. You can learn more about Sevrin at www.sevrinannemason.com, and more about The Buttery Barmaids at www.TheButteryBarmaids.com.

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Nana Mensah

Nana Mensah TV/FILM: She can be found in Judd Apatow's recently released, King of Staten Island, starring SNL's Pete Davidson. She recurs as Dr. Camilla Candelario on NBC's “New Amsterdam”, and as Josephine Achola in Seasons 3 and 4 of Netflix's “13 Reasons Why”. She has guest starred on CBS's “Evil”, “The Good Fight”, and “Madam Secretary''. She wrote, directed and stars in the forthcoming independent film Queen of Glory and also played the role of Sade for two seasons of the popular series, “An African City” (2015 Golden Movie Award Winner, 2016 AMVCA Nominee). THEATER: When COVID hit, Nana was about to go into tech for Jocelyn Bioh's much anticipated play, Nollywood Dreams at MCC Theater's mainstage. Prior to that, she played the role of Mitra in Clubbed Thumb Summerworks's sold out production of Lunch Bunch, which was a New York Times Critics' Pick. Most notably, she played Tamyra in the New York premiere of Tracy Letts' Man from Nebraska at Second Stage Theater, directed by Tony Winner and MacArthur Genius Award recipient, David Cromer. For that role she was nominated for a 2017 Lucille Lortel Award, a 2017 Outer Critics' Circle Award, and a 2017 AUDELCO Award. She also starred as 'Clare' in the hit 2016 OBIE Award-winning play, I'll Never Love Again (a chamber piece) by Pulitzer Prize finalist, Clare Barron. WRITER: As a TV writer, Nana recently finished the second season of Netflix's short form series “BONDING”; a comedy about BDSM, in which she also will play a starring role. She sold Imperium, an hour-long drama pilot to AMC Studios. Her short film script, Step Nine, a finalist for Tribeca Institute's Through Her Lens award, is being developed into a series for Showtime Networks, produced alongside Sarah Jessica Parker's Pretty Matches Productions and Refinery29.

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Joe Morton

Joe Morton is an Emmy® Award winner and recipient of multiple NAACP Image Awards for his role as Rowan/Eli Pope in Shonda Rhimes’ critically acclaimed series “Scandal.” Morton was last seen as Rev. Arthur Finer in the CBS hit “God Friended Me.” Morton is widely known for his title role in John Sayle’s film, “The Brother From Another Planet” and as the ill-fated scientist Miles Dyson in “Terminator 2: Judgement Day.” Among his many other film credits, Morton was last seen as Cyborg’s dad, Dr. Silas Stone, in “Batman vs. Superman” and “Justice League.” Morton debuted on Broadway in HAIR, and was a Tony nominee and Theatre World Award winner for his portrayal of Walter Lee Younger in RAISIN. Most recently, Morton received the NAACP’s Lifetime Achievement Award for theatre, and the Lucille Lortel, Off-Broadway Alliance, and AUDELCO awards for Outstanding Lead Actor in a play, for his portrayal of comedian/civil-rights activist, Dick Gregory, in TURN ME LOOSE.

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Keith Randolph Smith

Keith Randolph Smith (He/Him) BROADWAY: Jitney; American Psycho; Fences; Come Back Little Sheba; King Hedley II; The Piano Lesson; Salome OFF-BROADWAY: Lockdown; Holiday Heart; Intimacy; Paradise Blue; The Revolving Cycles; Before It Hits Home REGIONAL: How To Catch Creation; The Dreams Of Sarah Breedlove; Water By The Spoonful; Looking Over The President’s Shoulder; Les Trois Dumas; Antony and Cleopatra FILM and TV: Anesthesia; Malcolm X; Path To Paradise; Girl Six; Backstreet Justice; Journeymen; ”The Good Wife”; I’ll Fly Away; “Law and Order”; “Cosby”; Onion

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Chris Stack

Chris Stack (He/Him) NYC: The Secret Life of Bees and Blue Ridge (Atlantic Theater), Ugly Lies The Bone (Roundabout Underground) Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, America, Kuwait (Rattlestick/Rising Phoenix Rep), Wayside Motor Inn (Signature Theater), Your Mother’s Copy of the Kama Sutra (Playwrights Horizons), Marie Antoinette (Soho Rep), Killers & Other Family (Rattlestick). Regional: What Happened When (Echo Theater L.A.), The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window (Goodman Theater), Love in the Wars (Bard Summerscape), Love & Communication (Passage Theater); Film and TV: “Law & Order: SVU”, “Blue Bloods”, “White Collar”, “One Life To Live”, “As The World Turns”, “Damages”, “Third Watch”, “Conviction”, “The Education of Max Bickford”, Either Side of Midnight (upcoming), Evening, The Mini, School of Rock, Roger Dodger, Small Collection, and Juke.

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Myra Lucretia Taylor

Myra Lucretia Taylor (She/Hers) BROADWAY: Tina- The Tina Turner Musical, Nine, Macbeth, Electra, MuleBone, A Streetcar Named Desire. NATIONAL TOUR: Wicked (Madame Morrible). LCT: The Rolling Stone, Chronicle of a Death Foretold. OFF-BROADWAY: The Tempest (The Public Theater's Mobile Unit), The Lucky Ones (Ars Nova; Lortel nomination for Outstanding Featured Actress), School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play (MCC; Drama Desk Award, Best Ensemble), Familiar (Playwrights Horizons; Lortel and Outer Critics Circle nominations for Best Featured Actress). International: The Winter’s Tale, Pericles (Royal Shakespeare Company). Regional includes Williamstown Theatre Festival, Two River and McCarter. Film: See You Yesterday (Netflix), Ben is Back, The Big Sick, Unsane, Madeline’s Madeline, Catfight. TV: “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” “Atlanta,” “Girls.” Ms. Taylor is a Fox Fellow.

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Victoria Villier

Victoria Villier (She/hers) is an actor and multidisciplinary artist based in NYC. Victoria is fascinated with the concept of Radical Imagination, a term from abolitionist and activist Angela Davis, and will embark on that journey within her art and life. She is very appreciative and beaming with gratitude for her fellow theatre mates on cultivating a sacred space for liberation. She holds a BA in Theatre Performance and Costume Design from Marymount Manhattan College. Previous theatre credits include Oracular Recall (The Motor Company), LORDES (New Ohio Theatre), Blanks (Signature Theater), Chasing The New White Whale (La MaMa), Avalon (Opera House Arts), and The Hysteria Plays: Deliverance and Astronaut (or Frantic Action) at Dixon Place. 2019 Interdisciplinary Artist in Residence program at Ken Kesey Farm. www.victoriavillier.com

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Deirdre O’Connell

Deirdre O’Connell (She/Her) Recent favorite theatre includes: Dana H by Lucas Hnath (Los Angeles Ovation Award, Obie Award, Outer Critics Circle Award, Lucille Lortel Award, Kirk Douglas Theatre, Goodman Theater and Vineyard Theatre), Before The Meeting by Adam Bock (Williamstown Theater Festival), Thunderbodies by Kate Tarker (Soho Rep), Fulfillment Center by Abe Koogler (Drama Desk and Drama League Award nominations) and By the Water by Sharyn Rothstein (Lortel nomination, Manhattan Theatre Club), Terminus by Gabriel Jason Dean (New York Theatre Workshop), The Way West by Mona Mansour and Thinner Than Water by Melissa Ross (Labyrinth), Judy by Max Posner (Page 73), Little Children Dream of God by Jeff Augustin (Manhattan Theatre Club), Scarcity by Lucy Thurber (Rattlestick), The Vandal by Hamish Linklater (The Flea), Circle Mirror Transformation by Annie Baker (Obie and Drama Desk Awards; Playwrights Horizons), In the Wake by Lisa Kron (Los Angeles Ovation Award, Richard Seff Actors’ Equity Award, Lortel nomination,Kirk Douglas Theatre and Public Theatre), In the Blood by Susan Lori Parks (Public Theatre). Other favorite writers she has performed include Jenkins, Wellman, Schulman, Nelson, Meyer, Fornes, Shepard, Smith, and Chekhov. Recent films include Diane, Lez Bomb, I Am a Seagull, The Boy Downstairs, Gabriel, Synecdoche, NY, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. TV includes recurring roles on “One Dollar”, “The Path”, “The Affair”, and “Nurse Jackie”. She has an Obie for Sustained Excellence in Performance, a New York Drama Critics Circle Special Citation and a Lilly Award.

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TL Thompson

TL Thompson (They/Them/T) credits include: Broadway: Straight White Men (Person In Charge u/s) at Second Stage Theater. Theater: Is This A Room (Agent Taylor) at Vineyard Theatre, Waafrika 123 (Aweeno) at Criminal Queerness Festival, NERVOUS/SYSTEM (Pollster) at BAM Next Wave, AFTER (Company) at Public Theater Podcasts, Meet Cute Podcast. “Adventures in New America”, “Welcome to Nightvale”. Webseries: “THESE/THEMS” (TI), Dir. Jett Garrison. THE HUNTED (Nic), Dir. Crystal Arnette. Films: Flu$h (Wrex), Dir. Heather Acs. Friday Afternoon Dir. Paige Campbell. TL is also in the NY Neo Futurist, who performs frequently in The Infinite Wrench, an ongoing attempt to perform 30 plays in one hour. TLThompsonactor.com.

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Ryan Spahn

RYAN SPAHN (He/Him) Off-Broadway: Mr. Toole (59E59), How To Load A Musket (59E59), Moscow, Moscow, Moscow, Moscow, Moscow, Moscow (MCC and Williamstown), Daniel’s Husband (Westside Theatre, Primary Stages, and Penguin Rep), Summer and Smoke (Classic Stage and Transport Group), Still at Risk (Theatre for the New City), Exit Strategy (Primary Stages and Philadelphia Theatre Company), Gloria (Vineyard Theatre and Goodman Theatre). Film: He’s Way More Famous Than You (co-writer), Grantham and Rose (writer), Woven (writer). Playwright: Inspired By True Events (developed at New York Stage & Film and Vineyard Theatre), Nora Highland (presented at Pride Plays and semi-finalist for the O’Neill Playwrights Conference), Blessed and Highly Favored (developed at EST, Hangar Theatre, and Martha's Vineyard Playhouse). Training: The Juilliard School. Ryan will appear in the upcoming season of “Modern Love” (Amazon) and his play Nora Highland was shot as a feature film during the pandemic.

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Lessons In Survival Calendar

Calendar of Events


Week 1


October 6 at 8:30PM | EP 1: “Survival Is Not A One Time Decision”
Excerpts of conversations and speeches with Nina Simone (1968), Lorainne Hansberry (1964), and Audre Lorde and Blanche Cook (1982), tackling radicalism, survival, and the role of the artist in times of revolution. (Runtime: 26 minutes)
Featuring: Kalyne Coleman, Nicole Lewis, Deirdre O’Connell, Myra Lucretia Taylor
View through November 15 with the ALL ACCESS PASS

October 7 at 8:30PM | EP 2: “I'm Trying to Make You See Something”
Dick Cavett hosts a conversation with James Baldwin and Yale professor of philosophy Paul Weiss, where they discuss what it is to be Black in America in 1969. (Runtime: 33 minutes)
Featuring: Dan Butler, Ricardy Fabre, Chris Stack

October 8 at 8:30PM | Live Open Rehearsal 1*
Each week, a group of actors and director Tyler Thomas will explore material not seen in other episodes, working on it and talking candidly about the content and the process. (Runtime: 80 minutes)
Interviews: Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis/Angela Davis (2002); Richard Pryor/Dick Cavett (1985)
Featuring: Crystal Dickson, Brandon J. Dirden, Peter Mark Kendall, Victoria A. Villier, Reggie D. White
In conversation with: Dan Butler, Kalyne Coleman, Marin Ireland, Nicole Lewis, Deirdre O'Connell, Chris Stack

October 11 at 5:30PM | Live Community Conversation 1**
Conversations with leading artists and thinkers of today. (Runtime: 60 minutes)
Special Guests Colman Domingo, Joe Morton, Lisa B. Thompson
Moderated by Sarah Stern, Reggie D. White
Click to view this conversation!

Week 2


October 13 at 8:30PM | EP 3: “When You Say Revolution... What Do You Mean?”
Women leaders of the Civil Rights Movement: Angela Davis discusses the role of Communism in the Black Power Movement and breaks down the path to true revolution (1972 and 2008); Georgia Gilmore reflects on organizing the Montgomery Bus Boycott (1979); and Fannie Lou Hamer offers a critical diagnosis of the moral state of America in 1968. (Runtime: 35 minutes)
Featuring: Helen Cespedes, Crystal Dickinson, Ricardy Fabre, Nicole Lewis

October 15 at 8:30PM | Live Open Rehearsal 2*
Each week, a group of actors and director Tyler Thomas will explore material not seen in other episodes, working on it and talking candidly about the content and the process.
Interviews: Bobby Seale (1968), Bobby Seale/Bob Costas (1992), Ericka Huggins/Angela Davis/JoNina Abron/Barbara Rogers (1989)
Featuring: Adam Chanler-Berat, Brandon J. Dirden, Nicole Lewis, Clarissa Marie Ligon, Kristolyn Lloyd, Sevrin Anne Mason, April Matthis, Reggie D. White

October 18 at 5:30PM | Live Community Conversation 2**
Conversations with leading artists and thinkers of today.
With special guest Pearl Cleage, Andy Jean, Cody Renard
Moderated by members of The Commissary Crystal Dickinson and Brandon J Dirden
Click to view this conversation!

October 18 at 8:30PM | EP 4: “The Old Leadership is Dead”  
Three different actors take on Bayard Rustin's 1968 speech "Firebombs or A Freedom Budget", in which he presents a plan for the redistribution of wealth to the Black American poor. (Runtime: 32 minutes)
Featuring: Kyle Beltran, Yonatan Gebeyehu, TL Thompson

Week 3


October 20 at 8:30PM | EP 5: “Something is Beginning to Crack”
Maya Angelou speaks with British television host Mavis Nicholson in 1987 about her writing, personal life and growing into courage; James Baldwin speaks with Mavis that same year, during London rehearsals for his play "The Amen Corner", about the invention of race and the breakdown of the social contract.
Featuring: Marin Ireland, Joe Morton, Deirdre O’Connell, Myra Lucretia Taylor

October 22 at 8:30PM | Live Open Rehearsal 3*
Each week, a group of actors and director Tyler Thomas will explore material not seen in other episodes, working on it and talking candidly about the content and the process.
Interviews: Miles Davis (1988), Muhammed Ali/Nikki Giovanni (1971), Joan Baez (1984), Pete Seeger (2006)
Featuring: Kalyne Coleman, Peter Gerety, Jennifer Ikeda, Peter Mark Kendall, TL Thompson, Nicole Villamil

October 25 at 5:30PM | Live Community Conversation 3**
Conversations with leading artists and thinkers of today.
Special Guests Casey Llwellyn, Michael R. Jackson, Claudia Rankine
Moderated by members of The Commissary Kyle Beltran and TBA
Click to view this conversation!

October 25 at 8:30PM | EP 6: “This Country's My Problem and Your Problem”
In a 1968 interview turned debate with conservative commentator R.H. Darden, James Baldwin discusses the erupting racial tensions in the country and challenges mythologies of American history and institutions. Twenty-five years later, Toni Morrison speaks with Charlie Rose about the psychology of racism and whiteness as ideology.
Featuring: Dan Butler, Yonatan Gebeyehu, Nana Mensah, Ryan Spahn

Week 4


October 27 at 8:30PM | EP 7: “Lie To Me”
In part one of this celebrated 1971 interview, Nikki Giovanni and James Baldwin talk about their generational approaches to the movement for Black liberation, and the responsibility of Black men and women to each other.
Featuring: Kalyne Coleman, Crystal Dickinson, Reggie White

October 29 at 8:30PM | Live Open Rehearsal 4*
Interviews: Lucille Clifton/Sonia Sanchez (2001), Sarah Keys Evans (2019), John Lewis (1963), Paul Robeson (1960)
Featuring: Helen Cespedes, Kalyne Coleman, Nicole Lewis, Kristolyn Lloyd, Peter Mark Kendall, Joe Morton, Keith Randolph Smith
In Conversation with: Tyler Thomas, TL Thompson, Nicole Villamil, Reggie D. White

November 1 at 5:30PM | Live Community Conversation 4**
Conversations and reflections on Lessons In Survival Part 1 and the moments they will most take forward.
Moderated by Marin Ireland, Peter Mark Kendall, Tyler Thomas, Reggie D. White with special guests Deirdre O'Connell and TL Thompson
Tune into The Vineyard Theatre YouTube page!

November 1 at 8:30PM | EP 8: “To Teach is a Revolutionary Act”
In part two of this intimate 1971 conversation, Nikki Giovanni and James Baldwin discuss their Black literary forebears, and the role of language in liberation.
Featuring: Kyle Beltran, Kalyne Coleman, Nana Mensah, Joe Morton


*Open Rehearsals are ticketed events that provide an inside look into The Commissary's process of rehearsing and creating LESSONS IN SURVIVAL. Each week, a group of actors and director Tyler Thomas will explore material not seen in other episodes, working on it and talking candidly about the content and the process.

**Community Conversations are free and open to the public and can be viewed on The Vineyard's YouTube and Facebook pages. ner">Facebook pages.