a fall sunset on Washington University Campus

Performing Arts Department Announces its 2020-2021 Season "On Moving Ground"

Performing Arts Department Announces its 2020/2021 Season
"On Moving Ground"

The upcoming academic year promises to be like no other, and for the Performing Arts Department, it is especially challenging.  This year’s season is assembled, and will be realized, on moving ground.  We are prioritizing the safety of our community and facing an unpredictable year. Everything we aim to do could change in a moment. We know this. We also know we need to move forward in spite of these precarious times.  

We are naming dates, venues and details for what we believe we can do this year.  Our plans may have to change, and circumstances may shift, but, rest assured, this will not prevent us from the essential act of performance.

We hope our work – virtual, outdoors, indoors, or door to door – will be worthy of this moment.  We defy the pandemic’s challenge to our ability to dance, design, act and sing.  We cannot step back or go silent, especially not now, not at such a critical time of social change.  It is the performing artist’s work to speak out, to question and challenge the present moment.  So, even in this “viral” time, we vow to perform and move and sing and speak the truth as best we can.

Many of our performances will be virtual – some live-streamed, and others, recorded.  Productions are tentatively planned for the Edison Stage in the spring, and should that be prohibited, everything we do will have an online backup in place.  Performances are being planned for outdoor locations on campus, and we are thrilled to announce that we have developed our own “traveling stage” to bring our work and play directly to the students and the entire Washington University community.

The silver lining is that our circumstances have prompted remarkable creativity.  Read about it below.  This promises to be a great season.  So, mask up and stay strong, and join us as we venture forth!

LOCATION: On Line Entirely!

Click Here for Information on how to register for each festival event.
Cheryl Robs a Bank: 
An Evening of Dramatic Entertainment Presented in Play Form by Cheryl Pryor

Friday, October 16th at 7pm
Written by Holly Gabelmann
Directed by Bill Whitaker
Dramaturg Michele Volansky

A bank-teller named Cheryl micromanages a situation between a thief, a killer-on-the-run 
and a sick pig named Olive. In this hilarious and dangerous telling, Cheryl finds herself 
trapped in the small slippery space between reliving and reimagining, as her story 
ricochets between what is happening now, what happened then, and what may never have 
happened at all. 


Women Eating Cake (*a ten-minute play)

Saturday, October 17th at 2pm
Written by Elizabeth Phelan
Directed by Andrea Urice

Three women eating cake discuss truth, friendship, and having a hook for a hand, as they pose the question: is it better to be yourself, or keep yourself away from yourself?


The Five-Year Reunion

Saturday, October 17th at 2pm (*immediately following ten-minute play)
Written by Ike Butler
Directed by Henry Schvey
Dramaturg, Michele Volansky

Twenty-three year-old Dawn is ready to leave the past behind her and finally do something with her life, but she's not sure how. She lives with her mom, just got fired, has no aspirations, is still hooking up with the same weirdo from high school, and she doesn't even know how to make tea. It's the absolute worst possible timing for her five-year high school reunion.



Saturday, October 17th at 7pm
Written by Sophie Tegenu
Directed by Paige McGinley
Dramaturg, Quinn D. Eli

In a modern day re-contextualization of The Great Gatsby, Grand sharply unravels the American Dream through the journey of a young Black woman banker who dreams of being a painter, and an older iconic actress who hosts wild parties, does not attend them, and nostalgically dreams of a certain lily-white boy.


Produced by Carter W. Lewis
On-Line Producer: Tom Shotkin
Festival Assistant:  Abby Smyth


Remember....That Time Before the Last Time – (World Premiere)

Opens Friday, November 20 at 7 p.m. before a “live” remote audience. Streaming thru November 27, 2020
Location: On Line Entirely!

Written and Directed by Ron Himes

Remember is an exploration of the effects of race, social injustice and the traumatic impact of slavery on the creative impulses of a people/artists through spoken word, music and dance from the diaspora. Our lens focuses on survival from 1619 to 2020.

Washington University Dance Theater

Dance Film Festival
Release date December 2020

An “aperture" is defined as “The space through which light enters a camera” and “An opening, hole or gap…”  In the time of COVID, we will not be able to perform dance in theaters for live audiences, and this feels like a big loss. But for artists, challenging times also create openings in which we adapt and respond creatively to try something new, in the “gap.” This is the lens through which we let our light shine. For the first time, Washington University Dance Theatre will be presented as a “Dance for Camera” film festival of new works by resident choreographers, performed by student dancers of the Performing Arts Department.


The Virtual Platform

Dates: On-Going -- Fall through Spring and into Summer 
Location: On Line All the Time – PAD Web Page

The Virtual Platform is not a play or a dance, but a digital space for creativity and experimentation.  This year, the Performing Arts Department is proud to include in our season this virtual venue for radio plays, dances, independent pieces, solo work and movement projects.  Think of it as a place where performances can push theatrical boundaries, or as a home for just having some simple fun.  We are already in development on two projects:


by Shaelee Comettant (Fine Arts/ Junior)  -- A remarkable mix of radio play and performance art, Focus is about sound and silence, stillness and movement. A student struggles to follow a lecture, contending with distractions, thoughts, emotions, and the overstimulation that comes with trying to drown out the rest of the world. There's a kind of mystery about the light, sound, repetition, and geography of Focus, that leaves us wondering can there ever be, just a moment of silence? Will things ever come into focus? (Dates TBD) 

Songs You’d Never Sing

– Musical Direction by Henry Palkes.  This is the PAD’s riff on the popular celebrity gala, Miscast.  Many have dreamt of singing songs from musicals that no one would ever cast them in, but with this show, such dreams come true. Songs You’d Never Sing offers bold permissions for simply having some fun.  It can be campy and outrageous at times, but it may also be downright beautiful and astonishing, especially when the chemistry between singer and song proves to be perfect. Perhaps you have a song like this in you? (Spring 2021 -- Online and on the PADdee+ Wagon – Dates TBD!)  


*Contact Bill Whitaker at whitaker@wustl.edu if you are interested in developing work for “The Virtual Platform”


Homecoming Voices – Alum Commissions 

March 4, 5, 6, 7 at 7pm -- 2021
Direction: Jacqueline Thompson and Andrea Urice 

Location: Conditions permitting, we hope to be on the Edison before a live, socially distanced audience.  Also, performances will be concurrently streamed live to those not attending in person. 
Four PAD alums have been commissioned to write plays for our season.   Each playwright is limited to writing one 15-25-minute piece with a cast of at least 2 but no more than 4 actors.  Writers are free to write what they want, but each is deeply aware of the extraordinary social and pandemic moment we share. All have been provided a short list of scenic elements they may employ -- things like a pillar, a road blockade, some stairs.  Writers may use all, some, or none of the items.  These limitations keep the production demands lean and agile. The playwrights are: Nastaran Amahdi (2000), Marisa Wegrzyn (2003), Chauncy Thomas (2006) and Liza Birkenmeier (2008); all have developed thriving careers in theatre and television, and we look forward to hearing their voices again on campus. 


MFA Thesis Concert 

Spring 2021 MFA Student Dance Concert is a two-night event.  


Friday, March 26, 2021 8 pm 

The Friday night event presents the work of the 2020 MFA graduates Ashley Tate and Marcus Johnson.  Mindscapes begins with a portrayal of life and the pull between the healthy mind and dementia. The dance represents a journey from the present, into the past, and towards the future.  This riveting tale of the remembered and the forgotten will draw you into a dance of a life well-lived yet fading away.   It is followed by a discovery of what it is to move through abstraction.  Flowing between the extremes of existence, oppositional forces are used to experiment with minimalism and expansion, extension and reduction, speed and stillness.  One dance focuses on the real while the other on the abstract.


Spring 2021 MFA Graduates


Saturday, March 27, 2021 8 pm

The Saturday night event presents Pathway and takes us on a journey combining three distinct paths. One moves us through the world of grief, the powerful rollercoaster of human emotions. The next takes us on the passage of both the power and grace of Muslim women.  In the final piece, we are immersed in the force of our neglect of Nature and her rebellious response.  

The concert speaks to the human spirit at its best and worst, through grief and grace.  It’s sure to be an evening of moving images, sharp contrasts, and evocative performances. This concert represents the completion of the MFA in Dance requirements for our fourth cohort students: Leah Korn, Luewilla Smith-Barnett and Thomas Proctor.


The PAD Mobile Stage

Coming Soon! -- Spring of 2021
Locations: Danforth and South Forty Campus
One-part medieval pageant wagon, another part theatrical RV.  If being indoors is a limitation to performing safely, why not step outside and deliver the drama in fresh clean air?  That is exactly what we are doing in creating this intrepid mobile stage.  

The PAD Wagon, designed by Robert Morgan, will allow us to bring all kinds of theatre directly to our audiences.  Imagine our wagon simply arriving on the Forty or up on Mudd Field, claiming a space, folding open her stage, and “delivering” a show.  “PADdee” has speakers, modest lighting, and two levels of playing space and other outdoor surprises.  We aim to do some wonderful things on this machine, and we hope other student performing groups will take her for a test drive too.


The Covid Mysteries

March 27-April 4 
Locations: Outdoors -- Points All Around Campus
Adaptation and Direction by Robert Henke and Bill Whitaker

The first “official” performance on the PAD Mobile Stage will be The Covid Mysteries.  After a year in a pandemic, perhaps you have some questions for God? Well, here’s some great news: God is in this show!  Seriously, just in time for Passover and Easter, God is ready to answer your questions and tell a lively tale or two.  All your favorites are here -- Abraham, Jesus, Mary, and, yes, even Joseph, that trusting guy!  They will be spinning yarns about Creation, Passion and Judgment.  Satan signed on too, and after all these years, he’s still a bundle of sass and trouble.  The Covid Mysteries are inspired by the 14th Century York Cycle plays and have been irreverently adapted for 2020.  Be there when they roll your way!


Supper –Washington University Dance Collective

April 8-10
Spring, 2021 –  Release date April 9, 2021
Artistic Direction: Cecil Slaughter

Location: To Be Determined
Washington University Dance Collective serves as the Performing Arts Department’s resident dance company.  WUDC is a unique blending of talented and expressive movers from very diverse backgrounds who bring with them a wide range of movement styles and performance acumen.



April 29 – May 2, 2021 -- 
Locations: Outdoors -- Green Spaces All Around Campus – Site Specific
Written by George F. Walker
Direction: Bill Whitaker

Bobby and Tina meet in a park.  She’s furious about something and cursing her head off, and her friend Jill is there too for “support.”  Jill has never liked a thing about Bobby, ever, and both women threaten to “kick him to death.”  Meanwhile, Bobby has been thinking about breaking up because he’s been looking around at other girls and he thinks “they look nice too.”  Bobby may have picked the worse time ever to discuss a break up, as Tina and Jill have some really tough news to deliver.  The context is young people in dire straits with limited economic and intellectual opportunities trying to make their way.  Tough! is a kind of contemporary tragi-comedy of the streets written by Canada’s most celebrated playwright.  In late April, you might see three young people on campus arguing beneath a tree or in the middle of a field as you pass on by.  It might be Bobby, Tina and Jill trying to sort things out.  It’s OK for you to stop and listen.