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Voices of Nashville

Voices of Nashville - Keri Pisapia, Colette Divine, Becky Wahlstrom and David Chattam
 Voices of Nashville

Commissioned by TWTP and written by Christine Mather and Sara Sharpe,Voices of Nashville  explores the experience of immigrants in our region through the eyes of these new Americans. TWTP Founder and Artistic Director Maryanna Clarke describes the inspiration this way: “Most people are aware of the explosive growth in the immigrant population of Nashville. Native-born residents are encountering people from all over the planet, and it’s not necessarily a comfortable thing. We see the play as a way of introducing neighbors to neighbors – as humans, and not strangers.” 

Now that our Looby Theater engagement is complete, Voices is on tour. Upcoming appearances include: 

  • March 3, 2014 – Trevecca Nazarene University ♦ 7 pm  Cancelled due to winter storm
  • March 11, 2014 – Vanderbilt University, Sarratt Cinema ♦ 7 pm

To bring Voices of Nashville to your school, church or community group, email Chris Clarke or phone 615-681-7220. 

Voices features David Chattam, Colette Divine, Keri Pisapia and Becky Wahlstrom, playing characters from around the globe.

An official Artober event, Voices of Nashville is sponsored by HCA/TriStar Health and funded in part by Nissan FoundationTennessee Arts Commission and Metro Nashville Arts Commission.

 
"Both thoughtful and engaging . . . we hear the voices of these new Americans,
ringing out with strength, resilience and courage."
Amy Stumpfl, The Tennessean

Read Martin Brady's preview in the Nashville Scene.

Read Evans Donnell's preview at ArtsNash.com.

Read the preview by Fiona Soltes in The Tennessean.


The Background
 
A Brookings Institution analysis of census statistics, cited in a 2008 article at Forbes.com, shows an increase of 74% in our area’s foreign-born population from 2000 to 2007. Nashville’s Kurdish population is large enough to require an absentee polling center for elections in Iraq. New waves of Sudanese, Somali and Bhutanese immigrants have joined established populations of Hispanic, Egyptian and Korean people. Middle Tennessee's rapidly growing immigrant population has had an enormous impact on schools, churches and neighborhoods, on the newly arrived, and on lifelong residents who once lived in demographically homogeneous circumstances.

Founder and Artistic Director Maryanna Clarke describes the inspiration: “Most people are aware of the explosive growth in the immigrant population of Nashville and our region. Native-born residents are encountering people from all over the planet, and it’s not necessarily a comfortable thing. I want to explore Nashville’s immigration experience from the point of view of these new Americans, as a way of introducing neighbors to neighbors – as humans, not strangers or intruders.”


Christine MatherChristine Mather holds a Ph.D. in Theatre from Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge. She was a 2010-11 Playwright in Residence in Tennessee Repertory Theatre’s Ingram New Works Lab, working with John Patrick Shanley. Her plays include The Sarajevo Zoo (Chicago Dramatists, 2005), Zoologies (Bongo Java 2007), One Idea, With Frosting (Nashville New Works, 2011), Now You See Him  (Ingram New Works Festival, 2011) and The West Bank Zoo (Women's Work 2012). Christine’s directing and youth storywork includes directing Lettice and Lovage for Adobe Theatre in Albuquerque, NM and The Shoemaker’s Children with the children at Hillwood Presbyterian Church. She has served as dramaturg and script consultant for Nashville Shakespeare Festival (Much Ado About Nothing, 2012; Richard III, 2009; Coriolanus, 2008; Hamlet, 2008), Lipscomb University Theatre Department (Doubt, 2010) and Belmont University (Pride and Prejudice, 2008). Theatre publications include articles and reviews in Theatre Survey, Theatre Journal, and Text and Presentation.

 

Sara SharpeSara Sharpe is the co-founder and former Artistic Director of Nashville's BroadAxe Theatre, which joined the long tradition of popular theatres working to unravel and express the root causes of social and political ills. Nashville audiences will remember her as Karla Faye Tucker in the world premier of Karla in the fall of 2002. At BroadAxe, Sara wrote and edited Conversations in a Time of Terror, a series of monologues about 9/11 and its aftermath. More recently, she created The Fairview Project: An American Conversation. This documentary film and stage production attempts to reconcile the differences of liberal and conservative residents of a rural Tennessee town.


The Process

SUCCESS!: Thanks to everyone who supported our Kickstarter Campaign whether with a pledge or by passing along the appeal! 

For several months beginning in late 2012, Sara and Christine conducted outreach and research interviews with new Americans. From these sessions emerges a narrative of the immigration experience, told in the voices of composite characters. We have gotten to know some wonderful people, and although audiences will not know the names, their stories bring clarity and empathy to a topic most people know only from headlines. At all points of the process – research, creation, outreach and performance – we are working in partnership with such organizations as the Nashville International Center for Empowerment, Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, Conexión Américas, Scarritt-Bennett Center, American Center for Outreach and the Coalition for Education about Immigration. Our aim is to reach, teach and inspire audiences to see themselves and their new neighbors in new ways.

 Performances

Voices of Nashville preview at Nashville Next, February 25, 2013The first preview of Voices was presented February 25, 2013 at Scarritt-Bennett Center, as part of Nashville Metro Planning Department's Nashville Next planning initiative. Keri Pisapia, her hijab borrowed from our new friend and supporter Remziya Suleyman, delivered a moving monologue describing a Kurdish girl's arrival in America, her assimilation and her identification as a Nashvillian and an American. For more on the Nashville Next event, entitled Demographics, Equity and Inclusion, including a video of Keri's presentation, click here.

Voices of Nashville received its first public reading on opening night of our Seventh Annual Women's Work Festival, May 3, 2013. A lively audience discussion followed the performance. A fully staged production of Voices will open our 2013-14 season, running at the Looby Theater from October 4-20. An official Artober event, the Looby Theater presentation was sponsored by HCA/TriStar HealthBuy Tickets Here!  

Next Door Neighbors from Nashville Public Television
We are proud to to be partners with Nashville Public Television, which has helped our playwrights with outreach and resources, and our company by helping spread the word about Voices of Nashville
Learn more about Nashville's emerging immigrant and refugee populations with Nashville Public Television's Emmy award winning documentary series, "Next Door Neighbors" and see videos made by immigrants and refugees as part of NPT's Storytellers project. Learn more at wnpt.org/nextdoorneighbors and wnpt.org/storytellers.

TWTP and Voices of Nashville were featured in the June episode of
¿Que Pasa Nashville?  on Nashville's NewsChannel 5. We're grateful to host Cristina Allen and producer/director Marielena Ramos for inviting us on the show. Here's the video (which starts with a word from a WTVF sponsor): 

Following its world premiere production at the Looby, Voices will tour community centers such as Nashville’s new Casa Azafrán, as well as churches and social organizations, reaching groups depicted in the play, and lifelong residents of demographically homogeneous communities. Planning is underway for a tour of Metro Nashville Public High Schools, whose student population is both more ethnically diverse and less affluent than the city’s population at large. Carol Crittenden MNPS Visual and Performing Arts Coordinator, offers this comment: “I cannot think of a more appropriate project for the diversity of our Nashville community. When you are ready to share with the teachers, let me know and we will start scheduling.” Based on our 2011 experience with Warriors Don't Cry, we expect to present Voices of Nashville as far north as Austin Peay State University, and as far south as Motlow State Community College in Lynchburg.