Mosaic Theater Company prides itself on being innovative, inclusive, diverse and, most importantly, uncensored. Although Mosaic is a relatively new company, it is comprised of professionals who are no strangers to taking theatrical risks in the name of social change. In an effort to bridge gaps within the DC community, Mosaic’s mission is to make their theater a “model of diversity and inclusion at every strata, onstage and off.”
On Tap had the opportunity to chat with Mosaic’s founding artistic director, Ari Roth, and resident director, Jennifer L. Nelson, to get the inside scoop on the creation of Mosaic and their upcoming production of Milk Like Sugar.
On Tap: Tell me a little bit about Mosaic Theater. It’s a relatively new company. What prompted its creation?
Ari Roth: We came together to create a new theater company dedicated to values of inclusion, diversity, equity and access, and devoted to programming that’s independent, intercultural, entertaining and uncensored. We’re striving to bring different communities together here in Northeast DC in the interests of creating a new fusion of passionate art enthusiasts and engaged citizens committed to public discourse informed by dramatic, personal stories.
OT: Why does Mosaic focus primarily on social change?
AR: We believe that art can transform consciousness and promote awareness and understanding, and little by little, person by person, and group by group, may be able to change the world. We believe theater is the most immediate, intimate, personalized and public kind of artistic transmission, fusing so many disciplines into something visceral, emotional, intellectual, visual and energizing.
OT: Milk Like Sugar, directed by Jennifer L. Nelson, opens in November. What are you looking forward to most about producing this play?
AR: I want to see a group of young women kicking ass in this play. I want to see them hitting back out at a society that marginalizes and dismisses so many of their dramas as being small and insubstantial. I want to emerge from this play with a sense that vibrant, flawed, fascinating, vital and vulnerable young women are the key to our future and that everything hangs in the balance with their fate.
OT: How do you connect with Milk Like Sugar, and why are you looking forward to directing it?
Jennifer Nelson: There is little in the MLS details that I personally connect to: I grew up in a stable two-parent home where education and culture were prized above all. Perhaps that is why I am so moved by stories of those who have little or no supportive family life — particularly girls whose vision of themselves goes no further than those of the characters in the play. The play, on the other hand, gives us a chance to see how girls of limited means see themselves and their futures; and how once challenged and presented with other possibilities, their minds begin to open.
OT: How are you hoping “Milk Like Sugar” impacts your audience, and what message are you hoping to translate to the viewers?
AR: We want laughter, tears, exhilaration, rapt attention, shock and some unexpected uplift and admiration. We need to emerge from this show trusting that our young women can be empowered to figure out how to forge ahead even when carrying burdens of their own, and of their family’s and society’s, making.
JN: The message is that in spite of poverty and limited education, the human spirit yearns for and responds to hope.
OT: What type of conversations are you hoping to spark within the community in response to this play?
AR: There’s a new initiative that’s been launched by the President and First Lady called “Let Girls Learn” that’s designed to help adolescent girls attain a quality education and enable them to reach their full potential. I’d like to see us tap into that huge community right here in our DC schools and neighborhoods. This play is about strong young girls being made vulnerable and vulnerable young girls becoming strong.
Mosaic Theater Company is setting out to change the world, and they’re starting right here in DC. Their second show of Season Two, Milk Like Sugar, by Kirsten Greenidge, which won the Playwriting Obie Award in 2012 and the San Diego Critics Circle Craig Award for Outstanding New Play in 2011, runs from November 2-27. Tickets are $20-$35.