WEST ORANGE, NJ — Luna Stage debuts its ambitious, two-month-long Voting Writes Project, a series of interdisciplinary performance events celebrating civic participation. This multimedia experience celebrates democratic participation in advance of the November 2020 election. The Voting Writes Project was created in collaboration with the Andrew Goodman Foundation with support from the National Endowment for the Arts.
From September through November, Luna Stage will share a wide variety of programming: an original concept album, plays, short films, live solo shows, a virtual dance party and fireside chats. These events aim to engage and galvanize voters through many platforms, using art to inspire civic action.
“We’re telling stories of single women losing the right to vote in New Jersey in 1807, of the Masked Election during the pandemic of 1918, of voter suppression in the past three months, and of the challenges and glories of vote-by-mail,” Artistic Director Ari Laura Kreith said. “At this pivotal moment in our country’s history, we are honored to collaborate with so many extraordinary artists and activists to highlight the importance of voting and the power of democracy.”
The original nine-song cycle concept album “Songs of Suffrage” will serve as the musical soundtrack to Voting Writes. Modeled after Woody Guthrie’s “Dust Bowl Ballads,” these songs share short history lessons about voting rights and repression alongside songwriter Jim Knable’s personal exploration of his own relationship with voting. Starting Sept. 8, Luna will showcase a new track each Tuesday leading up to the election, and the entire album will be available for streaming and downloading in October.
On Sept. 17, Luna Stage will present “The Breakout Room,” by Bernardo Cubria, the first in a series of world premiere plays. In the play’s dystopian reality, people who don’t register to vote are condemned to a Zoom breakout room where all they can do is wait. Other works will premiere on Thursdays throughout the fall months. In “My First Time,” by Jenny Lyn Bader, three generations of women face personal milestones in the sweep of political history. Kaela Mei-Shing Garvin’s “Count Me In” will be an interactive, live Zoom event examining votes that ultimately weren’t counted, inviting audience members to dream up solutions together. Playwright Rachel Shapiro Cooper’s “Another Number in the Pool,” based on collected interviews, aims to answer why people vote and why they don’t.
Luna begins its short film premieres with filmmaker Maggie Borgen’s “Teen Voting Writes,” an interactive project in which teens and young adults from across the country discuss the importance and meaning of voting. Luna will share Borgen’s short on Sept. 14, with other films to follow on subsequent Mondays, including” Mail-in Ballot Breakdown,” made in partnership with the League of Women Voters of the Montclair Area; and “The Power to Vote,” a short documentary about Boris Franklin registering to vote for the first time after incarceration and reflecting on what voting means to him.
Fifty days before the November election, Luna will host the 50 Days/50 States Virtual Social DisDance Party on Sept. 15 at 8 p.m. in conjunction with St. Louis–based activist arts collective Dance The Vote. This Zoom celebration will welcome guests from all 50 states dancing together while physically apart. Attendees can cut a rug with people from across the country as they learn how to check voter registration and get information on key dates for voting in every state. Dancers can dress up to represent their state, create a Zoom background that highlights why voting matters to them, or come as they are for the socially-conscious, custom DJ mix. Social DisDance is hosted by The Dance Cartel veterans Sunny Hitt and Ani Taj, and producer Jenny Gersten.
In October, Luna Stage will produce two solo works as part of Voting Writes. Running Oct. 2 to 4, “Speak On It,” by Cheryl L. West, tells the story of American voting activist, community organizer, civil rights leader and women’s rights pioneer Fannie Lou Hamer. This solo show with music showcases Ami Brabson as Hamer, interweaving autobiographical story, song and documentary text. This work will be performed live and in-person with social distancing. Next, from Oct. 16 to 18, Luna will present Rajesh Bose’s “When They Go Low,” developed through Luna’s Voices Across America solo works program. Bose’s piece examines race in America and asks, “How exactly do we go high?” Bose’s performances will feature post-show conversations facilitated by Emmy-nominated producer Riaz Patel.
Other ongoing events include Fireside Chats, featuring writer and performer Will Nolan as Leola, everyone’s favorite senior citizen lesbian from the coast of the Okefenokee Swamp. In this series, Leola hosts in-depth discussions about the upcoming election, voter suppression, Black Lives Matter and easy chili recipes with roadkill.
For more information, visit www.lunastage.org.