Mosaic Theater Company of DC to Tackle Inner-City Violence with The Gospel of LovingkindnessThis Winter

Nov 27, 2015
The Gospel of Lovingkindness

Fresh off the successful run of its inaugural production, Unexplored Interior (This is Rwanda: The Beginning and End of the Earth), Mosaic Theater Company of DC doubles-down its focus on posing the big questions of our community with Charles MacArthur Award-nominee Marcus Gardley's lyrical THE GOSPEL OF LOVINGKINDNESS, a poetic chamber play that takes audience members to the streets of Chicago in a story both tragic and familiar. This intimate drama, making its DC premiere at Mosaic Theater, affirms the company's commitment to telling diverse stories that ring most urgent in our communities and neighborhoods today. The show runs December 9, 2015 - January 3, 2016.

The story follows two young African American men, Manny and Noel (both played by Manu H. Kumasi), each making their transition from adolescence to adulthood. While Manny's life seems on a high, just back from a concert in Washington where he performed for President Obama, Noel's life is racked by the competing challenges of work, school and early parenthood. After Manny is shot and killed for his Air Jordan sneakers, his distraught mother, Mary (Helen Hayes Award-winner Deidra LaWan Starnes) must re-trace his ill-fated trajectory, conjuring along the way the ghost of the 152 year-old civil rights legend Ida B. Wells (Erica Chamblee) in an attempt to put a stop to the cycle of violence that afflicts so many of our cities. Beloved DC veteran actor Doug Brown rounds out the ensemble in a number of key supporting roles.

The play is inspired by the story of Hadiya Pendleton, who in 2013 at the age of 15, performed for President Barack Obama at his second inauguration. She was shot and killed one week later, on January 29, one mile away from the President's Chicago home. The First Lady attended Hadiya's funeral, and her parents were guests at the President's State of the Union address in February, 2013.

"This play hit very close to home when I first read it," shares Founding Artistic Director Ari Roth. "I'm born on the South Side of Chicago and have roots there to this day. That many neighborhoods there remain unsafe, frequently under siege with violence sown from within, due to neglect and disregard from without, is a source of pain, embarrassment, and shame. But that same pain exists in Washington, DC today. And always has."

Indeed, though far short of the violence experienced by many Chicagoans, Washington, DC has suffered its own recent spike in crime with homicides in certain parts of the city nearly double what they were a year ago. And from Mosaic Theater's new home at the heart of the rapidly transitioning H Street Corridor, the natural cycle of gains and losses of a developing neighborhood is often in plain sight. For Resident Director Jennifer L. Nelson, whose African Continuum Theatre Company was one of the first tenants in the then newly-refurbished Atlas Performing Arts Center almost a decade ago, this growing divide between the rich and the poor is an urgent call for reckoning.

"The biggest challenge to the 21st Century may be the increasingly large material gap between the 'haves' and the 'have nots,'" shares Nelson. "The resentment caused by that disparity no longer simply simmers beneath the surface to periodically burst through in acts of desperate rage...The American concept of fairness and equality makes it particularly difficult to stomach unremitting poverty living right in the hearts of our shiniest cities."

As with Unexplored Interior, Mosaic Theater staff, board and advisors have put together an ambitious schedule of free community programming to complement the material presented in THE GOSPEL OF LOVINGKINDNESS, to further the work on stage through discussions, talkbacks, Peace Cafes, Community Conversations, happy hours and more. This production's events, with titles such as "Investing in our Youth," "An Artist's Response to Gun Violence in our Cities" and "The Gospel According to Ida B. Wells," have been curated to serve as an invitation to audience members of all backgrounds to take part in tough discussions on the issues most pressing in our neighborhoods. Confirmed panelists include playwright Marcus Gardley, Artistic Director of Baltimore's Center Stage Kwami Kwei Armah, radio personality Kymone Freeman, Washington Informer editor Denise Rolark-Barnes, politician and activist Eugene Puryear and many others.

Tickets for THE GOSPELL OF LOVINGKINDNESS are $15-$50, plus applicable fees. For information on savings programs such as student discounts, neighborhood nights, community nights, military and first responder discounts, and others, visit Tickets may be purchased online at, or by phone at 202-399-7993, or at the Atlas Performing Arts Center Box Office at 1333 H Street NE, Washington DC 20002.

Marcus Gardley (Playwright) is a poet-playwright who was awarded the 2011 PEN/Laura Pels award for Mid-Career Playwright. His most recent play, Every Tongue Confess, premiered at Arena Stage starring Phylicia Rashad and directed by Kenny Leon. It was nominated for the Steinberg New Play Award, the Charles MacArthur Award and was a recipient of the Edgerton Foundation New Play Award. His musical, On The Levee, premiered last summer at LCT3/Lincoln Center Theater and was nominated for 11 Audelco Awards including outstanding playwright. Last spring, his play, And Jesus Moonwalks the Mississippi, was produced at The Cutting Ball Theater and received the SF Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Award nomination for outstanding new play and was extended twice. He has had six plays produced including dance of the holy ghost at Yale Repertory Theatre (now under a Broadway option,) (L)imitations of Life, at the Empty Space in Seattle, and like sun fallin' in the mouth at the National Black Theatre Festival. He is the recipient of a Helen Merrill Award, a Kesselring Honor, the Gerbode Emerging Playwright Award, the National Alliance for Musical Theatre Award, the Eugene O'Neill Memorial Scholarship, and the ASCAP Cole Porter Award. He holds an MFA in Playwriting from the Yale Drama School and is a member of New Dramatists, The Dramatists Guild, and The Lark Play Development Center. He is a professor of Playwriting at Brown University.

Jennifer L. Nelson (Director) is a Washington-based theater professional committed to principles that value human dignity, justice and compassion. She brings to Mosaic Theater more than 40 years of experience as an actor, playwright, administrator, professor, director and two-term president of the League of Washington Theatres. She is Senior Advisor for Programming at Ford's Theatre, and previously served for 11 years as the Producing Artistic Director of the African Continuum Theatre Company, where she directed more than 20 full productions and readings. She is a 26-year veteran of Living Stage Theatre Company, the former community outreach program at Arena Stage. Nelson has directed productions at Ford's Theatre, Round House, Woolly Mammoth, Theater of the First Amendment, Theater J and more. As a playwright, Nelson won the Helen Hayes/Charles MacArthur Award for Most Outstanding New Play for her play, Torn From the Headlines. She has taught at UCLA, George Washington University and American University, most recently teaching "Theatre for Social Change" as an adjunct lecturer at Georgetown University.

The creative team for THE GOSPEL OF LOVINGKINDNESS includes set designer Ruthmarie Tenorio, costume designer Heather C. Jackson, lighting designer Dan Covey, sound designer Baye Harrell, properties designer Gina Grundman, production manager Erin Simpson and stage manager Hope Villanueva.

For full company bios and additional production information visit

THE GOSPEL OF LOVINGKINDNESS Special Events and Community Programming Schedule:

(Additional discussions and panelists will be added in the coming days and weeks, and all are subject to change)

1. WED. DEC 9 | Talkback with Creative Team

2. FRI. DEC 11 | Mosaic Theater Happy Hour

3. FRI. DEC 11 | Talkback with Director Jennifer L. Nelson

4. SAT. DEC 12 | Positive Connections: Denise Rolark-Barnes in conversation with Cynthia Dawkins, Nardyne Jefferies and Marion Gray Hopkins

In Lab II following the 3:00 PM preview performance, featuring Denise Rolark-Barnes (Editor of the Washington Informer) and the parents of victims of gun violence

5. SUN. DEC 13 | An Artist's Response to Gun Violence in our Cities

In Lab II following the 3:00 PM preview performance, featuring Kwami Kwei-Armah (Baltimore Center Stage Artistic Director and playwright) and playwright Marcus Gardley

6. WED. DEC 16 | Investing in our Youth: Solutions to Urban Violence

In Lab II following the 8:00 PM performance, a discussion featuring Mazi Mutafa (Executive Director of Words, Beats & Life)

7. THUR. DEC 17 | Men Cry Too: Sam Ford in conversation with Eugene Puryear and Stuart Anderson

A conversation exploring the role of masculinity in relation to violence in our community. In Lab II following the 8:00 PM performance.

8. FRI. Dec 18 | Curing Violence

A conversation featuring Karen Volker (Director of Strategic & International Partnerships at Cure Violence)

9. SUN. DEC 20 | From Selma to Ferguson to Baltimore to DC: We Still Got Work to Do

In Lab II following the 3:00 PM performance, featuring Mosaic Theater Board Member NJ Mitchell

10. WED. DEC 23 | Community Conversation

In Lab II following the 8:00 PM performance, featuring radio personality Kymone Freeman

11. SUN. DEC 27 | Gospel Choir Performance

In the Atlas Lobby prior to the 3:00 PM performance

12. TUE. DEC 29 | The Gospel According to Ida B. Wells

In Lab II following the 8:00 PM performance, featuring Michon Boston (cultural and creative consultant, and playwright)

13. WED. DEC 30 | Cast Talkback

14. FRI. JAN 1 | Mosaic Theater Happy Hour

15. SAT. JAN 2 | Peace Cafe

In Lab II following the 3:00 PM performance

16. SUN. JAN 3 | DC Youth Slam

Members of DC Youth Slam respond to the play following the 3:00 PM performance, featuring Jonathan Tucker (Split This Rock)


Sunday, December 13th at 2:00 PM and 7:30 PM, and Monday, December 14th at 7:30 PM

Mosaic Theater Company staff, board, and affiliated artists celebrate the opening of the second show of the inaugural season! For further information, or for tickets, contact Contessa Riggs at 202-399-7993 ext 157, or email