Charm, Story About LGBTQ Youth, to Continue COMING OF AGE IN AMERICA Series at Mosaic Theater

Dec 2, 2016

Mosaic Theater Company of DC's "Clamorous Encounters" series about coming-of-age in America continues with Philip Dawkins' groundbreaking comedy-drama CHARM (January 5-29, 2017), under the direction of one of DC's most innovative directors, Natsu Onoda Power (The T Party, Wind Me Up Maria: A Go-Go Musical).

This is Mosaic's third consecutive DC premiere in Season Two, and tells the story of "Mama Darleena Andrews," the inimitable 67 year-old transgender woman at the helm of an unforgettable etiquette class for transgender and gender nonconforming youth. Mama's unconventional brand of mentorship meets her students at their most vulnerable moments, helping them combat prejudice and discover themselves-and doing it all with class and with charm!

It is a true 'mosaic' tapestry of one of America's most historically marginalized communities in a period of rapid transition-embodied by the Culture Clash between Mama's methodical approach to identity, and the gender-bending breakthroughs of a new generation. But most importantly, Charm is a CELEBRATION-of the young transgender community, the perseverance of transgender adults before them, and the inspiring culture of mentorship that connects them both.

The show's kaleidoscopic ensemble is helmed by KenYatta Rogers (Mama Darleena Andrews), in a role inspired by the life and work of Chicago's Gloria Allen, a transgender icon who drew national attention for her unlikely etiquette class for LGBTQ youth at Chicago's Center on Halsted. The cast includes Joe Brack (Lady), Louis E. Davis (Donnie), Nyla Rose deGroat (Ariella), Samy El-Noury (Logan), Helen Hayes Award-winner Kimberly Gilbert (D), Jade Jones (Victoria), Clayton Pelham (Beta), and Justin Weaks (Jonelle).

"When we first described Season Two as a line-up of Clamorous Encounters," shares Founding Artistic Director Ari Roth, "we had Charm in mind as our theatrical anchor. It is a raucous celebration of life on the margins that takes over center stage, presenting a wildly eclectic group of young people from all walks coming under the tutelage of a most extraordinary teacher. When I first read this play, its cacophonous orchestration of overlapping dialogue and outsized characters living on the street seeking shelter in a nourishing gather spot reminded me of Lanford Wilson's 1965 portrait of down and out New York denizens, Balm in Gilead. But the sexual and gender politics of Charm are wholly up-to-date and the clash between these young street urchins and sex workers, and their older etiquette instructor, represents an eternal generational battle that will be wholly identifiable to anyone who's ever watched To Sir, With Love or any of the other great teacher-student movies that the playwright studied so assiduously. Theatrically, this very cutting edge portrait of at-risk youth has something traditional and redemptive at its core."

Mosaic Theater Company takes seriously issues of representation at all levels of the organization. Charm's cast and creative team is the result of a local and national search, and includes transgender, cisgender, and gender nonconforming actors, managers, consultants, and public programmers, as part of an ongoing effort to authentically produce experiences that are welcoming and inclusive to our full community.

"Reading this play, meeting Philip and Gloria, and working with Mosaic's creative team has already been a transformative experience," says director Natsu Onoda Power. "To me, this play is about communities, trust, and friendships as much as it is about (trans)gender identities. The play has already begun working its magic on our team-we have come together to laugh, weep, discuss, work hard, agree and disagree, embrace each other, and celebrate together."

Mosaic Theater Company's production of Charm is a regional premiere. Chicago's Northlight Theatre commissioned the work in 2012 and produced the world premiere in 2015 at Steppenwolf's Garage Theatre. The world premiere received two 2016 Jeff Awards for Outstanding New Work and Outstanding Actor in a Principal Role, as well as two additional nominations for Outstanding Production and Outstanding Ensemble. Charm was later staged by Minneapolis' Mixed Blood Theatre in April 2016 and by Los Angeles' Celebration Theatre in September 2016.

Whitman-Walker Health lends support as Community Partner

"We are thrilled to be working with Mosaic as a Community Partner supporting Charm," shares Abby Fenton, Chief External Affairs Officer at Whitman-Walker Health. "Mama's rallying cry for her kids is 'I see you,' a subtle yet powerful message about dignity and respect that connects perfectly with our new 'We See You' campaign. At Whitman-Walker we strive to provide an atmosphere where our patients and clients can be themselves, without fear of judgment or retribution. We are a place where people can expect patience, kindness, empathy, and humanity-just like Mama's classroom."

Charm Public Programming Announced: "Compelling Dilemmas: Transforming Identity"

In preparation for Charm, Mosaic has enlisted an expanded team of public programmers in the development of a discussion series that builds on recurring season themes of inclusion, diversity, equity, and access (IDEA). This show's discussion series is titled "Compelling Dilemmas: Transforming Identity," and will include a strong lineup of leaders from the LGBTQ community, health care providers, educators, and faith leaders. The series is supported by community partner Whitman-Walker Health, and will include open discussions on the politics of transgender representation in entertainment; voice and identity; healthcare and support services available to the transgender community in DC; LGBTQ identity on local college campuses; and LGBTQ representation in communities of faith. In addition to Whitman-Walker Health, Mosaic is working with local artist Rayceen Pendarvis (The Ask Rayceen Show), Sarah McBride (Human Rights Campaign), Casa Ruby, Sasha Bruce House, Rev. Aaron McEmrys (Senior Minister, Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington), and opening night musician AJ Head, in addition to others. The discussion series will conclude with a new installment of the acclaimed Peace Cafe series focusing on the state of housing services available to the transgender community.

Philip Dawkins' (he/him/his) (Playwright) works include The Homosexuals (About Face Theatre), Le Switch (About Face Theater, The Jungle), and Failure: A Love Story (Victory Gardens Theater), all of which were nominated for the Joseph Jefferson Award for Best New Work; and Miss Marx: Or The Involuntary Side Effect of Living (Strawdog Theatre) and Charm (Northlight Theatre), both of which won the Joseph Jefferson Award for Best New Work. This fall, he performed the world premier of his solo play, The Happiest Place on Earth at the Greenhouse Theater Center (co-production with Sideshow Theatre Company). Look for his musical adaptation of Dr. Seuss's The Sneetches (with composer, David Mallamud) at Children's Theater Company in Minneapolis this winter. Philip teaches playwriting at Northwestern University, Loyola University Chicago, his alma mater, and through the Victory Gardens ACCESS Program for writers with disabilities. His plays, including his plays for young performers, are available through Playscripts, Inc. and Dramatic Publishing.

Natsu Onoda Power (Director) is a DC-based playwright/adapter/director/designer. Most recently she wrote and directed Wind Me Up, Maria! A Go-Go Musical, with Charles "Shorty Corleone" Garris, at Georgetown University. Other recent plays include The T Party (writer/director, DC's Forum Theatre; Boston's Company One Theater), A Trip to the Moon (writer/director/illustrator, Synetic Theatre), Astro Boy and the God of Comics (writer/director, Studio Theatre; Company One Theatre, Elliot Norton Award for Outstanding Director in Small Theatre, 2015). Directing credits include David Henry Hwang's Yellow Face (Theatre J) and Young Jean Lee's Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven (Studio Theatre). Her set design has been seen at Company One Theater, Imagination Stage, Forum Theatre, Synetic Theatre, and The Hub Theatre, among others. She is the Artistic Director of the Davis Performing Arts Center at Georgetown University, and is an Associate Professor in Georgetown's Theater and Performance Studies department, where she has directed War with the Newts (adapted from Karek Capek), On the Origin of Species (adapted from Charles Darwin), The Omnivore's Dilemma (adapted from Michael Pollan), Madness and Civilization (adapted from Michel Foucault), and other productions. Natsu holds a Ph.D. in Performance Studies from Northwestern University, and is the author of God of Comics: Osamu Tezuka and the Creation of Post World War II Manga (The University Press of Mississippi, 2009). She is a member of the Forum Ensemble and the Studio Cabinet.

The creative team for Charm includes set designer Daniel Conway, lighting designer Max Doolittle, Sound Designer Roc Lee, costume designer Frank Labovitz, properties designer Kat Fleshman, technical director William M. Woodard, and stage manager James Holbrook.

The show follows Jennifer L. Nelson's critically acclaimed staging of Kirsten Greenidge's Milk Like Sugar, which kicked off a series of three plays about young urban teens and millennials. The series concludes in February with the world premiere of Tearrance Arvelle Chisholm's Hooded, Or Being Black for Dummies.

For additional production information visit