Monumental Travesties: Mosaic Theater's Bold New Comedy set for DC

Jul 31, 2023
Monumental Travesties at Atlas Performing Arts Center

Mosaic Theater Company is thrilled to debut Monumental Travesties, a compelling new comedy by Mosaic's Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Playwright-in-Residence Psalmayene 24. The production, which is directed by Mosaic's Artistic Director Reginald L. Douglas, takes its inspiration from DC's Capitol Hill-based Emancipation Memorial. The play is scheduled to run from September 7 to October 1, 2023, and sets the stage for Mosaic's 2023/24 season.

Monumental Travesties presented by Mosaic Theater Company at Atlas Performing Arts Center

The drama unfolds when Abraham Lincoln's head mysteriously disappears. Chance, a Black performance artist, has stealthily taken it from the Emancipation Memorial - a statue featuring Lincoln towering over a formerly enslaved man - and placed it amidst the bushes of his white liberal neighbor, Adam. This protest action sets off an absurd sequence of events as Adam confronts Chance, drawing both men, as well as Chance's wife Brenda, into a discourse about the effect of historical symbols on our contemporary lives.

Psalmayene 24, a celebrated Helen Hayes Award-winning playwright, uses pointed humor, high-energy antics, and a clear affection for DC to scrutinize topics of race, memory, and the often privileged tendency towards amnesia in his stimulating new comedy.

Monumental Travesties further contemplates the past of the Emancipation Memorial, a site of numerous protests in 2020 advocating for its removal. In February 2023, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) reiterated her argument that the memorial "fails to depict how enslaved African Americans pressed for their own emancipation," and reintroduced a bill to relocate it to a museum.

"This play takes place right in our own backyard," Douglas said. "It channels the complicated history of the memorial to explore monumental themes, but with wit and satire. The play also highlights the inherent complexities and contradictions of Washington, DC, both the power and powerlessness of its residents. That Psalm achieves this with such laugh-out-loud humor and thoughtful provocation is truly a gift, and I can't wait for audiences to experience this new work with us."

"Monumental Travesties is my first foray into comedy," Psalmayene 24 said. "After weathering the ruthless ravages of a pandemic, we all could use the healing balm of laughter to soothe our souls. While the troublesome and polarizing statue at the heart of this play is no laughing matter, comedy-ironically-felt like the right genre to use as a means of animating the serious themes being explored. And with Reg's deft directorial touch and knack for comedy, I'm hopeful that this Mosaic world premiere will leave audiences delighted, reflective, and inspired."

Part of Mosaic's Catalyst new play development incubator, Monumental Travesties has been supported by Mosaic since the play's beginning. Mosaic commissioned the play as part of Psalmayene's role as Playwright-in-Residence. Mosaic then hosted a workshop at the Capitol Hill branch of the DC Public Library in August 2022 and at the Kennedy Center in June of 2023 through their Local Theater Residency program.