On February 7, 2011, at 7pm at GALA Hispanic Theatre (3333 14th St. NW), YPT premiered Woodlawn, a new play created collaboratively with residents and organizations throughout Ward 7 in Washington, DC. The play explores the history and heritage of WoodlawnCemetery, the final resting place of 36,000 extraordinary Americans, many lost to history, until now. The play explores the value of knowing our history and how learning our history can help us to learn about ourselves, where we’ve been and where we may be going.
On February 7, 2011, at 7pm at GALA Hispanic Theatre (3333 14th St. NW), YPT premiered Woodlawn, a new play created collaboratively with residents and organizations throughout Ward 7 in Washington, DC. The play examines the history and heritage of Woodlawn Cemetery, the final resting place of 36,000 extraordinary Americans, many lost to history, until now. Woodlawn explores the value of knowing our history and how learning our history can help us to learn about ourselves, where we’ve been and where we may be going. The play was premiered as part of New Writers Now! - From Civil War to Civil Rights. See a video about the play here:
YPT partnered with several organizations based east of the river on this project, including the Woodlawn Perpetual Care Association, The Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum, the Ward 7 Arts Collaborative, Life Pieces to Masterpieces, The Boys and Girls Club, Maya Angelou Public Charter School, and Ward Memorial AME Church. Stone Soup Films is creating a short film documenting the entire process.
After premiering on February 7, the play toured to public schools, churches, community centers, museums and theatres throughout Washington, DC from February 8-18, in celebration of Black History Month. The play was also performed at 7:30pm, on March 10, at the National Geographic Museum, as part of their America I Am exhibit. The goal of the project is to engage the community in a rich, intergenerational exploration of Woodlawn Cemetery and its surrounding neighborhood to promote community dialogue and the honoring of our ancestors.
Woodlawn Cemetery is the final resting place of more than 36,000 souls, including 6,000 individuals removed from the Graceland Cemetery at the H St. Corridor between 1895 and 1898. Subsequent interments included many prominent African Americans, including Blanche K. Bruce, born a slave in 1841 and elected to the U.S. Senate in 1875, and John Mercer Langston, grand-uncle of the renowned poet Langston Hughes, U.S. Representative from Virginia and Dean of the Howard University Law School from 1869 to 1879. Woodlawn Cemetery was placed on the DC Inventory of Historic Sites in 1991 and on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996. Since Woodlawn Cemetery became inactive in approximately 1979, the site has fallen into disrepair.
“We are helping the community tell the stories of these important Americans and this important site,” says YPT’s Producing Artistic Director, David Andrew Snider, who is leading the project. “We are bringing the history of the site and the extraordinary stories of those buried there into the community, so participants can learn about their own history and give voice to the voiceless. Students are taking ownership of these stories while connecting with the living history of their own neighborhood and the neighborhood elders who are hungry to pass it on.”
“This has been a dream project of mine ever since I moved to Ward 7 years ago and discovered Woodlawn for myself, one of DC’s greatest hidden treasures,” Snider says. “I am grateful to the Schimel Lode, the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, the Woodlawn Perpetual Care Association Board and all of our community partners for joining us on this important project.”