War with the Newts: Prof. Natsu Onoda Power Adapts Karel Čapek’s Satirical Sci-fi Novel in World Premiere

Theater & Performance Studies Program’s 10th Anniversary Season at Davis Performing Arts Center kicks off with inventive literary mockumentary told by, and for, the newts

Washington, DC — Known for her “nifty visual tricks” and “delightfully unexpected” (Washington Post) solutions for the stage, Prof. Natsu Onoda Power adapts and directs Karel Čapek’s 1939 science fiction novel War with the Newts as the opening production in the Georgetown University Theater & Performance Studies Program’s Making New Worlds: The 10th Anniversary Season. Running Nov. 12-21, 2015 (showtimes below), the adaptation’s world premiere takes place in the Davis Performing Arts Center’s Gonda Theatre. The show begins on a small island west of Sumatra, where Captain Jan van Toch discovers an unusual species of intelligent newts, who multiply quickly and can be trained to use tools to fish for pearls, a convenient new source of cheap labor for additional underwater engineering projects. But what happens when the newts learn to speak our languages, demand their rights, and build not only dams but also bombs?

Onoda Power says, “In this adaptation, we flip the story and look at it from the newts’ point of view, as a formerly exploited group gaining power through potentially controversial means....The play’s human characters are even played by newt actors, allowing us to explore what we look like from the outside.”

“While the novel satirizes the ethnic tension and shifts of power in 1930s Europe, this adaptation assumes a contemporary 21st century American audience,” Onoda Power notes. “Labor conditions, exploitation, and racial discrimination are important themes, but the deeper/more fundamental question may be something about empathy and recognition. Who do we mean by ‘we’? What lives do we value? When we talk about human rights, what kind of humans are we talking about?”

Davis Performing Arts Center Artistic Director Prof. Derek Goldman says, "War with the Newts is a fitting way to launch our celebratory 10th anniversary season as Natsu's visionary approach embodies the best of what we do — premiering an innovative, collaboratively created multidisciplinary new work — wildly entertaining with timely political resonance, adapted from a too little-known classic, presented and contextualized in dialogue with local and international partners."

The satire is served with Onoda Power’s inimitable whimsical style—as Peter Marks wrote in the Washington Post in 2012:  “For childlike wonder, who else working in theater today can meet the enchanting standards of Natsu Onoda Power?”— though the script notes that it “contains disturbing contents and may not be appropriate for small tadpoles.” This eclectic literary “mockumentary” incorporates fictional news footage, historical speeches and even a musical based on a book by “J.D. Salamander.”

Showtimes include the following:

Thurs. and Fri., Nov. 12 and 13 at 8 p.m.
Sat., Nov. 14 at 4 p.m.
Sun., Nov. 15 at 2 p.m.
Thurs.-Sat., Nov. 19-21 at 8 p.m.

Ticket prices are as follows: 
Fri./Sat. evening:  $18 general | $15 faculty, staff, alumni, senior | $10 student
All other performances: $15 general | $12 faculty, staff, alumni, senior | $7 student

To order tickets, visit performingarts.georgetown.edu or call 202-687-ARTS (2787) Monday through Friday, 3-6 p.m. Georgetown University’s main campus is located at 3700 O St. NW, in Washington, D.C. Additionally, space-available GU student tickets for opening night on Nov. 12 are free (limit one), I.D. required at pickup.

This production is offered as part of the Davis Performing Arts Center’s Making New Worlds: 10th Anniversary Season, as Nov. 14, 2015 marks the 10-year anniversary of the Davis Performing Arts Center’s opening. The matinee Newts performance at 4 p.m. will be flanked by celebratory events at the Davis Center:

2 p.m. Navigating the World: Alumni Roundtable | Devine Studio Theatre
featuring GU Theater & Performance Studies Program alumni including Jamie Gahlon (SFS '07), Senior Creative Producer, HowlRound; Joshua Goode (COL '10), Founding Assistant Principal of Culture, DC Prep Benning Middle campus; Elise Lemle (COL '10), Director of Special Projects, Two Bit Circus; Clayton Lord (COL '03), Vice President of Local Arts Advancement, Americans for the Arts; and Isaiah Matthew Wooden (COL '04), Acting Assistant Professor, Department of Performing Arts, American University.

8 p.m. (D)PAC TO THE FUTURE: Alumni Cabaret & Tributes | Gonda Theatre
A cabaret-style event, hosted by alumnus Reginald Douglas (COL '09), Artistic Producer of City Theatre in Pittsburgh, with musical accompaniment by Wendell Krebs (COL '15), featuring performances and tributes by a reunion gathering of alumni from the first 10 years of the Davis Center.

War with the Newts is also offered in conjunction with the Embassy of the Czech Republic’s Mutual Inspirations Festival, which celebrates the 125th birth anniversary of Karel Čapek with events around DC. In October, Czech scholar Dr. Jana Horaková gave a lecture on Georgetown’s campus and Prof. Onoda Power and the cast provided a preview and discussion at the Czech Embassy.

Additional War with the Newts events include a Sunday, Nov. 15 pre-show lobby talk by Czech Embassy Cultural Attaché Robert Rehak at 1:30 p.m. and a Nov. 19 post-show collaboration with the Doyle Engaging Difference Program’s Film and Culture Series, engaging the audience in conversation with Georgetown faculty and student actors about issues in the play, including labor inequality, animal welfare, racial discrimination, and the environment.

Natsu Onoda Power is an Associate Professor in the Georgetown University Theater & Performance Studies Program. Recent writing/directing credits include: The T Party (Forum Theatre), A Trip to the Moon (Synetic Theatre), Astro Boy and the God of Comics (Studio Theatre 2nd Stage; Company One, Boston). On Georgetown’s campus, she has directed On the Origin of Species (adapted from Charles Darwin); The Omnivore’s Dilemma (adapted from Michael Pollan), Madness and Civilization (adapted from Michel Foucault); The T Party (workshop); Trees and Ghosts (adapted from Osamu Tezuka); and Swimmy and Other Stories (adapted from Leo Lionni). Her set design has been seen locally at Imagination Stage, Synetic Theatre, the Hub Theatre, Forum Theatre, and on campus. Onoda Power 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 in 2009). She is the rising Artistic Director of the Davis Performing Arts Center, beginning spring 2016.

Housed in the Davis Performing Arts Center, the Georgetown University Theater & Performance Studies Program features a nationally recognized faculty of leading scholar/artists and professional practitioners who offer a dynamic interdisciplinary major that emphasizes the interaction of artistic and analytic inquiry. The Program has rapidly attracted significant national attention for its distinctive curriculum, which integrates the political and international character of Georgetown, a commitment to social justice, and high-quality, cutting-edge production seasons, including world premieres. In 2012, Backstage selected the Program as one of the top five college theater programs outside of New York City.

The Theater & Performance Studies Program provides unique focus on adapting, devising and developing new work, interdisciplinary research-to-performance projects, cross-cultural performance studies, and innovative approaches to design and multi-media, as well as playwriting, directing, dramaturgy, ensemble, and solo performance. The Program invests in a distinctive array of professional partnerships and collaborations, including with Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater, with a growing focus on global performance and politics, as represented by international residencies (DAH Teatar, Ping Chong, Timberlake Wertenbaker) and by the establishment of the Laboratory of Global Performance and Politics, a collaborative initiative with the School of Foreign Service. Each year the Program hosts residencies with guest artists who collaborate deeply with students. Our major prepares students for lives as professional theater artists, scholars, activists and entrepreneurs, as well as for careers in the wider fields of education, cultural criticism, and public service.

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