Fatima Dyfan (C’21) (third from left) performs in an ensemble work of theater, dance, and spoken word, co-directed by Maya Roth and Mar Cox (C’17), as part of the 2018 Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration at the Kennedy Center.
Category: Georgetown Magazine, Spring 2021

Title:Virtual writer’s group fosters community during quarantine

Author: Kate Colwell (G'20)
Date Published: May 27, 2021

Six young writers from Georgetown and Howard University have formed a community in quarantine using virtual tools. The 2020–2021 cohort of Playwrights’ Arena are tandem-writing plays with their counterparts in weekly digital writing rooms, sending each other support and ideas via group.me messaging threads, and meeting monthly on Zoom with a dramaturg.

“Creative writing is difficult to affirm,” says Georgetown writer Fatima Dyfan (C’21), whose autobiographical coming-of-age story Sunbath centers on different understandings of Black womanhood. “It’s nice to be in an official room, and to know that you have someone in it with you.”

Rather than writing plays about the experience of quarantine, Jocelyn Clarke, Arena Stage’s dramaturg and program facilitator, has challenged students to follow their personal interests and interrogate every artistic choice. It takes processing time to gain clarity on major historical events, he tells them.

“Being around creative people is super motivating and inspiring for me in my daily life beyond playwriting,” says Georgetown writer Rose Dallimore (SFS’22), whose play revolves around the para-social relationship between an isolated protagonist and a recently deceased pop star. “I’ve always wanted to nurture my creative self.”

While Playwrights’ Arena has hosted cohorts since 2013, this inaugural student cohort grows from partnerships among Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater, Georgetown University, and Howard University. This year’s program, which is made possible through the philanthropy of Andrew Ammerman (SFS’72), aims to nurture diverse playwrights and includes three participants from Georgetown and three from Howard.

Dyfan says that the cohort has been able to talk openly about complicated subjects with care, not competition, like a family. “I’ve been reflecting on what the future looks like, in terms of diversity and how people engage in institutions and spaces. This cohort shapes how I think institutions should be structuring the development of writers.”

Georgetown’s Theater & Performance Studies program uniquely embraces interdisciplinary perspectives. For example, Dallimore, a student of international politics and theology, believes that feeding her creative mind will help her become a more empathetic foreign service officer one day.

“I’m very willing to challenge assumptions in an imaginative way,” Dallimore says. “It helps me understand narratives around global events and how we discuss and brand them.”

Maya Roth, artistic director of the Davis Performing Arts Center at Georgetown, selected Dyfan, Dallimore, and Timothy Sutton (C’20) for their “deep, organic, surprising, and distinct” writing. The partnership designed the writer’s group to reimagine professional apprenticeship and re-seed the field.

“We need new social and artistic models,” says Roth. “Cross-fertilization puts creative energy into the world. True writers find community; these writers are manifesting being there for each other as people. That’s a major success perhaps heightened by the pandemic.”

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