A live, interactive online performance of the dark-themed comedy “American Dreams,” is the focus of the initial event of Dodd Human Rights Impact, the relaunch of the human rights outreach and engagement programs of the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center as part of the Human Rights Institute.
The event includes a session of the Encounters Series, part of Dodd Impact’s Democracy and Dialogues Initiative dedicated to fostering unexpected conversations around divisive issues and obscure knowledge, on Monday, Oct. 26 from 7 to 9 p.m. and a special UConn matinee performance of “American Dreams” on Wednesday, Oct. 28 at 4 p.m.
The UConn event is part of series of performances from Oct. 27 through Nov. 1 in Connecticut during a national virtual tour of the play that premiered two years ago at the Cleveland Playhouse and has been revived for the tour by The Working Theater in New York.
“American Dreams” imagines a world where the only way to gain U.S. citizenship is by competing in a TV game show run by the government. Audience members determine who will win instant citizenship. The production uses voting, polling, trivia, and more to explore what it means to be a citizen and how we choose our neighbors.
“In our efforts to foster a culture of human rights, not only are we continuing to support projects focused on international criminal justice documentation and archiving, but also creative approaches to expand public awareness and engagement,” says Glenn Mitoma, director of Dodd Impact and assistant professor of Human Rights and Education. “We believe fundamentally that human rights requires a broader cultural shift and that has to include the arts.”
Mitoma notes Dodd Impact has focused on increasing UConn’s impact on the realization of human rights in Connecticut and beyond, expanded collaborations with arts organizations in the state, and has established initiatives with the Digital Media & Design program in the School of Fine Arts.
The program with “American Dreams” is a collaboration with Hartford regional arts organizations including The Bushnell, CT Humanities, Dodd Human Rights Impact, Everyday Democracy, Free Center, HartBeat Ensemble, Hartford Stage, TheaterWorks, and UConn Hartford.
“When this opportunity arose, with its themes on immigration, citizenship, rights, and democracy, we wanted to make sure we brought it to the Hartford area,” Mitoma says. “We joined the coalition, brought our network of people working on these questions in the state, and have been excited to have this be one of the first things we’re doing with HartBeat under the new leadership of Godfrey Simmons.”
Simmons is the artistic director of HartBeat Ensemble and has an extensive background as a performer, director, writer and producer. He previously worked with activist theater companies including serving as a co-founder of Civic Ensemble in Ithaca, New York, where he also taught at Cornell University. He also was a producing artist with Epic Theatre Ensemble, an off-Broadway group.
The production of “American Dreams is led by Tamilla Woodard, co-artistic director of Working Theater and associate director of the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical “Hadestown.”