WASHINGTON – Fifty students from the District's Paul Laurence Dunbar High School today participated in a forum hosted by the National Endowment for the Humanities at the Old Post Office Pavilion to learn about their school's namesake.
Arena Stage actors Peter Callender and Margo Hall, who are playing African American writers Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906) and his wife Alice Ruth Moore (1875-1935) in the Arena Stage's well-reviewed current production, Oak and Ivy, performed their roles, read some of Dunbar's poetry, and discussed their deep interests in their characters and the relevance of the play's themes for today's audiences. The Arena Stage's artistic associate, Steve Samuels, also discussed the historical context of Oak and Ivy and why the Arena Stage chose to stage the play.
The event commemorates Black History Month. Dunbar was the first African American poet to receive national critical acclaim.
"This forum is a way for the National Endowment for the Humanities to reach local audiences with the kind of quality cultural programming that we support with our funding throughout the nation," said William R. Ferris, chairman of the NEH. "The humanities are about understanding the complexities of our history and culture, and it is an honor to have some of Washington's finest acting talent here to foster that understanding."
Oak and Ivy runs at the Arena Stage's Kreeger Theater through April 4.