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Your Guide to Theater Education: Caridad Svich

 David DudleyCaridad Svich

December 8, 2014

In this series, David Dudley looks at the different models of theater education around the country through interviews, with the hopes that a new student will have an easier time finding the model that works for them.

Caridad Svich is a playwright who walks the walk, and talks the talk. Her plays have been read and performed throughout the world, garnering her numerous awards—including the OBIE award for lifetime achievement, in 2012. And yet she continues to educate the next generation of theater artists. Besides teaching independent workshops through Austin ScriptWorks, and NoPassport, she has also taught and lectured at Harvard, Yale, and Rutgers—to name a few.

When was NoPassport's program started?
NoPassport theatre alliance began in 2001 as a core collective of twelve playwrights, actors, and musicians who were—and still are—interested in theatrical experimentation, especially in regards to text and music. The idea was to form a playwrights’ band and sometimes make work together as a collective, and at other times share research methodologies and thoughts on theater and performance. Most of us did not live in the same city—and still don’t. So, part of the founding of NoPassport had to do with being able to share and make work across long distances.

In 2003, NoPassport’s mission shifted somewhat. I curated and organized a panel in US Latina/o playwriting and the state of the art at INTAR in NYC under my TCG/Pew Arts Residency with the theater. Part of the desire to organize the panel had to do with bringing together established and emerging Latina/o playwrights from across the country to one public conversation. As a result of it, I asked the core collective of NOPE (as we call ourselves playfully) whether we could become perhaps something else: a hub of sorts for artists interested in and making works that focused on cross-cultural exchange marked by aesthetic difference. The core collective said yes, and the version of NoPassport that exists now was born. It is an unincorporated, independent artist-based and driven platform to advocate for, publish, and produce works that are reflective of our core mission—across borders, no borders, rich in diverse exchange and multiplicity of ideas.

In 2008, I founded NoPassport Press. We have published print on-demand more than twenty titles thus far—new plays, translations, essays, and short fiction. The publication arm of NoPassport is also one of advocacy, championing new writing in print and especially work that may not otherwise be readily available and/or known by a general theater arts and performance studies readership.

What does NoPassport's Educational opportunities offer potential collaborators?
Our educational opportunities usually fall under the rubric of staging theater conferences in partnership with arts organizations and universities. We staged five conferences at the Martin E. Segal Theatre Center at CUNY Graduate Center, two at the Nuyorican Poets Café, one at ASU-Tempe, one at NYU Gallatin School 2013, and this year at LSU-Baton Rouge. The last three conferences are allarchived on HowlRound TV for anyone who wants to see. The conferences are generally organized under a theme: utopia, crossing borders, and diaspora are all topics we have addressed. Usually there is a follow-up publication component to the conferences we stage. I wish to reiterate that everything we do is artist-driven. We have no infrastructure. We exist as a loose membership of about 600 artists and scholars on a moderated list-serve. Our fiscal sponsorship is through Fractured Atlas and we subsist entirely on donations. But I hope that what NoPassport as idea (for art-making) and actuality can offer potential collaborators is a space (virtual or otherwise) to meet other artists, share ideas, and promote knowledge of existing work being made across the US and abroad, and basically offer a kind of ever-shifting mobile home for those who are interested in making work unbound by categories and labels and prescribed cultural markers.

What makes NoPassport's program different from others?
Hard to say. I think perhaps that our platform is visible but not too visible. John Jesurun once described our publication imprint as a boutique indie label that you had to seek out a bit to find. I think there is something underground and over-ground about NoPassport, which perhaps makes it different conceptually than other existing platforms in the arts.

What are the guiding principles of the program?
Solidarity. Peace. Art. Community. Being with.

Following that, what's working?
NoPassport’s most “successful” legacy thus far is its publications imprint. Although we don’t do huge print runs and so forth, over the years, I feel we have gained the respect of fellow authors and the field with the kind of work we do and how we advocate for publication and the quality of the work we do publish.

What kinds of challenges have you faced? How do you intend to approach them in future?
Funding is the key challenge. Most of the time whatever NoPassport does is still funded to a degree on a wing and a prayer, through lots of pro bono work, through my credit card sometimes. I think that in order for NoPassport to find fiscal support, I would need to take time away/off from my own art-making for at least a year or so and dedicate myself to grant writing and such. But I am a theatermaker. That’s what I do. In a way, my art-making and its ethos is closely tied to NoPassport. I am not ready to give up the art in order to wear an administrative hat exclusively. I think that’s what it would take. But I would love to figure out a way to balance both.        

What's missing, in your opinion, from the current education/ training programs available?
We are not a training program. We do not offer a degree or a certificate. I want to make that clear. We are an artists’ collective—or shall we say, an arts service organization. Whatever we offer by way of mentorship and education is through how we bridge art and academia through conferences and publications.

Who do you feel is the ideal candidate? Who are you trying to bring into the NoPassport family?
Practitioners who believe in making work and not branding it. I think there is a strong push on young artists to “brand” what they do. I think that can be potentially damaging because as soon as you brand yourself, you limit and/or narrow your possibilities.

Any changes planned for the future?
None that I can foresee at the moment. I dream of having an arts center one day devoted to the NoPassport idea.

Success stories?
Our books. Our authors. Their works are in the world. That, to me, is a measure of success.



- See more at:

New from NoPassport Press October 2014
Green Tea Girl in Orange Pekoe Country
selected plays by Velina Hasu Houston
with introduction by Peggy Shannon
This volume collects eight plays of acclaimed playwright Velina Hasu Houston -among them TEA, KOKORO, and CALLIGRAPHY. Fanciful, surprising, moving, the plays in this book resonate across boundaries of identity, ethnicity and class. With an introduction by director Peggy Shannon.
6 X 9 paperback (print on demand)
462 pages.
ISBN: 978-1-312-51079-1
US list price: $23.75
NoPassport Press: Dreaming the Americas

NPR Interview for THE ORPHAN SEA in Missouri

Award winning playwright writes for MU Theatre Department


The MU Theatre Department enlisted an award winning playwright to write a play for their fall performance. 

         Caridad Svich is an OBIE (Off Broadway) Lifetime Achievement winner and the writer of The Orphan Sea, the play she wrote just for the MU Theatre Department. 


         An MU professor and the director of The Orphan Sea, Kevin Brown says he simply asked Svich over email to help with the production of a play at MU.  He says it was not originally planned for her to write something new for the MU production.

         “We continued to talk and brainstorm and decided that it would be great if she could write a new play for us here in Columbia.  And then I was able in the meantime to secure a grant through The Missouri Arts Council.”

         Brown was able to get a grant from The Missouri Arts Council that not only helped commission the play, but also brought Svich to Columbia twice.  She came once in September for workshops and rehearsals with the actors and then for the opening of the play on November 12th. 

         Svich says this experience has been unique and special for her as well.

         "I think the process for me has been very open, very trusting.  I also love the freedom and challenge to be able to create something with young actors in an environment that is completely nurturing. "

         The Orphan Sea will run from November 12-16.  



Upon the Fragile Shore was given as a reading assignment for November 19, 2014 in a Bard College Class, Introduction to Playwriting taught by noteworthy playwright Chiori Miyagawa.

The students read the manuscript and wrote below responses.


Nina Tobin

The recent play, Upon the Fragile Shore written by Caridad Svich deals with humanity and how humanity responds to tragedy. Svich is extremely brave, relentlessly drawing from both individual experiences all around the globe, and the overall experience of the human condition. The accurate and unique voices in this work are united by the recent horrors they have experienced. The characters, all unnamed, are addressed individually. Most scenes consist of monologues, sometimes hopping back and forth between a few key locations. Svich takes us through a series of recent, mostly man-made tragedies starting in post-Katrina Louisiana, then the violent 2014 Venezuelan political protests, and the merciless Aurora “Batman” shooting. The characters we meet affected by these events we jump around with. Back and forth until we reach the next, single-scene movement of the play, ‘the bridge.’ This is the only scene focusing on more than one character to lead the narrative. 76 days after the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 and loved ones are still reeling. Waiting on the drop of a dime. This scene is initially quite pessimistic, but when we return to as the last scene before the epilogue there is an air of hope.

The third movement starts in Damascus, Syria after a chemical attack and looks at the randomness of the violence in the world. In this example especially we feel the unequivocal hopelessness after the destruction, and the character’s desperation to escape the left over sediment of the event that tore their life apart followed by only temporary relief for them. We are then transported to the a bombing in Jos, Nigeria, a Dahkla refugee camp and eventually our last stop the one Bostonian’s response to the Boston Marathon bombing two years after the fact. All characters express a longing for an understanding and emotional acceptance from others, but humanity as a whole is incapable. Instead humanity makes way for this violent cycle to continue. Towards the end of the play we feel a desire to enact change. A bleak hope for the future through harsh and sometimes uncomfortable means, however whether these means are successful, we have yet to find out.

The fragmented writing style in Upon the Fragile Shore can complicate the message Svich is trying to send, for the writing in the play is beautiful and is too similar to reading prose or poetry. However, this would likely be entirely difference in a performance. The bleak outlook on the goodness of human nature, or lack thereof, and the state of the world, puts the everyday luxuries taken for granted into perspective.


Emma Radich

It was really interesting and moving to read a play based on events that have happened so recently, and that I remember so vividly. I think it had a lot to say about the situation of our world and how, ultimately, it is only human actions that have been causing this misery and destruction. The epilogue, which spoke of new beginnings, is the thing to focus on if one is to view this play as an optimistic sentiment. It's a relief that the author thinks that we can have the opportunity to find a new beginning in the first place.


Ben Alter 

Upon the Fragile Shore was beautiful, eloquent and confusing to read. I'm sure it would've made much more sense had I witnessed it performed, especially regarding which voices spoke when. It was otherwise an incredible story. It painted an incredible picture in terms of perspective, tragedy and the different prerequisites of grief. It was beautiful how all these people wre linked through disaster- both natural and human -and how they all knew anecdotes, stories and comforting words to help them survive whatever they knew would have a somehwat negative ending regardless. Not to be cliche, but it was an incredible review of the human condition. And of course, it was a grave reminder that people still suffer daily, whether they're living in the wake of or are indeed the tragedy themselves. I liked the mentioning of CNN, as well as CNN in spanish. The theme of newscasting always fascinates me, for I know that countries (particularly ours) and their peoples are so heavily guided, or misguided, by the news. "If it's out of the news, it must've fixed itself" is a mentality we have to put to rest, and Upon the Fragile Shore understands that.


Conor Williams

"Upon the Fragile Shore" is a surprisingly relevant play that deals with tragedy in the modern era. Some of these events held significance for me--the Aurora shooting being one of them, as I was also at a midnight screening of the Batman movie. My father and I returned home to find that people in Colorado did not make it home that night.

This play follows characters through their dealing with loss and grief--through many different years and locations. Haunting and sparse and a beautiful collaborative effort, it is both educational in its reports of tragic world events and emotional in its humanity.

"Upon the Fragile Shore" takes sensitive and...well, fragile moments in our world's history and paints a picture about modern society that is universal and yet so delicate. The setup is quite simple, and yet so much is said with so little. Entire countries, days, moments and fragments of existence are crafted simply from words. No set design or costumes can mimick what has been created here.

It is simply storytelling that makes this play work the way it does. You may find it provocative. You may find it tragic. You may find it comforting. Educational. Anger-inspiring. Entertaining. You will have some reaction to this play, good or bad, just as the characters in this play react to the events that have shaped their life.


Satwik Srikrishnan

Upon the shore by Caridad Svich is a poetic stream of thoughts. It is an artful composition that explores human rights and unnatural instances. It also delves into environmental issues around the world and is interconnected with seven stories. It is a conversation style play about tragedy, hopefulness, belief, confidence. It instilled in her readers, an ethical co-existence and brought out global scaled problems through a script. The script flows to such an extent where it brings out a fear and a ‘double checking’ phenomenon in such a way that we are resistant to any pressures laid on. “Fragile shore” is the edge on which all of us live on. Near death experiences are part of these well written interviews. These bring out a mental instability but with a climax of hope and how there are moments of strength in times of grief. I personally enjoyed the tone used. It was sombre and dingy but packed with power. Svich’s expertise is almost like a first hand experience that is brimming with expressive cross-culture affairs.


Alex Hall 

Upon The Fragile Shore gives me the vide of an apocalptic-type monotone voice just speaking the things that have happened in a past life.  On top of that, there was a phrase which really resonated in me:

She taught me that phrase: Sotto voce.

Italian, is it?


What does it mean?


How’s that?

A low sound

 This resonated really deeply in me because I grew up with my mother speaking Italian to me, and I remember whenever I used to say something a little too loud she used to whisper that into my ear and although I didn't know what it meant for a long time its point was very well presented just in the words themselves.

Another: Earth Speaks in Tongues.  The quote brought to light a thought when I had when I was little.  I would always think about a line based off of the "Most Interesting Man In the World" commercials.  "He speaks English, in Spanish."  It was such a bizarre concept to me but at the same time I knew it was a pointless cause to think about it.  That line sums up that thought process for me in a very specific kind of unspoken way.


Leilah Franklin 


I have a history of great Sociology pioneers in my family. This interest has been passed down to me, it is how my brain thinks and as an contemporary artist its influence pushes me to write new characters for the status quo. The other side of socially changing consciousness is the retelling of stories. "Upon the Fragile Shore" took, in small increments, the lives’ and relationship’s and world's of contemporary tragedy facing the present world.

This play successfully pulls its reader into the lives of these individuals, into their values, and practices. Without overtly stating their whereabouts Caridad Svich brought us to the shores of Louisiana, the stone huts of the Sahara, the apartment above disaster, the streets of Boston. And using these settings, the people close to the tragedy, strung together the human existence of tragedy and the small morsels of happiness, truth, and roundedness that peak out occasionally behind the clouds of misfortune. Cumulating the voices in a glimmer of sunshine to the voices that trail happiness back to the re revelation of their current situation.

I greatly enjoyed the acknowledgement of the actors, because that is important in understanding no story is anyone but the people who live them and can truly speak on them. But through art and the tools Svich and these actors have, can give life to stories needing an audience.

A true look into empathy of the universal world of the human. Heart wrenching and wrought with a forced reflection of how lucky we are to be in the life's we lead away from the tragedies (not the tragedy of one's character flaws) but of power that has robbed these people and all the forces against them leave a stain of powerlessness.





New from NoPassport Press October 2014:
by Jessica Litwak
ISBN: 978-1-312-503380
6 X 9 print on demand paperback
346 pages
US retail: $20.00
This volume is comprised of three daring and imaginative feminist plays - A PIRATE'S LULLABY, SECRET AGENTS, WIDER THAN THE SKY - by acclaimed writer/performer Jessica Litwak. With an introduction by Oscar-nominated screenwriter Richard LaGravenese.



Tutu's Macadam Building Strand Campus




23/10/2014 (19:30-21:30)


Part of the Arts & Humanities Festival 2014: underground.


This event is open to all and free to attend, but booking is required via our Eventbrite page.


Booking will open on 17 September.

Presented by the Performance Research Group, with support fromQueer@King's and theDepartment of English.

Registration URL

JARMAN (all this maddening beauty)

Inspired by queer icon Derek Jarman, JARMAN (all this maddening beauty)merges video and live performance to reconstruct the essence of the cult figure, artistic legacy and punk movement through the Transatlantic lens of today. Can we ever fully recover our queer history or will our legends be forever pressed between the pages of the archive? JARMAN brings together a community of over 40 performers through video and sound, manipulated in real time by one performer whose own story of artistic survival unravels within that of Derek Jarman's.

Producing Company: force/collision
Text: Caridad Svich
Director / Performer: John Moletress
Video: Benjamin Carver
Sound: David Crandall
Scenic: Lisi Stoessel


John Moletress is an interdisciplinary artist, educator and Founding Director of force/collision, a performance ensemble based in Washington, D.C. He has created new work for both site and stage, having been performed at such venues as The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, La MaMa ETC, Arena Stage, George Washington University and Unity Theatre for Homotopia!, among others. /

Caridad Svich is a playwright, songwriter, editor, translator and founder of NoPassport, an international theatre alliance and press. Her awards and fellowships include a 2012 OBIE Award for Lifetime Achievement in the theatre, a 2012 Edgerton Foundation New Play Award, and NNPN rolling world premiere for Guapa, and the 2011 American Theatre Critics Association Primus Prize for her play The House of the Spirits, based on the Isabel Allende novel, an NEA/TCG Playwriting Residency at the Mark Taper Forum Theatre, a TCG/PEW National Theatre Artist Residency at INTAR, the Rosenthal New Play Prize at the Cincinnati Playhouse, the 2007 Whitfield Cook Prize for New Writing at New Dramatists, and the 2003 National Latino Playwriting Award. She has also been a Radcliffe Fellow at Harvard University, Jonathan R. Reynolds Playwright in Residence at Denison University, and Thurber House Fellow at Ohio State University.


‘Making Sparks': Meet the Managing Director, Cast, and Director of Theater Alliance’s ‘Spark’ Part 2: Sarah Strasser

by  on September 6, 2014
Spark by Caridad Svich opens this weekend at the Anacostia Playhouse and runs through September 28, 2014. This gritty, powerful drama tells the story of a veteran returning from war, and the ongoing battle she and her family face to overcome economic challenges, emotional conflict, and the spectre of war that haunts them. Spark also opens a deeper dialogue about a society’s responsibility to address its veteran’s physical, emotional, and mental needs and break the cycle of abandonment in families.

In the second in a series of interviews with Theater Alliance’s Managing Director and Spark‘s director and cast members, meet actress Sarah Strasser.

Joel: Please introduce yourself and tell our readers where they may have seen you on the stage before. Where did you get your training?

Sarah Strasser.

Sarah Strasser.

Sarah: My name is Sarah Strasser. I have had the good fortune to work with The Studio Theatre on Rock n Roll, No Rules Theatre Co.’s Touch, and at Folger Theatre, where I understudied and performed in their production of Cyrano.

Where did you get your training?

I received my BFA in Acting from the University of the Arts. I also trained at Circle in the Square Theatre School.

When did you first get the theatre bug and what is the earliest memory you have about appearing on the stage?

My earliest memory of being on stage is a kindergarten production ofThe Nutcracker, in which I was cast as Clara. I remember the big finale of throwing the ballet slipper at the rat king was a major highlight for me.

Why did you want to be a part of the cast of Spark?

I knew on the first read through that Spark was a remarkable play. I worked on another piece by Caridad in 2012. She is an amazingly gifted playwright, and I was thrilled to be invited to work on this play with this theatre & director.

Introduce us to the character you play and how you relate to her.

I play Evelyn Jane Glimord. She is the eldest of 3 sisters who has had the responsibility of raising her younger siblings after their father abandoned them and their mother died. While Evelyn has a tough exterior, she loves her sisters, and wants only to have her family back whole. I think we can all identify with wanting what is best for those we love; yet letting our tempers get the better of us.

What personal experiences are you bringing to your role that has helped you shape your performance?

Lexi, the middle sister, has just returned from a long deployment in the Middle East. My husband has done several deployments during Operation Iraqi Freedom & Operation Enduring Freedom. His absence was of course difficult, on all of his family. His return, as well, was a difficult transition. Everyone has such high expectations of the reunion. Everyone comes with the baggage they have accumulated during the separation. It is a period of great relief, joy, and some growing pains.

Director Colin Hovde.

Director Colin Hovde.

What advice and suggestions has Director Colin Hovde given you that has helped you to improve and shape your performance?

Colin is an amazing director to work with. He is very respectful of the actor and the actor’s process. He subtly molds and shapes your work with simple questions. As you find the answer, the work takes shape. It’s been such a pleasure to be a part of this ensemble.

How would you describe Caridad Svich script for Spark?

Spark is a play with music (Not a musical). The songs live within the play. They are integral to the sisters. Evelyn uses the songs of her mother to get through her daily life. Similarly, Lexi uses the jodies given to her by the military to get her through the day-to-day in war, as well as back home.

What scene or scenes were the most challenging for you to learn, and why?

Every scene offers its own unique challenge. Learning lines posed a bit of a challenge because Caridad has employed the use of many interjections/interruptions within the dialogue. As an actor you need to decipher your cut off line & figure out what exactly your character is trying to say. Until I did that bit of homework it was impossible to learn what Evelyn wanted, what she was fighting for.

How does the title Spark relate to your character?

All of the characters have a fire burning inside them. The Spark is what will set them off. For instance Evelyn is described as having eyes that burn. There is a great deal of fire imagery in this piece. It’s truly beautiful.

How can the audience relate to the plot and themes of Spark?

I think most Americans can relate to this play. It’s a story of coming home. Home is idealized. Things aren’t always as pretty as we imagine. But family is family.

What have you learned about yourself as an actor while preparing and rehearsing for Spark?

I’ve learned that I have a great deal in common with my character. Evelyn loves her family so much, and all she wants is what’s best for them. I think we can all relate to that. Some of the cast see Evelyn as judgmental. I don’t. Evelyn knows what is right, and wants what is right for her loved ones. Even if they can’t see that it is right…

What’s next for you on the stage after Spark?

I’m a new mom to a 7-month old, so right now my plans involve being the best mom I can be to my Elsa.

Alison Donnelly, Lexie Glimord, and Anna Lathrop. Photo by C. Stanley Photography.

Alison Donnelly, Lexie Glimord, and Anna Lathrop. Photo by C. Stanley Photography.

What do you want audiences to take with them after seeing your performance in Spark?

I hope audience members walk away with the impetus to be close to their loved ones, to reach out to their siblings, parents, children. This play also touches on PTSD & suicide. The state of mental health care in this country is upsetting, in that it is shameful to admit you may suffer from any form of depression. It is a pity that a celebrity has to take his own life for mental health to become a hot button issue. Suicide has touched my family more than once. I want people to walk away wanting to fix the mental health care system in this country. I don’t know what the current statistics are for vets with PTSD, but I know this country should, and always can do more to take care its military personnel. I also know we should all be kinder to each other, especially our loved ones that we may take for granted. We need to take better care of one another.


Spark plays through September 28, 2014 at Theater Alliance performing at Anacostia Playhouse – 2020 Shannon Place, SE , in Washington, DC. For tickets, purchase them online.


‘Making Sparks': Meet the Managing Director, Cast, and Director of Theater Alliance’s ‘Spark’ Part 1: Elliott Bales.

Caridad Svich’s website.




Joel Markowitz

About Joel Markowitz

Joel Markowitz is the Publisher and Editor of DCMetroTheaterArts. Joel is a regular guest on 'The Lunch and Judy Show' radio program starring Judy Stadt in NYC. Joel founded The Ushers Theatre Going Group in the DC area in 1990, which has now merged with Broadway Bound Meetup. He wrote a column for 5 years called ‘Theatre Schmooze’ and recorded podcast interviews for DC Theatre Scene, and was the Editor at MD Theatre Guide before coming to DCMetroTheaterArts. His work can also be seen and heard in "Columns" and "Podcast" on BroadwayStars. Joel also wrote a monthly preview of what was about to open in DC area theatres for BroadwayWorld. He is an avid film and Buffalo Sabres fan and is an advocate for children's theatre.