Imagination Stage’s ’10 Seconds’ to debut at MLK Library

Imagination Stage in Bethesda debuts its stage play, 10 Seconds, at a premiere event on November 18 at Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, 901 G Street NW, Washington, DC. Honorary Chairs for the event are Mayor Muriel Bowser, Congressman Jamie Raskin, and Senator Chris Van Hollen.

10 Seconds, written by Miriam Gonzales and directed by LeeAnét Noble, explores a world where deeply rooted biases and misperceptions easily take hold. Life can often feel unnerving and can change for better or worse in the blink of an eye depending on how we see each other. Ray and Jimi are Washington, D.C. high school students who navigate their young adult worlds and what it means to be young Black men in the city. Ray tells the story of a day — and “ten seconds” inside that day — that he and Jimi will never forget, sharing not only their perspectives, but also the views of the police they encounter. The play provides opportunities for reflection and discussion. By “stopping time” the audience is asked to imagine what might happen if everyone makes the effort to pause, listen to one another, question our assumptions, and consider the possibilities for change. The play is recommended for ages 13+.

The play is an original work based on years of encounters but has become even more relevant in light of George Floyd’s murder. The unexpected outcome of the play ultimately places the need and opportunity for change in the hands of the audience.

Preceding the play, Juan Winans will perform his new song “Now.” And following the performance, there will be a panel discussion and a reception. The panel will be moderated by Jeff Pegues, CBS News’ Chief Justice Correspondent and author of the book “Black and Blue.” Panelists include Dr. Sharita Jacobs Thompson, co-creator of “The History of Policing in African-American Communities,” a course required for all members of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), a teen from DC Police Foundation Programs, and an officer from MPD Youth Division.

Following the debut event, 10 Seconds will tour extensively to regional high schools, colleges, and community gatherings. A discussion with the audience follows every performance. Joanne Seelig Lamparter, Imagination Stage’s Artistic Director of Education and Theatre for Change, says, “10 Seconds is a wonderful opportunity to challenge our audiences about the quick assumptions we all make of one another on a personal level. It takes a deep look into the ways systemic racism plays out in our communities while providing an opportunity to reimagine the future.”

This event includes participation of leaders from Montgomery County, Md. and Washington, D.C. at the local as well as the national level. It is supported by youth advocates, city and county officials, national leaders such as Senator Van Hollen, and law enforcement leaders such as Chief Marcus Jones of Montgomery County. Partners for 10 Seconds include the DC Police Foundation, and, for this event, DC Public Libraries. ServiceNow is the exclusive event sponsor. “ServiceNow is proud to sponsor this initiative that creates more awareness about the importance of strengthening communities and cities,” said Nichole Francis Reynolds, Vice President/Head of Global Government Relations. “When we empower youth to dream big dreams and provide them with the tools, resources, and training to achieve them, the future is brighter.”

10 Seconds is funded in part by a Founder’s grant from the Children’s Theatre Foundation of America. Other funders include Bender Foundation, DCCAH, and Graham Holdings.

The play is part of Imagination Stage’s Theatre for Change (TfC) initiative, which uses theatre productions and educational workshops to bridge cultural divides and lift up underrepresented voices. TfC explores complex social justice issues to help build a new generation of compassionate, collaborative youths who are capable of changing the world. This reflects Imagination Stage’s long-standing commitment to empowering young people by allowing them to explore their creativity and attain such key skills as communication, collaboration, creative problem solving, and innovative thinking.

“The ‘change’ in Theatre for Change is really social change,” says Seelig Lamparter. “Whether it is about sharing the stories of refugee youth, reimagining policing, or finding ways for incarcerated youth to have their voices heard and be seen in a new light by the community, our TfC programming is based around community partnerships and interests who bring an expertise such as social work and with whom we can collaborate to bring new stories to the forefront.”

10 Seconds is an element of Imagination Stage’s Youth & Police Partnership (YPP), which was launched in 2017 in collaboration with the Washington, D.C. Police Foundation, a youth-serving non-profit organization aligned with the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD). YPP brings together students ages 10-18 and law enforcement officers to participate in theatre-based activities designed to find common ground, including practicing leadership skills, conflict resolution, and violence prevention, between the two groups and to empower the young people to develop leadership skills. The young participants, who are recruited by the MPD, are predominantly African American.

Imagination Stage commissioned award-winning playwright Miriam Gonzales to observe and collaborate with the youths and police officers and to write the script for 10 Seconds.

Imagination Stage’s Producing Artistic Director, Janet Stanford, believes that “an image of hope is a powerful icon for a teen who, after seeing a piece like 10 Seconds, may finally identify some positive ways to proceed.” Stanford continues, “The message of theatre is always, ‘You are not alone. However hard, your experience is not isolated or shameful. There is always a reason to advocate for yourself. There are always adults who care. There is always hope.’”


10 Seconds
Anthony Powell: Ray
Katie Wicklund: Kent
Carl Ackers, II: Leland
Tre’mon Mills: Jimi

LeeAnét Noble: Director
Miriam Gonzales: Playwright
Tyrese Rowe: Assistant Playwright
Roc Lee: Sound Designer
Mollie Singer: Set Designer
Kiana Vincenty: Costume Designer
Jalon K. Payton: Stage Manager

About Imagination Stage: Founded over 40 years ago, Imagination Stage is a holistic theatre arts organization for all children and youth. Through award-winning professional theatre, arts education, and community-based theatre programming, the organization helps children and young people develop a deep appreciation of theatre arts, while building a sense of self and social understanding. Based in Bethesda, Md., its programming serves children and families throughout the DMV.


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