NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The New Colossus, a new play directed and co-written by Academy Award–winning Tim Robbins (“Mystic River,” “Dead Man Walking,” “The Shawshank Redemption”) will play a limited three-evening engagement at TPAC’s Polk Theater April 9–11.
Tickets are on sale now at TPAC.org, by phone at 615-782-4040 and at the TPAC Box Office, 505 Deaderick St.
The New Colossus tells the true stories of 12 people who are here today because their families fled from constant struggle for survival and moved toward safety and freedom throughout the last 300 years. Through this intensely physical production, a group of actors from all over the world are telling their ancestors' stories in 12 different eras, all woven into a single narrative about escaping an oppressive homeland, drawn to the beacon above Ellis Island.
Performed in 12 languages with live music, poetry and kinetic movement, the play concludes with a question—who are we as a nation? Set between 1868 and today, The New Colossus is an homage to the strength, resilience and dignity of the immigrants and refugees who left their homes behind and risked it all to find a better life.
In The New Colossus, The Actors’ Gang members tell their ancestors’ stories, their struggles and their journeys from oppression to freedom. The play celebrates the courage and great character of the refugees who came to this country throughout the last 300 years. The ensemble of 12 reflects the great diversity that has defined who we are as a nation; The New Colossus is a celebration of our diversity.
Director Tim Robbins said, “I live in Los Angeles, where one can only be struck by the contributions made to our city by immigrants and people who came here as refugees. The Actors’ Gang felt compelled to respond to the government’s anti-refugee and anti-immigration policies – and to tell a story that draws attention to the true nature of people that live in this country. Save for the Indigenous, all of our families came here as refugees, immigrants or were brought here against their will.”
“The characters in the piece all seem different, from different parts of the world, traveling at different times – but the stories are remarkably the same: the common experience of all refugees is that they are fleeing some kind of oppression and moving toward safety and hopefully, freedom,” Robbins says. “Our hope is that we will be able to illuminate the courage, fortitude and humor of the refugees that have defined this land and, in doing so, discover the similarities that exist between our ancestors and those who are currently struggling for dignity and freedom today.”
The New Colossus shares a title with the sonnet written by poet Emma Lazarus in 1883 for an exhibit to raise funds for the pedestal for the Statue of Liberty, which opened in 1886. Even though the Statue of Liberty was not conceived as a symbol of immigration, Lazarus’ “The New Colossus” reinvented the statue's purpose, turning Liberty into a welcoming mother, a symbol of hope to the outcasts and oppressed of the world.
“The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
At the end of each performance, the actors will engage the audience and ask them to share either their experience of immigration or their family’s experience. People from all over the world have been found in The New Colossus audience; a true representation of the character and makeup of this country we share.
The New Colossus has its beginnings in the 2017 Refugee Project Workshop Production, in which actors from The Actors’ Gang told their own stories, the story of their ancestors - where they came from, why they had to leave, and where they arrived and settled.
About The Actors’ Gang
Over the past 36 years, The Actors’ Gang has produced over 200 plays in Los Angeles, in 45 U.S. states, and on five continents. The company was founded in 1981 by a group of young artists looking to build a theater that would present relevant and vibrantly entertaining plays. Guided by Founding Artistic Director Tim Robbins, the company provides a supportive environment for a diverse ensemble of artists and the development of their ground-breaking work.
The Actors’ Gang has presented the work of innovative theater artists including Georges Bigot, Simon Abkarian, Charles Mee, David Schweizer, Bill Rauch and the Cornerstone Theatre Company, Tracy Young, Roger Guenver Smith, Eric Bogosian, Oskar Eustis, Danny Hoch, Beth Milles, Brian Kulick, Stefan Haves, Namaste Theater Company, Culture Clash, Jason Reed, Michael Schlitt and Tenacious D.
The Actors’ Gang ensemble has included accomplished actors such as Jack Black, John Cusack, John C. Reilly, Helen Hunt, Kate Walsh, Fisher Stevens, Jeremy Piven, Ebbe Roe Smith, Jon Favreau, Brent Hinkley, Kate Mulligan, Lee Arenberg, Kyle Gass and Tim Robbins.
Guest artists who have appeared on The Actors’ Gang stage include: Jackson Browne, Sarah Silverman, Ben Gibbard, John Doe, Tom Morello, Jenny Lewis, Wayne Kramer, Paul Provenza, Zooey Deschanel, Serj Tankian, David Crosby, Pink, Felicity Huffman, Jill Sobule, William H. Macy, Phillip Baker Hall, Jeanne Tripplehorn, T.C. Boyle and the late, beloved Gore Vidal.
Recent touring productions include “Harlequino: On to Freedom,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “George Orwell’s 1984,” “The Exonerated,” “Tartuffe,” “Embedded,” “The Trial of the Catonsville Nine” and “The Guys.” Over the last 30 years, The Actors’ Gang has performed across the world from London to Milan, Bucharest, Athens, Madrid, Barcelona, Bogota, Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Melbourne, and Buenos Aires.
With our productions, education and outreach programs and tours, we strive to strengthen communities in a way that only the medium of theater can. We produce plays that contribute to the ongoing dialogue about our society and culture, while never forgetting that theaters’ primary purpose is to entertain.
Tim Robbins (Director)
For the past 36 years, Tim Robbins has served as Artistic Director for The Actors’ Gang, a theater company formed in 1982 that has over 150 productions and more than 100 awards to their credit. Past productions with The Actors’ Gang include: As Writer/Director – “Harlequino On to Freedom” (2017), “Break the Whip” (2010-11), “Embedded” (2003-4), “Mayhem,” “the Invasion” (1992), “Carnage, A Comedy” (1988-89), “Violence,” “The Misadventures of Spike Spangle Farmer” (1987) and “Alagazam” (1986). As Director –“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (2012-16), Orwells’ “1984” (2006-16), “Mephisto” (2001), “The Good Woman of Setzuan” (1991), “Methusalem, the Eternal Bourgeois” (1985), “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (1984), “Ubu the King” (1982). In addition to producing live theater throughout the year, The Actors’ Gang provides arts education to thousands of Elementary, Middle and High School students working in 12 LA USD schools and in underserved communities in the L.A. area. Since 2006, The Actors’ Gang’s ground-breaking Prison Project provides theatrical workshops to incarcerated men and women in 11 California prisons. In 2014, Robbins and Prison Project director Sabra Williams were instrumental in reinstating 6 million dollars into the California State budget for Arts in Corrections.
As actor, credits include the current HBO series “Here and Now,” “Marjorie Prime,” “The Brink,” “Mystic River,” “The Shawshank Redemption,” “The Player,” “Bull Durham,” and “Jacob’s Ladder,” and as a writer/director, “Dead Man Walking,” “Cradle Will Rock” and “Bob Roberts.” Robbins has won the Academy Award, Golden Globe, SAG Award + Prix d'Interprétation masculine at Cannes and French Legion.
If you go:
The New Colossus
April 9-11, 2020
TPAC’s Polk Theater
505 Deaderick St.
Performance schedule, prices and cast are subject to change without notice. Institutional sponsors for TPAC include Nissan North America and Coca-Cola. TPAC is a nonprofit arts organization funded in part by support from the Tennessee Arts Commission and the Metropolitan Nashville Arts Commission. TPAC reminds ticket buyers that the only official place to buy tickets online is TPAC.org.