I Pledge Allegiance is an original theater piece created and performed by Lab Fellows Velani Dibba (School of Foreign Service ’17) and Devika Ranjan (SFS ’17), recent alumni from the College Cristina Ibarra (’17) and Ben Lillian (’18), and current senior Aly Panjwani (SFS ’19), under the advisership of The Lab Co-Director Derek Goldman. The production, originally developed by The Lab for the International Theater Institute World Congress in Segovia, Spain in 2017, has been performed for audiences around the world including in the Sudan, Washington, D.C., Seattle, and San Francisco.
The performers created I Pledge Allegiance drawing upon their personal experiences as immigrants and first-generation Americans, who came of age between 9/11 and the 2016 presidential election. By telling their individual stories of home, immigration, identity, and the challenges of adjusting to life in the United States, the performers hope to encourage conversations on larger global topics. Following the play, the actors welcomed questions on the development of the piece and the impact the play has had on them and their audiences.
Prior to the performance, members of Viewpoint’s Conservatory of Theater met informally with the five performers. As recent Georgetown alumni (or soon-to-be), they shared their own stories of adjusting to college life, pursuing their interests in both politics and performance, and life after college. Our students were struck by the kindness and generosity of the visitors, and inspired by their performance.
Viewpoint’s students also met with Ambassador Cynthia P. Schneider, Distinguished Professor in the Practice of Diplomacy at Georgetown University and Co-Director of The Lab. She shared her experiences as Ambassador to The Netherlands during the Clinton Administration, and encouraged the students to consider careers in the Foreign Service. Ambassador Schneider, a former professor of art history and an expert on Rembrandt and 17th-century Dutch art, talked about the impact cultural diplomacy played in her career, and how shared cultural experiences can help to create connections with foreign governments and communities abroad. Melissa D. ’19, who will be attending Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service in the fall, said, “I am interested in a diplomatic career and it was amazing to be able to meet with Ambassador Schneider. She even gave me her card and invited me to get in touch with her when I start at Georgetown in August!”
Head of School Mark McKee remarked at end of the evening, “We are honored to have the Lab here on campus for a night of extraordinary theater and inspiring conversation. This year at Viewpoint, we have been talking about Excellence through Connection, and I can think of no better way to connect than through live performance. By sharing the experiences of their families, these young artists have connected us to their stories, to one another, and to the world of ideas. Many thanks to The Lab for giving us this gift.