The first rehearsal for Tempestuous Elements was nothing short of exhilarating, setting the stage for a captivating exploration of the life and struggles of educational luminary Anna Julia Cooper.

In a scandal orchestrated by the government, educational luminary Anna Julia Cooper’s tenure as principal of D.C.’s historic M Street School was sabotaged by her colleagues and neighbors, leading her professional and personal relationships to become fodder for innuendo and social ostracization. Tempestuous Elements follows the journey of this formidable Black feminist’s fight for educational equity, freedom, and legitimacy at the turn of the 20th century.

First rehearsal for our 11th Power Play resonated with passion not only for shedding light on the story of Anna Julia Cooper, but for the creative duo of Kia Corthron and Psalmayene 24. The intricate layers of Cooper’s professional and personal challenges really came alive in person, promising an enthralling theatrical journey against the tempestuous elements of society.

We got to hear from the creative team of Tempestuous Elements as well as witness a read through with all the actors for the first time.

Artistic Director Hana S. Sharif spoke first, “I think Tempestuous Elements is a really beautiful journey through the great Anna Julia Cooper’s life. And we at Arena are so excited to be able to elevate her story, her journey, her legacy, how she overcame challenges to really be an imprint for the possibilities for education for black people in this country. And her legacy still exists! The M Street School is very much present and they’re gonna be partners with us on this journey. Some of the educators and the head of school will be very much connected to our work as we move forward.”

Director Psalmayene 24 then shared: “This is really surreal for me right now. I mean, I’ve been a part of the Arena Stage family for a couple of decades…I started out as an actor with the Living Stage Theatre Company. I then moved into the Education Department and then that transitioned into the Community Engagement Department, and I’ve directed with the Voices of Now ensemble literally around the world…I’m a part of Arena Stage’s history and this is like a homecoming for me.”

Lastly, Playwright Kia Corthron spoke, “I’m so happy to have everybody here in the room. We had two workshops before this play. The first one was in the middle of March 2020, and we started the week fine, but by the end of the week, everything in the world had closed down! And the second one was last summer, and that day the building was closed due to the poor air quality because of the Canadian fire. Then, yesterday, we faced snow. They were truly tempestuous elements!”

Additionally, we heard about the stunning set design by Tony Cisek, the high-tech lighting plans from Lighting Designer William K. D’Eugenio, the forward-thinking costumes from Costume Designer LeVonne Lindsay, and we got to hear a sneak peek from Original Music and Sound Designer Lindsay Jones. They are pulling out all the stops for this one. You won’t want to miss it!

It was an honor to assemble and meet the team who will be creating this thought-provoking and enthralling drama. Tempestuous Elements will step up to the blackboard in the Fichandler Stage starting February 16 — Get your tickets now!