“Explosive! Fearlessly, ferociously uninhibited…The show’s most subversive quality is also quintissentially American: It’s wildly entertaining.” – Elisabeth Vincentelli, The New Yorker
“A lacerating comedy on race…In all ways SENSATIONAL.”
– Ben Brantley, The New York Times

Ars Nova + Lightning Rod Special

Ars Nova is committed to developing and producing theater, comedy and music artists in the early stages of their professional careers. Our unique development programs are designed to support outside-the-box thinking and cross-pollination to encourage innovative work. Dubbed by the New York Times as a “fertile incubator of offbeat theater,” Ars Nova blurs genres and subverts the status quo. With our feverish bounty of programming, we are the stomping ground and launching pad for visionary, adventurous artists of all stripes. By providing a safe environment where risk-taking and collaboration are paramount, Ars Nova gives voice to a new generation of artists and audiences, pushing the boundaries of live entertainment by nurturing creative ideas into smart, surprising new work.

Ars Nova was honored with a 2015 OBIE Award and a 2015 Special Citation from the New York Drama Critics’ Circle for our sustained quality and commitment to the development and production of new work. Notable past productions include: Outstanding Musical Lortel and Off Broadway Alliance Award-winner Futurity, by César Alvarez with The Lisps; New York Time’s “Best of 2015” Small Mouth Sounds by Bess Wohl (Off-Broadway transfer 2016; US Tour 2017); Time Out NY’s “Best of 2014,”Jacuzzi by The Debate Society; Drama Desk nominated Charlatan by Vinny DePonto and Josh Koenigsberg; the award-winning smash-hit Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 by Dave Malloy (Lortel, Obie, and Richard Rodgers Awards; Broadway transfer production 2016); Jollyship the Whiz-Bang by Nick Jones and Raja Azar directed by Sam Gold; the world premiere of the 2009 season’s most-produced play boom by Peter Sinn Nachtrieb and directed by Alex Timbers; Drama Desk and Outer Critic Circle nominated From Up Here by Liz Flahive; audience favorite Dixie’s Tupperware Party by Kris Andersson; the show that put Bridget Everett on the map, At Least It’s Pink, by Everett and Kenny Mellman; and Lin-Manuel Miranda and Thomas Kail’s first New York production, Freestyle Love Supreme, by Anthony Veneziale and Miranda.

Lightning Rod Special is a raucous and contemplative physical theatre company based in Philadelphia, made up of theatre artists Katie Gould, Jennifer Kidwell, Mason Rosenthal, Scott Sheppard, and Alice Yorke. Their work engages a highly collaborative, actor-driven approach. With artistic roots in the Pig Iron School for Advanced Performance Training, Headlong Performance Institute, Double Edge Theatre, The Atlantic Theater Company, and long-form improvisation, LRS creations are a finely orchestrated extension of the raw and thunderous discoveries born from spontaneous inspiration. Like scientists, they begin each project with a hypothesis. Following artistic investigations, they find their way to completed works of theatre that are varied in their form, style, and content. In this way, creating original work is a process we utilize to ask questions of themselves, their audience, and the world at large.  The success of URG is a testament to an extended development process that allowed the artistic team to plumb the depths of complex questions around race and American education.


The Ars Nova Production of
Underground Railroad Game

By Jennifer Kidwell & Scott Sheppard with Lightning Rod Special
Directed by Taibi Magar
Featuring Jennifer Kidwell & Scott Sheppard

“If we interrogate the mythos of the Underground Railroad we uncover an apparent need to make systemic exploitation, degradation and objectification palatable. Why is it that we love to narrativize ourselves in ways that propagate the very violence we proclaim to upend?” – Jennifer Kidwell & Scott Sheppard

Welcome to Hanover Middle School, where a pair of teachers are getting down and dirty with today’s lesson. The nimble duo goes round after round on the mat of our nation’s history, tackling race, sex, and power in this R-rated, kaleidoscopic and fearless comedy. Forget everything you thought you knew about history. No more tedious memorization. No more boring dates and facts related to distant people and events. They take history off the page and make it real again. Underground Railroad Game began in Philadelphia’s FringeArts festival. The entire run of 10 performances sold out and over 1,200 people attended. The piece subsequently received rave, five-star reviews from a variety of outlets, including Newsworks, City Paper, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and DC Metro Arts. As a result of overwhelming sales and demand, FringeArts remounted URG in May of 2016. In 2014, an in-progress version of URG was featured as part of Ars Nova’s All New Talent festival, and opens Ars Nova’s 2016 season with a fully produced, extended run.

Stage: Blackbox / Proscenium
Capacity: Up to 500
Tour Personnel: 6
Running time: 90 minutes
Language: English


January 17 – 21, 2018 | University Musical Society | Ann Arbor, MI
March 1, 2018 | ’62 Center Williams College | Williamstown, MA
April 4 – 29, 2018 | Woolly Mammoth Theater | Washington, D.C