The Race 2020 Logo (Square).png

"what are you hopeful for? What are you fearful of?"


Performance Dates: October 30 & November 2 at 7pm, October 31 & November 1 at 2pm

All performances streamed live via YouTube


Hear Social Engagement Manager Rachel Nunn interview co-directors Taylor Wood and Courtney Surmanek about what it's like to devise theatre in the virtual realm!

The Race 2020 and The Civility Project 

What can we build together in this immense time of culture shift? And who are the leaders we need to call on to trailblaze a rapidly-changing world? 

The Race 2020, originally developed and created by Sojourn Theatre is an interactive live-streamed performance that combines spectacle and collaborative conversation to interrogate the state of our democracy.


The production blends performance, call and response, question and answer, dance and karaoke into a participatory, highly choreographed and at times improvised exploration. 

This productionʼs adaptation is developed and created by TeAsya Hudson, Keith Patrick McCoy, Courtney Surmanek and Taylor Wood in collaboration with our ensemble and creative team. Meet the team below! The Race was originally developed and created in 2008 by Sojourn Theatre ensemble members Michael Rohd, Shannon Scrofano, Liam Kaas-Lents and Courtney Davis alongside the original Georgetown University cast.

Our production of The Race 2020 is developed in collaboration with The Civility Project: a hub for inquiry, skills-sharing, and experimentation in civil dialogue and community trust building. Through both projects, we seek to inspire social repair through communication and healthy deliberation. Through workshops offered to community groups, classes, and schools in Southwest Virginia, we seek to better equip ourselves and our community to make decisions, and to build consensus around polarizing topics.

Our production is just one of many iterations of Sojourn Theatre's The Race being performed around the country. Learn more about this national partnership here.


The Race 2020 in Southwest Virginia is produced by the School of Performing Arts as part of the Department of Theatre and Cinema's Fall 2020 Online Season and supported in part by the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology (ICAT)’s Major SEAD Grant.


MEET THE TEAM (view fulL playbill here)

Olivia Holland Headshot.jpg

OLIVIA HOLLAND (Candidate) would like to thank her family and friends for supporting her. Her previous shows include “The Lion King Jr.”, “The Addams Family”, and “Into the Woods Jr.”. A special thank you to the cast and crew for making this experience so open and beautiful! I appreciate you!

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JACK POWELL (Candidate) is currently attending Virginia Tech for Theatre Performance, but is from Hamilton, Virginia. Jack has acted in countless productions such as: South Pacific (Cable), Clue the Musical (Mr Boddy), Freaky Friday (Mike), James and the Giant Peach (Centipede), Once on this Island (Agwe), and more. Since the pandemic began, Jack has become invested in Zoom shows, where he took part in one in the summer. He’s ready for another fun filled one with The Race 2020.

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RILEY GORDON (Candidate) is a first year theatre student at Virginia Tech. She is excited to be a part of the cast and is looking forward to participating in more theatrical productions soon! 

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DESTINEE JONES (Host) has a B.A. in Theatre Arts from Virginia Tech. Her most recent credits include The Wolves (#2), and Three Anne Franks (Props Mistress). She is gracious to be a part of this production of The Race!


REISS GIDNER (Candidate) is a graduating senior pursuing a dual degree in theatre and animal science. She was most recently heard as Potnia in The Cretans, and seen onstage as #46 in The Wolves, Darlene in Balm in Gilead, Jaques in As You Like It, and Catherine Donohue in These Shining Lives. Previous stage management credits include stage managing How I Learned to Drive, and assistant stage managing Angels in America; Part I Millennium Approaches and Fun Home. She is incredibly grateful for this opportunity and she hopes you enjoy The Race 2020! 



​You will be invited to contribute to the conversation via YouTube's chat feature during the performance. We ask that you follow these guidelines:

  • Be respectful of others in the discussion, which involves being thoughtful in the language you choose 

  • Do not make personal attacks under any circumstance

  • Be ready to (really) listen as much as, if not more than, you speak

  • Try to suspend judgment, but do question assumptions

  • Ask powerful questions. Attempt to understand rather than just persuade

  • Speak from the “I,” as in “in my experience…” “I believe…” Don’t make assumptions about others

  • Aim to speak honestly about your reasons for expressing a particular concern or point of view, and avoid holding ‘hidden agendas’.

Directorial team:


COURTNEY SURMANEK (Co-Director, they/them/Court) is an Ashkenazi Jewish cultural organizer, educator, joker and transdisciplinary artist. Court believes in the power of theatre, art making and creative play as tools for making policy and planning efforts more accessible and equitable. Court is an M.F.A./M.S. Candidate in Theatre: Directing & Public Dialogue and Urban Planning at Virginia Tech, a Visiting Fellow at Skidmore College's Storytellers' Institute, Member of the 2019-2021 Observership Program with SDCF and Member of the Broadway Advocacy Coalition. In 2019, Court was a SU-CASA Artist-in-Residence with the NYC Dept. of Cultural Affairs, Social Practice Artist-in-Residence with ProjectArt, Fellow at The Performance Project at University Settlement, EmergeNYC Fellow at the Hemispheric Institute for Performance & Politics and Teaching Artist with Ping Chong + Company. They dream with Streaks of Lavender, a queer collective of artists building ourstory, and call the occupied lands of the Matinecock and Maspeth (Queens, NY) home. For more extensive biographical information, visit

TAYLOR WOOD (Co-Director) is a performer, artist, theater-maker and instructor. She currently teaches acting and applied collaborative techniques to nonmajors in Virginia Tech’s School of Performing Arts. Her primary research focuses on creating theatre that inspires and transforms. She seeks to boost group creativity, promote conflict resolution, and convey an understanding of humanity. Prior to VT, Taylor taught acting and devised theatre on faculty at the University of Georgia. Her original show Glue premiered at Moonlight Theatre Company in Athens, Georgia. She has created work and performed with Playhouse on the Square, Theatre Memphis, and Tennessee Shakespeare Company in Memphis, Tennessee. She most recently worked as a performance coach for business, accounting, and law students at the annual Ole Miss Speaker’s Edge Competition. Taylor holds a BFA in Theatre Performance from the University of Mississippi and an MFA in Acting from the University of Georgia. For more extensive biographical information, visit

Creative Team


TEASYA HUDSON (Co-Writer) is second-year undergraduate student at Virginia Tech, studying psychology and organizational leadership. She is thrilled to continue working in theatre here after assistant directing her first project, Three Anne Franks, as a freshman.

KEITH MCCOY (Co-Writer / Choreographer / Costume Designer)

Cider Ellison (Collaborating Artist) is an Indigenous, Two-Spirit woman using arts and culture to build community power. She is a writer, artist, community organizer, and activist living in the Appalachian Mountains. 

design Team

CHARLIE DUFF (Sound Designer)

DIKSHA PILANIA (Scenic & Props Design) is a Third-year Master of Fine Arts candidate in Theatre (Scenography and Properties Design and Management). She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Accessory Design from NIFT (National Institute of Fashion Technology), India. Coming all the way from across the globe, she has explored a lot and worked for various productions including Wolves (Set &; Prop Designer), Balm in Gilead (Set designer & Scenic Artist), Decision Height (Scenic Artist), Angels in America: Part One (Prop designer), Foreigner (Scenic Designer), As You Like It ( Scenic Artist), How I Learned to Drive (Scenic Artist). Along with set Set & Prop design, her interest lies majorly in Graphic Design as well and she feels grateful to be able to use this skill and contribute to the “online world” of theatre. "For her, theatre gives her an opportunity to live in her own drawing."  

RACHEL WEIS (Creative Technologies Coordinator and Lighting Designer) is a South Florida native who migrated to Blacksburg in early March 2020. She has a passion for using light to tell stories and a degree in Theatrical Technology and Design. She would like to thank Kendall, Courtney, Keith and Taylor for the opportunity to design in a divergent way. Thank you to David and ICAT for the various support you have provided.

production Team

SHANNON CLARKE (Sound Operator) is a senior double majoring in technical theatre with a focus in sound design, and business management. Her previous involvements in the School of Performing Arts include The Wolves, Decision Height and The Foreigner (Assistant Sound Designer); and Angels in America: Part One Millennium Approaches and How I Learned to Drive (Sound Designer). She also spent the summer working for Pacific Conservatory Theatre on A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder and The Addams Family. Shannon got her start at Encore Theatrical Company in Morristown, Tennessee. This company continues to support her and many other young artists.

JOE LINK (Technical Director) earned his B.S. in Physics and Theatre from Hampden-Sydney College in 2016. Since then, Joe has worked for theatre companies all over Virginia, eventually landing a carpentry position with Maltz Jupiter Theatre in South Flordia. After working in Florida for two years, he decided he got enough endless sun and made a transition back to VA and into grad school.

RACHEL NUNN (Social Engagement Manager) is a first year MFA candidate in the Arts Leadership program. She hails from Raleigh, NC, and she holds BAs in English and Theatre. She has worked as a performer, director, arts administrator, and theatre designer around the NC Triangle area since 2014, most recently co-directing a fully-realized Zoom production of Carson Kreitzer's Freakshow for Women's Theatre Festival of Raleigh ( She is excited by the possibilities in online theatremaking, and is thrilled to have a chance to participate in this project.

KENDALL PAYNE (Production Manager)


JORDAN PHILLIPS (Stage Manager) is a native from Pulaski, VA.  She studied at Radford University and has a BS degree in Theatre, with a focus in Stage Management and Technical Theatre.  Her previous SM experiences include: Stage Manager for Making a Scene: “Third and Oak, The Laundromat,” and Assistant Stage Manger for “Anything Goes,” “The Waiting Room,” and “Clybourne Park,” at Radford University.  This past winter, she assistant stage managed Adaire Theatre’s “Home for the Holidays.” In the summer of 2016, she worked as a Swing Tech at Stagedoor Manor in NY, where she was able to do various jobs, but her favorite was running spot for Stagedoor Manor’s “Our Time” Cabaret,” “Rock of Ages,” and “Avenue Q.”  The last couple years Jordan had taken a hiatus from theatre and has been working with and entertaining children.  She’s excited to be working with Va Tech and Adaire Theatre for “The Civility Project and the Race 2020,” and is very thankful for the amazing opportunity.


SUSANNA YOUNG (Production Assistant) is a first-year graduate student in the Directing and Public Dialogue Programs at Virginia Tech, currently based in Roanoke, Virginia. She is also an artist-in-residence with Hollins University, directing and choreographing alongside longtime friend and mentor, Ernie Zulia. She also runs the dance company, DanceWorks, at the University of Lynchburg, where she uses somatic listening, modern and postmodern theory, and improv to create collaborative classes and dance pieces with students. As a director, choreographer, performer, educator, and activist, Susie uses interdisciplinary art practices to blur the lines between creation and cultural understanding.

support Team

CARA RAWLINGS (Intimacy Director) Cara Rawlings is Associate Professor of Movement and Acting in The Department of Theatre and Cinema at Virginia Tech. Ms. Rawlings has worked professionally as a teacher, fight director and dance choreographer in Chicago, Washington D.C., New York and abroad in Greece and Austria. Ms. Rawlings is a Certified Stage Combat Instructor with The Society of American Fight Directors (SAFD). She is a member of the Association of Theatre Movement Educators (ATME) and has served on the board of Southeastern Theatre Conference (SETC). Ms. Rawlings holds a Master of Fine Arts in Movement Pedagogy and Fight Direction from Virginia Commonwealth University.

TODD SCHENK (Building Civility Project Lead) Dr. Todd Schenk is an Assistant Professor in Virginia Tech's School of Public and International Affairs. Much of his teaching, research, and outreach focuses on two areas and often their intersection: collaborative governance and environmental policy and planning. Schenk is involved in projects focusing on a wide range of topics, including freshwater salinization, endangered and invasive species, and climate adaptation. He also has a parallel line of work on civil discourse, often conducted under the #CivilityVT and Frenemies Project banners.  Todd is affiliated with VT’s Global Change Center and a member of the Policy Destination Area stakeholder committee, on which he chairs the curriculum committee. In that capacity, he is particularly excited about the group's new Science, Technology, and Engineering in Policy (STEP) program. 


SPECIAL THANKS! Corrie Besse, Publicity Director / Bob Leonard, Mentor / David Franusich, ICAT Mentor / George Hardebeck, Facility and Studio Manager at the Creativity and Innovation District / Doug Witney, Director of Production at Moss Arts Center / Cider Ellison, for crafting and delivering the land acknowledgement for this show / Brittany S. Harris, with gratitude for the mentorship and the apt rehearsal workshop offering / Michael Rohd, Phil Weaver-Stoesz and Sojourn Theatre for the guidance, generosity, connection, and mentorship along the way.

on active listening

In many ways we are socialized to push away discomfort, to smooth over conflict, and to perform agreement rather than engage in productive, healthy conflict. We are socialized to believe that “getting along” is important for community, but at what point does “getting along” sacrifice equity?

We need to speak up.


On the other hand, when we do engage with conflicting ideas, we might feel that only the loudest voices in the room will be heard (first presidential debate, anyone??). How do we disagree productively, civilly, and with a shared goal of bettering our community rather than being right?


We need to listen.


We’d like to call into the space some thought leaders on active listening and how it pertains to your engagement in this show:


“The purpose of art is to lay bare the questions being hidden by the answers.”- James Baldwin. 


“We are socialized to see what is wrong, missing, off, to tear down the ideas of others and uplift our own. To a certain degree, our entire future may depend on learning to listen, listen without assumptions or defenses.”― Adrienne Maree Brown, from Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds


  • The Race asks us to look at how we shape ourselves, each other, and our community? Are we failing each other? Let’s ask the question. Let’s start by being brave and daring to listen. 


“Because so much of oppression happens in the ways we relate to one another — ways that are learned behaviors — truly receiving one another while suspending our internalized assumptions enables new possibilities to arise.” Beth Berila on active listening


  • When we are able to radically see, hear, and engage one another anew, new possibilities of community arise. We get to reimagine our communion. How do we not fail each other?

“And of course there are times when an active silence, one that includes pausing to think before one speaks, adds much to classroom dynamics.”― bell hooks, Teaching Critical Thinking: Practical 


  • How we listen is how we are in community. Community has the power to uplift, celebrate, heal, remember. But we have to find it and find ourselves inside of it. ​​