Leslie B. Jacobson
Professor of Theatre
Leslie Jacobson is the Founding Artistic Director of Horizons Theatre, established in 1977, and the “longest running” women’s theatre still producing in the U.S. Under her leadership, Horizons has introduced Washington audiences to over 60 new plays and playwrights through fully-staged productions, and another 50 through public staged readings over the years. The Women’s Committee of the Dramatists Guild gave Horizons a special award for its outstanding work in producing plays by women playwrights. Jacobson has written and produced over a dozen of her own scripts at Horizons and around the country over the years. She was commissioned to write a musical play, I Want to Tell You with composer Roy Barber, which toured high schools and community groups for three years, promoting tolerance and combating homophobia among high school students. Her play, The Body Project, co-written by Vanessa Thomas and produced by Horizons in Fall, 2005 in Washington, DC, explores the obsession contemporary American women and girls have with their physical appearance and how that obsession affects their relationships to others, as well as themselves. Jacobson directed a production of the play at the Flinders University Drama Centre in Adelaide, Australia in June, 2008; and The Body Project was produced at Cornell University in January, 2009.
As a freelance director, she has worked with several distinguished theatre companies in the D.C. area, as well as with regional theatres in Colorado, Boston, and Atlanta. She has directed a number of world and area premieres focusing on survivors’ experiences during and after the Holocaust, including the world premiere of Richard Rashke’s play Dear Esther at the U.S. Memorial Holocaust Museum, and her own adaptation of Peter Sichrovsky’s book of interviews with children of survivors living in Vienna and Berlin today, called Strangers in Their Own Land. She has been nominated for the Helen Hayes Award in the category of Outstanding Director three times, and her production oA...My Name Is Alice received a Helen Hayes Award for outstanding production.
Jacobson served as Chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance at The George Washington University for 13 years, from 1995 to 2008. As Chair, she inaugurated a Women’s Leadership Program in Women and International Culture, located on the Mount Vernon Campus of GW, for Freshmen interested in discovering the ways that women create art differently from men. She also helped to create the one-year intensive MFA program in Classical Acting with the Shakespeare Theatre, called the Shakespeare Theatre Company Academy for Classical Acting at The George Washington University. She has developed a new course at the University, exploring the contributions made by immigrant- and first-generation Jewish American composers and lyricists in shaping the form and content of 20th century musical theatre on Broadway; and a course exploring theatre as an instrument of social change, particularly focusing on work of the 20th and early 21st centuries. She has also developed, with other faculty in the University Honors Program, a year-long multi-disciplinary course exploring the relationship between artistic expression and the cultures from which various forms of expression emerge.
In 2003, Jacobson began a relationship with the impoverished rural township of Winterveldt, South Africa. She has created several music/theatre pieces with at-risk youth in this community, addressing the AIDS crisis, family violence, teen pregnancy, and other problems confronting these youth and their community. Since 2003, a dozen of these youth have traveled to Washington each January to perform, and to act as informal ambassadors to the D.C. community in general, and The George Washington University community in particular. Their visits have raised awareness of problems facing the new South Africa, funds to support social programs in Winterveldt, and have actively involved GW students. Each summer, Jacobson takes one or more University students with her to create a new play with the Winterveldt youth.
Jacobson has mentored several students to win Gamow, Luther Rice, and Cotlow undergraduate research fellowships at GW. And she herself received a Fulbright Senior Research Fellowship to complete a new play she is working on with Professor Emerita Diane Bell, and to create artistic connections with women playwrights in Australia. Jacobson spent a stimulating and rewarding five months based primarily in Adelaide during 2008, and was enormously inspired by the experience.
Jacobson was a member of the 2001 Leadership America class, joining 99 other women leaders from around the country in exploring issues surrounding leadership and gender in the US; and is a past president of the League of Washington Theatres. She graduated cum laude with a degree in Theatre, from Northwestern University; and with a Master of Fine Arts in Directing from Boston University’s School for the Arts.