Bokamoso Youth Foundation: The Future Begins Here

Leslie Jacobson, Vice President, Bokamoso Youth Foundation

Leslie Jacobson is a director, playwright, and educator who has, over the past 35 years, followed her passion in using the performing arts to effect societal change.

Since 2003, Jacobson has joined Roy Barber in traveling to South Africa each summer to work with the at-risk youth of the Bokamoso Youth Centre, using theatre, music, and movement to give voice to their life experiences and to address the issues within their poverty-challenged community of Winterveldt. With Barber, she has created several music/theatre pieces focusing on the AIDS crisis, family violence, teen pregnancy, rape, the changing roles of women and men in the new South Africa, and other problems confronting these youth and their community.

The youth bring their powerful stories here to the DC region each January, when 12 of them come to the US for a four-week sojourn. The final week of this cultural exchange is spent in residency at The George Washington University, living with students, attending classes, and culminating in a performance in the Betts Marvin Theatre on the GW campus. In the summer, Jacobson takes several GW students with her and Barber to create a new performance pieces with the Winterveldt youth.

Jacobson is the Founding Artistic Director of Horizons Theatre, established in 1977, and producing full seasons of plays by and about women for 30 years. Under her leadership, Horizons introduced Washington audiences to over 60 new plays and playwrights through fully-staged productions, and another 50 through public staged readings over the years. Horizons Theatre has received many honors, including a special award from the Women’s Committee of the Dramatists Guild for its outstanding work in producing plays by women playwrights.

Jacobson has directed a number of world and area premieres, and has been nominated for the Helen Hayes Award in the category of Outstanding Director three times. Her production of A...My Name Is Alice (with musical direction by Roy Barber) received a Helen Hayes Award for outstanding production. The Body Project, which she co-wrote with Vanessa Thomas, has been professionally produced in DC, and produced at Cornell University in New York, and Flinders University Drama Centre in Australia.

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. In 2008 she received a Fulbright Senior Research Fellowship to Australia. She graduated cum laude with a degree in Theatre, from Northwestern University’s School of Communication; and with a Master of Fine Arts in Directing from Boston University’s School for the Arts.

Jacobson is a Professor of Theatre at The George Washington University, where she has been on the faculty for 33 years, serving as Chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance from 1995 through 2008. As Chair, she inaugurated a Women’s Leadership Program in Women and International Culture, focusing on discovering the ways that women may create art differently from men. She also helped develop the one-year intensive MFA program in Classical Acting with the Shakespeare Theatre Company.