Leslie Jacobson

photo of leslie jacobson
Professor Emeritus,
Theatre & Dance Program,
Director of Graduate Studies, Classical Acting
[email protected]


Leslie Jacobson has spent over 40 years producing, writing, directing, and teaching theatre committed to addressing societal challenges and to giving voice to people often marginalized by the dominant culture. At Horizons Theatre, as Founding Artistic Director from 1977 to 2007, she introduced Washington audiences to over 60 new plays and playwrights through fully staged productions, and another 50 through public staged readings. In 1999, she was commissioned to write a musical play, I Want to Tell You with composer Roy Barber, which toured high schools and community groups promoting tolerance and combating homophobia among high school students. The Body Project, co-written with Vanessa Thomas and premiering in Fall 2005, explores the uneasy relationship American women and girls have with their bodies. Jacobson 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 contemporary Vienna and Berlin, Strangers in Their Own Land. In 1989, she was chosen by the Historian of the US Senate to write, direct, and produce a play commemorating the 200th anniversary of the Senate. This production was performed in the Old Senate Chamber of the Capitol, to audiences comprised of members of Congress, as well as the general public. It was also filmed and used in high school social studies classes across the country. 

Jacobson has been a Professor of Theatre at The George Washington University since 1977, serving as Department Chair for 13 years. She inaugurated a Women’s Leadership Program on Women and International Culture, located on the Mt. Vernon Campus of GW, for first years 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, offered in partnership with the Shakespeare Theatre Company, for which she serves as Director of Graduate Studies. She has developed several new courses at the University, including a course exploring Theatre for Social Change. She has led workshops with women incarcerated in a medium security prison; and with middle and high school students in the DC public school system, through the not-for-profit tutoring organization, For Love of Children (FLOC). Her theatre workshop at Street Sense, a Washington, DC homeless organization, has been running since 2013, often with the assistance of GW theatre student interns. 


Current Research

Theatre for Social Change:

  • Using theatre to effect social change, equality, and justice
  • Analyzing the strategies & approaches to creating theatre with these goals, locally & globally

Currently writing:

  • The play Migratory Tales, a drama with music focused on the immigrant experience in America at present and historically - A production will occur at GW in March 2018
  • Two articles dealing with the use of theatre to affect societal change
    • One with Dr. Jeri Kroll, Professor Emerita of Flinders University
    • One with Dr. Kenza Oumlil, a professor of Communications at Al Akhawayn University in Morocco



  • Senior Fulbright Research Fellowship, 2008
  • Founding Artistic Director of Horizons...Theatre from a Woman's Perspective, a professional theatre company in operation in DC from 1977 through 2007
  • Three-time nominee for the Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Direction
  • Recipient of an award from the Women’s Committee of the Dramatists’ Guild for excellence in producing plays by women playwrights
  • The play, Vanishing Point, was selected by the adjudicators from the Kennedy Center’s American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF) to be produced at the Festival in 2015 & Jacobson received an award from the KCACTF for her script adaptation
  • In 2001, Jacobson was a member of the Leadership America class, joining 99 other women leaders from around the country exploring leadership strategies
  • Currently a Fellow at the Honey Nashman Center for Community and Civic Engagement and the Curator of the Arts for gender Justice initiative at GW's Global Women's Institute
  • Recipient of a UFF in 2003, which helped to fund her work in South Africa, and the cultural exchange program she has been running between the Bokamoso Youth Centre in Winterveldt, South Africa, and GW for the past 15 years
    • Over 40 GW students have traveled with her to Bokamoso over the summers, and 12 youth from Bokamoso have been in residency at GW for a week every February since 2004, living with students and attending classes.



  • “The Verse Novel as musical drama: Vanishing Point as a case study,” by Jeri Kroll and Leslie Jacobson, New Writing, November 2016
  • Vanishing Point, a musical drama adapted by Leslie Jacobson from the verse novel by Jeri Kroll, 2014
  • The Body Project, by Leslie Jacobson & Vanessa Thomas, produced professionally in Washington, DC in 2005, at Flinders University in Australia in 2008, and at Cornell University in 2010
  • Presented on strategies and approaches used in creating theatre for social change at three conferences:
    • Central Queensland University in Australia, in May 2017
    • Great Writing International Conference, in London in June 2017
    • Al Akhawayn University in Morocco in October 2017
  • “A Fine balancing Act: Adapting the Verse Novel to the Stage,” by Jeri Kroll and Leslie Jacobson, New Writing, June 2015



BS in Theatre (Cum Laude), Northwestern University
MFA in Directing, Boston University School of the Arts


Professional Organizations

  • Past president of the League of Washington Theatres, the consortium of professional theatres in the Washington, DC region
  • At GW - Curator of the Arts for Gender Justice Initiative of the Global Women’s Institute
  • Founding member of the Board of the Bokamoso Youth Foundation, a not-for-profit organization which supports the Bokamoso Youth Centre and its scholarship program in Winterveldt, South Africa