AAPEX, which was started on January 1st of this year, today exists as a network of around 120 artists across the US. This number is up from 90 a few weeks ago as a result of my trips to Washington DC and Cincinnati, where I met and added to the list serv not so much playwrights as directors, actors and dramaturgs who have an interest in what we are doing. AAPEX is all about people and here are some of the people in whom we are truly blessed.
- GREG STALLWORTH Greg is going to serve as the first vice president of AAPEX and is working with me to develop a reading & script development series in Cincinnati. Greg produced and directed the first AAPEX reading in Cincinnati on June 23. While attendance was small, the reading was very productive and received some attention from the Cincinnati press. For those of you who are not familiar with Cincy, it is a beautiful town with some beautiful theaters - but not a lot of black theater, so AAPEX has the opportunity to make a serious contribution on this front. Among other things, check out The Arts Consortium of Cincinnati at http://www.accdreams.org/ Consortium creative director Piper Davis was a member of the cast in our first reading and is an actress to look out for! Also making a significant contribution to the event was actor David Livers, who covered several of the male roles in the script brilliantly. The reading was followed by a production of Stallworth's seriously funny play EVE IN PARIDISE which was directed by the wonderful Terri Robinson who also pulled double duty in the title role of Eve. EVE IN PARADISE explores the dangers of internet dating.
- PETER LAWSON JONES Peter is the author of THE FAMILY LINE which was the subjet of the Cincinnati reading. A truly fascinating fellow, Peter is on the board of Karamu Playhouse and is also the County Commisioner of Cuyahoga County, Ohio. The mayor of Cincinnati recognized Peter and AAPEX with a proclamation making June 23, 2007 Peter Lawson Jones day. ALAN WOODS Alan is the head of the Theater Archives at Ohio State and is responsible for setting up the AAPEX archives there. He attended the reading in Cincinnati and his presence was one factor in the event's success. So far about 10 AAPEX writers have contacted Alan and made arrangements to include their scripts in the archives. If you would like more information on the archives please let me know.
- BOB OST Bob is the founder and president of Theater Resources Unlimited in New York City and thanks to Bob and TRU, AAPEX now has a nonprofit umbrella is NYC.
- OWA A NYC playwright, Owa is the muse for OWAFEST - A CELEBRATION OF AFRICAN AMERICAN ABSURDISM which is now in development in NYC.
- ROWEENA MACKAY A recent graduate of Yale, Roweena is serving as the dramaturg for OWAFEST. Acording to the writers involved, she is marvelous.
- SHEILA SPELLER Artistic Driector of Orielle Creative comapny in NYC, Shiela is also helping with the development of OWASFEST. She is on her way today for a meeting with the Apollo Theater in Harlem to see if we can interest them in this and future AAPEX projects.
- AURIN SQUIRE A NYC member of AAPEX, Aurin is also a journalist and is working on a piece about the trials and tribulations of the African American playwright which deals with many of the issues that have come up in my communications with everyone.
- And last but certainly not least KAREN EVANS and THE BLACK WOMEN PLYAWRIGHTS GROUP This is an organization which merits everyone's attention and support. Founded by Karen Evans 18 years ago, BWPG has just made it through their 18th annual event which took place at Washington, DC's beautiful Studio Theater. The evening was hosted by the incredible Sheryll Lee Ralph and played to packed houses both nights. The evenings were astounding and especailly powerful because there were no sets or costumes - so the audience left takling about the plays! Imagine that. AAPEX members Louise Gray and Stanice Anderson had pieces in the event. Gray's piece HOW JLO GOT HER BUTT had the audiene in stiches and Anderson' piece WALKING ON WATER WHEN THE GROUND AIN'T ENOUGH moved us to tears. Other members of BWPG who are also members of AAPEX are Lois Wiley and Joy Jones - and while, living in DC, these ladies may take this for granted, both the AAPEX members and most of the other women in attendance hold or have held significant potitions in the Federal Govenment, the DC metropolitan goverment, the DC board of education and the various DC area universities. Evans and her organization are a force to be seriously reckoned with and positioned to effect important changes in the way African American playwrights are viewed both in this country and internationally as we move into the future.
- AUDIENCE DEVELOPMENT SUGGETION I continue to be distressed at the absence of caucasians in the audiences of black theater. They don't know what they are missing & they really need to hear what these playwrights are saying. The difference between sitting in a largely white audience versus a largely black audience is the difference between going to Sunday School and going to a revival. So the next time you head out to see a play by an African American playwright, grab one of your friends who isn't African American and take them with you. Perhaps that will help change the attititude of major regional artistic directors and boards that plays by Africn American writers are a "Febrauary" thing. Speaking of which, a great time to come to Nashville will be this month for Barry Scott;s production of Jean Genet's THE BLACKS. Theater - it isn't just a New York thing anymore.