Stephen Byrd, Nelle Nugent and Woodie King Jr. head the powerhouse lineup of panelists tonight for TRU's "Coloring the Great White Way: Bringing Diversity to Commercial Theater."
Panelists to include producer Stephen Byrd (upcoming A Streetcar Named Desire, '08 revival Cat on a Hot Tin Roof); Kamilah Forbes, artistic director of the Hip-Hop Theatre Festival, director (Def Poetry Jam on Broadway); Woodie King Jr., artistic director of New Federal Theatre (What the Wine Sellers Buy, For Colored Girls..., Checkmates); producer Nelle Nugent (Stick Fly, Ghetto Klown, Time Stands Still, ...Nicholas Nickleby); Donna Walker-Kuhne of Walker International Communications; and Melissa Marano, Senior Client Account Executive at aka Promotions (Jerusalem, The MotherF*er With The Hat, Billy Elliot, Stick Fly, A Streetcar Named Desire).
Have we made any significant progress in bringing diversity into commercial theater? Is there an audience to support the work, and how do we tap into that audience? How can we help along the process? Even commercial plays with tremendous crossover appeal, such as "Stick Fly" and "Radio Golf", have not managed to succeed as well as we might hope. How do we build a culturally diverse audience that can truly support works like these? Might cultivating producers of color help generate players who have a vested interest in bringing more culturally diverse works into commercial production? And can we do it without compromising the integrity of diverse voices in order to make them more palatable to the white mainstream?
Doors open at 7:00pm for networking and refreshments, panel starts promptly at 7:30pm. FREE for TRU members; $12 for non-members. Please call for reservations: 212/714-7628; or e-mail TRUnltd@aol.com before 5pm today (Wednesday)
The Players Theatre, 115 Macdougal Street, 3rd floor
Please click the post's title to visit TRU's website. TRU Current Panels & Events truonline.org
The African American Playwrights Exchange (AAPEX) is pleased recognize two extraordinary ladies of the Washington, DC theatre community - Jacqueline Lawton and Jewell Robinson - for their contribution to African American theatre history in the form of a stage piece about Ira Aldridge: The African Roscius. Robinson, who is the Director of Public Projects for the National Portrait Gallery at The Smithsonian, commissioned Lawton to develop the piece from Aldridge's letters. In addition, Robinson has portrayed Aldridge's daughter in performances which have featured renowned Shakespearean actor Avery Brooks in the role of Ira Aldridge.
To learn more about this pair and their collaboration on the play, please click the post's title.
Washington DC based freelance dramaturg Jacqueline Lawton has had the kind of career that might make up many a dramaturg's fantasies and daydreams. Her artistic and administrative adventures in our nation's capital have allowed her to work with such legendary theatre companies as Woolly Mammoth, Arena Stage, African Continuum Theatre, Theater of the First Amendment, and the John F.Kennedy Center, to name but a few. She lists some 30 productions on which she has served as production and new play development dramaturg over the past decade, and from the stunning spectrum of activities on her CV, she is also clearly a serious force in the DC theatre community.
In addition to that, I have discovered that as a playwright Jacqueline has made a major contribution to the materials that we so urgently need to investigate and better understand the history of the African American contribution to the theatre.
Thanks to another fabulous DC lady, Jewell Robinson, who is the Director of Public Programs at The National Portrait Gallery, Jacqueline was commissioned to create a work for the stage based on the life of 19th century Shakespearean actor Ira Aldridge, who rose from the ashes of the African Grove Theatre to an astounding career that made him a sensation in England and Europe and ended with his death in Poland.
AAPEX will have more to say about Aldridge, who we choose as our muse for 2012, but right now I'd like to introduce everyone to Jacqueline Lawton:
What role did theatre and the arts play in your childhood and upbringing? Theater and the arts have always been a part of my life thanks to my mother’s love of MGM movie musicals. Amazing artists like Judy Garland, Gene Kelly,Debbie Reynolds, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Bing Crosby, and Danny Kaye taught me the ins and outs of show business. I’d watch these movies over and over again. I learned the songs, dance steps, and dreamed of one day becoming a performer. I read Shakespeare before I learned it was hard to read. I wrote plays to entertain my family, especially my younger sister. Also, my mother had these amazing craft books. My sister and I made decorations, puppets, and costumes based on different holidays, fairy tales, and traditions. We didn’t dress up for Halloween, but a part of our Thanksgiving tradition was to make costumes, sing made-up songs and act out little made-up plays. In elementary school, we took field trips to see plays at the local civic center. The first professional play I remember seeing was Jack and the Beanstalk. I fell in love with the Harp. My family remains incredibly supportive of my theater career.
Tell us about your own evolution as an artist. In Junior High and High School, I continued to write and found opportunities to perform through UIL Poetry Interpretation and One Act Play Competitions. In college and graduate school at the University of Texas at Austin, I studied theater, playwriting, solo performance, performance studies and screenwriting with Amparo Garcia Crow, Jill Dolan, Fran Dorn, Ruth Margraff, and Suzan Zeder. Each of these women encouraged me to find my voice and tell my stories. I was also a part of The Austin Project, a writing group comprised of women artists, activists,and scholars and led by Sharon Bridgforth and Joni Jones. It was a deeply profound and lasting experience that taught me how theater could be used as a tool for social justice. During grad school, I traveled to Europe (Dublin, Ireland and Venice, Italy) to write and participated in the Kennedy Center’s Playwrights’ Intensive (2002) and World Interplay (2003). At the Kennedy Center, I met the fabulous Gregg Henry and a whole slew of professional directors, designers, actors, and playwrights. From them, I learned firsthand what was possible for me. At World Interplay, I was introduced to performance styles and traditions from around the world. It was amazing and cracked opened my world view! After graduating with an MFA in Playwriting in 2003, I made my way to the east coast seeking adventure and wanting to be a part of an artistic community. In 2005, I did an internship in Literary Management and Dramaturgy at Woolly Mammoth Theater Company and learned how to be a dramaturg from Mary Resing. From there, I worked at the Folger Shakespeare Library and Arena Stage, where I began working as a teaching artist. As far as who I'll be in the future, I see myself growing, traveling and pushing myself beyond who I am right now. I envision myself prolific, writing plays and continuing to work in the theatre, contributing to the magic that happens in every performance.
When and how did you discover Ira Aldridge and what has your journey with him been? Ira Aldridge is a much lauded and highly celebrated 19th century Shakespearean actor. He was born in America in 1807 and began performing at the African Grove Theatre. In 1833, he made his London stage debut, toured all over Europe and Russia, and is the only black stage actor honored with a bronze plaque at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre at Stratford-upon-Avon. He is an absolute legend. However, very little is known about him, owing to racial prejudice of the time period. I was first introduced to Ira Aldridge in college and learned more when I began teaching at Montgomery College and the University of the District of Columbia. Then, in the spring of 2010, Jewell Robinson, the Director of Public Programs for the National Portrait Gallery (NPG), commissioned me to write a play about Ira Aldridge for NPG’s Culture in Motion Series*. I give great thanks to director and playwright, Jennifer L. Nelson, who recommended me for the gig! With Ira Aldridge: The African Roscius, I chose to the tell Aldridge’s story from the point of view of his daughter, Amanda, who was a professional singer,composer and teacher. Ira Aldridge died before she was born, so all she had of him were diary entries, photographs, theater reviews, his guitar, and letters. My absolutely favorite letter was written to Ira from his son, Ira Daniel, an excerpt of which reads: “My Dear Papa, - Mamma is not very well today. Dr. Popham was here on Monday last to see her. We are very dull without you. Mamma and I send our best love and kisses, and I remain your affectionate son, Ira Daniel Aldridge" The post script, which always touches my heart, reads: "I send kisses for you, Papa. Send us some, don’t forget.” It’s a remarkable story of a great man who began his life as a poor boy from Lower Manhattan and emerged as one of the world’s finest artists. Avery Brooks, a celebrated Shakespearean actor in his own right, played Ira Aldridge and Jewell Robinson played his daughter Amanda Aldridge. The play was presented twice at the National Portrait Gallery in collaboration with the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Recently, it was presented as part of the Savannah Black Heritage Festival at Armstrong Atlantic State University. My hope is that we can continue presenting it at colleges and universities throughout the Unites States.
What are your thoughts on DC as a theatre town? DC is a diverse, talented, vibrant, and passionate theater town! Yes, we struggle with sustaining funding for our artistic institutions as other cities have in this current economy. We struggle with presenting racial and gender parity on our stages. We struggle as local playwrights to see our plays staged.Yet, for all that, I've been working nonstop since moving here in 2006. I’ve worked as a freelance dramaturg, playwright and teaching artist and even as an actor, director and producer on occasion. As playwrights, we’re surrounded by brilliant and ambitious theater artists and arts administrators who are committed to working on new plays. For instance, in 2008, Active Cultures, a Maryland based company that creates locally-based worked for a multicultural and multigenerational audience, commissioned and produced my play Mad Breed. The next year, under the auspices of the Hegira, I produced a workshop production of Anna K as part of Round House Theatre's Silver Spring Series and co-produced Deep Belly Beautiful as part of the Mead Theater Lab at Flashpoint. Last year, my play, Love Brothers Serenade, received a reading at the Kennedy Center's annual Page-to-Stage new play festival and then received a workshop and reading at Howard University. This year, Theater J, one of the nation's premiere Jewish theater companies, commissioned me to write, The Hampton Years as part of their Locally Grown Festival. What's more, the audiences in DC are diverse, savvy and intellectual; where better to grow and develop your plays! Living here for the past 8 years has been an amazing experience!
*Ira Aldridge:The African Roscius was commissioned by the Cultures in Motion Program of the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. The Portrait Gallery tells American history through the individuals who have built our national culture, using the visual arts, the performing arts and the new media. Established by an act of Congress in 1962, the Portrait Gallery opened to the public in 1968. The museum’s collection of more than 20,000 works ranges from paintings and sculpture to photographs and drawings. Cultures in Motion is the National Portrait Gallery’s performing arts series. Broad in scope, the series is designed to educate, entertain, and promote mutual understanding of the diverse cultures that make up both the NPG collection and the mosaic of American heritage. The series uses the medium of portrayal to interpret the lives of the sitter via theater, music, and the literary and visual arts. The script for Ira Aldridge: The African Roscius was commissioned by the Marc Pachter Fund for Commissioning and was originally produced in collaboration with the National Museum of African American History and Culture. As Director of Public Programs at the National Portrait Gallery, Jewell Robinson conceives, writes, produces, and occasionally performs in the Cultures in Motion series, where in her twenty year tenure she has produced over 100 original programs about the sitters in the Portrait Gallery collection. A professional actress, Robinson has worked in New York, Japan, and at virtually every professional theater in the Washington region. She has received three Helen Hayes nominationsfor her work as an actress; in 2001 she received the Helen Hayes Award for her work in the Arena Stage production of Blue and New York’s Audelco Award for the Grammercy Theatre’s (Roundabout) production of the same show. In addition to being a recipient of the Mary Goldwater award for the body of her work as an actress, she is also the proud recipient of an honorary doctor of humane letters degree from her alma mater, Goucher College, for her contributions to the arts and her efforts in furthering diversity in American society, and is the honoree at Goucher’s annual Jewell Robinson Dinner.
Portrait of Ira Aldridge as Othello (c. 1830) by Henry Perronet Briggs,courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery.
To learn more about the National Portrait Gallery, please click the post's title.
The Foreign Language Acting Group is proud to recognize Haitian born multi-talented and mulit-lingual actor/singer/model Max Désir as our Artist of the Year for 2012. Max joins the cast of Circle Playersproduction of TITANIC in the role of Joseph Laroche, which runs at TPAC April 5th - 8th.
I asked Max to tell us about himself and his work, and here is what he has to say:
What role did theatre and the arts play in your childhood and upbringing? Growing up in my childhood church in Haiti, theater and the arts were dormant in my life due to the fact that I was taught that I couldn’t be a Godly man and an entertainer at the same time. I was taught the two were opposites, so I suppressed my innate ability to create a reality that alters life through possibly one of the most transforming apparatuses on earth, the arts. I remember watching movies as a child and reiterating lines and facial expressions of actors as I got to the parts I really liked. As an adolescent, the mirror became my best friend not because I was practicing modeling faces, which became part of my career, but because I wanted to see how convincing and mesmerizing I can be as an actor. Interestingly enough, I still practice in the mirror nowadays
Tell us about your own evolution as an artist. After years of suppressing my ability as an actor, in 2005 my university (Medgar Evers College CUNY) held auditions for a short film featuring Danny Glover and I landed my first supporting role. Landing that role gave me the confidence and the audacity that I needed to embark on my journey an actor. From that point on, I took continuous classes, workshops and voice lessons. I partook in a lot of student and Independent films, theatrical works, commercials, voiceovers, modeling in different cities.
What brought you to Nashville and what are your "Nashville" objectives? In 2006, I went to Las Vegas to compete in a nationwide acting/modeling/singing competition called Talent Rock founded by Lou Pearlman. I won in some categories, and received a few offers from agencies. One of these offers came from a Nashville agent. Ever since then, I have been moving between New York and Nashville looking for gigs. Nashville has been very good to my career and has built my resume in more ways than one. I hope to continue to grow as an actor in Nashville whether it is in theater or film and hope to create a triangular relationship between Nashville, New York and Los Angeles. I am also looking forward to working together with my fellow actor, business partner, and friend Stanley Louis as we periodically merge my production company, S.T.A.R. Productions, which stands for Spiritually Renewed And Trained Productions with his all inclusive videography/photography company, imagesProductions to put together independent films, commercials, and original stage plays within the community and abroad.
What are your thoughts on Circle Players and the work they do? I became familiar and active with Circle Players back in October 2010 when I landed my audition with them for the role of George in “Raisin in the Sun.” From that point forward, it has been an exciting ride working with them. Being the oldest community theater in Nashville, Circle Players stands on its own as a pivotal force in the community. As now a proud member of the board of directors, I count it an honor to be part of an organization that keeps on reaching new heights. As I learn about the history of Circle Players, I have noticed that it is becoming stronger and better than ever before under the leadership of its President Tim Larson and Vice President LaTonya Turner, who exemplify the caliber of the board as a whole. Each board member brings their own artistic historical background that contributes toward the steps forward that Circle Players is taking. And now we are daring enough to embark on this current audacious journey where we are having a Broadway quality production of “Titanic, the Musical” at TPAC April 5th through the 8th for the one weekend only. It is also worth mentioning that Circle Players will make history as they feature the only black passenger on the Titanic (Joseph Laroche) whom I will have the honor of playing. The Laroche family has quite a fascinating story and the director and producer of the show thought it was worth featuring in the musical. Circle Players also reaches out to the youth in our community by having workshops that focus on refining their abilities as young performers.
Career wise, what's on your to do list now? I have quite a few things on my list due to the eccentricity of abilities I’ve been blessed with in my life. The more immediate ones happen this summer 2012; I have a few short film projects lined up and am shooting potential commercial ideas on dvd to submit to big corporations. I hope to hit a music studio by end of summer to start working on a Worship CD in Creole/French and English. I’m working on finishing my first motivational/inspirational book “Just Like a Tree” by the beginning of 2013 and last but certainly not least I will start traveling the country again on certain weekends to churches and other organizations as a traveling evangelist and amotivational/inspirational speaker. I’m just going to stay busy and prepare myself in and out for bigger things.
Don't miss Max and the other fine actors of the cast of Circle Players TITANIC at TPAC April 5 - 8.
To learn more about the Circle Players, please click the post's title.
The Nashville Songwriters Association has invited me to give a workshop on writing musicals, which is pretty cool. Here's an example of what I've done in the past: EXTRAORDINARY WAITER is from my "Songs from the Cafe Escargot." It features Tony Domenico and Pam MacQuarry. I'm banging on the piano off-stage.
Thirty four years ago I was a fairly happy fellow, in a wonderful relationship with a home, a dog, a job as a librarian at The University of North Carolina and a newly earned degree from UNC- Chapel Hill in International Studies - something of a surprise to myself and my family, as I had graduated high school from a North Carolina state mental institution, where my mother had put me when it was clear that I was determined to "grow up to be an actor."
I also had a mentor.
His name was Richard Thomas Pike and at the time our relationship began, he was the head of the theatrical design curriculum at Chapel Hill- though he was shortly to transfer to Virginia Common- wealth University.
When I had gotten into Chapel Hill, the three years of institutionalization had had somewhat the desired effect and I hadn't taken a single theatre course of any kind - up until my very last semester when, figuring that no one was looking, I took Rick's Theatre History course. However, almost all of my German, French and English classes had focused on dramatic literature and during my year of study on scholarship at the University of Göttingen in West Germany, I had had many friends - including a couple of dramaturgs - in theatres around Germany.
Two weeks into the course, Rick took me aside, told me I was a dramaturg and hired me as his assistant. I was 25 years old.
My first assignment was to dramaturg the heraldry for RICHARD III.
I went to the library and found an awesome book called SHAKESPEARE'S HERALDRY, did tracings of the relevant material and took them back to Rick, who, for a minute, thought I was some kind of genius. Then I showed him the book.
The next thing I knew, we were sitting in the Gramercy Park hotel in NYC and running around the garment district buying materials for the costumes for a production of RICHARD III at the Asolo Theatre in Florida. Not long after that we were on the Army base in Ft. Bragg, NC, building the set for an Army production of CAROUSEL.
That fall, Rick transferred to Theatre VCU, at that time under the Chairmanship of Dr. Kenneth Campbell. The department had decided to create a graduate dramaturgy program, but there was a problem - no students. They needed at least one to keep the program from folding. I fit the bill, so in spite of all my family's efforts to keep me from going there, I suddenly embarked on what has proved to be an exciting but also extremely disturbing career path in the theatre - as a dramaturg. Disturbing because of (sorry, there is no other word) all the bullshit that plagues the American theatre, including some very evil people. For some disturbing reason, these are also frequently among the most successful people.
This is where I think that the 3 years in the nuthouse actually served me well - I was used to the society of lunatics and sociopaths, but in the context of group therapy, which equipped me with some of the skills needed to identify and protect myself against them.
34 years later, as I stop and assess where this journey has taken me, I find that only about 25% of my time and career have been devoted to tasks that fit the dramaturgical profile - doing production research and working with playwrights - and in those roles I have never been paid. My 2 actual paying theatre jobs - a brief stint as the assistant to the directors at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta in 1980 and seven years as production manager in the NYC offices of Biggs Rosati Productions, 1990 - 1997 - were not dramaturgical positions per se.
The truth is, there are very few paying jobs for dramaturgs and quite frankly I do not have the temperament to sit in a corner and take a back seat to anyone, which is pretty much what dramaturgs are - or have been - expected to do. So I have spent most of the past 34 years doing what you might call "pro bono" work from setting up an Actors' Reading Room at The Atlanta Public Library in 1981 ( a dismal failure) to founding The African American Playwrights Exchange in 2007 to coordinating a new play reading series for the Metro Nashville Parks Theatre Department, which kicked off in September of 2011.
In the course of all this, I have served "as" many different things. These include:
Revolutionary Songwriter Diplomat Professor Audience Development Adviser Publicist Understudy Playwright/Composer Accountant Therapist Acting Coach Vocal Coach Linguist Director Producer Fund Raiser Film Festival Administrator Casting Director Critic/Journalist Set & Costume Designer and Volunteer
I don't for a minute think that this inventory of dramaturgical roles is unique to me; in fact, I'm pretty sure that diversification of this kind is one of the trademarks of dramaturgy.
Over the past 30 years, the dramaturgical presence has grown tremendously in North America. There is a wonderful professional organization known as the LMDA - www.lmda.org - which connects dramaturgs and literary managers from all parts of the continent, and these days having a dramaturg on board is a source of pride and prestige.
But people can still look at you funny when you use the word dramaturg, and I've been subjected to some interesting permutations of the word, from "drama-turkey" to, well, use your imagination.
From the folks who brought us the Nashville Premiere of BLOODY, BLOODY ANDREW JACKSON (and they said it wouldn't play in Nashville!) - get ready for another compelling theatrical experience, as the Student Theatre Guild of The University School of Nashville prepares to confront us with their interpretation of THE LARAMIE PROJECT.
If you're not familiar with the play, it's worth a Google.
15 young actors will portray 60 different characters under the direction of USN senior Hannah Baker.
It is no surprise that these young artists are ready to take on this intense retelling of the murder of Matthew Sheppard and it's backlash on the town of Laramie, Wyoming, given that they are studying under such brilliant mentors as Catherine Coke and Jim Manning. But the choice of this script was strictly the students', who felt that the play was timely in light of all the attention that is given to bullying, teen suicide and gay marriages at this moment in our culture's history.
Recent productions of BBAJ and CABARET were the work of the theatre department, but this time out the producers are those students who make up the Student Theatre Guild, which is technically one of the school's clubs and entirely run by students. Hannah Baker, who directs LARAMIE, is the guild president and Sam Douglas, who really rocked last year as Andrew Jackson, is the vice president. Both are seniors.
The guild meets every Wednesday, either to work on their own productions or to discuss the theatre scene in Nashville and - most highly admirable - they support the theatrical productions at other area high schools, such as Harpeth Hall and Montgomery Bell. I would strongly suggest that local producers - especially filmmakers - join them on some of these theatre trips to check out the incredible teen talent that is being nurtured in Nashville's institutions of learning, including both our fine high school and university programs which are preparing the next generation of actors and associated talents for the future of the Acting Industries in our country.
The Student Theatre Guild also produces annually both a showcase and a scene night. Out of 400 students, 60 participated in the most recent scene night as actors, and another 10 as directors. That reflects a lot of interest in stage work. Training at USN also includes playwrighting and technical studies, and offers independent studies based on individual interests.
Performances @ $5.00 a ticket are Thursday, March 29 at 5:00 pm then at 7:00 pm on that Friday and Saturday. The address is 2000 Edgehill Avenue at the corner of 21st Ave. South and parking is in the 19th Ave. lot.
A closing observation: there is no such thing as a "student actor" - there are only actors who are studying, and it has been my experience with actors, real actors, that they are ALWAYS studying.
To learn more about this great school, please click the post's title.
When I was a little boy growing up in my grandmother's home at 99 Peachtree Battle Avenue down in Atlanta, Georgia, spending my afternoons listening to the lp vinyl recordings of the soundtracks of the great Hollywood versions of the great Broadway musicals, I had no idea that I would grow up to be...
And when I became a dramaturg, how could I imagine that my own dark and troubled family history would come back to me in the form of a play and an opportunity to "do the dramaturgy" on a production of that play.
Most of y'all know Alfred Uhry - certainly for DRIVING MISS DAISY and LAST NIGHT OF BALLYHOO.
Now you're about to learn about PARADE from my point of view. PARADE is Uhry's musical about the trial and lynching of Leo Frank.
My family sat on both sides of the trial table on this wretched miscarriage of justice. My Grandfather, Hugh Manson Dorsey, was Leo's prosecutor. Another nearly related gentleman, Luther Rosser, was Leo's defense attorney. I'm not quite sure how Luther is related - just that we used to call him "Uncle Luther" when I was growing up and the adults were having cocktails.
My grandfather went on to become the Governor of Georgia - 1917 - 1921- because of the fame that the trial brought him.
That was after Leo Frank was lynched.
Strange subject for a musical. I certainly felt that way when I saw it in New York at the end of the last century, sitting there watching my grandfather sing, dance and prosecute Leo Frank.
Leo was exonerated about 50 years later when another man confessed to the murder of "little Mary Phagan".
Well, as Kurt Vonnegut says in one of his novels - so it goes.
The Boiler Room Theatre in Franklin, Tennessee, has a production of PARADE coming up in the fall. Between now and then, Jamey Green and his crew have some other cool stuff going on. You can check 'em out by clicking the post's title.
Come to Nashville - no, make that Franklin - and Go to the Theatre.
Last year, Florida playwright Anthony Lamar White contacted The African American Playwrights Exchange about his script CALMING THE MAN - a hard hitting play about manhood that offers some unusually demanding challenges for actors of the male persuasion.
I was delighted when Anthony contacted me to let me know that Atlanta's New African Grove Theatre was gong to give the play a read on March 17 at The Southwest Art Center. I hope the theatre will keep track of the feedback because I would love to hear what an audience says in response to Anthony's jarring look at fathers and sons.
I asked Anthony about himself and his play and here is what he has to say:
What role did theatre and the arts play in your childhood and upbringing? I was born a writer. I say that because I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. Before I learned to read and write, I knew how to tell a story. My mother and grandmother encouraged my writing by buying me a typewriter for Christmas when I was nine. By then I was writing short stories, poems, and songs. However, during sixth grade, my class put on a Bicentennial play and I was cast as a letter in the word “History”. That’s when I fell in love with theatre and first tried my hand at writing a Christmas play for my church’s youth group. It was a smashing success. Later, during my senior year of high school, I was attending the National 4-H Conference in Washington, D.C. and happened to be in the audience during screen legend Katherine Hepburn’s performance in the play,Westside Waltz. What made this even more unforgettable was my English honors class had read “On Golden Pond” and went to see the movie. And, this performance was the same week she won the Academy Award for Best Actress for “On Golden Pond." I've been aiming for Broadway since then.
There wasn't a community theatre or live theatre in my community, so I started a community theatre group in my hometown, Perry, Fla., during the late 1980s / early 1990s, and continued writing plays for the group to perform. In 1999-2000, I wrote the initial version of my stageplay, Calming The Man. The play was well-received, even selected to be part of the 2001 National Black Theatre Festival’s Readers Theatre of New Works. However, shortly after that my mother became extremely ill and I became her full-time caretaker. I put the play aside and did not pull it back out until a year ago. I spent a couple of months revising the play, and the staged reading by the New African Grove Theatre group will begin the play’s second phase.
Tell us about your own evolution as an artist. I consider what I do as art because I was inspired to write by great artists like Toni Morrison, August Wilson, James Baldwin, and Sidney Poitier. Oh, and seeing Diana Ross in Lady Sings The Blues turned me into a screenwriter. I’m a playwright, novelist, screenwriter, songwriter, and journalist who loves what he does. And that is write. I can’t say that I have a preference when it comes to the medium I write for. I usually let the story decide how it should be told. My play, Calming the Man, was begging to be told first-hand as only live theatre could do. While the story behind my novel, The Pages We Forget, needed to be unveiled slowly, layer by layer, chapter by chapter.
If I had to find one problem with my writing, it would be the writing process. I wish I could devote myself to working on and completing one project at a time, but I can't. Right now, I'm working on my next play, a romantic suspense drama, Vampire, which does not contain any "real, fanged" vampires. Or does it? I'm also completing my next novel. And, revising a screenplay. But still, I think I've grown considerably as an artist, but I don't think I'm nowhere near where I would like to go with my craft.
What inspired you to write CALMING THE MAN? CALMING THE MAN is deeply personal to me. It was inspired by the life and drama that one of my close friends endured while growing up. This is not his story, but he inspired the main character, Tracey, a young man who wants so desperately to win the love of his father, Daddyo, a man who could not and would not allow himself to love his son. Daddyo was a product of the pre-Civil Rights era, and it shows in the way he responds to his family and the people around him. Daddyo has been bleeding inside his entire life, but still, he blames his son Tracey for inflicting his deepest wound. My friend was very much like Tracey. And, like Tracey, his desperation for his father's affection led to some tragic events.
Calming The Man is an award-winning stageplay about the self-destructive anger that destroys so many young men - young Black men in particular. It's a story about the inherent anger passed down from generations of African-American fathers to their sons.
***The stageplay was chosen to premiere at the 2001 National Black Theatre Festival Reader's Theatre of New Works. ***Top-5 finalist in the 2001 Theodore Ward National African-American Playwriting Contest sponsored by Columbia College (Chicago) ***Top-5 finalist in the 2001 Wichita State University National Playwriting Contest ***Received a development grant from the Pilgrim Project Foundation (NYC) in December 2001 - a foundation that funds projects promoting Christian values; ***Premiered in NYC in May 2002 as a staged reading by the Oberon Theatre Ensemble (off-off Broadway); ***Awarded a development grant in 2000 by B.E.A.M., which is sponsored by Jim Beam Corp
What are the date, time and location of the Atlanta reading? Atlanta's New African Grove Theatre under the direction of Keith Franklin will perform a staged reading of Calming The Man on:
Seeking Play Submissions for Summer Festival! (New York)
Date: 2012-03-06, 10:26PM EST Reply to: firstname.lastname@example.org [Errors when replying to ads?]
Catch A Clover Productions LLC is proud to announce our 2012 project- Morphology: From Script to Stage. We are inviting you to participate in the creative evolution that occurs when a script transforms from words to life.
We are currently accepting submissions of unpublished plays that have yet to be produced. We are accepting both full lengths and one acts.
We will be producing multiple plays spanning two weekends in July. The rehearsal process will occur throughout the month of June. When chosen, the playwright will be encouraged to sit in on rehearsals (this is not a requirement) in an effort to form a creative playground in which the playwright will benefit from the prospective of fellow artists.
Don't live in the New York area? Not a problem! We would still love to hear from you regardless of whether you are able to come to rehearsals!
To submit a play please send us a cover letter as well as a 10 page excerpt to email@example.com. We will be accepting submissions from now until March 20th. The winning works will be announced April 1st. Feel free to check us out at catchaclover.org for more information on our company.
We look forward to reading your work! Good luck!
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