Thursday, June 30, 2011

Alicia Keys to produce Lydia R. Diamond's STICK FLY on Broadway

Diamond’s drama tells of an upscale African-American family that has a home on Martha’s Vineyard. One adult son is an affluent plastic surgeon, while the other is a not-yet-published novelist. Both bring their girlfriends for the weekend; that one is white will lead to complications.
The play will be staged by Kenny Leon, one of the comparatively few directors to have guided two Tony-winning revivals: “Fences” in 2010 and “A Raisin in the Sun” in 2004. He has yet to cast the show.
Previews begin November 18th with the opening scheduled for December 8th.
Please click the post's title to visit the "Stick Fly" website.

Monday, June 27, 2011



I thought that I would read Dr. Henry Miller's new book from cover to cover before writing a review, but I quickly discovered that THEORIZING BLACK THEATRE is not that kind of book.

THEORIZING BLACK THEATRE is the kind of book that you KEEP in your backpack and take out on the subway with pen in hand so you can take notes. Every couple of pages you will go over enough material to constitute an undergrad course in African American theatre and dramaturgy.

For instance, I have had the book for several months and have made it to Chapter 2, page 77. For every hour I have spent reading, I have spent 5 at the computer googling a whole new world of American theatre artists whose contributions have not been recognized in any theatre history book I have ever read. At this point, I am fixated on a playwright named Angelina Grimke (1805 - 1879) and her circle and the movement of African American dramaturgy from musicals to drama, as it is recognized in Grimke's anti-lynching drama RACHEL.

Theoretically, THEORIZING BLACK THEATRE is about the dialectic between Art & Propaganda in African American drama, but in pursuing this line of discourse, Dr. Miller gives us a whole new look at out country and begins to undo the damage that segregation has done to our historical perspective, especially as it is taught to us as students of American history and culture. Anyone who is fascinated with who we are needs to grab a copy of Dr. Miller's book & a pen and just get on the A train and read.

Jaz Dorsey
The African American Playwrights Exchange
Nashville, Tennessee

Please click the post's title to buy the book on

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Jamal Williams' play about Pearl Bailey ("Cooking With Pearl") opens July 13th (Harlem)

Jamal Williams

If you happen to be in New York around the middle of July, please come check Pearl out in the play, "Cooking With Pearl" which makes its world premiere on Wednesday July 13, 2011. The cast is a fabulous veteran group of actors. I hope everyone can make it to this limited run (12 shows over two weeks.) We have a fabulous cast and a perfect Harlem location at the Harlem School of the Arts Theatre. I'll be coming up from Atlanta to be present. Hope to see you there.

Jamal Williams

To learn more about The Harlem School of the Arts, please click the post's title.

Congratulations, Jamal!
AAPEX staff

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Book Review: Henry Miller's Theorizing Black Theatre

Please click to enlarge.

From the Spring 2011 edition of Broadside, the journal of the Theatre Library Association. To learn more about the TLA, please click the post's title.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

AAPEX Interview: Calvin Ramsey and THE GREEN BOOK

or Google This!
For me, AAPEX (The African American Playwrights Exchange) has been a history lesson rooted deep in what historical philosophers call "revisionism." Since founding this network on January 1, 2007, I have been completely reeducated in American history by playwrights and the research they have done to bring the world a greater knowledge of the African American contribution to literature, journalism, business and the arts. From Phillis Wheatley to Hannah Elias to Madam C J Walker & Ida B. Wells to Amelita Boynton Robinson to Paul Robeson and Billie Holiday, I have found a new country.

The newest discovery to come on my radar - thanks to Atlanta Playwright
CALVIN RAMSEY - is an amazing publication that dates from 1936- 1964 - The Negro Motorists Green Book - a guidebook for safe and comfortable traveling during the era of segregation.

If you google
The Green Book, the first entry you will find is a facsimile of the 1949 edition.

If you keep on checking out entries, you will find again and again references to Ramsey and his play - THE GREEN BOOK - including a NY Times article about the staged reading of the play at Washington, D. C.'s Lincoln Theatre a couple of years back.

And if you can make it to
Atlanta on August 17th, you can join the gala audience when THE GREEN BOOK  opens at Atlanta's Theatrical Outfit.

I asked Mr. Ramsey to tell us something about himself and the journey to his play. This is what he had to say:

"My oldest brother was very involved in musical theatre and exposed me at an early age about the magic of theatre and the arts.

I always wanted to write from the age of six.   I knew that one day that I would write.

I have lived in California, Martha's Vineyard,  NYC, St. Croix and St.John of the Virgin Islands and now Atlanta. I was born in Baltimore Maryland and reared in Roxboro North Carolina. I had a rural and and urban upbringing spending nine years in both places. As I traveled, I observed and read a lot  - as Langston Hughes wrote, I wondered and wandered. My travels and different jobs helped season me as a writer. I drove cabs, bartended, bell hopped, farmed, sold advertising and insurance and painted houses.
The Green Book came into my life through little Tony,  a son of two of my friends who died in a traffic accident.  Little Tony's grandfather came down from NYC to attend the funeral and this was his first time in the deep south. He mentioned that he was looking for a Green Book.  I ASKED HIM WHAT WAS A GREEN BOOK AND FROM THERE I WAS ON MY WAY WITH MY RESEARCH. I dedicated my children's book "Ruth and the Green Book" to Little Tony and his family.
Atlanta as a theatre town has been very good to me; everyone's experience is different. I think its a good town for developing new work but a bit of a challenge of getting new work mounted."

Don't miss Calvin Ramsey's THE GREEN BOOK 

The Theatrical Outfit.
Please click the post's title to visit the website.

Come to Atlanta and Go to the Theatre!

Jaz Dorsey
The African American Playwrights Exchange

Friday, June 10, 2011

AAPEX's "Emerging Theatre of the Year 2011": New African Grove Theatre (Atlanta)

AAPEX is pleased to bring to your attention our "Emerging Theatre of the Year 2011" Atlanta's NEW AFRICAN GROVE THEATRE, Keith Franklin, founder & Artistic Director. 

In naming his company, Mr. Franklin references America's first African American Theatre, the African Grove Theatre, which was founded in 1821 by William Alexander Brown and James Hewlet in NYC. The company included famed Shakespearean actor Ira Aldridge, who eventually made his way to Europe and died in Poland. The African Grove Theatre was burned to the ground in 1826.

For more information about the theatre and its upcoming production 7 GUITARS, please click the post's title.

Jaz Dorsey
The African American Playwrights' Exchange

AAPEX Alert: LMDA Conference July 7-10th (Denver)

My colleague Chad Henry with the Denver Center Theatre Company has asked me to give a shout out to everyone about the upcoming LMDA Conference in Denver - to which all are invited and welcome, whether or not you are members of LMDA  (LMDA being Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas).

Please take a moment to check the conference out at  Click on events and then on 2011 Conference.

This year's topic is "The Dramaturg as Public Artist," which I think speaks very much to AAPEX and the work I have been doing over the past 4 years.

Also just had a marvelous time opening MRS. JOHN MARSH in Atlanta and connecting with our AAPEX community there.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Atlanta for Dramaturgs

My hometown of Atlanta, Ga. is a fascinating city bursting with theatre. After a 22 year absence, I returned home this past weekend for the opening of MRS. JOHN MARSH - Melita Easter's one woman show about GONE WITH THE WIND author Margaret Mitchell, starring Kandace Christian. ( for which I have served as dramaturg.

Being tied to the theatre trying to get the show up and running, I didn't have a chance to get around the city to check out the theatre scene for myself, but I did have the pleasure of hosting quite a few of my Atlanta playwright associates as our guests for the opening weekend performances. There was much gratifying talk about new play readings and development and working with dramaturgs.

On Friday, June 3, I was fortunate enough to hang out with
Hank Kimmel, one of the founders of Atlanta's Working Title Playwrights. Our theatre, The Ansley Park Playhouse, is located right next door to The Temple on Peachtree Street, known to most of us thanks to Alfred Uhry's DRIVING MISS DAISY. So Hank and I went to Temple and then to see the play together. Originally from New York, Hank is a member of Atlanta's growing crew of theatre folk who have moved from The Big Apple to The Big Peach.

Working Title Playwrights( has been on my radar for about 3 years, but the organization was formally initiated in 2003 and pretty much every one of my Atlanta playwright friends is either a current or past member. In addition to the expected role of giving playwrights a forum in which to develop their work, Working Title has become an amazing force for developing community in Atlanta theatre and for connecting Atlanta's non-theatre population to the joys of the "legitimate stage" I spent most of the weekend chatting with playwrights connected to Working Title, learning not only about their work but also the work of their friends and colleagues. Based on what I heard, I wouldn't be surprised if Atlanta's next major export is playwrights.

While Atlanta may never rival New York for the sheer number of theatres, it is still a wonderland of theatrical delights, boasting such long time companies as Theatrical Outfit, Horizon Theatre, Actors' Express, 7 Stages, Onion Man, True Colors and, most recently, The New African Grove Theatre - along with the internationally acclaimed Alliance Theatre, where I once worked briefly as Assistant to the Directors in the early 80's. Atlanta also boasts several fine university theatre departments including Georgia State, Emory and Oglethorpe. A great overview of Atlanta's companies can be found at

Atlanta's theatre companies are scattered across the city from Decatur to Marietta and even to Cumming, where my associate Mercury runs The Gypsy Theatre Company.

Back in the 1980s, Atlanta's acting community came together to form a group called Actors in Renaissance, which met on Saturday mornings on a monthly basis. Though A.I.R. eventually faded out, it's legacy is strong in the wonderful community of artists it birthed and the fantastic theatre companies which were born out of it's communions.

Two fascinating new works out of Atlanta that have hit my radar in recent times both come out of The Theatrical Outfit. These are Tom Key's adaptation of CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES of a year or so ago, and a new work which opens in August - THE GREEN BOOK by Calvin Ramsey. For those of you unfamiliar, "The Green Book" was a travel guide for African Americans published during the era of segregation. I have yet to read Ramsey's play but am intrigued to see how he approaches his subject.

One jewel of a venue on Peachtree Street is The Ansley Park Playhouse, where our production of MRS. JOHN MARSH runs until June 19th. Ansley Park is an absolute treasure of a 130 seat blackbox with an outstanding young staff lead by the amazing Stan Gentry. It is also home to Atlanta's longest running play, PEACHTREE BATTLE, which debuted just before 9/11 and resumes performances later this summer. The play is about the "Old Atlanta" street that I grew up on, Peachtree Battle Avenue. It' s slightly scandulous and reminds me of the days when I turned my grandmother's home into a Dramaturgy Center back in 1981 - much to the horror of the neighbors! Especially when we started rehearsals for an African version of ROMEO AND JULIET in the back yard!

PEACHTREE BATTLE's authors, John Gibson and Anthony Morris, have found the ultimate location for a Peachtree Street Theatre - right in the nook of a curve about a mile north of The Alliance, where Peachtree Street does a 90% angle on the journey from Mid-Town to Buckhead.

Speaking of Buckhead, 30 years ago I wrote a musical called MANHATTAN BLUES. The central character, Tallulah Buckhead, was an Atlanta deb who wanted to be an actress - NOT very Junior League - but Tallulah follows her dream and makes her mark, and if she were with us today (and maybe she is), I think this is what Tallulah would say about Atlanta:

When I'm dancing at The Shubert Theatre
I'm dancing on Broadway
And when I'm singing at The Shubert Theater
I'm singing on Broadway
But when I'm dancing on Peachtree Street
I'm still dancing on my Broadway feet:
I'm doing Broadway 
Where ever I go.

Come to Atlanta and Go to the Theatre!

Jaz Dorsey
www.mrsjohnmarsh. com

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

AAPEX Founder Jaz Dorsey does Margaret Mitchell this Friday, June 3rd (Atlanta)

Dramaturg Jaz Dorsey will join playwright Melita Easters and actress Kandace Christian this coming Friday evening at The Ansley Park Playhouse after the performance of Easter's MRS: JOHN MARSH - THE WORLD KNEW HER AS MARGARET MITCHELL.

Dorsey is a native of Atlanta, the grandson of Governor Hugh M. Dorsey and a great nephew of Cason Callaway, founder of Callaway Gardens outside of LaGrange, Gerogia. He did his undergraduate work in international studies at Chapel Hill and pioneered the graduate dramaturgy program at Virginia Commonwealth University. After leaving graduate school, he worked briefly as the assistant to the directors at The Alliance Theatre, From 1981 - 1989. Atlanta credits from those years include a "Best Supporting Actor Award" from the AJC, thanks to Director Carey Bynum, designing the set for JACQUES BREL IS ALIVE AND WELL for Director Greg Abbot at Georgia Tech and producing Strindberg's MISS JULIE in conjunction with the royal visit of the King & Queen of Sweden to Atlanta.

Dorsey is also the author of a collection of musicals set in Atlanta, including CAFE ESCARGOT, MANHATTAN BLUES, ALICE IN AMERICA, BABBLEHAGGLE & VAN DR BICH and DON'T ASK/DON'T TELL, all of which have enjoyed popular cabaret runs in NYC.
ALICE IN AMERICA, which was first produced in conjunction with Geroge Lawes at The Performance Garage, was made into a film by Broadway producer Bonnie Comley. Lawes also starred with Janet Metzger as Grant Park and Tallulah Buckhead in a mid 80's version of MANHATTAN BLUES titled DESTINY CALLS COLLECT.

From 1990 - 1997, Dorsey served as production manager in the New York office of Biggs Rosati Productions, sending out bi-lingual productions of French and Spanish classics to high schools across the United States. He also collaborated as composer and lyricist on several of these bi-lingual shows.

In 1999, NELLIE, a musical about America's first female investigative journalist, was produced at The Lamb's Theatre on Times Square, with book by Bernice Lee, music by Jaz Dorsey and lyrics by Dorsey and Lee.

Since 2000, Dorsey has lived in Nashville, Tennessee and is proud to be a part of one of the most exciting theatre communities in history. He is also the 2011 Director of Education for The Southern Appalachian International Film Festival (www.soapiff. com) which is where he first met Melita Easters and learned of MRS. JOHN MARSH.

He is also the founder/dramatug of The African American Playwrights Exchange. 

Dorsey is excited to be joining the author and the star of MRS. JOHN MARSH to share with everyone our incredible journey on the road to Atlanta, including a year of readings in New York & Nashville and the play's journey to The Margaret Mitchell Symposium at the University of Georgia on May 7 of this year, where an audience full of authors of books about Margaret Mitchell gave Kandace Christian an instant standing ovation for her performance of MRS. JOHN MARSH.