As part of our commitment as a company to find new ways to amplify the voices and the incredible work of BIPOC theatremakers, we have created a new segment on The Intermission Show highlighting noteworthy playwrights and their plays. We have also created this webpage so that you can read and learn along with us. Every Friday on the show, we’ll feature a new playwright and update this page with more information for your edification and enjoyment. Learn with us!
Anna Deavere Smith
Friday, December 18, 2020
View Episode #70 HERE
Anna Deavere Smith is an actress, playwright, teacher, and award-winning author. Looking at current events from multiple points of view, Smith’s plays and performances combine the journalistic technique of interviewing her subjects with the art of interpreting their words through performance. In 2012, President Obama awarded her the National Endowment for the Humanities Medal. Smith is the founding director of the Institute on the Arts and Civic Dialogue at New York University, where she is also University Professor at Tisch School of the Arts.
Other notable works include: Fires In the Mirror, Twilight: Los Angeles, House Arrest, Let Me Down Easy.
NOTES FROM THE FIELD
NOTES FROM THE FIELD is Anna Deavere Smith’s most recent work. The play looks at the vulnerability of youth, inequality, the criminal justice system, and contemporary activism. The New York Times named the stage version of Notes from the Field among The Best Theater of 2016 and Time magazine named it one of the Top 10 Plays of the year. HBO premiered the film version in February 2018.
Based on real accounts from students, parents, and faculty, this one-woman show spotlights the stories of those caught in America’s school-to-prison pipeline. Notes from the Field investigates a justice system that funnels young people from poor communities into the ubiquitous prison industrial complex. Inspired by over two hundred and fifty interviews with people living within this system, Smith’s documentary piece both fosters awareness and galvanizes audiences to seek tangible change.
Written in 2015. First presented by Berkeley Repertory Theatre, before touring and being adapted into a television move.
“…wonderfully energizing… Ms. Smith draws us into an ever-mutating, ever-expanding discussion. What the discrete people she brings to life here have in common is an awareness of the existential trap into which ethnic minorities fall in this country, often irretrievably. …[Smith] wants to leave us with a spark of hope… It seems…safe to say, though, that she also wants us to leave angry, and restless, and aware that the conversation being conducted isn’t anywhere near completion.” —NY Times
“…audacious and mind-opening… [Smith’s] probing intelligence and fair-mindedness retain a tangible presence, assembling the monologues like puzzle pieces to form a larger picture… the playwright-performer holds out for the possibility of positive change through a combination of compassion, resources and discipline. She holds her subjects in a tough but loving embrace.” —Time Out NY
“In NOTES FROM THE FIELD, Anna Deavere Smith has created one of her most ambitious and powerful works… stunning… [The play] leaves audiences with the echoes of unforgettable voices caught in a truly rigged system.” —Variety
Purchase your copy of this play HERE.
SLO REP’s Diverse Voices in Theatre initiative and other programs have been underwritten by a generous grant provided by the City of San Luis Obispo through the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force.
Additional DEI sponsorship funding has been provided by:
Playwrights featured on previous Intermission Shows
Friday, December 11, 2020
View Episode #69 HERE
Quiara Alegría Hudes (born 1977) is an American playwright, lyricist and essayist. She is best known for writing the book for the musical In the Heights. Her play Elliot, A Soldier’s Fugue was a finalist for the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. She won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for her play Water by the Spoonful. Originally trained as a composer, Hudes writes at the intersection of music and drama. She has collaborated with renowned musicians including Nelson Gonzalez, Michel Carmilo, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Erin McKeown, and The Cleveland Orchestra. Hudes recently founded Emancipated Stories. It seeks to put a personal face on mass incarceration by having inmates share one page of their life story with the world.
WATER BY THE SPOONFUL
In a far corner of the internet, moderator “Haikumom” (aka Odessa Ortiz) leads a chat room for recovering drug addicts, From behind their screens, these individuals who might never encounter each other in real life — a student, an IRS-pusher, and a financier– forge a bond as strong as blood. Off the computer, however, in a Puerto Rican neighborhood in North Philly, Odessa Ortiz’s real-life family is falling apart. Water By the Spoonful is a powerful, compassionate look at the meaning of family, and the burdens we must carry to protect it
The play was commissioned by Hartford Stage as part of Hudes’ 2008-2009 Aetna New Voices Fellowship, debuted at Hartford Stage in October 2011. The play premiered off-Broadway at the Second Stage Theatre in 2012.
“A complete and satisfying work…A quartet of wounded yet fiercely bright characters who are trying to stay sober communicate over the internet. Those who feel the web is a cold connection may change their opinion after they see the very hot limbo in which these characters live and interact…This is a very funny, warm, and, yes, uplifting play with characters that are vivid, vital, and who stay with you long after the play is over.” —The Hartford Courant
“Everyone in the play is living day to day—or spoonful by spoonful, to echo Hudes’ poignant metaphor—enabled, hindered, and supported by an ever-interrelated reach of family and friends. The play is a combination poem, prayer and app on how to cope in an age of uncertainty, speed and chaos. When cyber meets the real world, anger gives way to forgiveness and resistance becomes redemption; the heart of the play opens up and the waters flow freely.” —Variety
Purchase the Script
You can buy your own copy of this powerful play HERE.
Friday, December 4, 2020
View Episode #68 HERE
Tanya Saracho was born in Mexico and spent her life in Reynosa, Mexico and McAllen, Texas. After college, she moved to Chicago, where she founded Teatro Luna: Chicago’s All-Latina Theater. She stayed with the collective of women of color artists for 10 years before branching into other work. She has written a wide range of plays, including Our Lady of the Underpass and El Nogalar, a retelling of Chekov’s The Cherry Orchard set in Mexico. The project came about because Teatro Vista wanted to stage a Latino retelling of a classic play. At a cocktail party, Saracho pitched the story. “I was like, ‘The most Latino playwright I encountered in college was Chekhov,’ and then someone took me up on it,” she told The New York Times. In recent years, Saracho has written for TV, including ABC’s How to Get Away With Murder and HBO’s Looking.
FADE is a behind-the-scenes comedy about the burgeoning friendship between Lucia and Abel, two Latinos of Mexican descent working at a ruthless Hollywood studio. Lucia is a tenacious novelist, newly hired to write for a TV detective series and struggling to find her place among a team of domineering white male co-workers. Abel is one of the studio’s janitors, compassionate to Lucia’s difficulties and generous with his opinions and personal anecdotes, which keeps them in an absorbing tête-à-tête throughout their workdays. As their bond grows, Abel’s stories quickly blur with those Lucia is writing for the show and they both find themselves in the center of their own not-quite-made-for-TV drama.
Premiered in 2016 at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. In 2017, the New York premiere of her latest play, FADE, was staged at the Cherry Lane Theater.
“Saracho’s writing is so sharp, full lives take shape with an economy of words… a powerful piece with a fresh voice and a bright future.” – Denver Post
“FIZZY AND WITTY!” -Alexis Soloski, The New York Times
“Plenty of Wit and Attitude! SOLID ACTING AND BITING DIALOGUE… Smart!” -David Cote, Time Out New York
“UNDENIABLY RELEVANT! Provocative, multilayered and incisive!” -Zachary Stewart TheaterMania
Saracho was named Best New Playwright by Chicago magazine, one of the nine national Luminarios by Café magazine and given the first Revolucionario award in theater by the National Museum of Mexican Art. She has also won the Goodman’s Ofner Prize, a 3Arts Artists Award and a National Endowment for the Arts Distinguished New Play Development Project Grant with About Face Theater. In January 2019, she was presented with the 2019 Final Draft New Voice Award for Television and won the 2019 GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Comedy Series for Vida.
Videos & Clips
You can view some clips from the 2017 NY production HERE and meet the characters and the actors in interviews HERE. A quick Youtube search for Tanya Saracho will yield multiple interviews and more information about her work in television and theatre.
Friday, November 20, 2020
View Episode #67 HERE
Samm-Art Williams was born in 1946 in Burgaw, North Carolina, the son of Samuel and Valdosia Williams. His mother was a school teacher, and Williams attended segregated public schools through high school. After graduating from Morgan State College in Baltimore, he studied with the Freedom Theater’s Acting Workshop in Philadelphia under the direction of John Allen and Bob Leslie. As a member of the Negro Ensemble Company in NY, he performed in such plays as The First Breeze of Summer, Eden, and Nevis Mountain Dew. He also wrote many plays, including Home. It’s rare that a year goes by when some regional or NY theatre company isn’t reviving this brilliant play. Williams has also had a successful career in television, where he took on roles as an actor, writer, and executive producer for popular shows such as Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Martin. He has been nominated for two Emmy awards.
“We’ve got to show a different side of black lifestyle… All black characters don’t have to be heroes. All black men do not have to be black macho, strong leaders of the household, knocking everybody down on stage. You can have very sensitive, very kind, very gentle, kinds of black men.” – Samm-Art Williams
The action begins on the small farm in South Carolina that Cephus Miles, an orphan, has inherited from his family. Young and strong, he is content to work the land–until his childhood sweetheart rejects him and goes off to college. Not believing in the Vietnam War, Cephus is imprisoned as a draft evader for refusing to serve. By the time he is released, Cephus has lost his land to the tax collector so he heads north to build a new life. With a good job and a slinky new girlfriend he finds the big city exciting and rewarding. But soon after, the dream begins to fade–Cephus loses his job and becomes involved in drugs and prostitution. Pulling himself together he returns to South Carolina and settles back on the land with his old sweetheart. Despite all, he has never lost his joyous goodwill, his indomitable spirit and the conviction that one day his quest for fulfillment will be rewarded.
Home received a Tony nomination as Best Broadway Play, the Outer Critics Circle Award, a Drama Desk nomination, the NAACP Image Award, and the North Carolina Governor’s Award.
Home was mounted by the Negro Ensemble Company at St. Mark’s Playhouse from 1979–80, moving to Broadway’s Cort Theatre from May 7, 1980 to January 4, 1981. The play earned nominations for both the Tony Award and the Drama Desk Award
“…one of the happiest theatrical events of the season…Home is a play from the heart, about the heartline of America – a play that all theatregoers should embrace.” The New York Times
“Williams can write naturally enough to charm the birds off the trees, and this is a great and lasting gift.” – New York Post
“Home is warm, funny and fully alive, and undisputedly where the heart is.” – New York Daily News
There are several clips of the play available to watch on YouTube. You can start with this one and then YouTube will suggest others.
Friday, November 13, 2020
View Episode #66 HERE
Marcus Gardley is a poet-playwright with an impressive scope, having been compared to August Wilson, Frederico García Lorca, and Tennesse Williams. He’s known for epic tales that subvert classical works like The Odyssey, Tartuffe, and The House of Bernarda Alba. Born and raised in Oakland, California, Gardley is an ensemble member playwright at Victory Gardens Theater in Chicago and an assistant professor of Theater and Performance Studies at Brown University.
Marcus was awarded the 2011 PEN/Laura Pels award for Mid-Career Playwright. He also recently won the prestigious 2008 Helen Merrill Award and a Kesselring honor.
The House That Will Not Stand
Did you know that before the Louisiana Purchase, it is estimated that free women of color owned one quarter of all properties in the city o f New Orleans?
“You may be the wealthiest colored woman in New Orleans, but you built this house on sand, lies and dead bodies.”
In early nineteenth-century New Orleans, a widowed mother, Beatrice, struggles to manage her second husband. But as the matriarch takes her place as head of the household, a more ominous transfer of power transpires in the region. The French-owned Louisiana Territory is about to be acquired by the United States, threatening the liberty of free African-Americans residing on the land. Adapted from Federico Garciá Lorca’s The House of Bernarda Alba, The House That Will Not Stand follows four women in mourning as they look ahead to an uncertain and haunting future.
World premiere with the Berkeley Repertory Theatre in January 2014
“When you hear a drum beat as you’re watching Marcus Gardley’s THE HOUSE THAT WILL NOT STAND…sit up and pay attention. It’s likely to be the prelude to a flash of wondrousness. Drums are what herald two extraordinary monologues in this…comic drama… Their percussive insistence shapes two separate instances when both a character and the play…soar into a stratosphere of freedom.” —NY Times
“THE HOUSE THAT WILL NOT STAND is built on extraordinarily rich soil, in terms of both historical fact and fictional plot, both intricacy of language and depth of character. …The New Yorker has described Gardley as ‘the heir to García Lorca, Pirandello, and Tennessee Williams,’ and like the last of those writers, the playwright has a penchant for knitting together poetic flights with sharp, sassy social observation…” —NY Magazine
“…luscious and structurally artful …Gardley changes Lorca’s mood from Spanish lyric tragedy to ribald French comedy…through tart and sharply funny exchanges, backhanded insults and dirty jokes.” —Time Out NY
Purchase the Play
You can purchase the play at amazon.com HERE
There are several clips and interviews about the play and the playwright available on YouTube. Here’s an interview with Gardley from 2014 at Berkeley Rep. You can also see excerpts from the play HERE.
Friday, November 6, 2020
View Episode #65 HERE
Lauren Yee is a playwright, screenwriter, and TV writer born and raised in San Francisco. She currently lives in New York City. She was the second most-produced playwright in the country for the 2019/20 season (per American Theatre Magazine.) Her plays The Great Leap and Cambodian Rock Band also top the list of top 10 most produced plays in the country.
She is the winner of the Doris Duke Artist Award, the Steinberg Playwright Award, the Horton Foote Prize, the Kesselring Prize, the ATCA/Steinberg Award, American Academy of Arts and Letters literature award, and the Francesca Primus Prize. She has been a finalist for the Edward M. Kennedy Prize and the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. Her plays were the #1 and #2 plays on the 2017 Kilroys List.
King of the Yees
For nearly 20 years, playwright Lauren Yee’s father Larry has been a driving force in the Yee Family Association, a seemingly obsolescent Chinese American men’s club formed 150 years ago in the wake of the Gold Rush. But when her father goes missing, Lauren must plunge into the rabbit hole of San Francisco Chinatown and confront a world both foreign and familiar. At once bitingly hilarious and heartbreakingly honest, King of the Yees is an epic joyride across cultural, national and familial borders that explores what it means to truly be a Yee.
Commissioned by the Goodman Theatre and initially workshopped there in 2014.
Other workshops at Center Stage Baltimore (2014), ACT Seattle (2015).
Premiered at the Goodman Theatre in 2017, followed by a production at ACT Seattle later that year.
The San Francisco Playhouse produced the play in 2019.
King of the Yees – in 2018 – Edward M. Kennedy Prize finalist
2016 – Ashland New Play Festival – Women’s Invitational winner
2015 – The Kilroys List Top 50
2014 – Berkeley Rep Ground Floor finalist
2013 – Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation grant
“A comic, touching look at generational and cultural divides” – Daily Herald
“Even as individual scenes don’t always serve a clear purpose, Yee’s script is so fun you follow each tangent with pleasure. A sense of joy and play infuses every line, like she’s always saying, “To hell with these rules! Let’s make some mischief!” — SF Chronicle
“Delightfully disorderly entertainment, as sprawling and silly as it is unexpectedly moving.” – Los Angeles Times
“In case you weren’t aware, this play is kind of a big deal.” – DC Metro Theater Arts
“An absolute masterpiece.” – Baltimore Outloud
You may purchase a copy of this play HERE.
There are several clips from the show and interviews with Lauren Yee to be found on YouTube. This one is from July, 2017 regarding Center Theatre Group’s production of the play. And here’s one from March, 2019 with B.D. Wong, discussing Ms. Yee’s history with San Francisco, working on The Great Leap and representation of Asian artists in theatre today.
Friday, October 30, 2020
View Episode #64 HERE
Named among Time magazine’s “100 Innovators for the Next Wave,” Suzan-Lori Parks is one of the most acclaimed playwrights in American drama today. She is the first African-American woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize in Drama, is a MacArthur “Genius” Award recipient, and in 2015 was awarded the prestigious Gish Prize for Excellence in the Arts…She is an alum of New Dramatists and of Mount Holyoke College. Parks’ project 365 Days/365 Plays (where she wrote a play a day for an entire year) was produced in over 700 theaters worldwide, creating one of the largest grassroots collaborations in theater history.
In the Blood
When Suzan-Lori Parks decided to write a play based on The Scarlet Letter, she began with the title: Fucking A. Unimpressed, she deleted everything she had and started from scratch, writing the play that would eventually become In the Blood. As Parks tells it, In the Blood had to come out before Fucking A would crystallize; she calls the plays “twins in the womb of my consciousness.
In this modern day riff on The Scarlet Letter, Hester La Negrita, a homeless mother of five, lives with her kids on the tough streets of the inner city. Her eldest child is teaching her how to read and write, but the letter “A” is, so far, the only letter she knows. Her five kids are named Jabber, Bully, Trouble, Beauty and Baby, and the characters are played by adult actors who double as five other people in Hester’s life: her ex-boyfriend, her social worker, her doctor, her best friend and her minister. While Hester’s kids fill her life with joy—lovingly comical moments amid the harsh world of poverty—the adults with whom she comes into contact only hold her back. As she struggles to defy the odds, she runs into a series of harsh and unexpected obstacles.
Premiered at the Joseph Papp Public Theater in 1999
The play was a finalist for the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. (Parks later won the Pulitzer Prize for another play, Topdog/Underdog.)
Performed at the Edison Theater in Los Angeles on July 18, 2003.
Signature Theatre Company performed In The Blood in 2017, alongside Parks’ later play: Fucking A.
The University of Georgia Department of Theatre and Film studies produced the show in 2019.
Most recently, the University of Kansas produced In the Blood during its 2019/20 season
“In the Blood is an extraordinary new play…It is truly harrowing…we cannot turn away, and we do not want to. The play strikes us as Hawthorne claimed his first glimpse of the scarlet letter struck him, with ‘a sensation not altogether physical yet almost so, as of a burning heat, as if the letter were not of red cloth but of red-hot iron.’”—Margo Jefferson, The New York Times
“…extraordinary new play…taut and packed…Ms. Parks’ writing has grown leaner and hungrier…IN THE BLOOD is about the way we live now, and it is truly harrowing…You will leave…feeling pity and terror. And because it is a work of art, you will leave thrilled, even comforted by its mastery…” —NY Times
“Ms. Parks is a beautiful writer and her new play an important one…” —NY Observer
You may purchase a copy of both In the Blood and fucking a HERE.
Amiri Baraka / Leroi Jones
Friday, October 23, 2020
View Episode #63 featuring this playwright HERE
Poet, writer, teacher, and political activist Amiri Baraka was born Everett LeRoi Jones in 1934 in Newark, New Jersey and passed away in 2014. Baraka published provocative works that assiduously presented the experiences and suppressed anger of Black Americans in a white-dominated society. He began writing under the name LeRoi Jones in the late 1950s and produced his first major collection of poetry, Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note, in 1961. His first significant play, Dutchman (1964; film 1967), won the 1964 Obie Award for best Off-Broadway American play. In 1968 he adopted the name Amiri Baraka, and his writings became more divisive, prompting some to applaud his courage and others to deplore sentiments that could foster hate. Baraka taught at Columbia, Yale University, and, from 1979, at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, where at the time of his death (2014) he was emeritus professor of Africana studies. – britannica.com
Dutchman is an emotionally charged and highly symbolic version of the Adam and Eve story, wherein a naive, bourgeois black man is murdered by an insane and calculating white seductress, who is coldly preparing for her next victim as the curtain comes down. The emotionally taut, intellectual verbal fencing between Clay (the black Adam) and Lula (a white Eve) spirals irrevocably to the symbolic act of violence that will apparently repeat itself over and over again. Jones/Baraka’s play is one of mythical proportions, a ritual drama that has a sociological purpose: to galvanize his audience into revolutionary action.
Written in 1964
First production, Cherry Lane Theatre in Greenwich Village, New York City in 1964
1964 Obie Award for best Off-Broadway American play
The film, directed by Anthony Harvey and starring Shirley Knight and Al Freeman, Jr., was released in 1967
“Rather than a forum for discussion, the play offers an outlet for very specific grievances about American racism and the sweeping violence that could potentially end it. Clay ends up serving as Baraka’s mouthpiece for these opinions, finally pouring his pent-up rage into a vicious monologue, born from a deep well of unrelenting pain…His transformation, much like the play itself, is shocking, gruesome, and brazenly raw. The language is polarizing, the statements hard to digest — but if recognition of Baraka’s impact on the American theater is the goal, there is no tribute more fitting.” – Theatermania
“Set entirely in real time inside a New York subway car, the bleak “Dutchman” not only has lost none of its force in the last half century but now acts as a reminder of the timidity of most modern-day dramas about the clash of whites and blacks, both in public spaces like subway cars and in the private recesses of human neurosis.” – Chicago Tribune
You may purchase a copy of this play HERE.
Friday, October 16, 2020
View Episode #62 featuring this playwright HERE
A Broadway actress turned playwright, Jocelyn Bioh is a daughter of Ghanaian immigrants who grew up in Washington Heights, Manhattan. Bioh starred in plays off-Broadway by notable African-American playwrights before beginning to pen her own. Her Broadway acting credits include The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. Her play Nollywood Dreams, about the 90’s film industry in Lagos, Nigeria, was selected for the Kilroy’s List in 2015. She is known for her poignant comedies, including School Girls; or the African Mean Girls Play and Happiness and Joe. She also wrote a musical featuring songs by Cee Lo Green called The Ladykiller’s Love Story.
Set in the 1990s in Lagos, Nollywood Dreams follows Ayamma, who dreams of stardom while working at her parent’s travel agency. When she lands an audition for a new film by Nigeria’s hottest director, she comes head-to-head with his former leading lady. Tensions flare just as sparks start flying between Ayamma and Wale, Nollywood’s biggest heartthrob.
This is a new play. Its development history goes back to 2013. Workshopped most recently at the Cherry Lane Theatre in 2017, the World Premiere was set to play at Newman Mills Theater at The Robert W. Wilson MCC Theater Space with an opening night scheduled on April 13, 2020. Sadly, that opening night did not take place.
“I was inspired to write Nollywood Dreams as a love letter to the African films of my youth and to an industry I’m crazy enough to love and work in: show business,” says Bioh. “It’s such a classic story but with a culturally specific spin that, like School Girls, I hope audiences will enjoy, learn from and connect with the universality of the story.” – Jocelyn Bioh (playbill.com)
“Got the chance to see this play read as part of the New York Stage and Film Powerhouse Theater Festival this summer (’16). Such a tremendously funny play. The characters are joyful and lovingly written. And the situation is completely relatable. Delightful as hell! It really fills a much needed comedic space in the African narrative in the American theater. Any theater company would benefit greatly by adding Nollywood Dreams to their season.” — Donnetta Lavinia Grays, New Play Exchange
To purchase a copy of this script (and we hope you do!) please click HERE.
Friday, October 9, 2020
(View Episode #60 featuring this playwright HERE)
The featured artist for October 9th is Lynn Nottage, the only woman to have won the Pulitzer prize for drama twice (2017-Sweat, 2009-Ruined). Nottage has won multiple awards for her plays, was a recipient of the MacArthur “Genius Grant” Fellowship and continues to be a force to be reckoned with in the theatre world.
It’s the year 2000 in Reading, Pennsylvania and a group of friends go to work at the steel mill and then decompress at the bar like they’ve been doing for over 20 years. But, unbeknownst to them, their lives are about to be uprooted. Their steel mill, Olstead’s, is making some changes and the blood, sweat and tears, not to mention the generations of loyalty these workers have shown, don’t seem to amount to much. These middle class, unionized, steelworkers have made plans to save money, go on vacations and then retire with a nice, healthy pension, but when rumors start flying that the company is considering layoffs, and flyers are hung to recruit non-union Latino workers for less money, the war between community and capitalism begins, and tensions start destroying not only jobs, but also relationships. This poignant play takes a look at the de-industrial revolution through the lens of a history play, but also delves into the issues of today: the economy, immigration, race-relations in America, and politics. Lynn Nottage’s Sweat gives us characters filled with the good and the bad and asks us to reflect on our own views and the views of others. Nottage never tells us who’s right or who’s wrong, but always shows us who’s human. (StageAgent.com)
“Keenly observed and often surprisingly funny—but ultimately heartbreaking—the work traces the roots of a tragedy with both forensic psychological detail and embracing compassion. Ms. Nottage…is writing at the peak of her powers…” —NY Times
“…passionate and necessary…a masterful depiction of the forces that divide and conquer us…SWEAT communicates its points with minimal fuss and maximum grit. Along with the rage, despair and violence, there’s humor and abundant humanity…a cautionary tale of what happens when you don’t know how to resist.” —Time Out NY.
Friday, October 2, 2020
(View Episode #59 featuring this playwright HERE)
Today’s featured artist is Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, a 2016 MacArthur Genius, Obie Award winner and 2016 and 2018 finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama. His work is renowned for its dark humor, explosive surprises, and commentary on race in America. We encourage you to check out ALL of his work, but today we’re going to be focusing on one of his first plays.
Neighbors is a wildly theatrical, explosive play on race. The plot is surreal, the issues real and damning. The plot follows an upwardly mobile African American professor, his white wife and biracial daughter, as they witness the arrival of new neighbors, a loud and raucous family of black entertainers, each friendly but with an edge of anger. It’s a scathing exploration of denial and a satire of black entertainment from minstrelsy to hip hop, as these new neighbors are not just taking over the neighborhood—they’re infiltrating his perfect, interracial family and his perfect, post-racial sanity. Neighbors makes it clear that we do not live in a post-race America.
“…audacious, fitfully stunning…Jacobs-Jenkins invents a theatrical conceit sure to baffle and enrage…it’s exciting to hear a new voice that is by turns silly and profound.” —Time Out NY.
“Mr. Jacobs-Jenkins has talent…effective comic writing…daring conceit.” —NY Times
“Part deconstructed minstrel show, part family drama and a sharp retelling of Euripides’ Iphigenia at Aulis, Jacobs-Jenkins’ tragic farce has more energy and ideas than half a dozen anodyne ‘issue’ plays…Jacobs-Jenkins knows that rage plays best as savage humor, and he takes us to excruciatingly awkward places—and then leaves us to fend for ourselves…Messy, bold, desperately funny, and deeply felt: NEIGHBORS is worth getting to know.” —LA Times
“This intriguing blend of over-the-top satire and family drama serves emphatic notice that its young writer is a force to reckon with…” —The Boston Globe
“It’s smart, funny, shocking, discomfiting, and extremely entertaining. It seems to me that’s what theatre should be.” —BroadwayWorld.com
Photos are from the Company One Theatre premiere of the production in 2011.
You can watch a video of the playwright talking about his play on YouTube HERE, or if you would like to get your hands on this incredibly powerful play and read it yourself, you can find it HERE. (A subscription is required to read the play at Drama Online.) You can also purchase two of Jacobs-Jenkins other plays — Octoroon and Appropriate — on Amazon.com HERE.
We encourage all of our patrons and supporters to check out the work of these important playwrights.