As part of our commitment as a company to find new ways to amplify the voices and the amazing work of an incredibly diverse community of theatre-makers, we created a special segment on The Intermission Show highlighting noteworthy playwrights and their plays. As The Intermission Show makes its final bow, we will continue to update this webpage with profiles of plays and playwrights that have inspired us. We hope that you’ll continue to read and learn along with us.
Wednesday, May 5, 2021
Antoinette Nwandu was included on both the 2016 and 2017 Kilroy’s Lists for her plays Pass Over and Breach: a manifesto on race in america through the eyes of a black girl recovering from self-hate. Breach, about an unplanned pregnancy that forces a black woman to confront her self-loathing, received its world premiere at Victory Gardens Theater in Chicago in 2018. Pass Over was produced by Steppenwolf Theatre in 2017, and combines Waiting for Godot with biblical mythology. Spike Lee directed a filmed version of the play in 2018 that can be viewed on Amazon Prime. Nwandu is a graduate of Harvard College and holds a Masters of Science in Cultural Politics from Edinburgh University, as well as an MFA in Dramatic Writing from NYU Tisch.
Just announced on May 4th: Pass Over will be the first work written by a Black artist to play the August Wilson Theatre since it was renamed for him in 2005. Read more about Pass Over and the reopening HERE.
Moses and Kitch stand around on the corner – talking shit, passing the time, and hoping that maybe today will be different. As they dream of their promised land, a stranger wanders into their space with his own agenda and derails their plans. Emotional and lyrical, Pass Over crafts everyday profanities into poetic and humorous riffs, exposing the unquestionable human spirit of young men stuck in a cycle just looking for a way out.
A provocative riff on Waiting for Godot, Pass Over is a rare piece of politically charged theater by a bold new American voice. The play was partly inspired by the 2012 death of Trayvon Martin. Nwandu wrote the play as a mirror to the effects of white privilege and police brutality on Black lives.
“I would love this play to fade away and not be relevant anymore — when people are like, “Oh, that relic of the past.” The feelings are very ambivalent, very mixed, but it’s mainly just couched in so much grief and so much personal mourning.” — Antoinette Nwandu
Finalist for the Ruby Prize in 2015. Included on the 2016 Kilroys’ List.
“Potent and promising… the language in the work is thrilling, poetical.” – Chicago Tribune
“Emotional, sobering… fiercely poetic play.” – Daily Herald
“Stunning and lyrical… should be on every theatregoer’s ‘must see’ list.” – Broadway World
“An important play that is necessary for now” – Performink
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 The Intermission Show
Friday, April 16, 2021
View Episode #85 HERE
Nilaja Sun is an actor, playwright, and teaching artist. She is the recipient of the 2007 Obie and Lucille Lortel Awards for her play No Child, a one-woman show that was described in the New York Times as a “lightning-paced, multicharacter solo play” in which Sun “transforms herself effortlessly between sharply drawn characters.” Additional theatre credits in New York include the solo show Pike St., Huck & Holden, Einstein’s Gift, Time and the Conways, The Cook, La Nubia Latina, and The Adventures of Barrio Grrrl! in venues such as the Cherry Lane Theatre, Clurman Theatre, Epic Theatre, Intar Theater, La MaMa, and PS122. Her film appearances include featured roles in HairBrained, The Bourne Legacy, Knight and Day, The International, and others. Her television roles include appearances on Madame Secretary, The Good Wife, Rubicon, Louie, 30 Rock, and Law and Order: SVU.
Pike St. centers on a family living on the fifth floor of a tenement walk up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in the midst of an impending storm. Candace (nicknamed Candi) is sixteen years old, living in a wheelchair, and assisted by machines as the result of a brain aneurysm. Candace’s mother, Evelyn, is struggling to attain a generator in order to sustain Candace’s equipment in case of a power outage. She is also studying to become an energy healer in the tradition of her late mother’s healing practice and formerly family-owned botanica. Evelyn strives to maintain a positive, healing aura around Candi despite the chaos of nosy neighbors, the excitement of her brother Manny returning home from Afghanistan, and the clashes between Manny and their womanizing father
Published 2017 and originally commissioned by Epic Theatre Ensemble and produced at Abrons Art Center.
Pike St. has recently been awarded the Edinburgh Award and Ivey Award
No Cloud has been awarded 21 awards including an Obie and Lucille Lortel awards.
“Sun demands that we stop and acknowledge the humanity in folks who are often treated as invisible.” —TimeOut New York
“Sun is such a crafty writer that that detail comes back around significantly before her fast-moving, unpredictable saga concludes. By then, you will have been immersed in the often-comic exchanges zinging back and forth among three generations of a family coping with hardships and soldiering on with admirable determination… Even with its genuinely dark storm clouds, you come out of Pike St. elevated. It’s a sly story in the end and a big-hearted performance.” —The Washington Post
Friday, April 9, 2021
View Episode #84 HERE
Qui Nguyen is a Vietnamese American playwright, television writer, and screenwriter. He is an artistic director of the Obie Award and Caffe Cino Award winning Vampire Cowboys Theatre Company, whose productions, penned and choreographed by Nguyen, have performed to sold-out audiences at the New York International Fringe Festival, been published nationally in Plays and Playwrights 2005, enjoyed extended runs throughout the nation, and have been nominated for and received awards in movement and fight direction.
Time Out New York cited Qui as one of 10 downtown “Playwrights to Watch” and The New York Times has praised Qui’s writing as “culturally savvy comedy” and “ambitious entertainment”. Qui is a proud member of New Dramatists, the Ma-Yi Writers Lab, Ensemble Studio Theatre, and The Playwrights Center.
She Kills Monsters
She Kills Monsters tells the story of Agnes Evans, an average woman who loses her parents and little sister Tilly in a car accident. Having been very distant from her sister while she was alive, Agnes embarks in an adventure to get to know her sister better by playing a Dungeons & Dragons module that Tilly had written, and discovers things she’d never imagined. The plot takes place in reality and in the imaginary game world. Chock-full of supermodel elves, dominatrix warrior women, and nasty ogres, She Kills Monsters is a surprisingly sweet tale of friendship, loss, and acceptance.
Off-Off-Broadway debut at The Flea Theater in New York City in 2011.
American Alliance for Theater and Education in 2013
“Packed with action, wit, and a sizable nerd-quotient, the production is a delight from start to finish” — TheaterMania
“Deceptively breezy & rather ingenious. The whole enterprise is kind of dopey and kind of invigorating and kind of remarkable. It will slash and shapeshift its way into your heart.” -The New York Times
Vietgone, Soul Samurai, The Inexplicable Redemption of Agent G, Alice in Slasherland, Fight Girl Battle World, Krunk Fu Battle Battle, Trial By Water, Living Dead in Denmark, Stained Glass Ugly, A Beginner’s Guide to Deicide, Men of Steel, Bike Wreck, and Vampire Cowboy Trilogy.
Francisca Da Silveira
Friday, April 2, 2021
View Episode #83 HERE
Francisca Da Silveira is a Cape Verdean-American playwright and Boston native who holds a BFA in Dramatic Writing from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and an MSc in Playwriting from the University of Edinburgh. In addition to writing, Fran also identifies as a playwright dramaturg. From 2016-2018, she was a company dramaturg and Literary Manager at Company One Theatre and co-ran their emerging writers PlayLab program with Andrew W. Mellon Artist-in-Residence Kirsten Greenidge. Fran serves as an At-Large Ambassador and Affiliated Artist with the National New Play Network and has dramaturged for NNPN, The Kennedy Center, The Playwrights’ Center, and Salt Lake Acting Company. Ms. Da Silveira draws inspiration from Anton Chekov and Alan Bennett and is developing a new play about climate change with Flat Earth Theatre and the Museum of Science.
“I aim to create modern day cautionary tales dealing with mental health, heritage, racial identity and human resilience…I believe that all art created by people of color is inherently political purely from the act of its existence.” – Francisca Da Silveira
Heritage Hills Naturals
In an effort to avoid confronting her declining mental health, recent college graduate Lucilia volunteers a month of free labor to an organic farm in rural Georgia. There, she encounters ignorance bordering on racism, religious fanaticism, and too healthy eating habits that force her to question whether escaping into a world of green living was really an escape at all.
Reading, Fresh Ink Theatre, 2017
Workshop, Fresh Ink Theatre, 2017
Reading, TC Squared Theatre Company, 2016
Professional, Fresh Ink Theatre, Boston – 2018
“I saw the Fresh Ink production of this a few years ago and was bowled over by the theatricality of the script, the specificity of the world and characters, and the potent themes handled with a detailed eye towards intersectionality. The piece also theatricalized clinical anxiety in such a compelling and unique fashion that was so impactful as live performance. Da Silveira explores characters who are flawed and who have complex world views that you might not always agree with, but that are written with profound empathy and sensitivity.” – Nick Malakhow
NOT-FOR-PROFIT (or The Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Play)
Can I Touch It?
Pay No Worship
You can read the play online at New Play Exchange with a subscription HERE.
Friday, March 26, 2021
View Episode #82 HERE
Dael Orlandersmith is a poet, actress, and playwright who, in her own words, “write[s] about childhood and the sins of the father, the sins of the mother, and how people take on the very thing they don’t like about their parents and they become them.” She is known for not only writing her pieces but performing them entirely herself. Her premiere play Beauty’s Daughter, a one-woman performance piece, moves more like a poem following protagonist Diane from puberty to womanhood. She wrote the two-hander Yellowman about colorism in the black community in 2003, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and won her the Susan Smith Blackburn prize. Orlandersmith is currently performing in another one-woman show at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater in New York called Until the Flood, written in response to Michael Brown’s death and comprised from interviews with Ferguson and St. Louis residents. The play can be streamed online HERE.
YELLOWMAN is a multi-character memory play about an African-American woman who dreams of life beyond the confines of her smalltown Southern upbringing and the light-skinned man whose fate is tragically intertwined with hers. The play explores the negative associations surrounding male blackness as well as the effect these racial stereotypes have on black women.
“…Although the play takes place within the Black community. The themes of alcoholism, parental abuse, and self-abuse are universal themes and that is the author’s intent – to show universality.” – Dael Orlandersmith
Orlandersmith won the 2003 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for Yellowman, and was a finalist for the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
“Both a celebration of young love and a harrowing study of smoldering domestic violence, the play is both heartwarming and ultimately heartbreaking.” —Variety
“It’s a play worth standing for.” —Star-Ledger
“Ms. Orlandersmith has written a doomed love story. By turns prophetic and affirmative, Yellowman is… a battle cry for humanity and its possibilities” – The New York Times
You can purchase Yellowman, and Orlandersmith’s My Red Hand, My Black Hand HERE.
Friday, March 19, 2021
View Episode #81 HERE
Playwright and director Luis Valdez is considered the father of Mexican American theater. In 1965 he founded El Teatro Campesino. This project inspired young Mexican American activists across the country to use the stage to give voice to the history, the myths, and the present-day political concerns of Mexican Americans. In later years, Valdez has tried to portray Mexican American life for a mainstream audience, and his popular 1987 film La Bamba helped him do that. Mr. Valdez was inducted into the College of Fellows of the American Theatre at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C. In 2007, he was awarded a Rockefeller fellowship as one of the fifty US Artists so honored across the United States.
Zoot Suit is based on the Sleepy Lagoon murder trial and the Zoot Suit Riots. Debuting in 1979, Zoot Suit was the first Chicano play on Broadway. In 1981, Luis Valdez also directed a filmed version of the play, combining stage and film techniques.
Zoot Suit tells the story of Henry Reyna and the 38th Street Gang, who were tried for the Sleepy Lagoon murder in Los Angeles, during World War II. After a run-in with a neighboring gang at the local lovers lane, Sleepy Lagoon, the 38th Street Gang gets into a fight at a party, where a young man is murdered. Discriminated against for their zoot suit-wearing Chicano identity, twenty-two members of the 38th Street Gang are placed on trial for the murder, found guilty, and sentenced to life in San Quentin prison. Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, Henry’s brother Rudy is beaten and stripped of his zoot suit during the Zoot Suit Riots.
Through the efforts of George Shearer and other lawyers, as well as activist-reporter Alice, with whom Henry has a brief romantic encounter, the boys win their court appeal and are freed. The play ends with a Reyna family reunion as Henry returns home and Rudy is about to leave to join the Marines. The scene suggests that it is not the happy ending we expect, however, as multiple endings of Henry’s story are suggested: that he returned to prison and drug abuse, died in the war in Korea and was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously, or married Della and had five children.
In 1978, Zoot Suit was produced in partnership with Center Theatre Group at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles and played for 46 weeks to more than 40,000 people. With Zoot Suit, Valdez became the first Chicano director to have a play presented on Broadway in 1979. In 1981, it was made into a film.
Golden Globe Award nominations Zoot Suit (Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy)
Cartagena Film Festival, Best Picture Award, Zoot Suit, 1982.
“The play is both entertaining and political… Zoot Suit is a blend of Cantinflas and Brecht.” – The New York Times
“Though the play was written in 1978 and set in 1942, Mr. Valdez feels its story is timeless, its themes part of an ever-repeating historical cycle.” – The New York Times
The Shrunken Head of Pancho Villa
You can purchase your copy of this important play HERE.
You can view a 2020 interview with Luis Valdez, posted by the Goodman Theater, HERE.
Friday, March 12, 2021
View Episode #80 HERE
August Wilson (April 27, 1945 – October 2, 2005) was an American playwright whose work included a series of ten plays, The Pittsburgh Cycle, for which he received two Pulitzer Prizes for Drama. Each is set in a different decade, depicting the comic and tragic aspects of the African-American experience in the 20th century.
In 1968, he co-founded the Black Horizon Theater in the Hill District of Pittsburgh along with his friend Rob Penny. Wilson’s first play, Recycling, was performed for audiences in small theaters, schools and public housing community centers for 50 cents a ticket.
Wilson’s best known plays are Fences (1985) (which won a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award), The Piano Lesson (1990) (a Pulitzer Prize and the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award), Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, and Joe Turner’s Come and Gone.
Set in the 1950s, Fences is the sixth in Wilson’s ten-part “Pittsburgh Cycle”. Like all of the “Pittsburgh” plays, Fences explores the evolving African American experience and examines race relations, among other themes.
Race relations are explored in this tale which starts with a couple of garbage men who wonder why they can’t become garbage truck drivers. The protagonist of Fences is Troy Maxson, who had been an outstanding baseball player at a time when the major leagues were closed to black players; he bitterly resents his lost opportunities. An ex-convict as well, Troy is now a garbage collector who struggled to become the city’s first black to hold the job. He is married to Rose and is the father of a teenager named Cory. Though he loves his son, he feuds continually with him and refuses to permit him to accept a football scholarship to college. An emotional, hard-drinking man, Troy ranges from tyrannical fury to delicacy as his preconceived ideas are challenged.
Fences was first developed at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center’s 1983 National Playwrights Conference. It premiered at the Yale Repertory Theatre in 1985 with James Earl Jones as Troy Maxson. The play’s first Broadway production was staged at the 46th Street Theatre on March 26, 1987, and closed on June 26, 1988, after 525 performances and 11 previews. The show was revived on Broadway in 2010, starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis. A film version with Washington and Davis premiered in 2016.
“The strongest, most passionate American dramatic writing since Tennessee Williams” –The New York Post
“A blockbuster and a major American Play.” – New York Daily News
The Pittsburg Cycle: Gem of the Ocean (2003), Joe Turner’s Come and Gone (1988), Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (1984), The Piano Lesson (1990), Seven Guitars (1995), Two Trains Running (1991), Jitney (1982), King Hedley II (1999), Radio Golf (2005)
Recycle (1973), Black Bart and the Sacred Hills (1977), Fullerton Street (1980), The Homecoming (1989), How I Learned What I Learned (2002-03).
Purchase the play HERE.
You can watch the film on Amazon Prime HERE.
Friday, March 5, 2021
View Episode #79 HERE
Robert O’Hara is a Boston-raised (if Ohio-born) playwright. He attended Tufts University, where he originally studied political science and law, but discovered a love of Drama and changed his major. O’Hara is known for his daring themes and broad scope. He has received the NAACP Best Director Award, the Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding New Play, two OBIE Awards and the Oppenheimer Award. As a playwright, his work is produced all over the country and Mr. O’Hara has been commissioned by Playwrights Horizons, Steppenwolf, the Public Theatre, LaJolla Playhouse, McCarter Theater, Mark Taper Forum and Woolly Mammoth Theater. He is currently under commission from Lincoln Center and OSF. He has written screenplays for Martin Scorsese, Spike Lee, Jon Avnet, HBO, ABC, Universal Pictures, Sony Pictures, New Line/Fine Line Cinema and Artisan Entertainment.
Insurrection: Holding History
Insurrection: Holding History follows the story of a young, gay African-American man named Ron, who travels back in time with his 189-year-old grandfather to the time of the Nat Turner Rebellion. The play deals with themes of racial identity and sexuality, as Ron comes to face his ancestors’ history, and his own personal identity.
To read a review in the Chicago Tribune of a 2018 production of the play, please click HERE.
The play was written during O’Hara’s time interning at the Public Theatre. It was selected as a part of the 1995 new work reading series at the Mark Taper Forum, and O’Hara later directed it as a part of his Master’s thesis at Columbia in April of that year. The play officially opened at the Public Theatre on October 11, 1996
Oppenheimer Award for Best New American Play in 1996.
“… a wild, thrilling ride down one of history’s darkest, scariest corridors. Robert O’Hara employs a language of wicked wit, of deliberate and immensely provocative outrageousness to speak to a vast, bloody, unapproachable outrage. He shatters the funereal hush that usually surrounds the representation of atrocity and holocaust, in the process waking his audience up. He knocks us out of the respectful, repetition-dulled stupor with which we are accustomed to contemplate slavery, eschewing and, even better, savaging all clichés. Through comedy, poetry and pure chutzpah, he teaches us all over again how to be truly frightened and appalled. This is a gorgeous, fresh and vital play from a very exciting playwright.” —Tony Kushner
“Insurrection was one of the first plays to address police violence against African-Americans, to explore who has the right to tell whose story, to look critically at African-American attitudes toward homosexuality, and to explore how different generations adhere to different rules.” – Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune
“…bold, intimate and outrageous. It is as dangerous and daring as it is playful and knowing. Robert O’Hara’s voice is unique and overflowing with theatrical invention.” —George C. Wolfe
“Extraordinarily, vastly entertaining, fearlessly free and off-the-wall and yet deeply meaningful, Robert O’Hara’s INSURRECTION is one of the most amazing new plays in recent years.” —San Francisco Post
“…one seriously hilarious and hilariously serious play…remarkably exciting, deeply provocative, comically profound…” —San Francisco Examiner
“…[a] time-bending comic fantasia…toying with accepted notions about history, race and sexual identity…” —NY Times
The Etiquette of Vigilance – a contemporary re-imagining of A Raisin in the Sun
To purchase a copy of Insurrection: Holding History, please click HERE.
Jackie Sibblies Drury
Friday, February 26, 2021
View Episode #78 HERE
Jackie Sibblies Drury is a Brooklyn-based playwright. A first-generation American, Sibblies Drury, 37, grew up in Plainfield, New Jersey, the daughter of Jamaican parents. She studied playwriting at Yale School of Drama and Brown University after years of traveling to New York with her mother to see plays and musicals as a child. Drury’s work has been featured at the Bay Area Playwrights Festival, American Theater Company’s 10 x 10 Festival and the Magic Theatre’s Virgin Play Series. Drury received a 2012-13 Van Lier Playwriting Fellowship at New Dramatists. She was a member of the 2011-12 Soho Rep Writer/Director Lab, a 2010-12 New York Theatre Workshop Emerging Artist of Color Fellow and a member of The Civilians’ R&D Group. Drury is a New York Theatre Workshop Usual Suspect and a MacDowell Colony Fellow.
She is a graduate of Brown University’s M.F.A. playwriting program, where she received the David Wickham Prize in Playwriting. Drury is the inaugural recipient of the 2012-14 Jerome New York Fellowship at the Lark Play Development Center. Her play Fairfield was awarded the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Other plays include We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as South West Africa, From the German Sudwestafrika, Between the Years 1884-1915, Really, and Social Creatures.
Grandma’s birthday approaches. Beverly is organizing the perfect dinner, but everything seems doomed from the start: the silverware is all wrong, the carrots need chopping and the radio is on the fritz. What at first appears to be a family comedy takes a sharp, sly turn into a startling examination of deep-seated paradigms about race in America.
To view a trailer for the show from the Berkeley Rep production, please click HERE.
Written in 2018 and co-commissioned by Berkeley Rep and Soho Repertory Theatre.
2019 Pulitzer Prize for Drama
“Dazzling and ruthless…One of the most exquisitely and systematically arranged ambushes of an unsuspecting audience in years…A glorious, scary reminder of the unmatched power of live theater to rattle, roil and shake us wide awake.” —Ben Brantley, New York Times
The Pulitzer committee called the play “a hard-hitting drama that examines race in a highly conceptual, layered structure, ultimately bringing audiences into the actors’ community to face deep-seated prejudices.”
To watch a YouTube video featuring Ms. Drury talking about her play, click HERE.
To read an informative interview with the author about the play, click HERE.
To purchase a copy of the play, click HERE.
Michael R. Jackson
Friday, February 19, 2021
View Episode #77 HERE
Michael R. Jackson is an American playwright, composer, and lyricist. He is originally from Detroit, Michigan, and holds a BFA in Playwriting and an MFA in Musical Theatre Writing from NYU Tisch School of the Arts. Learn more about Mr. Jackson on his website HERE.
A Strange Loop
Usher is a Black, queer writer, working a day job he hates while writing his original musical: a piece about a Black, queer writer, working a day job he hates while writing his original musical. This blistering musical follows a young artist at war with a host of demons–not least of which are the punishing thoughts in his own head–in an attempt to understand his own strange loop.
Watch the cast perform the song “We Wanna Know” from A Strange Loop on YouTube HERE.
World premiere at Playwrights Horizons in New York City in 2019.
The Washington, DC production at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company originally scheduled for September 2020 was postponed to mid-2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
2020 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The first musical written by a black person to win and first musical to win without a Broadway run. Additionally, Jackson received two Drama Desk Awards, two Obie Awards, two Outer Critics Circle Award Honors, and an Antonyo Award for Best Book for A Strange Loop. In June 2020, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the first LGBTQ Pride parade, Queerty named him among the fifty heroes “leading the nation toward equality, acceptance, and dignity for all people”
“A full-on laparoscopy of the heart, soul, and loins — A Strange Loop is a gutsy, jubilantly anguished musical with infectious melodies by the very deft Michael R. Jackson.” –Ben Brantley, The New York Times
“Exhilarating and wickedly funny. A triumph!” — Sara Holdren, New York Magazine
“To watch this show is to enter, by some urgent, bawdy magic, an ecstatic and infinitely more colorful version of the famous surreal lithograph by M. C. Escher: the hand that lifts from the page, becoming almost real, then draws another hand, which returns the favor. Which came first? A Strange Loop is complex, teasing, thrilling.” –Vinson Cunningham, New Yorker
“A metaﬁctional musical that tracks the creative process of an artist transforming issues of identity, race, and sexuality that once pushed him to the margins of the cultural mainstream into a meditation on universal human fears and insecurities.” – Pulitzer committee
Young Jean Lee
Friday, February 12, 2021
View Episode #76 HERE
Young Jean Lee (b.1974) is a Korean-American playwright, director, and filmmaker. She was the Artistic Director of Young Jean Lee’s Theater Company, a not-for-profit theater company dedicated to producing her work. She has written and directed ten shows for Young Jean Lee’s Theater Company and toured her work to over thirty cities around the world. With the 2018 production of Straight White Men at the Hayes Theatre, Lee became the first Asian American woman to have a play produced on Broadway. Lee was called “the most adventurous downtown playwright of her generation” by Charles Isherwood in The New York Times and “one of the best experimental playwrights in America” by David Cote in Time Out New York.
THE SHIPMENT was made in collaboration with an all-Black cast and is divided into two parts. The first half is structured like a minstrel show—dance, stand-up routine, sketches, and a song—and was written to address the stereotypes the cast members felt they had to deal with as Black performers. For the second half of the show, Lee asked the actors to come up with roles they’d always wanted to play, and wrote a naturalistic comedy in response to their requests.
Workshopped in 2008 at Brooklyn Arts Exchange and The Kitchen. They play debuted at the Wexner in Columbus then moved on to New York for a run.
Lee is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, two OBIE Awards, a Prize in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Doris Duke Performing Artist Award, a Doris Duke Artist Residency, a Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grants to Artists award (2006), and the ZKB Patronage Prize of the Zűrcher Theatre Spektakel.
“A subversive, seriously funny new theater piece by the adventurous playwright Young Jean Lee… Ms. Lee does not shy away from prodding the audience’s racial sensitivities – or insensitivities – in a style that is sometimes sly and subtle, sometimes as blunt as a poke in the eye.” – New York Times
Straight White Men
Untitled Feminist Show
We’re Gonna Die
Songs of the Dragon Flying to Heaven
Purchase the play HERE.
Enjoy a YouTube clip of Ms. Lee talking about her work as a playwright HERE.
Friday, February 5, 2021
View Episode #75 HERE
Leslie Lee (1930-2014) was born on Nov. 6, 1930, in Bryn Mawr, Pa., and grew up nearby in West Conshohocken, one of nine children. His mother, the former Clementine Carter, was a homemaker; his father, John Henry Lee, like the patriarch in “First Breeze,” was a plastering contractor. Lee was an accomplished playwright and educator whose award-winning work, much of it with the Negro Ensemble Company, focused on stretching the boundaries of the African-American experience as it was portrayed on the stage. Over four decades, Mr. Lee wrote more than two dozen stage works, scouring American history for his subjects and characters. Most of his work was produced Off Broadway and on regional stages, but his best-known play, The First Breeze of Summer (1975), appeared on Broadway, at the Palace Theater after moving from the St. Mark’s Playhouse, then the home of the Negro Ensemble Company. It was nominated for a Tony Award for best play. (Tom Stoppard’s Travesties was the winner.)
“One can be black and also many other things,” Mr. Lee said in a 1975 interview about his writerly concerns. “I want to expand the thinking of blacks about themselves.”
The First Breeze of Summer
This striking story of a middle class Black family in a small Northeastern city is told on two levels: events that transpire on one hot June weekend and flashbacks to the memories of the visiting grandmother as a young woman. A resourceful woman, she feels some regrets, no shame and feels she has had a useful life. Her grandson Lou is a sensitive boy about to graduate from high school who worships the grandmother. The resolution of his problems and his acceptance of his sexuality and blackness form the backbone of the play.
A 1975 Obie Award for Best Play, a 1976 Tony Award nomination for Best Play, and an Outer Circle Critics Award.
Premiered at St. Marks Playhouse in NYC in 1975
Revived at the Signature Theater in 2008, featuring Leslie Uggams
“Mr. Lee is a new playwright of exceptional promise, and this first play is one of the most mature and rewarding works the N.E.C has given us. It is a play that celebrates blackness by recording it. There are no overt political overtone’s here, except those contained in any true documentation of a people. And Mr. Lee’s moving play rings as true as crystal.” – The New York Times
Sundown Names and Night-Gone Things
Colored People’s Time
The War Party
Purchase the play HERE.
Some video clips from the 2008 production can be viewed HERE.
Friday, January 29, 2021
View Episode #74 HERE
Ayad Akhtar (born October 28, 1970) is an American-born playwright, novelist, and screenwriter of Pakistani heritage who received the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. His work has received two Tony Award nominations for Best Play and an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Akhtar’s writing covers various themes including the American-Muslim experience, religion and economics, immigration, and identity. In 2015, The Economist wrote that Akhtar’s tales of assimilation “are as essential today as the work of Saul Bellow, James Farrell, and Vladimir Nabokov were in the 20th century in capturing the drama of the immigrant experience.”
Disgraced builds to a fateful dinner party, at which an interracial couple—a South Asian lawyer who has rejected his Muslim faith and his wife, a Caucasian artist who takes her inspiration from Islamic art—play host to another couple, a Jewish art curator and his African-American wife, also a lawyer. The stakes are high for everyone present, both personally and politically—and the evening ends in violence.
Amir Kapoor is a successful Pakistani-American lawyer who is rapidly moving up the corporate ladder while distancing himself from his cultural roots. When he and his wife host a dinner party, what starts out as friendly conversation escalates into something far more damaging.
2013 Pulitzer Prize for Drama
2013 Obie Award for Playwrighting
2015 Tony Award Nomination for Best Play
First Premiered at The American Theater Company in Chicago before being staged at Lincoln Center Theater in New York. The play opened on Broadway at the Lyceum Theatre on October 23, 2014
“A sparkling and combustible contemporary drama…. Ayad Akhtar’s one-act play deftly mixes the political and personal, exploring race, freedom of speech, political correctness, even the essence of Islam and Judaism. The insidery references to the Hamptons and Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and art critic Jerry Saltz are just enough to make audience members feel smart…. Akhtar…has lots to say about America and the world today. He says it all compellingly, and none of it is comforting.” —Philip Boroff, Bloomberg Businessweek
“Offers an engaging snapshot of the challenge for upwardly mobile Islamic Americans in the post-9/11 age.” —Thom Geier, Entertainment Weekly
“Akhtar digs deep to confront uncomfortable truths about the ways we look at race, culture, class, religion, and sex in this bracingly adult, unflinching drama… [He] writes incisive, often quite funny dialogue and creates vivid characters, managing to cover a lot of ground in a mere four scenes and 80 minutes. Akhtar doesn’t offer any solutions to the thorny issues he presents so effectively. What he does is require us to engage them, and that’s a very good and necessary thing.” —Erik Haagensen, Backstage.com
The Who & The What
The Invisible Hand
Junk: The Golden Age of Debt
Friday, January 15, 2021
View Episode #72 HERE
Adrienne Kennedy (born September 13, 1931) is an American playwright best known for Funnyhouse of a Negro, which premiered in 1964 and won an Obie Award. Kennedy has been contributing to American theatre since the early 1960s, influencing generations of playwrights with her haunting, fragmentary lyrical dramas. Exploring the violence racism brings to people’s lives, Kennedy’s plays express poetic alienation, transcending the particulars of character and plot through ritualistic repetition and radical structural experimentation. Much of her work explores issues of race, kinship, and violence in American society, and many of her plays are autobiographically inspired.
He Brought Her Heart Back in a Box
In her first new work in a decade, Adrienne Kennedy journeys into Georgia and New York City in the 1940s to lay bare the devastating effects of segregation and its aftermath. The story of a doomed interracial love affair unfolds through fragmented pieces–letters, recollections from family members, songs from the time–to present a multifaceted view of our cultural history that resists simple interpretation.
It is 1941, and Kay and Chris are in love. Yet the letters they exchange are not tender professions, but painful reminiscences—of Chris’ wealthy white father who laid the architecture for local segregation, of Kay’s brutalized Black mother whose death remains a mystery, and of the myriad forces that separate them. Written in 2018, Adrienne Kennedy’s newest work is a brief but expansive memory play that conjures “dread, romance and a tragic surrealism all at once” (New York Times). He Brought Her Heart Back in a Box is a heartbreaking collage of family memories, historical specters, and theatrical allusions, hypnotically woven together with a poetry that is distinctively Kennedy’s own.
Written in 2017, first produced in 2018 by Theatre for a New Audience. Now available for on demand streaming online through Roundhouse Theatre.
Kennedy received Obie Awards for “Distinguished Play” in 1964 for Funnyhouse of a Negro and “Best New American Play” in 1996 for June and Jean in Concert and Sleep Deprivation Chamber. She was also honored at the 2008 Obie Awards with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
“Feverish and fragmentary in the way of half-remembered nightmares…Ravishing…Haunting Lyricism” – The New York Times
“Ms. Kennedy is one of the American theatre’s greatest and least compromising experimentalists. Her dramas are sites of living history, where personal stories of racism’s unhealed wounds mingle with dark tales thieved from the Brothers Grimm and 1940s Hollywood.” – Alexis Soloski, The New York Times
Read the Play
You can purchase a collection of Kennedy’s plays on Amazon HERE.
You can view a panel discussion of the play on YouTube HERE.
Friday, January 8, 2021
View Episode #71 HERE
Luis Alfaro is a Chicano playwright known for his work in theater, performance, poetry, and journalism. Born and raised in the Pico-Union district of downtown Los Angeles, he also works as a director, curator, producer, educator, and community organizer. He is the first playwright-in-residence in the 83-year history of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the largest repertory company in the United States, serving for six seasons (2013-19). He was a member of the Playwright’s Ensemble at Chicago’s Victory Gardens Theatre from 2013–2020. Luis is a recipient of a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship (the “Genius Grant”). He was recently awarded the PEN America/Laura Pels International Foundation Theater Award for a Master Dramatist, the United States Artist Fellowship, and the Ford Foundation’s Art of Change Fellowship. His plays and performances include Electricidad, Oedipus El Rey, Mojada, Delano and Body of Faith.
Oedipus El Rey
Set in South Central LA, Oedipus el Rey is a gritty and electrifying take on the classic Greek tragedy. Oedipus is reimagined as a young man whose dreams of controlling his own destiny soar beyond the prison walls where he’s spent his life. In a place where everyone is trapped by desperation, violence, and history, can one man transcend his own story? Love, family, and belief collide in this chilling, muscular odyssey that asks: what’s fate and what’s just the system?
“…Oedipus dazzles… [it] strikes to the bone of one of our more disturbing ancient legends and gives it new, breathtakingly vital life.” —The Mercury News
“Alfaro may be the first, Sophocles included, to place the love of Oedipus and Jocasta squarely at the play’s tragic center. More than that, he makes it resonate with a passion fully enhanced not only by the spare poetry of his text but also by Greco’s intense staging and the naked vulnerability of two fully committed actors in the show that opened Wednesday.” – Robert Hurwitt, San Francisco Chronicle
“…Alfaro is exploring new kingdoms through the ancient story of Oedipus, taking on the American prison system and questions of fate and identity, all while challenging audiences to be part of the conversation. It’s one in which after experiencing his theatrical creation, they’ll all be willing to partake in.” – Carmen Pelaez – NBC News
Oedipus El Rey, a Chicano retelling of Oedipus Rex, had its world premiere at the Magic Theatre in San Francisco in 2010. In 2014, the show had its Texas regional premiere at Dallas Theatre Center, under the direction of Kevin Moriarty. The play received a production at San Diego Repertory Theatre in 2015 under the direction of Sam Woodhouse. Oedipus El Rey received its New York premiere at The Public Theatre in collaboration with The Sol Project and Jacob Padrón in 2017. The play was produced at The Public Theater’s Shiva Theater in 2018.
See the Play
You can enjoy a professional staged reading of all all three plays in Luis Alfaro’s “Greek Trilogy”, including Oedipus El Rey for FREE through January 20th. Produced by Center Theatre Group, in partnership with the Getty Museum, this is an amazing opportunity to view these important, award-winning plays in the comfort of your own home. Do it today by clicking HERE. Purchase the play by clicking HERE.
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.
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.