In addition to being a playwright, I am a dramaturg. I learned how to be a dramaturg and about the process of new play development at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company under the tutelage of Mary Resing, who was then the Director of New Play Development and is now Artistic Director of Active Cultures, where I am now the Director of New Play Development (!). The very first play that I dramaturged was the world premiere production of Sarah Ruhl's The Clean House. Here's what I learned from my time at Woolly: The play is first. Those of us invited in the room are here to steward the play forward. However, first, foremost and always, the playwright's voice must be honored. To honor the playwright's voice, you have to ask the playwright many questions. When asking the playwright questions, you have to listen to what she says. You have to set aside your own notions and ambitions for what you think the play ought to be, because you're not writing the play. She is.
From 2006 to 2011, I served as Artistic Associate and Resident Dramaturg of African Continuum Theatre. Being the dramaturg and production coordinator of the Fresh Flavas Festival was the absolute highlight of my tenure. I had the opportunity to work with, learn from, and steward the plays of such extraordinary, talented, and passionate playwrights as Michael J. Bobbitt, Kara Corthron, P.J. Gibson, Caleen Sinnette Jennings, Jennifer L. Nelson, Dominique Morisseau, S.M. Shepard-Massat, David Emerson Toney, and Sam-Art Williams. The tradition of the great work continues ...
On Saturday, November 10, 2012, as part of Arena Stage's Cradle Series, African Continuum Theatre will present readings of two exciting new works as part of the Fresh Flavas Festival: Without Trace by Eric Lockley at 2:00pm and Kind of Blue by Ozzie Jones at 4:00pm. This event is free and open to the public. There is a $5 suggested donation. Click here to learn more. Also, if you haven't already be sure to purchase your tickets for Into a Dollhouse House presented by banished? Productions and A Killing Game presented by dog & pony dc.
To learn more about the Fresh Flavas Festival and the plays being presented, here's my interview with Maryam F. Foye, who directed the readings, and the two playwrights being featured: Ozzie Jones and Eric Lockley.
Maryam F. Foye: Legacy, Hard-knocks, fighting
JL: What is your role in African Continuum Theatre Company?
Maryam F. Foye: I started out with ACTCo as an actress. I played Angel in Blues for an Alabama Sky and then immediately became an ensemble member in their community engagement ensemble "Off the Circuit". We've performed in senior homes, schools, local businesses and churches. Fresh Flavas reading series is my first directing opportunity with ActCo. I'm lucky to have great text to work with.
JL: African Continuum Theatre Company's will present two plays as a part of the Fresh Flavas Reading Series. First, tell us a bit about the Fresh Flavas Reading Series.
Maryam F. Foye: I think in short it is an opportunity for playwrights to develop new and interesting pieces of work. ActCo takes it a step farther by following their vision of supporting artists of color and/or artists truthfully telling the stories of people of color and providing a platform where one may not exist. It's a place where the writer isnt burdened with finding an audience or director or having stress about anything outside of how to be a better playwright. It's a cool set up, kind of like the name.
JL: Now, tell us about each play and what excites you about them.
Maryam F. Foye: I'm especially interested in Kind of Blue by Eric Lockley, because of the musicality in the piece. The language is very quick and subtle and sexy. It is based off of the writers perception of Miles Davis and uses the songs from Kind of Blue as its framework. Beautiful. Without Trace by Ozzie Jones is more of the African-american struggle while standing in progess type of story if that makes sense. Black president, race wars and strong family dynamic. I think what sets it apart is the translation of the father son relationship.
JL: Why should audiences come see the Fresh Flavas Reading Series?
Maryam F. Foye: Outside of just saying support new artists, help dreams soar and be a voice in the current creative revolution. I would just say, these writers have worked hard to create quality pieces of work that everyone should see. This is a great time to help someone in their crafting become better in their crafting. Jump in.
JL: Why is it important for the Fresh Flavas Reading Series to be a part of Arena Stage’s Cradle Series? How is this experience contributing to the growth and development of these plays?
Maryam F. Foye: Arena is a reputable name. People are drawn to it. To put a backing like that on an emerging artist is huge. The Arena stage fan base is a cultured and artistically diverse and well balanced massive. The thoughts and ideas from such a group would be of tremendous benefit to someone who otherwise may just have themselves.
ABOUT THE PLAYWRIGHTS
The Fresh Flavas new play reading series is a workshop and incubator program for emerging and established playwrights of color to develop new plays. This program provides a platform for playwrights to hear their words read before a live audience for the first time, which is a critical stage in the play’s development. Free public readings of the works-in-progress are rehearsed, directed and performed by local artists and provides an open forum for the playwright to obtain immediate feed-back on their work. This is followed by a talk-back session with the playwright, director and performers. Playwright then gain critical responses, which can enhance and improve further development and finalization of the new work.