I’ve always loved theatre. I credit both my mother’s love of MGM musicals and a TYA touring production of Jack and the Beanstalk that got me hooked. I wrote plays, poems, short stories, and performed in high school. In college, I was frustrated by the lack of performance opportunities for students of color and decided to focus on playwriting in addition to screenwriting. This way, I could create roles for actors of color. This way, I could creatively channel my frustration and disappoint into action.
Next, tell me a little bit about your writing process. Do you have any writing rituals? Do you write in the same place or in different places?
Yes! I find music and images that speak to the world of the play and the characters. I do a lot of research on the socio-economic and geographical politics of the characters. I also study the foodways of each character. Food teaches so much about people. Also, for 8 years, I wrote in the same place. I lived in a lovely basement apartment in D.C. and had a secretary desk. While it had lovely windows, I could make it dark as night. I’d write by candlelight. Now, I live on the 3rd floor. My desk faces a large window, which gets direct sun and moonlight. It’s a new and different energy. I have to learn what works in this new space.
Why was it important for you to be a part of American Theatre Company’s 10 x 10 Festival?
I’ve been following the incidents surrounding Ferguson closely since day one. I read everything I could find and watched the live feeds of the protest. With the Ferguson Moment, I joined the efforts of my colleagues Claudia Alick, Mica Cole, and Megan Sandberg-Zakian to support theatre artists in Ferguson and across the nation in organizing a national artistic response to all that was happening. Of course, understanding that national tragedies raise awareness around local issues, I knew it was important to create a space for dialogue in my new community. Three weeks after moving to Chapel Hill, I worked with Triangle theatre artists Jules Odendahl-James, Monet Marshall, Ana Radulescu, Jeri-Lynn Schulke, Devra Thomas, and Kathryn Hunter Williams to produce the New Black Fest’s Hands Up. In addition to the performance, we are hosting a series of town halls and will be working with members of the community to create a response to issues of social injustice and racial oppression happening right here. However, in the midst of all of this, I hadn’t created my own response until ATC asked me to take part. Through these two 5 minute plays, I was able to focus my anger, fear, and disappointment in a creative way.
Tell me about your plays. What do you hope the audience walks away thinking about after experiencing it?
My plays are called Black Lives, White Chalk and A New Sense, A New Direction. They feature two mothers; one is white and one is black. Neighbors, best friends from college, and mothers to teenaged sons, they are forced to face the harsh realities of racial difference and privilege. I hope that audience walk away encouraged to stay active, engaged and informed of these issues.
What role does theater have in advocacy work?
Theatre is a powerful tool for social justice and change. It’s a space that holds multiple truths and allows us to explore the human condition. By using theatre as a catalyst for discussion, we can create empathy, affirm experiences, raise awareness, hold folks accountable for action and inaction, and offer a way through.
What next for you as a writer? Where can we follow your work?
Well, I'm fortunate to have a few things lined up. My adaptation of the Wonderful Wizard of Oz will receive a world premiere at Adventure Theatre-MTC (April 3 to May 25). A reading of Noms de Guerre will be presented by WAM Theatre on Sunday, June 14th at 3:00pm under the direction of Tony Award nominee Jayne Atkinson. Next season, Virginia Stage Company will produce the area premiere of The Hampton Years. I’m also working on a new play, AMONG THESE WILD THINGS, which explores the intersection of art, science and religion. ou can follow me at jacquelinelawton.com
About the Playwright
Join us on March 9 at 7:30pm for a uniquely challenging one-night-only engagement at the American Theater Company, as we are proud to present our annual short plays festival, 10x10.
Tickets are free but seats will fill up fast. To make a reservation, send us an email at ATC10x10@Gmail.com. Due to high demand, we are only able to reserve up to two seats per request.
At the door, we suggest a $10 donation to help us cover the cost of supporting the festival, though we welcome you to pay what you can.
This Year's Playwrights:
Jeff Augustin. Kristiana Rae Colón. Matthew-Lee Erlbach. Jacqueline E Lawton. Bonnie Metzgar. Dominique Morisseau. Lucas Neff. A Rey Pamatmat. Akin Salawu. Aurin Squire.
Kaiser Ahmed. Grace Cannon. Amanda Delheimer Dimond. Matt Dominguez. Azar Kazemi. Reed Motz. Hutch Pimentel. Tlaloc Rivas. Samuel Roberson. Conner Wilson.