On Monday, October 29th and Tuesday, October 30th, my play Blackbirds will receive a new play development workshop and reading at the Department of Dramatic Art. Blackbirds is one of three plays being supported by UNC’s University Research Council Small Grant program, which is administered by the Office of Research Development.
Directed by Aubrey Snowden with dramaturgy by Jules Odendahl-James, the reading will feature Anja Lee as Esmeralda, Rasool Jahan as Jacinta, Monét Noelle Marshall, and Kathryn Hunter Williams as Ivy Ambrosia Dubois. UNC Drama Major Kayla Brown will be reading Stage Directions. We will have an invited rehearsal on Tuesday, October 30th. Please contact me if you would like to attend. Here’s more about the play:
In the wake of the 2016 election, three witches vow to avenge the honor women who have abused, harassed, and assaulted by wealthy, powerful men. Traveling from the heart of the Red Sea in the year of our Lord 516 A.D, they appear in their mortal forms as three hotel housekeepers: Jacinta, a law student, who is caring for her sick parents who lives out of state; Avery, whose marriage is on the brink of divorce and is working two jobs to make ends meet and care for her child; and Esmeralda, who was recently naturalized, but is unable to locate her husband after ICE raided their home and took him into custody. After targeting their predators, the witches now face a major dilemma: Do they take the money and run? Or risk everything, including the reputation and livelihood of their boss, Mrs. Ivy Ambrosia Dubois, to rewrite the rules of the patriarchy and change the game forever. Giving voice to the voiceless, Blackbirds is a story of friendship, empowerment, and redemption in the era of #MeToo.
I wrote this play in response to the current political climate. I knew that I wanted to explore how the hotel industry was addressing #MeToo. As some of the most vulnerable workers in any industry, I knew that the women at the center of the play would be housekeepers. I knew that over the course of the play, these women would access their power, voice, and agency in order to overcome the harsh condition of their circumstance. As the play began to take shape, it was clear that the current immigration crisis and the possible of access to affordable health care were important themes to weave into the play. It’s really quite thrilling to be at this place in the new play process.
In my next post, I’ll let you know about the workshop and the next steps for the development process. Until then, here are the lovely folx working with me!
Aubrey Snowden (Director) is a freelance director and choreographer who recently relocated from Brooklyn, NY to Chapel Hill. She is an Assistant Teaching Professor at UNC Chapel Hill who directed the undergraduate production of The Wolves by Sarah Delappe last Spring. Some recent credits also include associate directing Bedlam's Sense and Sensibility at A.R.T in Boston. She has been part of the Lucille Lortel nominated production since its inception in 2014. Her extensive training includes acting and directing at the National Theater Institute, Suzuki and Viewpoints under the SITI Company, Moment Work with Tectonic Theater Project, and the International Symposium of directors with LaMama in Umbria, Italy. Aubrey has her MFA in Directing from Brown University/Trinity Rep. aubreysnowden.com
Jules Odendahl-James (Dramaturg) is an artist/scholar who has been making theater in the Triangle for two decades. Recent credits include The Moors by Jen Silverman, Vinegar Tom by Caryl Churchill at Duke University (director); Life Sucks by Aaron Posner at Manbites Dog, Rollover by Laura Moore, a new play in development at UNC-Chapel Hill (dramaturg). She was an Associate Artistic Director at Manbites Dog from 2014-2018; is a member of the new venture Bulldog Theatre Ensemble; an Associate Member of SDC, and a member of the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas (LMDA).
Kayla Brown (Stage Directions) is a sophomore at UNC with a double major in Dramatic Art and Mathematics. She has worked with several companies on campus, and recent performance credits include The Wolves (KTC), The Vagina Monologues (Company Carolina), and Antigonick (KTC). Kayla is actively involved in various aspects of production around campus, including acting, stage management, and set construction. Theater has been a huge part of Kayla’s life since her freshman year of high school. The ability to tell a story and spread a message through such a beautiful medium is what keeps her so invested in the world of theater. She is so thankful for the opportunity to be a part of the workshop for Blackbirds and cannot wait to work with such a talented group of people.
Rasool Jahan (Jacinta) holds a B. A. in Theatre from Shaw University. She has worked in TV, film and theatre on both the East & West Coast. Some of her favorite roles include Vivian Bearing, PhD, in WIT (Justice Theatre Project), MiMi Real in The Parchman Hour and Esther in Intimate Apparel (PlayMakers), Puck in A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream (WriteAct Rep.) and Phillis Wheatley in the World Premiere of Afric’s Muse. Rasool’s TV/Film credits include The Bay, Freedom Song, Cold Mountain, I Know What You Did Last Summer, House of Cards, Dawson’s Creek and a recurring role on One Tree Hill. Rasool is honored sit on the board of Hidden Voices and is currently working on a One Woman show.
Anja Lee (Esmeralda) is excited to be working with Jacqueline E. Lawton again after performing at the True Colors Theatre Spring Play Reading Series in Noms de Guerre. Favorite roles include Dr Patel in Maid’s Door, at the North Carolina Black Repertory Theatre, Lady Capulet at Atlanta Shakespeare Company, Cordelia in King Lear, alongside Tony award winner Trezana Beverley, at the National Black Theater, Lindsay in Brothers From the Bottom at The Billie Holiday Theatre, directed by Jackie Alexander, and To Be Young, Gifted and Black at Great Lakes Shakespeare. For many years, Anja appeared on All My Children, As the World Turns, and as a recurring Co Host on the QVC Network. Other credits include various commercials, industrials and voice overs. Anja is represented in both NYC and Atlanta. www.anjalee.net.
Monét Noelle Marshall (Avery) is a Durham, North Carolina-based artist, director & producer. She serves as the Founding Artistic Director of MOJOAA Performing Arts Company, producing new works by and new opportunities for Black playwrights. Marshall explores the ways that bodies, particularly those of Black women, are used, manipulated, curated and crafted to make political statements, both with and without their consent. She does this in public spaces through performance art experiences and public art programs and in more private spaces like dance parties and her kitchen. She is currently working on The Buy It Call It Trilogy, which includes Buy My Soul And Call It Art which premiered January 2018, Buy My Body And Call It A Ticket in June 2018 and Buy My Art And Call It Holy in December 2018. You can learn more about her upcoming work at MonetNoelleMarshall.com.
Kathryn Hunter Williams (Ivy Ambrosia Dubois) is Teaching Associate Professor in the Department of Dramatic Art and Associate Director for Hidden Voices. As Associate Director of Hidden Voices, Kathryn co-created performances with undocumented immigrant youth, families escaping violence, military spouses, survivors of sexual assault, African-American communities facing gentrification, refugees, and the currently incarcerated. Kathryn also serves as Company Artistic Associate for PlayMakers Rep. Directing credits include: Count; To Buy the Sun; the Challenge of Pauli Murray, Orange Light, Radio Golf, Jitney, Nina Simone: What More Can I Say? A longstanding member of PlayMakers Repertory Company, she recently performed the role of Mrs. Dickson in Intimate Apparel. PRC plays includeSkeleton Crew, Dot, Intimate Apparel, The Crucible, Trouble in Mind, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, and A Raisin in the Sun. She has also worked with Living Stage, The Negro Ensemble Company, and New Dramatists.
I'm a playwright, dramaturg, and teaching artist. It is here where you'll find my queries and musings on life, theater and the world. My posts advocate for diversity, inclusion, and equity in the American Theatre and updates on my own work. Please enjoy!