I'm about to head into the Day One of the new play development workshop for my new one woman play, Edges of Time (more in my next post), but I wanted to fill you in a bit on The Inferior Sex workshop that was hosted by the Kennedy Center as part of their Kenan Directing Fellowship. Simply put: it was an enormous success!
We had three wonderfully productive days around the table filled with rich, vibrant, and inspiring discussion. Being able to explore the emotional landscape and complex lives of these characters with some of the most talented, and thoughtful theatre artists was a true blessing. Doing so, allowed me to deepen the characters journeys and arcs, clarify plot points, and active exposition in ways that moved the play forward. What inspired me most was relevant this story is and how the joys and struggles of these characters resonate so deeply today.
I honestly cannot thank Gregg Henry enough for this opportunity! I also want to extend my deep appreciation to my director and dear friend Shirley Serotsky; our brilliant cast Sarah Corey, Shanara Gabrielle, Megan Graves, Daven Ralston, Madeline Joey Rose, Jasmine Rush, Sara Dabney Tisdale, and Jade Wheeler; our amazing stage manager Keri Schultz Kent, and the fantastic Kenan Directing Fellows Jake Owen and Timothy Thompson, who provided dramaturgical support and research throughout our process. With a team like this, it's not wonder the experience was so lovely.
I'm beyond excited to bring this play to the University of North Carolina at Wilminton's Department of Theatre this January. Shirley Serotsky will be directing the workshop production for that as well. Of course, I'll keep you posted about that experience. For now, please enjoy a few photos from out time together!
Playwright and Director Rockin' the KC Red Carpet!
The Inferior Sex Ensemble Around the Table
The Inferior Sex Ensemble Last Day
From Tuesday, November 27th to Thursday, November 29th. my play, The Inferior Sex, will receive a new play development workshop as part of the William R. Kenan Jr. Fellowship at The Kennedy Center. Under the direction of Shirley Serotsky, who is this year’s Kenan Fellows Directing Mentor, the cast will include Sarah Corey as Vera, Shanara Gabrielle as Penny, Megan Graves as Joan, Daven Ralston as Alice, Madeline Joey Rose as Sandra, Jasmine Rush as Gwen, Sara Dabney Tisdale as Madeleine, and Jade Wheeler as Connie. Our stage manager is Keri Schultz Kent. Additionally, this year’s Kenan Directing Fellows Jake Owen and Timothy Thompson will provide dramaturgical support and research throughout our process.
Here's more information about the play:
It's the summer of 1972. As the war in Vietnam intensifies, the battle to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment ramps up across the nation, and Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm remains undeterred in her campaign for president. In midtown Manhattan, a small woman's magazine is on the verge of collapsing and threatens to dash the hopes and dreams of a group of women tired of being treated as second class. The Inferior Sex is a poignant and hilarious behind-the-scenes look at a woman's magazine that gets political, faces hard truths, and breaks new ground in an ever-changing world.
I began writing this play in the wake of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. As cities across the world prepared for the second Women’s March, I kept thinking about the Equal Rights Amendment, which would guarantee equal legal rights for all American citizens regardless of sex. While it passed in 1972, it did not reach the 38 state threshold required for ratification. Recently, however, Nevada approved the amendment last year and Illinois approved it this past May. All hope is pointing to Virginia right now. If they approve it, then Equal Rights Amendment will become the law of the land. It’s amazing to think that the global focus on anti-sexual assault and women’s empowerment could lead to immediate, lasting, and comprehensive social and political change.
I wrote The Inferior Sex in two weeks. It’s the fastest I’ve ever written a play. I was fortunate enough to workshop the first draft of the script in March of this year with Elon University’s Kim Shively (director), Susanne Shawyer (dramaturg), and a bright and talented group of students in the Acting and Music Theatre BFA programs. I am so grateful for the opportunity to spend more time developing the script. I truly cannot thank Shirley and Gregg Henry (Director of the Kenan Fellows Program) enough for their continued support of my work and for including this play as part of the Kenan Fellowship experience.
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!keri schultz ken
The Inferior Sex Director
Shirley Serotsky has been a director, dramaturg, artistic leader, educator and programmer in the Washington, DC area since 2001. She is currently the resident dramaturg for Mosaic Theater Company. Between 2008-2016 she served in a series of leadership positions (including Interim Artistic Director for the 2015-2016 season) at Theater J, a professional theatre company committed to producing timely, and often politically-charged, new plays and revivals. Shirley has taught and mentored students in the fields of directing, acting, dramaturgy, play analysis, theatre appreciation, new play development and auditioning. Selected directing credits include: The How and the Why, Another Way Home, The Call, Yentl, The Argument, The Hampton Years, The History of Invulnerability, The Moscows of Nantucket, Mikveh (Theater J);Rapture, Blister, Burn (Round House Theatre); The Jungle Book (Adventure Theatre); a 21/24 Signature Lab Workshop presentation of The Break (Signature Theatre); Other Life Forms, Working: The Musical (Keegan Theatre); Blood Wedding (Constellation Theatre); A Man, His Wife, and His Hat and Birds of a Feather (which won the 2012 Charles MacArthur Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding New Play, The Hub Theatre);Juno and the Paycock (Washington Shakespeare Company); Reals, Five Flights and Two Rooms (Theater Alliance); Crumble and We Are Not These Hands (Catalyst Theater); References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot (Rorschach Theater, for which she received a 2007 Helen Hayes nomination for outstanding direction); Sovereignty (The Humana Festival of New Plays). Training: BFA, The University of North Carolina School of the Arts; MFA, Catholic University.
The Inferior Sex Cast
Sarah Corey (Vera) thinks Jacqueline Lawton is a force of nature and a true artistic inspiration. Off-Broadway: A Letter to Harvey Milk, Love and Real Estate, Illyria, Souvenir Stories, MapQuest, Museum Pieces. International: Death For Five Voices (Prospect Theater Company.) Selected Regional: Shear Madness (Kennedy Center), In the Book Of (Alabama Shakespeare Festival), The Fourth Wall, Around The World in 80 Days, Broadway Bound (Oldcastle Theatre Company), Love/Sick, Beau Jest (Public Theatre), I Call My Brothers (Forum Theatre), Midsummer Night's Dream, A Little Night Music (Prospect), Twelfth Night (Mountain Playhouse), Evita, Sisters of Swing (Worcester Foothills), Lippa's Wild Party (New Repertory Theatre, Best Supporting Actress IRNE), Caroline, or Change (Speakeasy Stage), A Grand Night for Singing (Gloucester Stage), Tommy (Stoneham Theatre), Shout! The Mod Musical (Depot Theatre), The Princess and the Pauper: A Bollywood Tale (Imagination Stage), I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change (Totem Pole Playhouse). Sarah is a graduate of Princeton University and of the Shakespeare & Company Conservatory for Classical Acting. Upcoming: Oil at Olney Theatre Center. www.sarah-corey.com
Shanara Gabrielle (Penny) is an actor, director, and theatre maker; excited to be joining the work on an exciting new play. THEATRE: Shakespeare Theatre Company: Romeo and Juliet (Lady Montague), Comedy of Errors (u/s) Guthrie Theater: She Loves Me (Ilona); Actor’s Theatre of Louisville: A Christmas Carol (Christmas Past); Repertory Theatre of St. Louis: Clybourne Park (Betsy/Lindsey), Comedy of Errors (Courtesan), Macbeth (Witch); Idaho Shakespeare/Great Lakes Theater: Blithe Spirit (Elvira); Notre Dame Shakespeare: A Winter’s Tale (Hermione); Great River Shakespeare: Othello (Desdemona), Love’s Labour’s Lost (Rosaline), Twelfth Night (Viola); FILM & TELEVISION: House of Cards, The Enemy Within, Chicago Fire, Conan, Conviction, Guiding Light, numerous commercials and independent films. AWARDS: Princess Grace Foundation Grace LeVine Award, Drama Critic Circle Award. TRAINING: B.F.A. from Webster Conservatory, AEA, SAG-AFTRA. WEB: shanaragabrielle.com IG: @shanaragabrielle
Megan Graves (Joan) can currently be seen at the Folger Theatre in King John. Previous credits include The Great Society and The Little Foxes (Arena Stage); Translations (Studio Theatre); A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Second Shepherd’s Play (Folger Theatre); Peter and the Starcatcher (Helen Hayes Nomination, Constellation Theatre Company); Redder Blood (Helen Hayes Nomination, The Hub Theatre); and Love and Information, Passion Play, and Clementine in the Lower 9 (Forum Theatre). Other credits include work with Imagination Stage, Adventure Theatre MTC, Virginia Repertory Theatre, and The Virginia Shakespeare Festival. Megan holds a BFA in Acting from Shenandoah Conservatory and is a proud company member of Only Make Believe. Upcoming: Oil (Olney Theatre Center).
Daven Ralston (Alice) is a DC-based actor and musician and has performed at various theaters and venues around DC. Select DC area theater credits include: How I Learned to Drive at Round House Theatre; The Winter’s Tale and As You Like It at Folger Theatre; Everything is Illuminated at Theatre J; Top Girls,and The Bockety World of Henry and Bucket at Keegan Theatre; Wonderland: Alice’s Rock and Roll Adventure at Imagination Stage; Three Sisters, No Sisters at Studio Theatre; The Magi at Hub Theatre; A Bid to Save the World at Rorschach Theatre; Wild Sky at Solas Nua (company member); A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Friendship Betrayed, and The Madwoman of Chaillot at WSC Avant Bard; Space Bop, and Snow Day at Arts on the Horizon; and A Midsummer Night’s Dream at PG County Shakespeare Festival. When Daven is not acting onstage, she is working as a musician, songwriter, and teaching artist/music teacher in the DMV area. Daven can be seen next in Once at Olney Theatre Center.
Madeline Joey Rose (Sandara) is a New York City-based writer, musician, and actor passionate about new play development. Recent acting credits include the world premieres of Lindsay Joelle’s Trayf at Theater J and Tearrance Arvelle Chisholm’s Hooded, Or Being Black for Dummies at Mosaic Theater Company. Other D.C.-area acting credits include: The Heidi Chronicles (Rep Stage), The Last Night of Ballyhoo (Theater J), Year of the Rooster (Single Carrot Theatre), TAME. (Avant Bard). She is the creator/performer of the nationally-touring solo show MOM BABY GOD, which has been workshopped locally at Forum Theatre, Taffety Punk, and Theater Alliance. Madeline can be seen next at Woolly Mammoth in BLKS. www.madelinejoeyrose.com
Jasmine Rush (Gwen) NY|BK by way of Milwaukee, WI. Select regional credits include: Esther, Intimate Apparel (Sierra Rep, CA) Brutus , Julius Caesar and Diana (Gower), Pericles (ACA, Washington, DC), Barbecue and Saturday Night/Sunday Morning (Lyric Stage Company of Boston), Laura (Stoneham Theatre) To Kill a Mockingbird (Firehouse Theatre for the Arts), The Forgetting Curve (Bridge Rep of Boston). TV credits include: Blue Bloods (CBS), Difficult People (Hulu) and Golden Globe Nominated Mini-Series The Sinner. Jasmine produced and stars in indie feature Bonhomme (D. Armas Prod.). She holds an MFA in Classical Acting from Shakespeare Theatre Company's Academy of Classical Acting. She is a proud member of both AEA and SAG-AFTRA. www.jasminemrush.com
Sara Dabney Tisdale (Madeleine) will receive her M.F.A. in December from the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Academy for Classical Acting at The George Washington University. As an actor, her D.C. theater credits include The Trojan Women (Taffety Punk Theatre Company), Sense and Sensibility (Folger Theatre), Bad Jews, Mary-Kate Olsen Is in Love, and Pop! (Studio Theatre), Yentl (Theater J), Blackberry Winter and The T Party (Forum Theatre), When the Rain Stops Falling (1st Stage), The Minotaur and A Softer World (Rorschach Theatre), A Little Trick (Quotidian Theatre Company), and The Scarlet Letter (Lean and Hungry Theater). Sara has also assisted-directed productions at Round House Theatre, Forum Theatre, and Adventure Theatre MTC. Sara previously trained at The Studio Theatre Acting Conservatory and The University of Virginia, and she is a proud member of Actors’ Equity Association. You can find out more about her upcoming work at www.saradabneytisdale.com.
Jade Wheeler (Connie) is pleased as punch to take part in this new play development. She last worked with Ms. Lawton workshopping Among These Wild Things. Favorite roles include: The Red Queen in Debbie Allen's Alex in Wonderland (Kennedy Cenedy TYA); Cat in John Strand’s The Originalist (Arena Stage/ Asolo Rep/ Court Theatre/ Pasadena Playhouse); Mira in the world premiere of George Brant’s Dark Room (Bridge Rep); Sophie (GableStage) and Josephine (Everyman) in Lynn Nottage’s Ruined. Wheeler is the creator of a solo show about Eartha Kitt’s life of “cotton & caviar”: an unwanted girl from the cotton fields finds acceptance on-stage, though perhaps never off-stage. Who is Eartha Mae? (Best Cabaret United Solo Fest 2016) will receive its official world premiere in January 2019 with Bridge Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, MA. Wheeler’s second cabaret, a bilingual French-English program, is entitled One Night En Franglais. Stay up-to-date on IG @The_Mundivagant_Actor and www.jadewheeler.com
Drone footage shows extensive flooding in Belhaven, North Carolina, after Hurricane Florence. Video shot by Tariq Zehawi and John Meore. USA TODAY.
"We already know where the flood waters will go. They will follow a slow, predictable path. We know who lives in low lying areas, we know what neighborhoods are on the south side of the tracks. From Appalachia down, every town has Hillers and Creekers. Floodplains read like maps of the economy and race." Gwen Frisbie-Fulton, "North Carolina's Problem Isn't Florence, It's Poverty
The Environmental Protection Agency defines environmental justice as “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.” Their basic goal is for all people and communities across this nation to have clean air, land, and water. Unfortunately, that isn’t happening. What’s more, the continued denial of climate change and elimination of urgent environmental regulations are causing many communities to be at even greater risk. This creates such significant challenges for many marginalized and impoverished people, who are unable to leave their homes and communities and cannot afford costly measures to maintain a clean and healthy environment. My Staging Environmental Justice Project aims to address these issues in North Carolina. I'm honored to take part in today's Environmental Summit to share my ideas and learn more about the needs of the community and the work of my colleagues.
Please join us for the first UNC Environmental Summit
Faculty and staff are invited to build a platform for pan-campus environmental collaboration across research, education, engagement and campus operations. Come be a part of creating the environment at Carolina and contribute ideas for its development.
Pleasants Family Assembly Room
Wilson Library - 2nd floor
Friday, Nov. 9, 1-4 p.m.
Please register here:
The Environmental Summit
A Conversation on the Environment at Carolina
1:00 – 1:20 Reception
1:20 – 1:30 Welcome Remarks
1:30 – 1:45 Chancellor Carol Folt
1:45 – 1:55 Framing the Conversation
1:55 – 2:45 Panel of Distinguished Faculty
Jacqueline Lawton, Assistant Professor – Department of Dramatic Art
Elizabeth Frankenberg, Professor – Department of Sociology, Director -Carolina Population Center
Greg Characklis, Philip C. Singer Distinguished Professor - Dept. of Environmental Sciences & Engineering, Director - Center on Financial Risk in Environmental Systems
Rachel Noble, Mary and Watts Hill Jr. Distinguished Professor - Institute of Marine Sciences
Diego Riveros-Iregui, Assistant Professor, Department of Geography
2:45 – 2:55 Coffee Break
2:55 – 3:40 Imagining the Environment at Carolina
3:40 – 4:00 Reception
Environment, Ecology, and Energy Program (E3P)
The Institute for Environment
Three Zeroes Initiative
Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering
North Carolina Policy Collaboratory
More than anything, last week's workshop of Blackbirds was fun. It was also empowering and deeply cathartic. I mean, how could it not be? This play is full of magic, humor, the strength of women, and the power of friendship.
Now, don't get me wrong, the themes of the play are dark and urgent. I'm addressing the impact of the #MeToo movement in the hotel industry and what happens when women embody the very worst traits of the patriarchy and inflict pain on others. But over the course of the play, these women decide that enough is enough, and literally transform from victims to warrior goddesses.
Our small, attentive audience were captivated by this cathartic and all to real journey. During the post reading discussions, there was such appreciation for the courage, passion, laughter through tears, and vulnerability of these women. I'm so excited about this play and deeply appreciative of my director, dramaturg, and cast for their time, talent, and brilliant insight. The revisions are complete and is slowly making it's way to the desks of artistic directors and literary managers.
As many of you know, over the next year and a half, I'll be writing five new plays. One is a commission and the other four have been funded by UNC's Institute for Arts and Humanities Faculty Fellowship and the University Research Council. Blackbirds is the first of these plays to be completed and workshopped. If last week was a sign for what's to come, then I'm in for quite a rich, wonderful, and productive ride! Of course, I'll keep you posted along the way.
Blackbirds Cast in Rehearsal
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!