Everyone, I am woefully behind on posts! I’ve been writing nonstop and traveling for work. But I’m determined to get them all written today.
First up, I’m excited to share that the new play development workshop for Behold A Negress was a huge success. As you may remember, this play was the second of three plays for which I received funding to write with the support of a University Research Council (URC) Small Grant. Click here to read my earlier post and here is a synopsis of the play:
Set in Paris and spanning the heights of the French Revolution through the beginnings of Napoleon's reign, Behold A Negress imagines an intimate relationship between real-life painter, Marie-Guillemine Benoist, and her muse, Madeleine, a formerly enslaved black woman. Inspired by the execution of eighteenth-century feminist and playwright, Olympe de Gouges, Marie and Madeleine maneuver the codes and corridors of women's power in post-revolutionary France in pursuit of their own liberty, equality, and fraternity. However, when Marie's ambition and desire for artistic recognition overshadow Madeleine's sense of justice and personal integrity, the women find themselves at odds just as revolutionary as the political world that surrounds them. Behold A Negress is a passionate and daring examination of the challenges of intersectional feminism and the role of art during times of great social unrest and political upheaval.
As you’ll recall, the workshop was directed by Shirley Serotsky with dramaturgy by Jules Odendahl-James. The cast included Kaja Dunn and Laurel Ullman with Kayla Brown reading stage directions. Ruthie Allen was our stage manager.
We spent three wonderfully productive days together. I worked on revisions in the room and at home in between rehearsals. On the final day, we welcomed a small audience for the reading. I was moved by the conversation that followed. The audience responded well to the intimate and charged relationship of the two women. They were riveted by the world of the play and major conflicts of race and representation in the art world; the role of art in the social politics; the personal sacrifices that are made when pursuing a career; and the downfalls of fame. It was so exciting to hear the audience discuss how relevant the play felt today.
In a few months, I’ll have a chance to work on revisions of the play. I’ll be taking it from its epic scope in time to a six month period. This compressed time will allow us to spend more time with the women as the painting is being created, up to the expositions, and following the painting’s debut. I’ll be sure to keep you posted if I’m able to gather in the room once again for a new play development workshop.
In my next post, I’m going to update you on Freedom Hill. In the meantime, I'm excited to share a few photos from our time together.
Behold, A Negress Ensemble
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!