This semester, I participated in UNC's Institute for the Arts and Humanities’ Faculty Fellowship Program, which provides on-campus semester leaves for faculty to work on research for publication, exhibition, composition and performance. I used this time to research, write, and develop, Edges of Time, a new one woman play about the early life and career Marvel Cooke, an investigative journalist and activist, who participated in the labor organizing in the 1930s and fought for world peace, workers' rights, and civil liberties.
During the course of her life, Cooke achieved many ‘firsts.’ She was the first black baby born in Mankato, Minnesota on April 4, 1903, and became the first woman journalist at the Amsterdam News. In response to low wages, she went on to organize New York City’s first Newspaper Guild chapter and took part in a strike against the Amsterdam News. Most notably, she was the first African American or woman reporter at the white-owned daily Compass. Her most notable article, for which she won acclaim and recognition, was "The Bronx Slave Market." In this four part series, Cooke went undercover exposed the harsh working conditions of black domestic workers. In her own words, Cooke explains, "I was part of the Bronx Slave Market long enough to experience all the viciousness and indignity of system which forces women to the streets in search of work."
Through theatre, we are able to portray the powerful, strange, terrifying, curious, and beautiful of the human experience Quite simply, there is no better form through which to explore the human condition. This is my first return to the one person play in several years. While living in D.C., I wrote a handful of historically based one person plays for the National Museum of American History, and I loved the intimate nature of this storytelling. My goal with this play is not only to tell the powerful story of this extraordinary woman, but also to explore the impact of the Great Migration on the black community, the role of investigative journalism, and to champion the need labor laws and regulations.
On Friday, December 14th at 7:30pm, Edges of Time, we will invite an audience to experience the play and I can hardly wait. In my next post, I'll share more about our new play development workshop. In the meantime, please click here to learn more about the play and to hear from my brilliant and talented collaborators.
Edges of Time Reading
Edges of Time
by Jacqueline E. Lawton
Directed by Kaja Dunn
Dramaturgy by Jules Odendahl-James
Featuring Kathryn Hunter-Williams as Marvel Cooke
Stage Directions by Ash Heffernan
The reading and post show discussion will take place on Friday, December 14th from 7:30pm to 9:30pm in Room 102 at UNC's Joan H. Gillings Center for Dramatic Art, which is located at 150 Country Club Rd, Chapel Hill, NC 27514.
About the Play
Edges of Time is a one woman show about the early life and career of Marvel Cooke, a journalist, activist, and all around unconventional woman. Set in 1963, in the wake of the Birmingham Church Bombing, Marvel reflects on the events of her life from a socialist upbringing in Minnesota to a career in progressive journalism in New York to an ill-fated trip to East Germany that led to a subpoena from Joseph McCarthy to testify at the Army–McCarthy hearings about her involvement with the Communist Party. Edges of Time is a powerful and haunting exploration of the role of journalism, the impact of government overreach, and what it means for a woman to live her life freely and independently in a patriarchal world.
Edges of Time is being presented with the generous support of the Institute for Arts and Humanities Faculty Fellowship, the Department of Dramatic Art, and PlayMakers Repertory Company. I would like to give special thanks to Michael Finkle, Elizabeth Teresita Howard, Brittany Marie Petruzzi, Kathy Perkins, Michael Rolleri, Kim Weaver Spurr, Jamie Strickland, Abbey Toot, Adam Verseyni, and Donn Young.
Edges of Time Ensemble
Jacqueline E. Lawton (Playwright) is a playwright, dramaturg, producer, and advocate for access, equity, diversity, and inclusion in the American Theatre. Her plays include: Among These Wild Things; Anna K; Blood-bound and Tongue-tied; Deep Belly Beautiful; The Devil’s Sweet Water; The Hampton Years; Intelligence, The Inferior Sex, Ira Aldridge: the African Roscius; Lions of Industry, Mothers of Invention; Love Brothers Serenade (2013 semi-finalist for the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center’s National Playwrights Conference); Mad Breed; Noms de Guerre; and Our Man Beverly Snow. Ms. Lawton received her MFA in Playwriting from the University of Texas at Austin, where she was a James A. Michener Fellow. She is a 2012 TCG Young Leaders of Color award recipient, National New Play Network (NNPN) Playwright Alum, and member of Arena Stage's Playwrights' Arena. She is also a proud member of the Dramatist Guild of America and the North Carolina Regional Representative. www.jacquelinelawton.com
Kaja Dunn (Director) is an Assistant Professor of Theatre and teaches acting at UNC Charlotte as well as being an actor, director, and activist. She has presented her work on Training Theatre Students of Color at University of London Goldsmiths, SETC and SETC Theatre Symposium, KCATF and The Association of Theatre in Higher Education among other places. She is on the National Board as secretary of the Black Theatre Association. She has performed in over 40 shows and taught and performed internationally. Most recently she mounted Caridad Svich's Archipelago which will begin touring in Summer 2019, and she will be directing A Raisin In The Sun at NC Stage Company next season. She was a 2018 keynote panelist at NCTC. Kaja was previously a Lecturer at California State University San Marcos and toured with Ya Tong Theatre in Taiwan. Other teaching credits include working with homeless and foster youth with Playwrights Project San Diego and as a teaching artist with Young Audiences. Her primary research focus is on using theatre to facilitate complex cultural conversation and Reimagining Theatre Training for Actors of Color. You can follow her on Twitter where she frequently posts about EDI issues under the handle @KajaDunn.
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).
Kathryn Hunter Williams (Marvel Cooke) 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.
Ash Heffernan (Stage Directions) is a Dramatic Arts and Communications (Performance Studies) student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is a producer for Kenan Theatre Company (KTC), the resident undergraduate departmental theatre group. She is currently co-producing the ongoing, monthly Reading Series and the upcoming spring production of Mr. Burns. She most recently appeared as Mary in The Language Archive with KTC and as Ophelia in Oak Park Festival Theatre’s Intern Shakespeare Showcase, where she also assistant directed two of their summer productions.
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!