In preparation for Hands Up: 6 Playwrights, 6 Testaments, which is being presented by ArtsCenter Stage and Common Ground Theatre with the support of MOJOAA Perfoming Arts Company and in conjunction with the Ladies of the Triangle Theatre (LoTT), I had a chance to speak with playwright Glenn Gordon NSangou, author of “Abortion”, about his writing process, inspiration for the play, and the power of theatre to serve as a tool for social change. Please enjoy this wonderful interview!
Jacqueline Lawton: Why did you decide to get into theatre? Was there someone or a particular show that inspired you?
Glenn Gordon NSangou: I blame it on my older brother. He was doing plays in high school and my parents would always throw him a big theatre party afterwards and invite the whole family over the house. I wanted that. So when he went to college, I was entering middle school and decided to audition for a play. I got in, thinking this would be my chance for my party. Then I realized this was what I wanted to do. I don’t think I got the party, actually. Maybe soon hahaha.
JL: 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?
GGN: Haha. Now I can’t reveal my secret recipe. I don’t know all of how I do it, actually. I do know it comes from knowing what I want to say, and why I want to say it. That’s critical. No matter what the story is, I’d like it to resonate with people. So it’s important that as I talk with family and friends and maybe strangers, I need to be listening to what’s said and not said. That’s where the truth comes from.
JL: Why was it important for you to be a part of the New Black Fest’s Hands Up: 6 Playwrights, 6 Testaments?
GGN: I called Keith Josef Atkins up during the Ferguson coverage and said “Man, the artists have to say something to this. “ He eventually came up with the idea for this and asked me to contribute. Artists are the eyes of the society. We can help see the past, assess the present, and envision possible futures. It’s important for me because we need to see through the lens of men of African descent who live in this country.
JL: Tell me about your play. What do you hope the audience walks away thinking about after experiencing it?
GGN: I wrote this piece to explore a possible solution someone might take if they felt things have gone too far. A piece about what happens when you love life so much you would do anything to protect it. I didn’t want to just express feelings. I wanted to go further to exploring solutions or consequences of not doing anything about it. I want people to consider a simple theme: “those who make peaceful revolution impossible only make violent revolution inevitable.” We should look to make change before somebody does something extreme. Sadly that has already happened. So we better get moving.
JL: What role does theater have in advocacy work?
GGN: We are the ones who envision the kind of world to advocate for. In my humble opinion, people know what they don’t want, but have a hard time envisioning what they do want. What kind of world they want to live in. Theatre makes those visions come to life in a tangible way to see if we, as a society, truly want that. We bring the vision to life. Especially as Africans, our theatre is always functional. It’s meant to solve social issues and remember our past. Theatre without purpose is entertainment.
JL: What next for you as a writer? Where can we follow your work?
GGN: Well, as a playwright I am a part of the Emerging Writer’s Group at the Public Theater. I have a Hip Hop Theatre piece called “Syncing Ink” that will get a reading in the Spring. I also have a commission from Penn State University, where I had students take DNA tests to explore their ethnic make up. My play will be focused on exploring how knowing your roots may change your views on race and racism. It will be performed in South Africa and later at Penn State in the Fall. I’m also an actor, and will be performing in HANDS UP at the National Black Theater in February, doing my piece. Finally, I am traveling to Cameroon (my ancestral homeland) to study the performance traditions of my people, the Tikar.
About Glenn Gordon NSangou
Glenn Gordon (NSangou Njikam)- is an actor and playwright from Baltimore, MD. He is a current member of the Emerging Writers Group at The Public Theater. His acting credits include Henry V (Classical Theatre of Harlem), Deep Azure (Congo Square Theatre Company), Revenge of a King (NYC Fringe) and The Actor's Rap. He wrote and performed Re:Definition, as a part the Hip Hop Theater Festival. Glenn is also co-founder of The Continuum Project, Inc., a company using the Arts and African Ancestry DNA testing to foster healing and empowerment in communities. He has traced his ancestry to the Tikar people in Cameroon.
HANDS UP: 6 Playwrights, 6 Testaments
Written by Dennis Allen, Idris Goodwin, Glenn Gordon, Eric Holmes, Nathan James, and Nathan Yungerberg
Directed by Monet Noelle Marshall
Dramaturgy by Jules Odendahl-James and Jacqueline E. Lawton
Featuring Malcolm Evans, Kenny Lampkin, Jordan Marshall, Justin Peoples, CJ Suitt and Marcus Zollicoffer
Stage Manager: JaMeeka Holloway
Produced by ArtsCenter Stage
Plan Your Visit
What: HANDS UP: 6 Playwrights, 6 Testaments
When: February 5-7 at 8:00 pm
Where: Common Ground Theatre, 4815B Hillsborough Rd, Durham
RSVP: (919) 384-7817
Online Tickets: https://www.artful.ly/store/events/4916
*HANDS UP: 6 Playwrights, 6 Testaments is produced in association with the New Black Fest.
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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!