Back in November, my former theatre professor, Stephen T. Gerald, connected with me about meeting Ja'Michael Darnell and Jelisa Robinson, theatre majors at the University of Texas at Austin, during their spring break. They received a Professional Development Travel Grant to travel to New York and Washington, D.C. Their mission was to meet theatre artists, visit theatre companies, performance venues and other arts related organizations so they could learn about future job opportunities, seek career advice and witness for themselves if it was at all possible to make a life as theatre artist. Stephen had also reached to fellow Longhorn, co-founder of the Drive-by Players, and 2012 TCG Young Leader of Color Andre Lancaster, who is the Producing Fellow at the Foundry Theatre in New York.
Meet the Students
Ja'Michael Darnell is majoring in theatre and African American Studies. He is from the small town of Hearne, Texas—not to far from Bryan/College Station, TX. Hearne has a population of under five thousand! Ja'Michael, a senior, will see New York for the first time. It will be the first time he has flown anywhere. Ja'Michael was in the cast of the new children's play, And Then Came Tango, which received national notoriety recently because of its subject matter. You may want to read about this production. See:
Jelisa Robinson is majoring in theatre and Latin American studies. Originally from Houston, she is completing her senior year at The University of Texas, and like her peers, she is searching for a path towards her future. Jelisa speaks Spanish and has an affinity for Afro-Latin cultures. Last summer, she spent six weeks in Rio de Janeiro through the anthropology department and had an internship with an arts collective in Rio. Among other things, she's interested in playwrighting.
Immediately, I said yes and knew that I wanted to take them the theatre that had the greatest impact on me when I first arrived in D.C. seven years ago: Arena Stage (Fellows and Intern Program Coordinator and Teaching Artist), Ford's Theatre (Box Office Assistant, Dramaturg, and Teaching Artist) and Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company (Dramaturgy/Literary Management Intership). Additionally, I had wanted to take them to the Folger Shakespeare Library (Education Program Associate), but there wasn't any time.
I also knew that they would benefit from hearing from more than just me. So, I reached out to some of my favorite people in D.C. What was so lovely, is that save for two amazing folks who were busy opening a play and teaching, I received a resounding yes across the board!
Here was our D.C. agenda:
Lunchtime chat with Jennifer Nelson, Jewell Robinson, and Dawn Ursula.
Tea and coffee with Deeksha Gaur and Klyph Stanford at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company
Dinner and a show at Arena Stage with Daniel Pruksarnukul, Amita Ramanan, and Otis Cortez Ramsey-Zoe
This day was extraordinary, invigorating and inspiring for the students and for me. You see, when I received my MFA in Playwriting from UT in 2003, I had longed to tap into a U.T. Theatre Network, but it wasn't there for me. Now, these students will never have to say that. It's really beautiful to know that! Later today, I'm going to share interviews from Ja'Michael Darnell and Jelisa Robinson about their experiences. Stay tuned!
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!