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
On Monday, October 29th and Tuesday, October 30th, my play Blackbirds will receive a new play development workshop and reading at the Department of Dramatic Art. Blackbirds is one of three plays being supported by UNC’s University Research Council Small Grant program, which is administered by the Office of Research Development.
Directed by Aubrey Snowden with dramaturgy by Jules Odendahl-James, the reading will feature Anja Lee as Esmeralda, Rasool Jahan as Jacinta, Monét Noelle Marshall, and Kathryn Hunter Williams as Ivy Ambrosia Dubois. UNC Drama Major Kayla Brown will be reading Stage Directions. We will have an invited rehearsal on Tuesday, October 30th. Please contact me if you would like to attend. Here’s more about the play:
In the wake of the 2016 election, three witches vow to avenge the honor women who have abused, harassed, and assaulted by wealthy, powerful men. Traveling from the heart of the Red Sea in the year of our Lord 516 A.D, they appear in their mortal forms as three hotel housekeepers: Jacinta, a law student, who is caring for her sick parents who lives out of state; Avery, whose marriage is on the brink of divorce and is working two jobs to make ends meet and care for her child; and Esmeralda, who was recently naturalized, but is unable to locate her husband after ICE raided their home and took him into custody. After targeting their predators, the witches now face a major dilemma: Do they take the money and run? Or risk everything, including the reputation and livelihood of their boss, Mrs. Ivy Ambrosia Dubois, to rewrite the rules of the patriarchy and change the game forever. Giving voice to the voiceless, Blackbirds is a story of friendship, empowerment, and redemption in the era of #MeToo.
I wrote this play in response to the current political climate. I knew that I wanted to explore how the hotel industry was addressing #MeToo. As some of the most vulnerable workers in any industry, I knew that the women at the center of the play would be housekeepers. I knew that over the course of the play, these women would access their power, voice, and agency in order to overcome the harsh condition of their circumstance. As the play began to take shape, it was clear that the current immigration crisis and the possible of access to affordable health care were important themes to weave into the play. It’s really quite thrilling to be at this place in the new play process.
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!
Aubrey Snowden (Director) is a freelance director and choreographer who recently relocated from Brooklyn, NY to Chapel Hill. She is an Assistant Teaching Professor at UNC Chapel Hill who directed the undergraduate production of The Wolves by Sarah Delappe last Spring. Some recent credits also include associate directing Bedlam's Sense and Sensibility at A.R.T in Boston. She has been part of the Lucille Lortel nominated production since its inception in 2014. Her extensive training includes acting and directing at the National Theater Institute, Suzuki and Viewpoints under the SITI Company, Moment Work with Tectonic Theater Project, and the International Symposium of directors with LaMama in Umbria, Italy. Aubrey has her MFA in Directing from Brown University/Trinity Rep. aubreysnowden.com
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).
Kayla Brown (Stage Directions) is a sophomore at UNC with a double major in Dramatic Art and Mathematics. She has worked with several companies on campus, and recent performance credits include The Wolves (KTC), The Vagina Monologues (Company Carolina), and Antigonick (KTC). Kayla is actively involved in various aspects of production around campus, including acting, stage management, and set construction. Theater has been a huge part of Kayla’s life since her freshman year of high school. The ability to tell a story and spread a message through such a beautiful medium is what keeps her so invested in the world of theater. She is so thankful for the opportunity to be a part of the workshop for Blackbirds and cannot wait to work with such a talented group of people.
Rasool Jahan (Jacinta) holds a B. A. in Theatre from Shaw University. She has worked in TV, film and theatre on both the East & West Coast. Some of her favorite roles include Vivian Bearing, PhD, in WIT (Justice Theatre Project), MiMi Real in The Parchman Hour and Esther in Intimate Apparel (PlayMakers), Puck in A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream (WriteAct Rep.) and Phillis Wheatley in the World Premiere of Afric’s Muse. Rasool’s TV/Film credits include The Bay, Freedom Song, Cold Mountain, I Know What You Did Last Summer, House of Cards, Dawson’s Creek and a recurring role on One Tree Hill. Rasool is honored sit on the board of Hidden Voices and is currently working on a One Woman show.
Anja Lee (Esmeralda) is excited to be working with Jacqueline E. Lawton again after performing at the True Colors Theatre Spring Play Reading Series in Noms de Guerre. Favorite roles include Dr Patel in Maid’s Door, at the North Carolina Black Repertory Theatre, Lady Capulet at Atlanta Shakespeare Company, Cordelia in King Lear, alongside Tony award winner Trezana Beverley, at the National Black Theater, Lindsay in Brothers From the Bottom at The Billie Holiday Theatre, directed by Jackie Alexander, and To Be Young, Gifted and Black at Great Lakes Shakespeare. For many years, Anja appeared on All My Children, As the World Turns, and as a recurring Co Host on the QVC Network. Other credits include various commercials, industrials and voice overs. Anja is represented in both NYC and Atlanta. www.anjalee.net.
Monét Noelle Marshall (Avery) is a Durham, North Carolina-based artist, director & producer. She serves as the Founding Artistic Director of MOJOAA Performing Arts Company, producing new works by and new opportunities for Black playwrights. Marshall explores the ways that bodies, particularly those of Black women, are used, manipulated, curated and crafted to make political statements, both with and without their consent. She does this in public spaces through performance art experiences and public art programs and in more private spaces like dance parties and her kitchen. She is currently working on The Buy It Call It Trilogy, which includes Buy My Soul And Call It Art which premiered January 2018, Buy My Body And Call It A Ticket in June 2018 and Buy My Art And Call It Holy in December 2018. You can learn more about her upcoming work at MonetNoelleMarshall.com.
Kathryn Hunter Williams (Ivy Ambrosia Dubois) 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.
After a two day rehearsal and workshop process, which included revisions, it was such a joy to presented Noms de Guerre to the Chapel Hill community! The staged reading was part of PlayMakers Repertory Company and the Process Series' inaugural Making Tracks play festival. Under the direction of Kaja Amado Dunn, the cast included Lakeisha Coffey, April Mae Davis, Samuel Ray Gates, Trevor Johnson, Shanelle Leonard, and Kathryn Hunter-Williams. This powerful and urgent play about U.S. veterans and their families continues to captivate audiences and challenge stereotypes of black families. I hope to find a home it one day because it would be amazing to see it in production. In the meantime, please enjoy these fun photos from our day together!
Noms de Guerre Reading at PlayMakers Repertory Company
Noms de Guerre Reading at PlayMakers Repertory Company
On March 3rd and 4th, I had the honor and pleasure to debut my latest play, The Inferior Sex, at Elon University. And by latest, I mean written in two weeks just one week prior to the reading! The workshop and reading was part of the part of Elon University's Department of Drama and Theatre Studies' New Works Playwriting Symposium and Contemporary Play Reading Series.
Under the direction of Kim Shively and dramaturg Susanne Shawyer, the weekend of work was just as fast-paced, productive, and thrilling. In just 24-hours, a group of bright and talented students in the Acting and Music Theatre BFA programs read and rehearsed “The Inferior Sex” in two short rehearsals. I did a round of revisions in between and we presented the play to an eager, engaged, and enthusiastic roomful of students, faculty, and community members. The reading was followed by a lively discussion and I'm happy to say that it all went so wonderfully well!
After I've had a chance to catch my breath, I'm going to work on revisions and hope to schedule another reading before the end of Women's History Month. One more thing, The Inferior Sex is my first all female cast play, but it won't be my last. I can hardly wait for you all to experience it!
Now, here's more information about the play and a few photos of our time together below:
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 hilarious and poignant behind-the-scenes look at a woman's magazine that gets political, faces hard truths, and breaks new ground in an ever-changing world.
The Inferior Sex Rehearsal
I’m honored because by choosing to be a part of today’s symposium, you have taken steps that will forever change the way you look at yourselves and interact with the world. You have crossed a threshold that will forever demand the very best of who you are and ask that you position yourselves in your classrooms, communities, and workplaces as citizen arts leaders.
And I’m glad you’ve chosen to be here because these are challenging and turbulent times for the arts. Now, I don’t say this to disparage you. Quite the opposite, in fact, I say it to galvanize your spirits, to rouse your revolutionary heart, and to mobilize your efforts towards resistance! With what we’re up against, it’s going to take every single one of us working together to get ahead.
As you know, this past Thursday, the current Administration unveiled a budget plan that calls for an increase in military spending. In order to pay for this increase, the Administration suggests that Congress eliminate a whole host of agencies that assist children and the poor; offer guidelines for agricultural, labor, and environmental protections; fund scientific research; aid our allies abroad; and support a multitude of arts and cultural organizations across our nation.
By the way, this budget plan is called, “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again.”
Now, as a progressive Democrat, I have all kinds of things I could say about that and in a different speech, in a different room, I certainly would. But, at this moment, in this room, I’m reminded that I’m also the daughter and sister of Veterans. My parents served in the Army. My brother served in the Air Force and now works for the Army. My sister works for the VA. I believe in a strong military defense and I believe we should do whatever we can to take care of our soldiers. However, I don’t believe we accomplish this by destroying social programs or by compromising our food, water, and work places or by endangering our planet; and certainly not by gutting our creative economy.
If passed, this budget will have a widespread and debilitating impact on our field. Mind you, together, the NEA, NEH, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting receive less than a billion dollars a year. The revenue from this proposed elimination is a drop in the bucket. So, it’s a gesture. Of course, we, in the arts, understand the powerful and lasting effect of a gesture. And there is no doubt that losing this funding will have real and damaging consequences on the lives of the artists, administrators, audiences, and students that these organizations strive to serve.
Confession: I’m one of those NEA supported artists. The world premiere production of my play, Intelligence, was funded by the 2016 NEA Arts Works grant. We opened last week at Arena Stage. The play is a piece of historical fiction about courage. It explores the consequences of speaking truth to power. Specifically, it’s a story about the lies that led to the war in Iraq, the impact of the war on the Iraqi people, and what happened when the Bush Administration retaliated against two U.S. citizens because the truth of those lies were revealed. The demand for tickets was so great that Arena Stage extended the run two weeks before we started rehearsal. Now, I don’t mention this to brag, though I certainly am proud, I mention this because it speaks to a hunger that audiences have for stories about courage.
The day after we opened, I headed back to Chapel Hill, where I work and live. I met a woman at the airport, who is in her 70s. We’re on the same flight and chatted about our reasons for being in DC. I told her about the play. She placed her hand on my cheek and said, “Thank you. This work you artists do, it takes such courage. And that’s what we need right now. I keep telling my children. We have to pay attention to what is happening right now. We have to record what’s happening to our country. For history. And we have to have the courage to speak out against what’s happening when it violates our civil rights and freedoms.”
This woman’s words reminded me of what Toni Morrison so wisely observed about the role of artist during times of great strife and uncertainty. She wrote:
There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.
But in order for artists to do this work, we have to have smart, passionate, fearless citizen arts leaders and that’s where you come in.
One of the first orders of business that you have ahead of you is to fight the narrative that our field is expendable. We have to shift the narrative away from “art for art’s sake” and “art as self-expression” to art as a vital contribution to the economic vitality, growth, and sustainability of our communities. And we have to start with ourselves. We have to pay and equitable and livable wage to the staff and artist that we employ. Of course, we have to raise revenue in order to do this, which means we have to be relevant. To do this, we have to appeal to more people and reflect our communities.
Now, I don’t run an arts organization as many of you do or one day will. I’m an artist, a citizen artist. This is an important distinction. Because as a black, cisgender female from a poor, working class family, I learned early in life that I’m part of a community of people whose voices have been silenced, whose images have been distorted and misrepresented, and whose legacy has been erased and exploited.
I grew up in East Texas in a township of sorts called Tennessee Colony. It’s lush and green. There are lots of trees for climbing, lakes for fishing and swimming, and open skies for dreaming. There are also more cows than people and a healthy dose of racism, sexism, and classism served daily. These systems of oppression were unrelenting and did a great deal of damage to my self-esteem, optimism, and enthusiasm for life. Thankfully, the love, strength, and support of my parents transformed my experience and primed me for the work I do today.
As part of my work as a citizen artist, I’m an advocate for justice, access, equity, diversity, and inclusion. My core mission is to dismantle systems of oppression. Often, I think about this work in terms of absence. What stories aren’t being told? Whose voices aren’t being heard? Who isn’t hired to lead an organization or to helm the production? Who isn’t invited to table? Who isn’t even in the room?
And I want to encourage each of you to do the same. Perhaps you can begin each day by asking:
- How do we create more space for others now;
- How do we value, uplift, respect, and embrace our differences;
- How do we hold each other accountable;
- How do we use the power of storytelling to reflect a greater vision for humanity?
These questions are essential to the work I do as a playwright.
You see, I write in order to make sense of the world. And my god, what a time to be alive trying to do that! Sometimes I feel lost to the hatred, bigotry, violence, and poverty faced by so many. But with a play, I’m able to lay out all sides of the story, hear all of the voices, and portray a myriad of responses to the many situations people face in life.
On stage, we can capture an intimate portrayal of the strange, beautiful, curious, brave and vulnerable human experience. We are able to explore the various ways in which people live and how we behave towards one another. We can process the immediate and residual impact of decisions. We can examine the damaging and devastating consequences of our neglect as well as the impact of our good deeds on a community. But in order to do this well, we have to have as full, deep, and complete a picture as possible.
As image makers, we have an important role to play in moving audiences beyond superficial and stereotypical representations of peoples and cultures and toward three dimensional representations that encourage deeper learning with honor and respect.
I place women and people of color at the center of my plays. I write these characters with depth, passion, wisdom, and flaws, but also with a yearning for love, hope for better days, and despair for all that will never be. I do so because when you see a person of color on the street, I want you to see us for who we are as individuals and not for the impressions left on you by stereotypical representations perpetuated by mass media and the arts world.
Once, I was asked by someone inspired by my social media advocacy, "Do you ever feel that you’re ‘beating a dead horse’ when it comes to addressing issues of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in the American Theatre?” I’ll tell you want told them:
It’s disappointing when regional theatres continue to produce all/a majority of plays written by white men that are directed by all/a majority of white men. It’s disheartening that gender equity struggles to be intersectional and inclusive. It’s frustrating that issues of age, class, disability, and sexual orientation live in a land of etcetera.
However, I remain hopeful and ever stalwart. I'm encouraged by an increasing number of individuals and theatre companies, who are embracing diversity, working to be more inclusive, and supporting a multitude of voices. What’s more, I am inspired by the number of theatre leaders who are committed to creating spaces for equity and access for all theatre artists.
But it’s hard. Hard as hell. But doing nothing is harder still. So, I never think in terms of losing faith. I think in terms of time. How much time can I devote each day to bring awareness and support of others around these issues. For what little time I have on this earth, I will do all that I can to advocate for progress and change.
But again, citizen artists cannot do this work alone. We have to have citizen arts leaders, who are ready to step up, who make social awareness, cultural literacy, and racial consciousness a central part of their work, practice, and vision. As gatekeepers, you are in a unique position to do this work and create change. Of course, none of this work is easy, but that’s what makes it so necessary.
This work began for me in earnest at a meeting similar to this one. In 2012, I was nominated to be one of Theatre Communication Group’s Young Leader of Color. One of our first sessions was a Values Clarification Workshop led by motivational speaker, Paul Robinson, of the Wilder Center for Communities. In this workshop, we defined our core values and established a broader and more comprehensive understanding of what it means to be leader. This was such a meaningful experience. While I won't be able to capture it entirely, I want to share a bit about what we learned.
First, Paul had us define our individual Core Values. These values are what matter to us; what we can't live without; what defines us; what stimulates and inspires us; and what is central to who we are. In order for a value to be a Core or Touchstone value, they have to be:
- Chosen freely.
- Chosen among alternatives.
- Chosen after consideration of consequences.
- Prized and cherished/bring you hope and joy.
- Publicly affirmed and reflected in how you live.
- Acted upon, even in the most challenging situations.
- Part of a pattern of action.
As a leader, you have to have a clear idea of what your values are. You have to be able to stand up for your core values and defend them even in the most difficult of situations. Now, if you’re not living or practicing your core values, then you either need to adjust them or adjust your life! In other words, it’s a process and you're a work in progress! Translation: it takes time.
But I should warn you! The thing about core values is that once you establish them, they will be tested constantly and at varying degrees of intensity. My greatest test to date happened a few years ago. I was working freelance living paycheck to paycheck. I never knew when the next gig would come or if it would be enough to cover the bills. Every phone call, message or email contained the possibility of work, so I checked my phone incessantly.
I remember receiving an offer that would have made me comfortable for two months. In the freelance world, that’s a luxury. I was being asked to step in as a writer, but was warned that the situation was fraught. If I accepted, I would have to stomach the situation. I felt a rush of heat from my belly to my ears. I remembered all the times I had been asked to whitewash a situation and put conversations about racial consciousness and cultural sensitivity aside for the ease of the room. Then I remembered the line that I drew after that TCG meeting. It was an invisible, but palpable line that stood between what the world presented me and how I chose to be in the world.
I knew I had to say no. If I had accepted, I’d never be able to advocate for equity in the workplace or continue the work that I'm doing around diversity and inclusion with any credibility. I learned a lot about myself and about the kind of leader I wanted to be at that moment.
As leaders, we’re given great power and influence to impact the world around you. We’re uplifted and heralded because your values speak to the community. We’re also responsible to your community. Your actions and inactions matter. Let me repeat that: Your actions and inactions matter.
The leader, who is aware of their role and their impact on their community, this is someone who is citizen arts leader. Like regular leaders, they have courage, vision, integrity, and a strong work ethic. But they also get out of their own way, check their ego at the door, and remain accountable for their actions. They are humble, discerning, and listen to the needs of their community. They are willing to say when they don’t know something and they aren’t afraid to admit when are wrong. Mostly importantly, they understand that leadership is a privilege and with that privilege comes a great deal of responsibility.
Let me tell you right now, this kind of work takes time, effort, patience, and commitment. It’s as challenging as it rewarding, as exhaustive as it is rejuvenating. It requires hope in the greater good and faith in humanity, both of which at times will seem fleeting and nonexistent. There will be days when it feels like you’re starting over or that you never got anywhere at all. And on those days, you’ve got to hold on, dig in your heels, and keep going. Because that’s when you’re needed the most and we’ve never needed citizen arts leaders more than we do right now.
So, thank you. Thank you for being here and showing up. Thank you for listening and for staying so engaged. I wish you all the best today and your days ahead!
I'm so deeply appreciative to Molly Smith, Edgar Dobie, Khady Kamara, Greta Hayes, Amelia Powell, Daniella Topol, Jocelyn Clarke, Paul Adolphsen, the cast, crew and production team, and everyone at Arena Stage. We had an amazing time telling this surprisingly relevant and deeply urgent story of truth, power, and accountability. I'm also forever thankful to my dear friends, family, and colleagues who came out in support of the show.
Over the next two weeks, I'm going to finish revisions of the post production draft and send the script off to a handful of interested theatres! After that, I'll get started researching and writing my next new play commission, Among These Wild Things, which explores the intersection of human rights and genetics. This play will receive a public reading at PlayMakers Repertory Company in the Spring of 2018. Click here to learn more.
In the meantime, please enjoy this post, which includes the promotional video, several interviews, never-before-seen rehearsal production photos, and so much more.
Intelligence: Power Playwright
Matching Lawton with Plame—or with a series anchored by a Pulitzer Prize–winning chronicler of power like Wright—may seem an unlikely choice. Lawton, now 39, arrived in the District in 2006 and over time became known for plays about the African-American experience, including adaptations of Oedipus Rex and Anna Karenina that put African-American women at their center. The Hampton Years, her highest-profile production, told of artists at a historically black college. Last fall, she produced a set of ten-minute plays to accompany the Phillips Collection’s exhibition of paintings by Jacob Lawrence, chronicler of the “great migration” of African-Americans from the rural South.
Yet Smith—who has long sought to find a voice that defined DC the way that, say, David Mamet’s streetwise style epitomizes Chicago theater—came to realize, after Wright’s and Strand’s successes, that what defined Washington was a topic, not a dramatic style. “It isn’t a single voice but a multiplicity of voices, writing about power and politics,” she says
Click here to read the rest of the interview!
Click here to read the rest of the interview!
Why Lawton Was Uniquely Qualified to Write Intelligence
JACQUELINE LAWTON: When I got the call for the commission, we knew it would be about DC politics and power [which is part of the series]. I knew that I wanted a woman at the center of the play. A woman whose experience influenced the political landscape and shaped the conversations that we have. There’s so many people who that could be.
One important thing that I brought to the play was my family experience: my father and grandfather were both in military intelligence. So I’ve always been transfixed by the CIA and the world of intelligence. When you look at intelligence, it’s all about gathering information so that a decision can be made. But the thing is, those decisions are based on the shape of the intelligence as it is presented. What gets dangerous is when intelligence is influenced by ideology. That’s exactly what happened in 2003 when Bush took us into Iraq.
Click here to read the rest of the interview!
What Inspired Lawton to Write Intelligence
Truthful Intelligence: A Play about Power and Politics
However, those of us who followed the second Bush administration closely became familiar with what Stephen Colbert called “truthiness” much earlier. The sixteen words George W. Bush used in the 2003 State of the Union address, for example, claiming that Saddam Hussein had sought “significant quantities of uranium from Africa,” could have been called a lie, but, given that Bush says he believed they were true when he spoke them, they have instead gone down in history as “contested.” As playwright Jacqueline E. Lawton explores in her new play Intelligence, the ensuing Plamegate scandal—involving the outing of covert CIA officer Valerie Plame—was full of its own deep truths not just about American politics but also about life in America at the time.
Click here to read the rest of the interview!
Politics and Power onstage at Arena Stage
Costume Design Renderings by Ivania Stack
Rehearsal Photos by Kathy A. Perkins
Intelligence Promotional Video
Advocates For Youth
Diversity And Inclusion
Lions Of Industry
Love Brothers Serenade
Mothers Of Invention
Noms De Guerre
Our Man Beverly Snow
Plays For Two
Theatre For Social Change
The Hampton Years
The Inferior Sex
Wizard Of Oz
Women Artistic Directors
Women Stage Managers
Women Theatre Critics
Xx Playlab Festival