JACQUELINE LAWTON: To begin, why did you decide to get into theater? Was there someone or a particular show that inspired you?
JULIAN ELIJAH MARTINEZ: Theater has been the vehicle that has gotten me through many trials in my life. It was theater that helped me through High School, and Theater got me into college. I’ve followed theater thus far, and much of my success in life I have to equate to this field I’ve chosen.
JL: Set in Hampton, Virginia in the 1940s, THE HAMPTON YEARS examines the impact of World War II on Jewish immigrants living in the United States and their role in shaping the lives and careers of African American students in the segregated south. This play investigates the various ways in which racism and bigotry negatively impact the arts, academia and military. Where do you feel we are in terms of race relations in the U.S.?
JEM: Better than were we were, but not were we should be. As we find ourselves having more cases of colorblindness, each of our prejudices are brought to light. Instead of embracing our differences, we are trying to ignore them in passive aggressive ways, which isn’t a good thing as much as we like to trick ourselves into believing it is.
JL: THE HAMPTON YEARS also celebrates and honors such extraordinary artists as John Biggers, Elizabeth Catlett, Samella Lewis, Viktor Lowenfeld and Charles White for their bold and courageous ability to overcome these challenges and create beautiful, powerful and lasting works of art. Why do you feel this play is relevant to today audiences?
JEM: Everyone knows the pursuit of something his or her passionate in. It's this story that I think resonates with audiences. We become invested in the story of these artists because we hope that through perseverance we will have the impact that these artists had.
JL: Which character are you playing? What, if anything, do you have in common with this character’s passions, values, intentions or belief system?
JEM: I am playing John Biggers. John and I value truth in our work. We want to be uncompromising in how we approach our art. We hope that we our pursuit of truth will lead us to making lasting change in our world and we hope to showcase the beauty of our culture.
JL: What’s next for you as an actor? Where can we follow your work?
JEM: I will be joining the Yale School of Drama in the fall. I am also the Assistant to the Director for Theater Alliance’s production of Broke-ology, opening this august. You can follow me at my twitter handle @julianelijah even though I tend to tweet a lot about nerd culture. My website julianelijahmartinez.com is going to be updated in the near future. Look for an announcement soon.
JULIAN ELIJAH MARTINEZ (John Biggers) is a teaching artist based in Washington DC and a graduate of Elon University. DC Credits include:Locomotion (John F. Kennedy Center); Jekyll and Hyde (Synetic Theater Company); Romeo and Juliet, Pride and Prejudice, Cymbeline, and A Midsummer Nights Dream (Chesapeake Shakespeare Company); and Lyme Park (the Hegria). Regional Credits include: Hamlet and All's Well That Ends Well (Orlando Shakespeare Theater) and Man of La Mancha (Hangar Theater). Elijah would like to thank Theater J for the opportunity to play and perform with them, and is infinitely proud of this amazing cast. julianelijahmartinez.com
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!