JACQUELINE LAWTON: Why did you decide to get into theatre? Was there someone or a particular show that inspired you?
DANIELLE A. DRAKES: My interest in theatre was as solely an actor growing up doing school plays and competing in speech arts competitions.
JL: How long have you served as Artistic Director at your company? What drew you to the position? What keeps you there?
DD: I founded the Hegira in 2008. I felt there was a great need to create an organization that would support and promote the work of women of color.
JL: What is the most valuable lesson you learned during your tenure? Also, what skills and traits do you feel a successful artistic director should have to support the health and growth of an organization?
DD: The most valuable lesson is learning how to ask for money to support something you believe in. Patience, communication and a love for encouraging other artists.
JL: What excites you most about being an Artistic Director? What is your greatest challenge?
DD: What excites me the most is seeing artists I have worked with moving on and meeting continued success. Greatest challenge thus far has been balancing creative personal and professional life with real life demands of house and family. My greatest challenge is giving 100% while balancing artistic career, family, professional affiliations.
JL: If your work as an artistic director doesn’t pay the bills, what else do you do? Also, how do you balance your role leading an organization with your work as a director? Are you ever able to direct outside of your company?
DD: I work fulltime time as the Education Outreach Coordinator at the Folger Shakespeare Library and continue to perform for Ford’s Theatre portraying Elizabeth Keckly for education programs and walking tours. Yes I have directed most recently for Howard University’s Department of theatre Arts.
JL: Looking at your body of work as an artistic director and a director, how conscious are you and selecting plays by women or people of color when deciding your season? Also, when it comes to hiring administrators, designers and other directors do you take race and gender into consideration?
DD: Very considerate. I tend to look at the world, look in the mirror, and look back at the world when deciding on what stories to tell. As far as collaborations, I am very interested in bringing a variety of personalities into the room with the goal of creating a space where the artists is free and safe to take risks.
JL DC audiences are ...
DD: Smarter than any of us think.
JL: DC actors and designers are ...
JL: DC playwrights are …
JL: DC critics are ...
JL: What advice do you have for an up and coming theatre artists who have just moved to D.C.?
DD: Commit to the practice of your craft (and not just the getting of the job), cultivate authenticity in your work, and take very good care of yourself.
JL: What's next for you as a director and your company?
DD: We are continuing project development and looking forward to collaborating with emerging DC artists.
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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!