Jacqueline Lawton: How long have you lived and worked as a playwright in DC? What brought you here? Why have you stayed?
Denise Hart: I have lived in DC for the past 24 years. I came to DC to attend college in 1988 and I stayed because I wanted my son to grow up living near his father.
JL: Have you ever been a member of a DC area playwrights writing group? If so, did you find it useful? Would you recommend that other playwrights join them?
DH: Yes I have participated and yes I would recommend this experience to other playwrights. I've been a participant in The Playwrights Forum. I sound the forum sessions to be invaluable because it was helpful to be able to try out my writing choices in a group environment and receive immediate feedback.
JL: In DC, we have the Capital Fringe Festival, the Intersections Festival, the Source Theatre Festival, the Kennedy Center's Page-to-Stage Festival, the Black Theater Festival, and the Hip Hop Theatre Festival. We also have the Mead Lab at Flashpoint Theater Lab Program. Have you participated in any of these? If so, can you speak about your experience?
DH: Yes, I have participated in the Page-to-Stage Festival with a reading of my work. It was a helpful experience to see the play produced with a good amount of rehearsal and working with the actors and director. I was able to work more quickly on the rewrites because of the collaborative experience.
JL: What kind of work do you do to pay the bills? How do you balance this work with your writing?
DH: To pay the bills, I work as a tenured professor of theatre at Howard University where I coordinate the playwriting concentration. I also opened my own training studio, The Performing Arts Training Studio in Takoma DC where I offer playwriting workshop groups for advanced writers and playwriting and acting classes for folks who are just starting out. Because I also act and direct I tend to create in seasons. For example, I just completed a playwriting season working on my newest play, Nothing to Lose. I'm now moving into a season where I'll focus on acting. However, I also return to playwriting when I need to. I actually took sabbatical in the fall of 2011 to focus more intently on writing my most recent play.
JL: How many plays have you had produced in the DC area? Were any of these plays self-produced? If so, where and what did you learn from that experience?
DH: I've had one of my plays produced at Howard University. I learned that it was important for me to be a part of the process, particularly during a first production.
JL: If you could be produced at any theatre in DC, which would it be and why?
DH: I'd like to be produced at Arena Stage. I feel that Arena Stage has done a great job of cultivating a diverse audience through both imaginative casting and producing playwrights of color.
JL: DC audiences are ...
DH: ... segregated as black or white (for the most part).
JL: DC actors, designers and directors are ...
DH: ... wonderfully creative and supportive.
JL: DC critics are ...
DH: ... supportive!
JL: How do you feel the DC theatre community has addressed the issues of race and gender parity ? How has this particular issue impacted you and your ability to get your work produced on the main stages?
DH: I feel like the DC theatre community has started to address race primarily through the creation of the DC Black Theatre Festival. Also, many of the prominent critics, including The Washington Post and The DC Theatre Scene, reviewed plays produced in the Festival which encouraged a more diverse audience to attend the festival offerings.
JL: What advice do you have for an up and coming DC based playwright or a playwright who has just moved to D.C.?
DH: Join one of the writers workshop group for the support, accountability and feedback. Join the Dramatists Guild for the professional support and the community of playwrights.
JL: What's next for you as a playwright? Where can we keep up with your work?
DH: I'll be submitting my newest play, Nothing to Lose to several national competitions and am in talks with a Montgomery County group about producing the play in the near future.
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!