Back to my roots, Theatre

I am still floating on a cloud where dreams come true…

My art interest started in theatre, as an actress, back in elementary school.  That interest eventually led to writing, in several genres, and performance in poetry or oral tradition of interpretation.  I wrote, produced and directed a one act play in Los Angeles a few years back and I did the same for a one woman show in which I portrayed, Afeni Shakur, the ex-black panther and mother to the late Tupac Shakur.  Anyone can be a playwright by simply writing a play.  My goal had always been to be contacted by a theatre company and sent a contract to collect for Royalty Fee’s.  That finally happened to me in August 2015 and it has been a surreal journey up until the other night when I was handed the tickets and program to the production of my play, Hope’s Return.


A few years back, I read an article on LaVena Johnson.  An African American soldier who had just graduated from high school in Missouri and enlisted into the army. After only serving eight weeks in Balad, Iraq, Johnson became the first woman to die in Afghanistan or Iraq from the state of Missouri.  Her family was notified that her death was ruled a suicide from a gun shot wound to the right side of her head with a M-16 rifle. Upon her family viewing the body, the gunshot was on the left side of her head along with a black eye, broken nose, several missing teeth, scratches and teeth marks on her upper body, her back and right hand burned, her vaginal area bruised and lacerated and lye had been poured into her vagina.  The Army ruled her death a suicide in 2005.

This story stayed with me and served as a prompt for the play, Hope’s Return.  In 2014, I wrote the story of a female soldier, Hope Gently, who has returned home to her small town in Georgia with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after witnessing her friend assaulted on base.  She is being coached by the defense team in the army on what to say to protect her benefits and her name for serving her country.  Hope desperately wants to return to her normal life before the war, but PTSD from the stresses of the court proceedings and facing her friends’ family is too much to bear.

“{This} message needs to be shown at St. Mark United Methodist and the Veterans Affair.  Working at the VA, I better understand their situation.  Great job and great message.” – from a patron to the director of the play, Professor Angela Griffith-Newkirk, at Hathaway Fine Arts Auditorium


(me pictured with Director/Professor Angela Griffith-Newkirk on the red carpet of “Hope’s Return” at Hathaway Fine Arts Auditorium)

When people start conversations with me on having writer’s block I immediately ask, “what are you currently reading?”  If we all agree that the writer’s #1 hobby and past time should be reading, how are you not encouraged/inspired/prompted to write through your readings?  Even if it is simply writing down an idea that comes to mind or a brief story line.  That is what happened when I read the magazine that interviewed the family of LaVene Johnson.  I imagined, “what if LaVene had a friend on base who witnessed the beginning of the assault and then ran for her life?  What if the army then later influenced her to hide the crime?”

Hope’s Return had been brewing in my head since I read that article in 2005.  I received several rejections, this includes no response at all, from local theatres, staged readings and festivals in Atlanta and in regional theatre inclusive of Alabama, South Carolina, and Tennessee.  I took a gamble and submitted to a national theatre festival and was accepted.  Present at the talk back of my reading there was New York playwright and director, Kenthedo Robinson.  He shared this with me, “This play has a role for a lead African American woman, suffering from a mental illness (PTSD), who witnesses a crime in the United States Army and is being prompted to side with the Army and tell their version in court, who also comes from a religious family in a small town in Georgia.  This unique set up is going to be for a unique company willing to take a chance on this subject matter.  A progressive, forward thinking company who shares a vision of not only African American stories but women.”


The first company to take a chance with the play was the theatre department at University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.  Thank you!  You brought the characters to life in a beautiful manner.


(The cast of the play, the director and myself on the red carpet at the Hathaway Fine Arts Auditorium)





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