My research focuses on the “insertion” work of black women in literature, particularly theatre. Carroll is a “first” that probably a lot of people do not know about, not just theatre but Broadway.
Today on her birthday, I re-member Vinnette Justine Carroll who was the “first” black woman to direct a play on Broadway, with her 1972 production of the musical Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope. In addition, until 2016, Carroll was the only black woman to have received a Tony Award nomination for direction. That is 44 years, four decades, that passed before Tony consideration was given for a black woman director on Broadway. And just to do the math, when Carroll made history directing this musical, Broadway had been producing theatre for approximately 115 years.
Carroll was also an actor and playwright. She is known for the reinvention of song-play, the expression of identity through gospel music in the African-American theatre experience. Not surprising, Carroll was into creating and directing new works that positively and artistically presented people of color in theater and art. Her primary interest was giving voice to African Americans and other minority communities that have been culturally and artistically silenced.
Happy birthday to Tony Award nominated director, Vinnette Justine Carroll! Add her name to your name of black women being properly “inserted” and recognized for her artistic contributions in theatre.
Wait, whose birthday is it? Danai Gurira, from “The Walking Dead” and “Black Panther”:
On my research journey, I am documenting and inserting any significant absence of information on women in theatre. See, not only is Gurira an amazing and versatile actress, she is also a playwright. Her play, “Eclipse” was the first play to premiere on Broadway with an all female and black cast and creative team. (Yes, after all these years, we are still creating “firsts” for black people!) The play is set in war-torn Liberia and focuses on three women who are living as sex slaves to a rebel commander, and is about how they deal with this difficult situation. The play was inspired by a photograph of female fighters and their tale of survival.
And as you can see the play starred the beautiful and talented, Lupita Nyong’o.
So today I salute Danai Gurira and encourage you to learn more about her and buy tickets to “Eclipse” if it comes to your city. I saw a production of it here in Atlanta and the story creates suspense and chills!
Stunning! Danai Gurira
I dared to pursue my passion of studying theatre at Grambling State University. One of the first plays produced upon me entering was, “Livin’ Fat” by Judi Ann Mason. The theatre director so often bragged on how this play was written by his “class mate” and how she had written it while still attending Grambling. I didn’t think much of the playwright after the production until years later and I was living in Los Angeles.
One day I was watching the tv show, “Different World” and the writer credit for that episode read, Judi Ann Mason. It was then I found out she was more than a playwright born, raised and educated in the south. She was an award winning writer and a trailblazer for black writers in Hollywood.
The play, “Livin Fat” was produced off Broadway in 1976 by the Negro Ensemble Company, and won a comedy award sponsored by the Kennedy Center and television producer Norman Lear. Lear then hired her as a writer for the series “Good Times” and she went on to write for “Sanford”, “A Different World”, “Beverly Hills 90210” and “I’ll Fly Away.”
Judi Ann Mason, was one of the first female African-American sitcom writers in Hollywood and one of the youngest television writers of any race or either sex. As I am researching for my studies, re-discovering black women playwrights is imperative on my path. So today, we honor Judi Ann Mason! We remember you and thank you!
May Miller was an African American poet, playwright and educator. Miller became known as the most widely published woman playwright of the Harlem Renaissance, with seven published volumes of poetry during her career as a writer.
I celebrate her because she was the “most published woman playwright of the Harlem Renaissance” and the world does not know her name… MAY MILLER, we thank you and remember you!