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 19, 1930 – January 12, 1965
While studying film in grad school, a lot of my professors had taken on the “grassroots/indie” approach to their art and influenced the students as well. Meaning, if you want it on the big screen you have to execute guerilla style film making and do everything yourself. So being a writer and actor, when I first moved to Los Angeles, my natural inking was to write a play, cast it, direct it, produce it, market it, etc.
For me, that robbed me of the time I needed to be creative. As my luck would have it, I went to a book reading for Ntozake Shange and she said something that saved me from a lot of future stress. To paraphrase her, ‘write something so good, others will want to perform it, buy it and/or produce it.’ So after studying arts all through high school, undergrad and grad school, I found myself back in the library reading the timeline and art of some of my Sheros.
I sought to study the greats and determine how they were able to create timeless art that others yearned to bring to life and share with their perspective audiences. That is my mission. Especially with my play, “Hope’s Return”.
Continue reading SHE CHRONICLES: Absent from Your Work
Please enjoy the analytical critique from a student playwright on my play, Hope’s Return.
“Hope’s Return is very relevant to the society we live in today. This play discusses several “back seated” issues faced by a different generation today such as: mental disease, funding higher education, realities of war and our government, depression and even suicide that threatens our younger generation. Although fictional characters were used to create this play, the topics heavily relate to the reality of society in the 21st century.
The characters face harsh realities but eventually trail by the end. Hope, the lead character, is similar to many people in my generation. They try to survive in the work force by different means. Many times we are not prepared mentally for the harshness of how inside management works. This is particularly true for women who find themselves lost in male dominated fields. Vergie represents many mother figures who hope the best for their children. However, being pre occupied with tending to other’s needs can leave your own home in shambles. Sometimes your ears are so deaf and eyes so blind you cannot sense the disarray. El is an excellent example of a true provider and backbone for his family during economically hard times. He may not have been the most tender when it came to Lewis’, his son, poor behavior, but particularly gentle yet stern as his role of father and husband. Lastly, Lewis can fit the description of most young adults who’ve lost their way. Most are always ambitious but not able to get a foot planted in the ground to be successful without their parent’s aid. It seems as if Lewis is always judged by his family based on his past failures instead of his current attempts of success.
Continue reading An Analytical Critique
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.
Continue reading Back to my roots, Theatre
Hi WordPress Family,
I just wanted to share an article written for my new play, “Hope’s Return”.
My play, Hope’s Return, comes to life this week. A dream come true, sincerely 😆
Saturday is “Meet The Playwright” and it can’t get here soon enough! I am officially a professional playwright. Dreams don’t expire!