Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Barbara Ann Teer and the National Black Theatre

Barbara Ann Teer, founder of the National Black Theatre, has passed away. On Monday, July 28, I had the privilege of witnessing part of the funeral procession through the streets of Harlem. It was a celebration of the life of a driving force in American performance. She helped forge a new path for live Theater, championing the cultures of people of African descent.

Reading about her legacy, I realize how indebted I am, as an artist of color, to her dedication to changing the fields of arts and entertainment. At the same time, I recognize this moment as one of reflection.

I, and future generations, and the beneficiary of that struggle. And as I reflect on this sentiment, I am filled with humility and awe at the task before me. As an artist of color, I embrace my role in this ongoing legacy. I am hopeful to make my own mark in the African-American cultural tradition.

Yet at the same time, I am intrigued and motivated by the opportunities to reach, speak to, and speak for, a broader audience…and because of the work of people like Dr. Barbara Ann Teer, I know that I can.

Rest In Peace.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Playwrights on Writing for Film and TV

After work today I headed down to the Public Theater to attend “Stage and Screen: Playwrights Talk About Writing for Film and Television.”

It was a forum produced by the Summer Play Festival at the Public in partnership with the NYC Mayor’s Office of Film Theatre and Broadcasting (MOFTB). Moderated by Katherine Oliver, the commissioner of the MOFTB, the forum featured three working playwrights—Keith Bunin, Adam Rapp, and Beau Willimon .

I only got to see the last 30 minutes or so of the session, but it was a confidence booster for me. One of the major points that hit home was playwrights’ discussion about how self-production is what just about everyone does to get into the field. You gotta do it yourself first. I’m at that stage right now, so I was pleased to hear that even if you groom your career with MFA’s and whatnot, getting in the door usually takes plain old persistence and sweat and magic fairydust.

They also noted how it is virtually impossible to eke out a modest living on playwriting alone, and gave interesting anecdotes about their experiences writing for film and TV. One thing I would have liked to hear more about is how you can get income speaking engagements. (They said this is how Tony Kushner pays his bills, not really from his royalties and whatnot. I wanted details! I can do a speaking engagement too!)

A pretty good forum in my opinion, and I applaud the folks who put it together.

That’s all for now.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Updates of Late

Well I’ve been busy lately, and haven’t been in touch with you all.

July 12, 2008
I attended the Indie Theater 2nd Convocation. Wow. It was great to be among so many professionals working in Independent Theater, and I am every excited to participate more fully in this community. What can I say—Indie Theater is what I do, I just didn’t know we could call it Indie. The other term (off-off broadway) implies a certain aspiration to be on the Great White Way. That’s just not the case for all of my shows, and Indie Theater better conveys that point. And that’s just the name, there’s a lot more to it… Go Indie!

June 19, 2008
A few weeks ago was Juneteenth, and my friends at Freedom Train Productions brought it in with an evening of Theater called After the Ballot. This event helped support the month-long festival they produce every year, Fire! A scene from my new play, The Lattice Crashes, was featured for After the Ballot. It was a great evening.

I finished a draft of the Lattice Crashes about two months ago. In a nutshell this two-act play follows a technician in the distant future charged with fixing a computer archive of human history. A 21st century “gay-bashing” event is giving her trouble because everyone is lying about it, but she’d rather hit 'delete' than figure out the truth.

I’m a member of the Harlem Arts Alliance/Columbia University Dramatic Writers Workshop, and I was supposed to get feedback for the Lattice Crashes from a mentor in the program. But I missed my feedback day!!!! (Long story. Completely my fault.)

May 27th 2008
It Goes Unsaid went to London. We actually got it there for the Accidental Festival. It was tough work (but not much new writing). The show was a success, I’d say, since we’ve been invited back. That was an experience that warrants a full blog entry. But we're a bit burnt out at Under the Spell. We are planning more projects for August though. I guess I’ll get to sharing more about London sometime. Bother me about it.