So excited to announce that I'll spend the first part of 2018 in Atlanta directing August Wilson's KING HEDLEY II. I'm honored to helm a work that was intially brought to Broadway by my mentor Marion McClinton. I'm thankful that another mentor, Kenny Leon, has asked me to work on this powerful play. It is a dream to direct all ten plays in the cycle and this will be my second. To have been nurtured by some of August Wilson's closest collaborators and to be inspired by Mr. Wilson's words are just some of the joys of working in the theatre. Forever thankful.
I often found solace in my art. As a theatre maker I tried to lose myself in the world of the stories I tell for a living. That worked sometimes but those ephemeral reprieves stopped doing the trick on November 15th, 2015Read More
We never do the art to be recognized, but when it happens, it's really nice. I'm thankful to have a few shows that I worked on in 2015 receive year-end recognition. Thanks to everyone who worked on the shows and to everyone who included these works on their lists:
MY CHILDREN! MY AFRICA! (Co-Director) - Star Tribune;
AKEELAH AND THE BEE (Assistant Director) - Star Tribune;
GOSPEL OF LOVINGKINDNESS (Assistant Director) - Cherry and Spoon;
A HUGE thank you to Robert Weinert-Kendt, and the staff of American Theatre Magazine, for listing me as one of the six theatre workers to know. It is quite an honor to be listed with my peers. Also, special thanks to Anna Kremenetsky for her kind words in the article!
So excited to announce that I've been selected as one of six recipients of TCG/Andrew Mellon's Leadership U Mentorship Program. As part of the program, I will spend the next 18 months in residency at Park Square Theatre in St. Paul, MN. During that time, Richard Cook, AD of Park Square, will serve as my mentor. I'll be keyed into senior management and board meetings, season planning and producing conversations, as well as long-range strategy development and implementation. I'm most excited about the chance to help create a new work development model that will outline and manifest a pathway for Park Square to institutionalize the commissioning and production of new plays.
I'll be sure to keep you all posted on the developments! Click here to read the rest of the press release.
Excited to serve on this panel! Theatre for Young Audiences/USA has invited me to participate in their upcoming webinar: Diversity and TYA: Action Steps for a Bright Future. On Wednesday, I'm joining a panel of thinkers as we speak on how we grow the next generation of theatre patrons and artists and work towards a more diverse and inclusive future! Check out the description below and join us on Wednesday for the chat!
"The TYA community has a responsibility to help grow the next generation of theatre patrons and artists by introducing young people across the country to the joy of live theatre. But, whose stories are we telling? Who are we representing on our stages? Who is sitting in our audiences? It is time to take a hard look at all of our processes—casting, season selection, marketing—and assess if we are going the extra step to reach out to diverse actors, storytellers, playwrights, and patrons. This webinar will be an interactive discussion on best practices for telling diverse stories on our stages and reaching diverse audiences. We will be looking at the topic of diversity from an artistic, educational, and business perspective."
Part of an email I sent out to colleagues and family members. If you'd like to get on the list, please send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org)
You ever stop to think about all of the stories you share with the various people in your life? Ever think on how the stories you tell with your childhood friends differ so sharply from those you tell to your colleagues (and God forbid those two groups ever meet!)? I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the stories that lie at the core of my relationships lately. I just opened THE DRAWER BOY, a play about the stories we tell one another, on Friday (Feb. 13th) and I am now even more aware of the immense power of storytelling. In the play, we see how stories, both true and false, create the context for our relationships. Moreover, we see what happens when those stories, and the entire relationship’s context, is brought into question. I’m extremely proud of the work the actors, designers, and crew put into this show and I hope you get a chance to check it out. It runs at Theatre in the Round until March 8th. Thanks to the folks at RedCurrent for giving me a chance to chat about the show. You can also check out a few of the press blurbs from the Star Tribune and MinnPost. Hit me up if you plan on attending and I got you.
It’s application season! I feel like I’m emailing and calling references for letters, synthesizing my life story into personal narratives tailored to each grant's guidelines, and sending off an application every other week or so. For every application I get off successfully, I recognize a grant or opportunity I missed the deadline on. I have applications out for some really cool opportunities and I’ll keep you posted on the outcomes. Send your love, support, and good vibes my way.
Speaking of grants and such, Josh Wilder and I received a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board to produce a Black Arts Festival in the Twin Cities showcasing the work of emerging Black artists from various disciplines. Josh and I have been on a collaborating roll, as we just completed work on his new play, THE HIGHWAYMEN, which culminated in a reading during History Theatre’s RAW STAGES FESTIVAL. Check out this write-up from a local blogger.
Looking back: It's a blessing that THE PIANO LESSON received several end of the year commendations. Looking ahead: Upcoming projects include assistant directing at the Guthrie (CHOIR BOY), a remount of HABIBI, and staging a middle-school musical (INTO THE WOODS JR.),
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Arts Advocacy Day in Minnesota on February 19th. As an artist, and a board member of several non-profit organizations, I can’t overemphasize the importance of funding for the arts. On the 19th, join me and several other arts advocates as we lobby our state legislature, asking them to continue supporting the stories we tell.
Happy Valentine's Weekend all. Enjoy spending time with your Loves, reflecting on the stories and memories you've shared.
UPDATE: Arts Advocacy was so amazing!
In January, I was blessed to direct the reading of a new play written by my good friend and collaborator Josh Wilder. The play, THE HIGHWAYMEN, tells the story of the people behind the highly controversial decision to build a major Minnesota interstate by destroying a prominent Black neighborhood. The reading, as part of History Theatre's Raw Stages Festival, featured a stellar cast of the best actors in the Twin Cities. I really enjoyed the project, and by the looks of this writeup, so did this reviewer. Check it out below:
Thanks to the folks at RedCurrent my mug (albeit, in my opinion, a handsome one) is on the cover of their website. Appreciate the support. I chat about the upcoming production of THE DRAWER BOY Theatre in the Round, the power of storytelling, and making a space for oneself in the Twin Cities. Check it out here.
What a great way to start of 2015! I awoke to the news that our May 2014 production of August Wilson's THE PIANO LESSON at Olney Theatre in DC has received recognition by one of the major arts blogs in the area. DCMetroTheaterArts gave us the following ackowledgements:
- Best Directors of a Play in Professional Theatres
- Best Plays in Professional Theatres
- Best Performances in a Play in Professional Theatres
- Jessica Frances Dukes as Berniece
- Ronald Connor as Boy Willie
- JaBen Early as Avery
- Harold Surratt as Wining Boy
It is such an honor to be listed with so many talented directors, actors, productions and theater companies. I spent many nights admiring the work of the people with whom I am listed. It is quite a humbling moment. Thank God for his good grace and thank you all for the support along the way.
Here's to a great 2015!
If we are social media friends (like only real friends truly are) then you know I've used my various platforms to speak out to the most recent injustices. I won't spend much time rehashing my thoughts on the subjects but I stand in solidarity with those who feel that change must happen now.
While I believe I've been fairly vocal, I, sadly, haven't participated as fully as others. In between the various projects I'm juggling, I didn't take the time to join in the multiple protests going around me in the city and across the nation and I have some guilt around that. Especially when I think about the students I'm currently working with at South High School. On top of all of their school, family, and extra-curricular commitments, some my students took it upon themselves to use the skills they've learned in theatre to raise their voice in protest. They joined with other students at South High and held peaceful lunchroom discussions as well as staged a walk-out. Knowing that they would not be allowed to return to school for the rest of the day (that includes participating in our rehearsal that evening) they took a collective stand.
In that moment my students showed more wisdom than I had. Sometimes, as a working artist, I get so bogged down with the tasks at hand (reading scripts, emailing future employers, preparing for rehearsals, etc.) that I forget that I have a responsibility to use my artistry. I can do more than post to social media. I can use the skills I've acquired to push for the change I want to see in the world. I thank my students for reminding me of that.
The students at South High are both amazing activists AND artists. We've been hard at work over the last few months working on Naomi Iizuka's ANON(YMOUS), a play we will present this Thursday and Friday (December 11th and 12th @7p). Naomi's play takes on the difficult subject of immigration and tells the story of a young boy on a search to find his mother. Using the frame of Homer's Odyssey, the play gives voice to the millions of immigrant families across our country. The play and it's subject matter are not easy tasks to undertake, but the all student cast, crew, and design team (yeah, you heard that right!) are game and are doing really great work. I hope you get to see them! I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that our students successfully convinced the principal to do a school-time matinee! This is the first time in a long time that South High students have had this chance. Once again, my students stood up and became the change they wanted to see!
Outside of working at South High, I'm gearing up for a workshop at the History Theatre of Josh Wilder's new play, INTERSTATED. This cast includes James A. Williams, Steve Yoakam, Pearce Bunting, and Allen Hamilton and will be dramaturg'd by the amazing Christina Ham! Don't miss this come January.
Auditions for my show at TRP, THE DRAWER BOY, will be held on December 15th and 16th. This show about the things we've kept secret from the ones we love, in order to protect them, opens, fittingly, on Feb. 13th. I'm very thankful and honored to be asked back to TRP.
Other quick hits:
-I'll AD on the Guthrie's upcoming production of CHOIR BOY, by Tarell Alvin McCraney and directed by Peter Rothstein
-I joined the staff at Nautilus Music Theater. I'll be there for next 9 months on a Fellowship
-I couldn't get enough of working with kids, so I've joined up with Steppingstone Theater to bring INTO THE WOORDS JR. to bring the musical to Murray Junior High in st. Paul
-Looking forward to sharing some other big news in the near future (just waiting on the ink to dry!)
Thanks for taking a few minutes to check-in. I hope to see you all soon. If I don't touch base with you until then, happy holidays! Lauren and I will escape this frozen land and head down to Atlanta and Tallahassee for a few weeks.
Love you all so much. Thanks for the support! Positive vibrations