Pearl Cleage revisits “Blues for an Alabama Sky”

I had the opportunity to meet playwright/novelist Pearl Cleage for the first time while I was a contractor for the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta. At the time, I was helping the theatre re-imagine its community engagement programs, and Pearl was hosting a series called “Page to Stage with Pearl Cleage.” “Page to Stage” was a pre-show talk Pearl conducted with the audience about an hour before each show. I remember watching her and thinking, wow this woman really loves what she does. I could tell that words were her friends and that Atlanta was her didactic playground. I recently had the opportunity to formally interview Pearl about the 20th anniversary production of Blues for an Alabama Sky, which opens at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta this week. She wanted to make sure that the production still “stood up after 20 years,” and based on the feedback I’ve been hearing from previews, it does.

Read it here: http://www.americantheatre.org/2015/04/16/blues-for-an-alabama-sky-celebrates-its-20th-birthday-at-the-alliance-theatre/

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Real Women Have Curves

Seven years ago I played the role of Rosali in the play Real Women Have Curves at The University of Georgia, which changed my view of theatre forever. The play was written by Chicana playwright Josefina Lopez in 1995. Dealing with issues of immigration, domestic violence, body image, and feminism, the play resonates with audiences today.

RWHC

Viviana Chavez, Jeniffer Tillman, and Kelundra Smith in UGA’s production of Real Women Have Curves, 2008.

Recently, I had the opportunity to interview the director and cast members from Teatro del Sol’s upcoming production, which opens this weekend. It reminded me of the lifelong friends I made during my college production, and the ways in which the play resonates with and deeply touches the actresses who play five curvy Latinas in a sweatshop in East LA.I was recently maid of honor in our “Estela’s” wedding, and regularly have lunch dates with our “Ana.”

Check out my preview of the show, which is a part of Aurora Theatre’s Spanish language theatre initiative in Lawrenceville, Georgia: http://www.artsatl.com/2015/04/preview-teatro-del-sols-real-women-curves-celebrates-latino-heritage-struggles/

Celebrating strong African women in color

MuluqueenWould you leave your job working as a T-shirt designer for a major denim company in Istanbul to move to Atlanta with no money and no plan– only talent? A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to interview an artist named Hirut Yosef, and that is exactly what she did. She designed jerseys and graphic tees for Mavi Jeans, and one year ago she uprooted herself to live with her sister, brother-in-law, and niece in Atlanta. Today, her exhibit Chalom Yashan is on view at the Marcus Jewish Community Center through March 31.

Moving to Atlanta was one of many long journeys that she has taken in her life–she is from Israel, by way of Ethiopia. She landed in Israel at age 5 after her family walked over 400 miles to Sudan in order  flee famine and war. Read it all here.

Q&A with playwright Dominique Morisseau about DETROIT 67

DominiqueMorisseau Headshot  Last Monday I interviewed international playwright Dominique Morisseau about her play Detroit 67. It runs at Atlanta’s Southwest Arts Center, February 10 – March 8. We chatted a lot about her hometown of Detroit, and how she aspires to be the scribe for the people she grew up with. Below is a teaser of our conversation. Click the link below to read the full interview.

ArtsATL: The “n-word” is used a lot in this play. Why did you choose to use it?

Morisseau: I usually never use this word in plays. I always try to find another word for how black people describe each other. I got to a point in my writing where nothing else worked. I was censoring myself as a writer by not letting my characters speak for themselves. I researched and started talking to my parents, and I asked them to just be with me in a basement in 1967 with [their] friends. What would [they] say? My mother’s hilarious answer was, “Well, the bad girls would say ‘nigger.’” They didn’t want to admit to me that they used the “n-word.”

I was thinking about my responsibility as an artist, and I know that to my elders, it may hit them wrong because they have worked so hard to bury that word. But on the flip side, I have to not try to correct my people, but rather let them see themselves reflected back to themselves, and then they can make the choice to do something different.

– See more at: http://www.artsatl.com/2015/02/preview-playwright-dominique-morisseau-detroit-67/#sthash.krOza7EP.dpuf

“American Sabor” shows how Latin rhythms shaped U.S. sound, at Atlanta History Center

At the Palladium in Nuevo York, where during the 40s.

Check out my latest review for ArtsATL.com!

“the exhibition makes the point that 20th-century Latin music in the United States was inherently political. A display of album cover art and videos throughout the show help tell that story. Unfortunately, the text doesn’t always do its part. Although a discussion of Cesar Chavez’s protests with the United Farm Workers of America mentions that the movement was concurrent with and in solidarity with protests for the civil rights movement, it misses the opportunity to examine how or if the music explored the discrimination faced by black Puerto Ricans, Dominicans and Cubans.”

Read it all here.

My first cover story!!!!

My interview with Ping Chong is the cover story for the May 2013 issue of Dramatics!!!!! Dramatics magazine is the only theater magazine targeted toward teenagers in the United States. I remember reading it (along with Cheer Nation) when I was in high school. I never thought I would write for them. It’s such a full circle moment to write for a publication that you read, especially one you read as a child.

I first met Ping Chong when I was in graduate school at Syracuse University last year. He did a talk on inclusion for people with disabilities in the American theater, and I asked him about his work, experiences, and methods. He then gave me his business card, and told me to give him a call.

Fast forward to later that year, and I received a grant to do a participant journalism project. I chose to attend/report on his annual documentary theater workshop. At this workshop he works with seasoned theater professionals (and me) to develop community-based theater, using his world-renowned Undesirable Elements documentary theater series as the model. This was the first time I ever attempted to report a story objectively, while also wearing my own theater artist hat.

What came of my time in Amherst, Massachusetts changed my perspective on many things about my personal life and my identity as an actress, director, writer, and student of the theater. None of that is in the article. What is in the article, is a brief history of the Undesirable Elements series, resources for youth and educators who are interested in documentary theater, and a Q&A with Ping Chong. I have already received the rewards from writing this piece, and I hope some high school student will pick up a copy of Dramatics in his/her high school library, and know that something as simple as reading can come full circle.