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/

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

Q&A with Rain Pryor

rainpryor

I interviewed actress, singer, and comedian Rain Pryor, daughter of famed comedian Richard Pryor, about her one-woman show Fried Chicken and Latkes. Here’s a taste of our conversation:

ArtsATL: Do you remember your first school play?

Rain Pryor: The first school play I ever did was Winnie the Pooh and I played the ass Eeyore, because — this should be in my play, but it’s not. I auditioned to play Raggedy Ann, but I didn’t get to play Raggedy Ann, I got to play a gingerbread girl, because they were like, “There are no black Raggedy Anns.” Winnie the Pooh was always played by a white boy, so it wasn’t like I was going to get to play Winnie the Pooh.

 

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.

Q&A with David Lindsay-Abaire

I was fortunate enough to be able to interview playwright David Lindsay-Abaire for Syracuse Stage’s production of Good People. The play is set in his native South Boston, and is about a single mother struggling to support herself and her special needs adult adaughter. Desperate, she reaches out to an old flame who is now a successful doctor, but as we all know, people are never where you left them. I spoke with David one Thursday morning while he was in his apartment in New York City. He has a great sense of humor and he is a generous interviewee. I really enjoy doing Q&As because I am curious by nature, and being able to ask anyone, anything, really appeals to me.  The article is called “Going home to find Good People: David Lindsay-Abaire talks Southie, strong women and forays into naturalistic drama.” Read the full article here Good People interview with David Lindsay Abaire.