I am really excited and honored that Battle Cry was included in the Playwright Foundation's list of 20 Finalist for the 2014 Bay Area Playwrights Festival. The Bay Area is a lovely place to call home and a dynamic place to work as an artist. I am so thrilled to be on this list. The 37th BAPF will take place July 18th-27th. If you live in the area you should definitely check it out.
This summer continues to be busy one for me. I will be in NYC on July 15th doing a reading of Rust On Bone with an awesome cast and amazing Chuck Smith directing. I will also be in Naples Florida in September at the New Works Festival. But I must say that with all the great things going on around the country for me, it's especially nice to get some hometown love. Next time hopefully I can go all the way. http://playwrightsfoundation.org/index.php?p=263
I am happy to announce that Rust On Bone will be one of four plays at the New Works Festival at Gulfshore Playhouse. The festival begins September 4th and runs until the 7th. Updates to follow.
There is also a public reading in NYC July 15th, 7:30pm at the Manhattan Theatre Club's Studios directed by Chuck Smith.
Happy to announce that Rust on Bone is currently a semi-finalist for the 2014 Gulfshore Playhouse New Works festival in beautiful Naples Florida. 10 plays were chosen to move forward to the next round of competition. We should hear the results in the coming days! Hooray. http://www.broadwayworld.com/ft-myers-naples/article/Gulfshore-Playhouse-Announces-New-Works-Festival-Semifinalists-20140604#.U5zZRS9hstU
The month of May turned out to be an extremely busy month. I traveled in California to attend some meetings as well as readings for friends like the amazing Lisa Kenner Grissom. I was also extremely happy to learn that I will be a 2014-2015 Playwright Center Core Apprentice. Hooray! I will receive a one year mentorship/fellowship with a to be determined playwright. I also made it to finalist round of Playwright Foundation's Bay Area Playwright Festival and several semi-final rounds for other opportunities. So things are moving along in a steady fashion. Viva la summer!
It is always very nice that people are interested in your work. Recently I was interviewed about the research component of my latest plays. I thought it was going to be a tiny article but, nope! Perspectives Magazine did a feature article about my military cycle of plays and here's the article! How exciting!
My world feels like a fast moving freight train at the moment. My play RUST ON BONE is getting a featured production at the Seabury Quinn Jr. Festival of New Plays. Last night was the second dress rehearsal and preview is on Thursday. Next week a panel of distinguished theater professionals (Lydia Diamond, Chuck Smith, and Steve Scott) will be here to watch and respond to the pieces. I am SO excited about that.
I am also working on a brand new play after completing my fellowship at the Ohio State University Theater Research Institute in January. It is currently titled JUST PORGY. Let's see what else? I'm also finishing my final few weeks of graduate school, packing, and ready to figure out where in the world I will land next. I am also prepping the headshot and dusting off the audition clothes as I expect to go back to acting as well.
Right now the world has so very many possibilities. I am just praying I will be able to get a little rest soon to be ready to capitalize on them as they come by.
This is part of a series of tributes for Amiri Baraka (1934-2014), poet, playwright, novelist, music critic, and political activist.
I have had many artistic mentors. Forebears whose voices leapt off the page and into my consciousness to help form the artist I am today and the one I will become tomorrow. Artists who excited, cajoled, indicted, or knocked me in the teeth to take notice and listen. One of them was Amiri Baraka aka LeRoi Jones.
My early exposure to literature and theater, as most students of America, was of the old dead white male variety. I had teachers that extolled the virtues of Shakespeare, O’Neill, Shaw, Beckett, and I even had an A.P. English teacher obsessed with Kit Marlowe. Although I gobbled down these works diligently and appreciated their amazing qualities, these were not the artists that spoke to my spirit or made me soar.
I was more interested in writers such as Gabriel García Márquez and his brand of South American magical realism. It was Tennessee Williams that instilled in me a love for the poetic and lyrical elements of our world. I fell head over heels for Sam Shepard’s grit. But, it was Baraka’s Dutchman that kicked me square between the eyes and changed my entire perspective on the possibilities of being an artist.
I remember reading the Dutchman and being totally floored that Baraka could say and do those types of things on stage. His play about a chance encounter between a young black man and a white woman in a subway compartment that ends in unexpected tragedy and violence struck a chord in me. His work taught me that as an artist you could be brash, political, irreverent, and even obnoxious if you liked. Baraka’s words could take the audience by the throat, pour gasoline down their gullet, and laugh while striking a match. Dutchman is raw, violent, earth shattering, controversial, and politically arresting.
Although I personally identified more with the work of artist like Sonia Sanchez and Ntozake Shange, who spoke more directly to the triple plight I personally faced being black in America, female, and poor, Baraka’s explosive and raw writings always resonated with me. Not because I could agree with it all but, because I understood where it came from. I could sympathize and appreciate it because it was his generation’s anger, resolve, hard work, and unwillingness to compromise that created a sea of change in America that afforded me and future generations the civil rights we sometimes take for granted.
I’ve read Dutchman many times over the years. One memorable occasion was for Beth Turner’s Theater of the Black Diaspora class at Tisch in New York University. I had just moved to New York and it was my very first time on the East Coast. I had no friends and family there as I’m from California. I was exploring the city mostly alone either walking or on the subway. My mother was calling daily with some horrible tale she heard from friends or on the news of people getting mugged, pushed in front of taxis, or some other form of tragedy in the “big bad city.” I also had yet to perfect my “subway face” so often random people would sit next to me and strike up conversations, a scenario which instantly reminded me of the Dutchman
It was probably my third or fourth time reading the play when a handsome young white man sat next to me and started flirting. I couldn’t help questioning if I had inadvertently wandered into a Baraka-esque scene. Had I suddenly found myself in a conversation like the one between the Dutchman’s Clay, a young studious black man, and Lula, an enigmatic young white woman? Could what began as a playful and sexually charged exchange of words between two strangers quickly build into a volatile confrontation about race, class, gender, and violence? It was highly unlikely, but Baraka had planted that seed in my head.
Furthermore, I couldn’t imagine what I'd do if in fact I had found myself in circumstances like the play. For instance no one has ever used the “N” word to my face or said half the things Lula says to Clay. Granted I have faced my share of racism, classism, and sexism but of the more latent variety. For instance, I have been told a version of “you’re smart/pretty/talented etc., for a Black girl,” but I’ve learned to sidestep these comments. Yet, when I read the play that time I placed myself more squarely in the shoes of the character of Clay. This experience drove home the point that Baraka had me right where he wanted me. He had written a play that had arrested me. Dutchman had left it’s mark on my spirit and mind.
Baraka was one of the many artists that created work that has profoundly affected me. I am grateful for their words, bravery, and to have come behind a generation of political leaders, artist, and everyday people that marched, sang, wrote, and went to jail so that I didn’t have to face the same world they did.
My work as an artist is not that of Baraka’s but it is indebted to great artists like him that came before me. There would be no Bianca Sams if there weren’t trailblazers like LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka, Sonia Sanchez, Richard Wesley, Ntozake Shange, George C. Wolfe, or August Wilson who kicked down doors of the American theater, busted heads first and took names later. They lit the night on fire for decades to blaze a trail I’m honored and humbled to stride upon. So to them I must give thanks.
Moreover, today I must give a special thanks to the dynamic and controversial man that was Amiri Baraka. Reading the Dutchman was the first time I realized that I could be politically minded and artistically inclined. His work lit a fire in me to write and perform pieces that meant something to me personally and that might also have an impact on the world. He was a complicated and passionate voice that will be greatly missed. Rest in peace, Amiri Baraka.
- See more at: http://www.howlround.com/in-memory-of-amiri-baraka#sthash.GIUM40jx.dpuf
One month in and it's already been a very busy 2014. I started January in Columbus Ohio doing a month long research fellowship at Ohio State University's Lawrence & Lee Theater Research Institute. I scoured the Robert Breen collection to help me find inspiration for my newest play Just, Porgy (working title). I had an amazing time there working with brilliant archivist, curators and the TRI team. I am three quarters through my rough draft and expect to complete it shortly.
I also traveled with three other OU playwrights to West Chester, Pennsylvania for the KCACTF Region 2 Conference. My ten minute play SuperNova was selected to take part in the festival and directed by Moses Goldberg.
I am continuing with my nine month submission challenge. I have completed 57 applications since the end of July which means only 13 more to reach my goal of 70. Thus far, I have heard back from 15 of my submissions. To date three have returned in the affirmative including KCACTF (SuperNova) and Fast & Furious Festival in Spokane Washington ( Tiny Bundle of Twigs), Two have gone on to the simi-finals, and received 10 declines. So all in all not a bad ratio. More to come with those I hope.
Polar vortex or no polar vortex, I am going to go full steam ahead into my final semester at OU with some positive momentum behind me. Counting it all joy!
Time flies when you’re working hard. The past few months feel like one long blur! I’ve been a writing and submitting machine.
On the writing front, I have created ten new short plays (5 min), five ten-minute plays, three drafts of my full length thesis, a total rewrite of another full length, plus I am starting on another full length play which is a companion piece to my thesis. I am also researching two new projects, one in West Virginia and another via the TRI Fellowship at Ohio State University in Columbus. I also just found out one of my ten minute plays will be going to the KCACTF Region 2 festival in January.
On the life after grad school front, I have been knee deep in a submission challenge. I dared myself at the end of July to find 30 opportunities that I would kill to take part in and apply to them before Jan 1, 2014. I searched for residencies, awards, grants, fellowships, international exchanges, etc. I looked far and wide.
I decided no matter how high caliber they might seem, if I could dream of doing it I would apply. As for yesterday, I not only made my original goal but, blew past it. In the past five months I applied for 42 opportunities.
I don’t know the outcome of any of them yet. I probably won’t know for a few months to come BUT, I do know that it was one of the best experiments I’ve ever done. It forced me to leave behind my inhibitions or questions about if I was “good” enough. It made me say “Why not me” and “Why not now”. If I don’t win them that’s okay but, at least I believe in myself enough to try. As my mother always said: Shoot for the stars. If you miss you might just land on the moon. So, fingers crossed and moon boots tied.
For now, I am off on break to reclaim my sanity and spend time with loved ones. The new year will be packed with research in Columbus and a festival presentation of my 10-minute play Supernova....so I better get some rest while I can!
Time flies when you’re having fun or working hard! The past two months were like a blur of travel, writing, research, grants, and more!
I started out in California doing research at VA hospitals from Palo Alto down to Long Beach. I received an Ohio University SEA Grant that allowed me to spend 20+ days doing research for my thesis project on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Military Sexual Trauma. In total I spoke with 23 three amazing professionals all over the West Coast and Boston, who work tirelessly with patients recovering from PTSD and MST. It was eye opening and inspiring! Now to the writing!
My travels also took me to NYC to see friends, family, and a TON of new theater! Also a quick stop at the NYC Lincoln Center Arts Library for more research.
I rounded my two months out with a whirlwind 12 day fellowship at the Eugene O’Neill New Play Conference. I was one of five writers (during my session) invited to partake in the New Play Festival process. I watched works in progress, met with playwrights like David Auburn and Sam Hunter, and did tons of my own writing. Not to mention I got to watch Eisa Davis and Frank Wood perform six times.
Lastly, I recently found out that I have been awarded the TRI Fellowship at OSU to complete research on my Porgy and Bess play. Seriously...I feel like one lucky duck! Life has been very very good this summer.
ABOUT MY WORK: I create lyrical investigations of found stories that force audiences to face their own love affair with misery.