Currently residing: Palm Springs, California, and Ashland, Oregon.
Growing up: Birmingham, Alabama, and Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Creative beginnings: I was a student in the theater program of the Alabama High School of the Performing Arts during my freshman year of high school. For my audition, another student and I read a scene from The Glass Menagerie. We were the first two Black students admitted to the program. It was a wonderful experience that allowed me to participate in the production of several musicals and to travel to Europe (Italy) for the first time as part of a tour of a musical revue. Since then, I have acted in or attended plays whenever I could – either local companies, national tours or on Broadway.
What nurtured your playwriting: One thing that nurtured me as a playwright was watching plays at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and learning about the creative process through the actors, writers and director, like Henry Godinez and Octavio Solis.
I have always been a lover of poetry and Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls… was always a show that I would go back to. I love that combination of poetry, drama and dance in telling a story. When a Palm Springs theater company asked for a program of Black poetry, it was an opportunity to bring some of my favorite poets to life through storytelling. My first serious attempt at playwriting was this project in 2020.
Stories you gravitate toward telling: I have always been inspired by stories that center on the Black experience or the gay experience. Until recently, Black stories were limited and not well-represented in the theater world. Like the gay experience, the roles were often narrow stereotypes or they were only there to support the story lines of white, straight protagonists. I love stories that center people outside the mainstream. I HATE stories about actors, celebrities, or people in the theater.
I love stories that give me insight into a historical or actual event that I may not have known about. As I get older, intergenerational stories seem to speak to me. I also like stories about identity – the journey of discovering who we truly are and not just who society wants us to be. And I love stories that have a surprise ending or an ending that lingers with you for several days. If I walk out of the theater saying “I never thought about that, or never thought about it in that way,” it’s a good play.
Writing process: Writing starts with a story idea. Once I outline a story and create a picture in my mind of the characters, the dialogue comes very quickly. I then go back and tinker with the dialogue to make sure it feels natural and fits the story arc. If I am lucky, I get to work with actors who can allow me to “hear” the dialogue and make adjustments.
Currently inspired by: The idea of “resilience” inspires me. We are living in some dark times and I am curious how other people keep going. What lessons have we learned from the isolation of the pandemic and the activism of our 2020 racial reckoning? What are we taking into the future? How do we forge new relationships after years of “social distancing”?
Currently in the works: I am revising my play On the Verge and exploring whether my novel Rain After the Fire might be adapted to the stage.
Most looking forward to at ANPF: I am looking forward to the opportunity to meet other playwrights and learn more about their processes and perspectives.