Theater

I'm a producing playwright with The Welders. I’ll explain.

The original Welders, along with Welders 2.0 and 3.0, looking sharp (Photo courtesy of Manaf Azzam  )

The original Welders, along with Welders 2.0 and 3.0, looking sharp (Photo courtesy of Manaf Azzam )

Imagine if opportunity was like a banana peel that you tripped and fell over on your way to work. You’re on the ground and look around disoriented, but then you find a $20 bill lying on the ground next to you.

I was just sitting here, living my life. I had only just begun to see myself playwriting. I was working strictly on creative fiction, and through my work and growth with FRESHH Incorporated Theatre Company, I ended up writing and having my work produced on stage. Like, actors and errthang! The feeling of seeing people spit out my words and give them life was absolutely amazing and addicting. I knew that I wanted to do more of that. Although at the time, I hadn’t given it serious thought as to how.

I had heard of The Welders before and even crossed paths in a “six degrees of separation” sort of way. The Welders is a collective of playwrights that support each other and help each other get there plays fully produced. A few years ago, this group of playwrights, after successful seasons of original work in the DC area, sought to pass on the organization in its entirety (funds, resources, board of directors, and all) to another group of emerging playwrights so that they may do the same. Welders 2.0, as they are dubbed, had begun the process of passing on the organization to another group of playwrights and theatre artists. This new group would be Welders 3.0.

The application process for Welders 3.0 had opened right around the time when I had just gotten comfortable with identifying myself as a writer. As in, when someone asks you what you do, I just learned to stop saying, “I write,” and start saying, “I’m a writer.” When I was approached by a person gathering a group of writers to apply for The Welders, I decided that this was a chance to truly take my artistry seriously.

My cohort: Jared Shamberger, JR “Nexus” Russ, Sisi Reid, myself, Farah Lawal Harris, and Cat Frost

My cohort: Jared Shamberger, JR “Nexus” Russ, Sisi Reid, myself, Farah Lawal Harris, and Cat Frost

A couple of months later, I ended up joining a group of theatre artists whose work I enjoyed and whom I respected. I knew—as we were discussing our projects— should our application to lead The Welders be accepted, that I’d not only support and advocate for their projects wholeheartedly, but that each of them had something that I could learn to grow as a playwright and as a member of the DC arts community.

We applied.

We were accepted.

(See! Banana peel with a $20 bill!)

We vow to produce work that centers the spectrum of Black identities. We vow to produce work that strengthens the Black creative economy in DC. We vow to create opportunities to gather, discuss and process issues that matter to Black people. We promise to bring excellent stories to the stage that everyone will enjoy.

As Welders 3.0, we’ll officially start producing our work in January 2020. I’m so excited to learn. I’m gonna learn so hard, y’all! I’m going to strengthen my writing, grow in confidence as an artist and writer, and take these skills and opportunities and pass them on to folks from marginalized communities that could use them to thrive. What an honor.

Learn more about The Welders HERE, learn about Welders 3.0 HERE, and make a donation for the cause HERE!

-BAB

Afromemory goes to the Kennedy Center!

Labor Day weekend was super busy and super magical! I was once again commissioned by FRESHH Incorporated Theatre Company to expand Afromemory into a 60 minute one-act play to be performed in a staged reading at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. I was tasked with hiring a cast of actors and director to bring the play to life. What I decided to do was show a little more of how the protagonist Sarah B. got to the point she was at in the 10-minute play that was produced last Spring. I was thrilled to find so many people, from the audience members to the actors, so enthusiastic about the story I tried to tell!

Actors Lori Pitts, Tara Reeves, and myself after the show

Actors Lori Pitts, Tara Reeves, and myself after the show

Below is just a snippet of the 20-minute post-show discussion facilitated by FRESHH Inc. Theatre team member Fatima Quander that followed the staged reading of Afromemory. Thank you to the director Angelisa Gilyard for your thoughtful and explorative direction. Thank you to the cast Bryanda Minix, Karen Elle, Jonathan Miot, Tara Yates, Lori Pitts, and the lovely, young and talented Kayla Earl for your talent and commitment to bringing my play to life! And thank you especially to FRESHH Inc. Theatre for providing me with yet another platform to share my work!

Reflections on the Next to Kin One-Act Festival

Back in April 2018, something magical happened. I was commissioned to write a short play in tribute to one of my favorite writers of all time.

I was first introduced to Octavia Butler in college. Hungering for stories that centered folks who looked like me, that went to places and themes that I never considered in other works of fantasy and science fiction, I stumbled upon Dawn, Butler’s first novel in the Xenogenesis series. Years later, I strive to write stories just as insanely brilliant as Octavia Butler’s stories. Year later, FRESHH Inc. Theatre Company says, “Hey, we want to do a festival paying tribute to the legacy of Octavia Butler.” Years late, out of my head pops Afromemory.

Afromemory was about a woman with brown skin going through the future’s version of a quarter-life crisis. On top of the literal pressures of dating and marrying, she experiences a crisis of identity in a world that does not acknowledge race or ethnic culture, having scapegoated such constructs for violence, and political dissent in the world’s past. She begins a journey through her ancestral past that will change her life and endanger it forever.

This was my first time having something I wrote produced for the stage. I was honored to be among six playwrights: Nina Anglea Mercer, Adanna Paul, Maryam Foye, Heather Gibson, and Ebony Rosemond, who all shared a love for what Octavia Butler stood for…

…placing black women in the future, front and center.

Thank you to Goldie Patrick, founder and executive director of FRESHH Inc. Theatre for this opportunity, to Ayesis Clay who directed my play brilliantly and to Lori Pitts (Sarah S) and Tara Yates (Sarah B) who brought my play and its characters to life on stage.

You can learn more about what FRESHH Inc. Theater has in store HERE.