Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Well it's about damn time.

Hey everybody or the few besides myself who actually check out my stupid egotistical ranting site. :) I have to learn to be more consistent with my postings. So much has happened as I count down the days to my moving to the South!??!! in Atlanta??!! by the end of January 2008. I have been reminded so graciously of how it use to be an honor to have a play produced out of town and to have the respect a playwright should get actually become a reality from the hosting theater.

Things have changed so much since first I was professionally produced way back in the day. In the last few years, I have had my plays produced in festivals all around the country, and not one has volunteered to pay for my airfare nor arrange for my sleeping accommodations or made sure that someone would make sure that I didn't get lost in a city I was unfamiliar with. I suppose that is because of the poor financial status of most of America's black theaters. But The Pittsburgh Playwright Theater Company made me once again believe in old school professional etiquette. Not knowing what to expect when my play, "Ding Dong Daddy" was selected for their Black/White play festival, I just thought it would be nice to visit Pittsburgh, a place I'd never been, and come out of pocket for a weekend stay.

Things didn't start out very well. I was set for a long Greyhound Bus ride from NYC to Pittsburgh that was to leave at 11:00pm and arrive at 6am the next morning. Of course, one must be in line one hour before departure so that meant I was in line waiting for the doors to open by 10pm. I didn't get on the 11pm bus until 1:30 am because they couldn't find a driver! Then the driver they did get had never been to Pittsburgh either. I set my aching legs up the steps and found a window seat in the back. Of course, the last person to get on was a stubby overweight man and the seat next to me was the last seat left. Oh shit! I knew that as soon as this dude went to sleep, I'd have to keep pushing that heavy ass leg off my leg all the way to Pittsburgh. And sure enough that's exactly what I had to do. What is it with short dudes anyway? You encounter them on the subways too. Why do they always have to splay their damn legs wide as if they were "packing" and needed the space so that their "stuff" wouldn't be crimped? Come on quit the fantasies and wishful thinking. Anyway, before I digress...when I arrived in Pittsburgh, They had someone to pick me up! Damn! Took me to breakfast and paid for it! Damn! And then that evening put me up in the famous Redwood home up in the Hill section of Pittsburgh; the place that August Wilson made famous. Damn! Hung out with the famous actor Anthony Chisholm. And got to climb those 87 steps! 87 steps! To the top porch of the Redwood home! And then some more steps to the third floor guest rooms. I haven't climbed that many steps at one time since I lived in San Francisco.

Anyway, the production staff was very courteous and made me feel important, and they did a good job changing the sets. I was okay with my play understanding the age of one of the actors and the limited amount of rehearsal time to get it together. I thoroughly enjoyed my stay in Pittsburgh even though it wasn't a lot to do there except be amazed at all the damn bridges that crossed the rivers.

Then as I looked forward to the surprise waiting for me on my return Greyhound Bus ride, I got to hang out with the founder of the theater and he surprised me with a check to cover my traveling expenses there and back home. Now that's the way a playwright should be treated!!! It use to be that way, but now it's: you're on your own my brother playwright!

But I ain't hatin'. Long as they do my plays and not try and change my words without my approval, then it's just another day in the life of an artist.

Oh yeah, I have a last reading coming up on December 16th at the Indian Restaurant on Broadway and 108th in NYC of a play that I ain't even finished. (Guess that means I have to do that.) It's entitled: "Osage Avenue" (The Move Inferno). Be looking for it.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Dorothy Dandridge - Cow Cow Boogie

Dorothy was a talented cutie pie. Sixteen years and showing all that talent that was coming.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

COMING DOWN FROM A BEAUTIFUL HIGH






I wanted to share with anybody who is still reading my blog outside of myself some of the rehearsal pictures of my play, "Miss Laura Maye of Harlem". The Reading that was done on Monday, Sept 17th at the Ellington Room in Manhattan and it was spectacular!!! Almost 100 folks sat down for an hour and a half to hear my fabulous actors do their thing. I of course did the sound cues with my little boom box. :) It was heartening to get thank you emails from the actors. I really appreciate it. And it just goes to show that money isn't always the most important thing with these artsy things. There were many union actors here and they got great returns for bringing my play to life. They got a standing ovation, gratitude from the producers and playwright, and they got refreshments on top of it. They also got some connections from the many writers and producers in the room who always look for great acting.

I was very happy with it. Now let's see if someone will pick it up and do it the way it should be done.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

The Beat goes on.

Damn! Another play selected for a festival...I guess I'm not just fading away this year as is expected. :) I'm excited about this upcoming reading because like me this 104 year old woman just won't fade into oblivion. Two times this year it was selected for prestigious theater festivals and two times it didn't happen for one reason or another, but African American Playwrights Exchange took care of me once again. Thanks Jaz.

I'm pasting the flier and I don't know what it'll look like on this blog, but I'm not perfect. Also again thanks to AAPEX, I got a tip about the Black/White playwrights festival in Pittsburg looking for short pieces. I sent Mr. Ding Dong Daddy (it ain't what it sounds like) to them and it will be presented next month. So I guess I'll make that trip to Pittsburgh, a city I've never visited, next month.

Life as a Lemon

& Jammit Productions

In association with
African American Playwrights Exchange

Presents

“Ms. Laura Mae of Harlem

The play chronicles the exuberate life and death of Ms. Laura Mae who lived in Harlem for over 100 years. Through music and deep reflection the audience is transported in time following the thrilling journey of this extraordinary figure. Fun loving and sentimental, it reaches out and touches us all.

Directed By Esther M. Triggs v Written By Jamal Williams

7:00 PM

September 17, 2007

The Manhattan Plaza, Ellington Room

Located at 43rd & 9th Ave in New York

Admission is Free with Refreshments to be served.

An AEA Approved Staged Reading

For more information, please contact www.lifeasalemon.com

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Has it been that long?

Hey everybody, what is the use in having your own personal bitching blog if you don't write bitching things regularly? What kind of bitcher am I? :) Oh well, lots has happened since last I put something here. I returned from Atlanta more convinced...actually certain that I am willing and ready to make my next move (transition) to the good ole dirty south. I'm now in the midst of closing out my New York stuff clearing way for my new adventure. But closing one thing and opening another is not as easy as it may seem. I'm preparing for the reading of my play: "Miss Laura Maye of Harlem" on Sept 17th at the Ellington Room at Manhattan Plaza.

I thought "Miss Laura" wasn't going to ever see the light of day. This new play had been selected twice this year for prestigious play festivals (The Downtown Urban Theater Festival) and (The Manhattan Rep Summerfest) and for reasons beyond the control of the playwright were postponed or withdrawn. It's gone through five directors, over twenty actors and it still was ready. I guess that's the nature of the business. But, as surprises sometimes do happen, I was given another chance to put the 104 year-old woman in the spotlight. Thanks to AAPEX and Jaz Dorsey out of Nashville, a fabulous slot was offered to me. Of course being the altruistic individual that I am, I was trying to fill the slot with two short pieces from the Playwrights Workshop that I run. I had one short piece, but the other piece I selected writer was an actor and had got a new gig that precluded him from being able to attend the reading.

In conjunction with Life as a Lemon Productions, Jammit Productions, and AAPEX we are presenting this reading as a Union-sanctioned reading. This is very significant. That means that all the union actors that agree to read have first "rights" to the role should it be produced professionally. Wow, that's kind of scary. So that means that the casting is being done very carefully.

I have also finally gotten a novel directly to a publishing house!!! For four years, I had actually given up on even getting someone to look at it. And even though I was signed with a "top" black agent for three years, it never got beyond her secretary's desk for consideration (she confessed she wasn't particularly interested in the horror genre, but her assistant was a big fan of my writing) . That's another bitching story for later. It seems in my long career as an artist I have lots of bitching stories. :)

Anyway, I've given up teaching my screenwriting workshop.

Oh by the way, do you know there is only one real black theater left in all Harlem?! What the hell happened to the center of the black theater universe? Did you know that the white fellows who ran the Classical Theater of Harlem made their escape back to midtown taking the name of the theater with them. Can you still be a theater of Harlem out of Harlem? Hmmm... Did you know that there seems to be a panic among American black theater producer that the end must be near because August is dead? Did you notice that the "living" theater, which is what theater should be, is almost the "dead" theater. Most of the meager funding from black theater producers are being budgeted for the "classic" negroid plays. Where is the vibrant new stuff?

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Cameo - Word Up

The Old school shit. Describes the writer attempts of clarity in this confusing world. Word Up!!!

Monday, July 2, 2007

THE MOST BRILLIANT OBSERVATION ON TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY BLACK THEATER

Man, I'm glad I have a place to go for my ranting and raving. And I'm glad that I'm not the only one out there ranting and raving too. Whether you believe in our message of doom for black theater or not, you have to admit that there is certainly some conviction in the words of two angry black men. And if you don't like pungent language then stop reading. :)

I was fortunate enough to be on the same website group that Owa is when I viewed the following message this Saturday. I blew my critical over reactive mind.


Owa.

Okay, here's my two cents in this soon to be fulminating controversy I am a black playwright. My work is the reverse of some the writers who have contributed to this discussion. I write about white characters in many of my plays--why? First, American theater is an offshoot of western theater. Both are racially myopic and culturally imperialistic. Black theater and all that it stands for is a cultural conceit. It is bereft of popular support by the very people whom black playwright aim their work--black audiences. In most cases black playwright of this ilk are preaching to their own choir... In rare instances, this unfortunate trend is broken. A case in point would be the works of Tyler Perry whose works were widely regarded as under professional and not really theater.

Mr. Perry had to carve out his own niche in the face of scathing criticism by black theater professionals. He found his audience in the black working middle class who didn't ask for much- stories that they could relate to and like every other theater going American, something that didn't tax the brain too much--as life was doing a pretty good job of that already. Actors resented him, directors loathed him and most complained of his "colored peoples" way of doing things. This was of course until the whole lot of them realized he was the only black theater actually making and paying real money in an industry that hardly knows the term--"real money"--s in paycheck. Then he had a new respect--because he made money! He made so much money--- the white entertainment industry took immediate notice of his heretofore questionable qualities and began to extol his virtues with financial vehemence, namely wider media exposure. Also, I might add, he had the temerity to do his own performances thing in drag... Creating a lovable character (Medea) that his audiences embraced with the warmth and love of a trusted family member. This character tapped into their need to have an Avuncular like panacea for their aches and pains which they saw in the various stagings of his plays throughout America. is audiences loved him while we sat on our black asses and criticized him--hating that he was too black--not sophisticated in the white way we had all come to love.
I think one of the problems with black theater is its lack of vision, humility and energy. Not that these qualities don't abound, its just that they're dissipated in anger, personal egoisms and not being able to pay attention to the details of running an effective business. Most of the black theater is hamstrung by notions of what is black theater and who is black theater.
Much of the last centuries black playwrights were writers of protest.

The odd thing about these protest writers were the underlying facts that white people were expected to finance their protest. A case in point. Black producers, those in the New York theater scene in particular, did little to develop a sustainable black audience (outside of the aforementioned Tyler Perry). A case in point is the Audelco (Audience Development) organization in motion for over a quarter of a century. They have so little clout in the real world of theater, there exist no major media attention for their self-serving efforts. People with star quality names like George C. Wolf give them a name and credibility when they flash their Audelco awards on their own press and resumes. In one instance, it is reported their award ceremony was almost canceled because of lack of participation. Their tickets sales are waning and their usefulness to the playwright is negligible because of a systemic culture of patrimony and nepotism. They have not in their over two decades of existence developed an audience In the black community that would nurture and support the black theater and its cohorts by a strategy that would enhance ticket sales to black theaters.


In white communities there is a strong bonding relationship between the church and the theater community. In such communities, churches are turned into theaters. On the contrary, in black communities, theaters are turned into churches. A bad omen if there ever were any.
Black theater is dysfunctional and a fiscal dependent on the largess of white funding sources. Black theater must also compete with the larger white entertainment media whose resources are astronomical. Secondly, lets face it, white audiences are not really interested in black characters outside of a theatrical curiosity. Though black theater is inherently American, the values of black people somehow do not seem present in an American sensibility with its hardcore bourgeois affectations.

Its an issue of language, psychological coding, and social interest. Not many folk are going to trek from Montana to see a show about black people and call it entertaining over dinner. Walt Disney has more exciting fare for the theatrical taste of ticket buying Americans audiences.with families taking a jaunt in the Big Apple.

Black producers (for the most part) are stuck on stupid and fail to nurture the black playwright as the living source of American dramatic literature. There are scores,nay even hundreds of black playwrights male and female alike who languish in the neither world of obscurity because they are in fact "invisible" to black producers. Their scrips sit in dusty piles in dusty corners of America's black and community theaters. Like Waiting for Godot--nothing happens --twice!
Black writers for the most part have to wait in line for White theaters to be presented like giddy d├ębutantes at the Cotillion of the American Theater at large. This is a sad state of affairs and I lay much of the responsibility at the feet of the black producers who do little to promote a living and healthy theater for its practitioners black or white.

As Tyler Perry has amply demonstrated white industry media professionals pay attention to bottom line success. Black theater has little success, in most cases,it can't even keep its doors opens. And when it does do so, it has difficulty filling its seats. There is no black theater that exist to my knowledge, that can sell a hundred dollar ticket, if its not a pop music venue.
There are many types of black playwrights, some good and some not so good--but playwrights all. However, there doesn't exist a real proving ground for playwrights--good, bad or indifferent to experiment and fail--grow their plays and hone their craft in a working environment of respect and appreciation. Instead those who are not flinging themselves off of cliffs of despair are forced to prostitute themselves in the name of popular taste and cultural mores.
The rest of the motley crews are forced like aimless wandering souls in Hades, to play the endless circus of reading workshop where scripts are work shopped to death on the reading circuit; basically these scripts of writers die a silent death never having experiencing the costuming, frenetic, exhilaratingly hysteria of bonified rehearsals and the lights of a living stage.
If black theater doesn't take care of its own, why should we expect white theater to take care of us--but we do and they likable foster parents do the best they can. But don't ask too much
Now the hunt is on for a New August Wilson---not a new theater, but a new icon that can be laid on the altar of American Theater, sedated with the opiate of fame, their heart ripped out and offered to the Muses as the end all and be all of what's happening now...

Finally, I write white characters because white people are interested in their people, their experiences and heir struggles to live in an unlivable world. Black people for the most part have no place in that world except as extras or accommodating someones idea of non- traditional casting. So I write characters about people who the audience cares about in a universal sense--black people as characters are not cared about except from a position of neediness.
Most of the black characters that do make it to the mainstream stages are either victims of white people, or dismayed fools who fail to understand the social forces rallied against them or otherwise self-inflated peacocks strutting across the footlights, oblivious to the reality of the bloodsucking nature of the beast that feeds on them.

Yes, I have black characters in black plays--but black people have difficulties, seeing the reality of themselves, as mirrored in their daily struggle to stay asleep In the raging inferno, and nightmarish turmoil of life, in the step-mother whore of western democracies--- American theater.

Let's hope I started a real dialog here on the subject at hand
owa

THAT WAS SOME GOOD STUFF!!!

Here's my response to him:

Hey Owa I had created this brilliant response to your
note to aapex. But of course my fucking phone locked
up and I lost the message I created. but to make it
now short and sweet...that was fucking brilliant!!! When
I grow up as a writer I want to be as clear and fearless
as your ass.

Fucking brilliant!! That shit need to be in all theatrical
publications. You put all my thoughts in that message.
Man, the real negroes and apologist will come out from
under cover to respond to that! You're my fucking-fearless
hero. And like the tragic heroes of past classics, as you
stand on the gallows (public opinion), a hangman's noose
(productions) tied tightly to your balls and they lean you
forward to rest your head below the blade (black producers)
of the guillotine, the crowd (writers) below will bow their
heads in reverence for their great hero,there will be smirks
on their faces.

Id like to put your email in my ranting and raving blog. Good
fucking shit! They want us black artist to keep our family
dirty laundry secret, but Im tired of wearing shit-stained
draws.

Good fucking shit!


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Bountiful Bonanza of Art.

This blogging stuff is sort of contagious. Not only do I get to vent and pontificate about things, I don't have anyone who can censure or delete my postings. I was just thinking that one of my secret desires as an artist is to have four (4) different play productions of my creations to be performed in the same city at the same time. Ha...good luck, dreamer! Are you out yah mind? Do you have any common sense? I mean it's difficult enough to just get one (1) play done in any time in any city in any one decade if you're a black playwright. :)

But something strange has happened to me recently. I haven't been blessed to have the realization of that fantasy yet, but I just realized that I have four different plays being read or performed in three different cities in a three month period. And on top of that I'm almost sure to have another play read in Stamford, Connecticut in the spring of 2008!

They say that before a Sun burns out it becomes a Super Nova, burning up vast amounts of energy; illuminating great brilliance of light, and then sputtering out forever. No, let me stop these negative energy thoughts that started out in this blog. :)

I'm still amazed at the sudden attention my writing has suddenly gotten. Here's a summary of how they have worked out:
(1) June 23rd, The Essential Theater in Washington, D.C. staged a reading of "King Willie".
(2) June 30th
The New Federal Theater is hosting a reading of "Is you is or Is you Ain't" at Abrams Center.
(3) July 20th,
AAPEX will host a reading of "Yesterday Came Too Soon" (The Dorothy Dandridge Story) in Atlanta, Georgia.
(4)
August 15th, 17th, and 18th The Manhattan Repertory Theater is hosting a performance of "Miss Laura Maye of Harlem" as part of the Summerfest.
(5) March, 2008,
a tentative production of "Last Dance of the Panther Women" at the Prometheus Fire Theater in Stamford, Ct.

Phewwww! If only they were all full productions. Oh well I guess I can't be too greedy. And it all comes at a time that I'm thinking of relocating to the good old new south in Atlanta, GA.


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The eviction of San Francisco Black Theater

Well let me start the ranting this morning. I received a few email messages about The Lorraine Hansberry Theater Company losing the lease on their downtown San Francisco theater district space on July 31st. Of course, we all in the black theater community are saddened and alarmed with this situation; another black theater homeless and under attack. I mean, after all this is one of our valued institution; the best west of the rockies. The state-of-the-art theater is located in a prime downtown location. Their black plays are budgeted $50,000 and above. Production values compare to any mid size professional theater anywhere. They are considered one of the leading black companies in America. For after all, that black theater has been producing top quality black theater for many years; one of which was my award-winning Vietnam play: "LBJ (Long Bien Jail")in 1986.

It is with mixed feelings that I look on this situation. I can still remember my bittersweet dealings with them over fifteen years ago. And since I am not willing to put my "true" feelings out there about this event or expose my Karma powers, I will attempt to be diplomatic in my observations. A little back story would reveal that I once was the first playwright-in-residence at SEW-The Lorraine Hansberry Theater Company back in 1989 (SEW stood for Stanley Earl Williams, the Artistic Director). Though I've often wondered why, you won't find it in any recent literature originating out of The Lorraine Hansberry publicity machine, You might find a hint I held that position for three years. I guess I ain't lived up to their lofty expectations and no one wants to lay claim to this brother's sad ass career.

With an ironic smirk on my face, I have to say that I was a Playwright-in-Residence without a "portfolio". That is to say that a formal contract, which would have bound the theater to giving me one production slot per season, was never formulated for one reason or another. And of course, through my three-year residency I was always asked to sacrifice for the company, my slot because the theater didn't have enough money for a full season.

The slick company's brochures for those years (1989-1992) do list me with that "illustrious" title, so I guess the documentation speaks louder than the silence. After developing a play, "Is you is or is You Ain't" in their workshop for the years I was in residence there and "miraculously" winning a major theater contest with it, I was told (I thought jokingly) that, playwright-in-residence or not--the theater would never produce a play with such an ignorant sounding title because it wouldn't do much for their image if they spent thousands of advertising dollars promoting it. I left the company and San Francisco rather bitterly in 1992 in quest of raising my art to another level. I had hit the "charcoal" ceiling.

My rant and rave with this situation is tied to a question: Are we as black playwrights supposed to keep our "dirty laundry" in dealing with black producers and black theaters, to ourselves? Are we to feel some collective empathy with the dire present situations of our former producers because they represent "excellence" that is under attack from capitalistic forces? Are we to wish them well in finding a new space and continuing their many years of excellence?

You tell me cause I sure have my smiling opinion!

Friday, June 22, 2007

New Federal Theater Presents.

The New Federal Theater presents a staged reading of AAPEX member, Jamal Williams' play: "Is you is or is You Ain't" at Abrons Art Center, 466 Grand Street, NYC Saturday June 30th, at 7:30PM.

Staged Reading -New Federal Theater - NYC

AAPEX MEMBEr
Jamal Williams' play to be read
at
Abrons Arts Center, Recital Hall

466 Grand Street, New York, NY 10002

In honor of Juneteenth and Father’s Day, LITERARY BREED takes an overview of past/current/future America through the eyes – and language – of African-American male playwrights including,
Joel Willis, Michael A. Jones, Michael P. Moss,
Cheo Jeffery, Allen Solder,

Kermit Frazier, Ajene D. Washington, Jamal Williams.


ACT TWO
SATURDAY JUNE 30th


3:00 pm

KERNEL OF SANITY
by Kermit Frazier
Directed by: TBA

Featuring TBA



5:00 pm
ALMOST SEPTEMBER
by (Ajene) D. Washington

Featuring Micki Grant, Charmae Monisse Theisz,
Zeb Hollins


The quiet tale of two women: a retired historian and the young graduate student she mentors in a small mid-western college town. Today, their relationship changes forever when a mysterious man arrives at their door.


7:30 pm
IS YOU IS OR IS YOU AIN'T
Written and Directed by Jamal Williams

Featuring Pamela Monroe, Nadhege Ptah,
Iris Williams, Taqiyya Holden, Erwin E.A. Thomas,
D.K. Bowser, Michele Baldwin, and Victor Dickerson


After World War II, victorious soldiers came home while newly liberated women had to give up their jobs and return to being mere housewives. Many black women escaped the South in the War years and had vowed never to return. Olivia Pondexter breaks the mold and returns to "rescue" two sisters. Not only does she bring with her a hatbox full of money, she finds herself haunted by the spirit of what she has shamefully tried to forget. What makes matters worse, is that in order to regain the crown of Matriarch she has to make them leave their men behind.

AAPEX: The Essential Theatre presents "King Willie" Saturday, June 23rd (DC)

AAPEX: The Essential Theatre presents "King Willie" Saturday, June 23rd (DC)

The playwright is trying a new blog: the jammit brooklyn files. Check it out and let's interchange conversation about black theater.

getting the bitching started

Hey I'm trying to become new age with this Internet blogging. On this site we are open to discussions about the nature and health of the so-called theatrical thing called: Black Theater. I would like to put a question out there for any of you who happen upon this website: what is the health of black theater today? Is it on life-support systems? Where does it go now that The August Of the Wilson has passed on?

Can someone define what "progressive" new playwrights, theaters, or playwrights are out there?