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The Voice of the Black Community

Arts and Entertainment

Charlotte initiative creates an outlet for local playwrights
Project aids in writers' development
 
Published Saturday, July 11, 2020 7:22 pm
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

COURTESY PHOTO
Martin Wilkins and Stacy Rose are collaborating on the Queen City New Play Initiative for emerging playwrights.

Stacey Rose and Martin Damien Wilkins co-founded the Queen City New Play Initiative to give voice to new work in Charlotte.


The project is part of Rose’s Arts & Science Council Creative Renewal Fellowship, but will live long after the fellowship concludes. Rose, an award-winning playwright, and Wilkins, a stage director and producer, launched the project in June with a virtual play reading and an artist talk, two components that will serve as the bedrock of the initiative. The initiative’s goal is to increase opportunities for playwrights to write and produce original work in Charlotte. They envision adding workshops as the project develops.


“That’s kind of the crown piece of the whole project, which is to be developing work with playwrights here,” Rose said. “That’s what I want to see happening by this time next year—for us to have under our belt quite a few playwright roundtables as well as the other programing we’ve started, running seamlessly.”


Their first reading took place on June 26 with Rose’s “The Danger: A Homage to Strange Fruit,” which won the New York University Tisch Dramatic Writing Department’s 2015 Rita Goldberg Prize. It is a ghost play that explores the legacy of violence against Black bodies in America and fits the tone of what is transpiring in America.


“What’s interesting about us starting now is not just that this is coming out of the pandemic,” Wilkins said. “The conversation around this shifted tremendously from where we were in the spring to now. We knew we wanted to do one of Stacey’s plays to start because we wanted to give ourselves an opportunity to learn on our feet what this process would be before we started to collaborate with other artists.”


Rose and Wilkins intended to start the readings with Rose’s work “Conversations With Big Black Women in Confined Spaces.” Then George Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 25. The civil unrest that subsequently spread across the nation in response pushed them to launch with “The Danger” instead.


“It became very, very clear to us that her play ‘The Danger’ was the one that could speak very specifically to this moment because it’s a play about violence against black bodies,” Wilkins said. “That was an example of us learning how to respond to the moment, as opposed to us pushing forward with our original idea.”


Rose and Wilkins’ goal is to create a conversation around what creatives in the area need and would like to see going forward.


“Having done new play development for a number of years, we can apply our experience to assisting them in realizing what work they want to see happen,” Wilkins said.


They intend to carry what they learned from that moment as they dive deeper into the project. Now they will expand on collaborations with local artists. Their upcoming artist talk is scheduled for July 18 at 1 p.m. with Austin Smith, a member of the original Broadway cast of the musical “Hamilton,” and local creative LeShea Stukes. A reading of Brand New Sheriff Productions founder Rory Sheriff’s new work “Speakeasy” will take place on July 24 at 7 p.m. Programs will be held virtually for the foreseeable future.


“Austin is a brilliant actor who I got to meet during my time in New York, but as well, he was on my cast when my play ‘America’ went to the Sundance Theatre Lab,” Rose said. “He’s going to be in conversation with local actor LeShea Stukes about what the actor brings to new work development. I’m excited, because LeShea is a hometown staple. She’s brilliant. I think they can have a very robust and entertaining conversation.”


For more information: www.facebook.com/QueenCityNewPlays

Comments

Awesome! Well, needed in this area. I am in the film industry however arts and entertainment here in Charlotte is ready to expand and grow!!!! ??
Posted on July 12, 2020
 

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