“Now I see working on the classics––both New American stories and the timeless titles that have shaped Western theatre––to be critical. By engaging with this work, we as a people can be in dialogue with our many histories, ever-changing present, and possible futures.”
Finding my own voice as a black female artist has been inextricably linked to directing and interpreting classical work. For so long I felt that the “classics”, Shakespeare and beyond, was a closed world that didn’t include me. This feeling was reinforced by years of training and countless productions that failed to reflect the world around me. But that shifted when I read Anton Chekov’s Three Sisters. Here was a snapshot of history, a look at the subtle socio-economic and familial shifts before a major uprising and a portrait of women surviving against all odds that reminded me very much of the world that I lived in. A world for which I was eager to question, interrogate and contribute to. Another big shift occurred when I first encountered Shakespeare’s Macbeth as a student in the Brown University–Trinity Rep MFA Acting program. Once again here was a woman––imperfect to be sure––but with so many modern sensibilities, desires, and needs who was both victim and villain to a world that made no room for her. To this day I find the story timeless, haunting, and invaluable because of the ways the text makes room for the interrogation of patriarchal systems, cyclical violence, rot, and excess in western systems and female ambition.
While working on James Baldwin’s The Amen Corner at the Shakespeare Theatre I was incredibly moved by the theatre community in D.C. The entire process, from casting to rehearsals to performances to the wonderful festival programming that engaged students and the audience at large, made work feel incredibly present, alive, and necessary. The total experience was an inspiring reminder that our idea of what a “classic” is must continue to expand and that these great works have necessary lessons for us in the now.
Now I see working on the classics––both New American stories and the timeless titles that have shaped Western theatre––to be critical. By engaging with this work, we as a people can be in dialogue with our many histories, ever-changing present, and possible futures. Shakespeare Theatre Company, with its mission to explore these works in new ways, provides a space for us to gather and consider the universal topics that engage, entertain, and plague us all. It is a creative space where difference can be embraced, where we might challenge our preconceptions and collective fears, where we can affirm each other and reshape historical narratives which so often have left so many people out of the picture.
I look forward to sharing more work with the D.C. community and finding new pathways within the incredible audience here.
STC Associate Director