Pittsburgh by Gab Cody
On May 6th at a Dramatists Guild event held at the University of Pittsburgh, a group of eleven actors and over thirty playwrights (many of them Dramatists Guild members) launched The Monologue Project. The aim of the project is to increase the canon of audition-length monologues for Women of the African Diaspora.
The event was a stirring success. The talented group of professional and student actors brought to life a selection of monologues written by such luminaries as Charlayne Woodard, Chisa Hutchinson, Kia Corthron, France-Luce Benson, Dominique Morisseau, Amy Evans, Pia Wilson, and new Dramatists Guild members like Alesia Etinoff and Dave Harris (currently the Pittsburgh Youth Ambassador). Local Dramatists Guild members Chrystal Bates, Bria Walker, Mark Southers, and Kim El also contributed monologues to the cause.
For those who participated, the need to hear a wider range of voices and experiences within the theater is obvious. To provide actors with written material that allows them to play a wider range of characters at auditions can have an immediate effect in the way that performer is perceived. Dominique Morisseau, who provided an opening letter for the project, put it thus:
“When a Black woman opens her mouth to speak her truth out loud, she carries a million burdens and loyalties on her back. Don’t talk about this or speak out about that because it will make others uncomfortable with their privilege (white privilege, male privilege, economic privilege, etc.). Nevermind her own truth that needs reconciling. It is 2017 and Black women are STILL being asked to consider everyone else’s social abuses before their own.
“We write because we speak our truths out loud. Black women actors deserve to tell stories where they are exploring their humanity without restriction or burden of pseudo un-balanced loyalties. Black women actors deserve work that allows them dimensionality. Where we can love and protect and also defy and reject. Where we can be ugly and beautiful and tragic and heroic and feel the range of the human experience without being policed for our emotionality. The writers write so the actors can speak and collectively we are all giving voice to our totality.
“This is why monologues for Black women are necessary. This is why writing for Black women is necessary. This is why Black Lives Matter, and Black Voices Matter and Black Women Matter. These things are not separations. They are dependent upon each other for a thorough exploration of our valuable humanity.”
(Excerpt from “Why We Tell The Story” written for The Monologue Project)
The Monologue Project is possible because Teresa Coleman Wash, Executive Artistic Director of Bishop Arts Theatre Center, the Guild’s Regional Representative for Dallas and a DG Council member; Kyle Haden, Artistic Director of Ashland New Play Festival; Siovhan Christensen, local director and actor; Seth Cotterman, formerly of the Dramatists Guild Fund; and Reginald Douglas, Artistic Producer at City Theatre in Pittsburgh all gathered to organize and serve this need.
Nor would this project exist without the Advisory Committee, who are also Women of the African Diaspora: Dominique Brock, N’Jameh Camara, Alexis Cash, Siovhan Christensen, Alesia Etinoff, lfe Foy, and Sara Williams. Their shared experiences as performers brought to light the problems of under representation. Their perseverance, insight and support made the work possible.
Keep an eye out for more news related to this project, a performance in Dallas, Texas, and the launch of the online platform this fall. Making the monologues available for free and easily accessible to those who can use them is the primary objective of the project.
Performances in New York and LA are in the works for early 2018.