Performer Stuff is Proud to Partner with The Monologue Project
Written by Ashleigh Gardner
November 16, 2018
When is the last time you saw a play written by a writer of color?
In 2015, only 20.3% of plays produced across the United States were written by playwrights who identified as female, non-binary, or third gender. In addition, only 10.2% of plays produced were written by playwrights of color.
Now, thanks to research conducted by The Dramatists Guild of America in their publication, The Count 2.0, we can see that the number of produced plays written by playwrights of color is increasing. Looking at data from the 2016-2017 season, the number of plays written by playwrights who identified as female, non-binary, or third gender has increased to 28.8%. The number of plays produced that were written by playwrights of color has grown to 15.1%. It’s a comforting thought to know that more stories celebrating, embracing, and highlighting people of color are getting noticed, produced, and seen. But the work shouldn’t stop there. There’s so much more to be done, and The Monologue Project, headed by Gab Cody from The Dramatists Guild, is endeavoring to address such challenges.
Performer Stuff is proud to partner with The Dramatists Guild and The Monologue Project to give women of color a voice by providing monologues written exclusively for them. The Monologue Project features monologues that speak to the experiences of young women of color, and we’re privileged to share in giving their narratives and stories a platform. In a short interview below, Cody explains the origins of The Monologue Project, its purpose, and how it hopes to give young women of color a voice, not only in the theatre industry but in the larger American narrative.
A list of participating authors, their bios, and a link to their work on Performer Stuff has been provided following the interview. We encourage readers to review the work of the artists mentioned below and to venture forth and read as many plays by writers of color as possible. Broadening our scope as readers helps us broaden our scope as producers, directors, actors, and writers, giving us the tools to increase the visibility of people of color everywhere.
Performer Stuff: Where did the idea for The Monologue Project begin?
GAB CODY: I’m a writer, producer, director, collaborator and educator. Over and over again in these positions young female actors of the African Diaspora asked if I would write an audition monologue for them. My experience told me that it wasn’t really a matter of a dirth of writers of the African Diaspora creating work, but maybe it was a question of access to this writing. While my head was churning over the need for more audition-length monologues, Reginald Douglas, artistic producer at City Theatre here in Pittsburgh and Janis Burley Wilson, president and CEO of the August Wilson Center for African American Culture, put out a call to our local arts community. They wanted to create a calendar that noted all of the arts events in town that supported the Black Lives Matter (BLM) Movement (important to note that a group of activist Women of the African Diaspora started BLM). I pitched the idea to them, “How about if we gather monologues from writers across the country? Monologues written specifically for women of the African Diaspora?” Their response was a resounding, “Go for it!”
Next, and really essential to the success of the project, Teresa Coleman Wash of Bishop Arts Theatre Center came on board as a co-organizer. After we presented a selection of the monologues in performance in Pittsburgh, Ms. Wash produced a selection of the monologues in Dallas and also co-produced a performance of the monologues in New York City at the Dramatists Guild National Conference.
PS: How did The Monologue Project and Performer Stuff initially connect?
GC: The Monologue Project has always wanted to provide opportunities for performers looking for material and also for the contributing writers to be compensated for their work. Performer Stuff enables The Monologue Project to reach a broader audience. We’re excited that more actors will find the monologues and we’re excited that more people will discover the work of these writers.
PS: What is The Monologue Project’s mission?
GC: The Monologue Project aims to increase the number of audition-length monologues for Women of the African Diaspora and celebrate their impact on theater and the world. We join in solidarity with the woman-driven activism of movements like Black Lives Matter, acknowledging the essential role of black women in America. We also acknowledge those women who have already contributed to this canon and who have paved the way for other writers and actors.
PS: Do you have any advice for young women of color who are seeking more opportunities in theatre?
GC: I began my career as an actor and over time became a creator of theater. My advice to all young women who enter the field is never stop being a student, never stop asking why, always do more than is expected and when you find people whom you admire keep in contact with them. We all need mentors. I think young women of color can often be in a position where they are asked to play certain kinds of roles and where they may be confined to certain stock characterizations. To broaden their opportunities I would suggest finding writers whose work speaks to them (The Monologue Project is a great start) and pursuing situations that enable them to collaborate with those writers. And then there’s always the option of creating your own work, finding your own voice and contributing to the canon.
PS: On the flip side, what encouragement can you give to budding writers who want to tell their own stories?
GC: We need more stories. We need more stories from a wider variety of perspectives. There are many festivals, theaters and producers looking for someone as unique and idiosyncratic as you. Keep writing.
Playwrights pictured from left to right: (top) Bianca Sams, Alesia Etinoff, Yvette Heyliger, Imani Harrington (Courtesy of the artist ‘Projects Abound’ Collection: Here Now and Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York), Chrystal Bates; (middle) Ife Olujobi, Zina Camblin, France-Luce Benson, Cori Thomas; (bottom) Charlayne Woodard, Susan Surman, Pamela Turner, Dr. Mary Weems, Mando Alvarado. (Not pictured: William Duell, Amber Valois, Mark Clayton Southers, Keith Wallace, Pia Wilson, Chisa Hutchinson, and Bria Walker.)
Mando Alvarado is an award-winning playwright/screenwriter from Pharr, Texas. He is currently a Producer/Writer on VIDA for Starz. Previously he was writer on GREENLEAF for the OWN Network and was also a Co-Producer for Netflix’s SEVEN SECONDS. His play Parachute Men had its world premiere at the Victory Gardens Theater with Teatro Vista. His play Basilica premiered Off-Broadway at the famous Cherry Lane Theater in NYC. His play Post No Bills received its Off-Broadway premiere at Rattlestick Playwright’s Theater. He was a semi-finalist for the Eugene O’Neill Playwright Conference, a semi-finalist for Princess Grace Award, and a MetLife Nuestras Voces (Our Voices) National Playwriting Winner. He is a member of Rising Phoenix Rep, alum of INTAR’s Hispanic-Playwright-in-Residence Laboratory 2006 – 2008, recipient of the MADLABS developmental residency and a graduate of The University of North Carolina School of the Arts.
Chrystal Bates has the distinction of being a three time consecutive winner of the Onyx Award for Best Actress and the first recipient of the Donna Award for best actress. She has also received the Pittsburgh New Works Lifetime Achievement Award. She received an Advancing Black Arts grant from the Heinz Endowments and the Pittsburgh Foundation to create For Us By Us(New Title Montour #10). Her play, Jesus the Light of the World, toured nationally for ten years, proceeds of which helped to establish water wells and churches in Kenya, Africa. Ms. Bates was one of five actors who created the New Horizons Theater Company, and was a founding member of the August Wilson Theatre Ensemble.Find her monologues here.
France-Luce Benson’s plays have been produced by Ensemble Studio Theatre, Crossroads Theatre, City Theatre Miami, Billy Holiday Theatre, Loyola Marymount University, and Bishop Arts among others. Awards and honors include: Miranda Foundation Grant Recipient (Detained); Zoetrope Grand Prize (Caroline’s Wedding); Princess Grace Award Runner Up (Boat People); Kilroys List (Boat People, Deux Femmes on the Edge dela Revolution); New Black Fest 2018; Dramatists Guild Fellow 2016; Sam French OOB Festival Winner 2016, NNPN Best Play 2016, Alfred P. Sloan New Play Commission (The Devil’s Salt)Residencies: Instituto Sacatar (Brazil); Camargo Foundation (France), Djerassi, and Space on Ryder Farm. Publications: Samuel French and Routledge Press. M.F.A.: Carnegie Mellon University, BFA: Florida International University. www.francelucebenson.comFind her monologues here.
Zina Camblin, completed the playwrighting program at The Juilliard School under Marsha Norman and Christopher Durang, as a part of the Juilliard Playwrighting Fellowship. While at Juilliard, she received the Lecomte du Nouy Prize for playwrighting. Her play, “ And Her Hair Went With Her,” was selected as part of Lincoln Centers Directors Lab play reading series. The play was optioned for a New York production when it caught the attention of actress Whoopi Goldberg. In addition, “ And Her Hair Went With Her,” had successful readings at The Culture Project, and the Tribeca Theater Festival, and has been produced by theaters around the country including, The Phoenix Theater in Indianapolis, New Jersey Repertory Theater, Horizon Theater in Atlanta, The Fountain Theater in Los Angeles, and the Unicorn Theater in Kansas City. Her television credits include development projects with both Meryl Poster at NBC and Sheen/Estevez Productions at Warner Bros, and being on the writing staff of the BET show, “Let’s Stay Together,” produced by Queen Latifah. She is a resident playwright at Chicago Dramatists and has performed in several live comedy and storytelling events including Tru Theater, The Kates, and You’re Being Ridiculous. Her newest play, “The Guest” has had workshops at Rogue Machine Theater in LA, Chicago Dramatists, and Ensemble Theater in Cincinnati. She is currently a writer on the television drama, “An Amercian Saga” to premier on Hulu. She is represented by Creative Artist Agency and was recently featured in Variety Magazine as one of the top ten entertainment educators in the country.Find her monologues here.
William Duell’s first produced play, The Journey, a forty-minute drama, was produced in 2009 at American Theatre of Actors in Manhattan by James Jennings, President and Artistic Director of ATA, and was a finalist for the Arts and Letters Prize in Drama. Duell’s plays have been produced and workshopped across the U.S. He is a proud member of the Dramatists Guild of America and currently serves as its Houston Regional Representative, is a board member of Wordsmyth Theater Co., which promotes new works by playwrights from around the world, and is an advisory board member of Fade to Black, Houston’s first and only national play festival to showcase the new works of African-American playwrights.Find his monologues here.
Alesia Etinoff is an LA-based creator and comedian. She recently wrote/starred in a short film that Liz Destro (THE BUTLER, SMILF) produced and Zoe Saldana’s Cinestar Executive Produced; Alesia stars opposite Sherri Shepherd, Lamorne Morris and Marque Richardson. Her 2017 web series Avant-Guardians won Best Short Form Dramedy at the prestigious NYTVF, was nominated for best webseries at ABFF, and is an official selection for the LA Film Festival. It’s received rave reviews from Essence, Bust Magazine, Decider and TubeFilter. The pilot she wrote, inspired by the series, made it to the second round of the Sundance Episodic Story Lab and is currently in the second round of the MACRO Episodic Story Lab. Alesia has showcased at the Hollywood Improv, Nerdmelt and Zanies Chicago and can be seen regularly around town. She is a UCB Diversity Scholar and a graduate of the Carnegie Mellon School of Drama.
Imani Harrington began writing on paper at the age of twenty-five. As the author of at least 10+plays, non-fiction and fiction work. At least one, two or three of her works is ‘heralded as ‘the first literary play on women in the ‘HIV/AIDS’ pandemic and Hurricane Katrina are a few contributions acknowledging her as a ‘pioneer’. This equates to innovation and getting writing done was no easy feat. The topics addressed could not have happened without the social, economic, political conditions developed during childhood and the early days of the ‘80s. These controversial topics were mostly positioned in context of theater. A form of suppression that isolated increased the lack of representation of women was one of the motivating forces.Find her monologues here.
Playwright, producing artist, educator and activist; recipient of the AUDELCO Recognition Award for Excellence in Black Theatre’s August Wilson Playwright Award and Best Playwright nomination from NAACP’s Annual Theatre Awards. Author of What a Piece of Work is Man! Full-Length Plays for Leading Women, she has also written for: The Dramatist, Black Masks, Continuum, HowlRound, and her blog The Playwright and the Patron. Anthologies: The Monologue Project, Later Chapters: The Best Scenes and Monologues for Actors over Fifty, The Best Women’s Stage Monologues 2003 and The Best Stage Scenes 2003. Memberships: Dramatists Guild, AEA, SDC, AFTRA-SAG and League of Professional Theatre Women. A partner in Twinbiz™, she is the co-recipient of the first National Black Theatre Festival Emerging Producer Award.Find her monologues here.
Ife Olujobi is a playwright and screenwriter. Her one-act play, Only, was produced as part of NYU Drama’s Inaugural PlayGround Festival of New Works in 2016. Her work has been performed at the Charity Randall Theater (Pittsburgh, PA), Bishop Arts Theater Center (Dallas, TX), City Pier A (New York, NY), and the Abe Burrows Theater at NYU. Her screenplay, SISTER, was selected as a finalist in the inaugural Half the World Global Literati Award Competition. She is a member of the 2019 Emerging Writers Group at The Public Theater in New York City. Originally from a suburb of Baltimore, Ife currently lives in Brooklyn. She received her BFA from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts in 2016.Find her monologues here.
Bianca isa Writer/Actor. She graduated from New York University’s Tisch School with a BFA in Acting & Dramatic Writing (TV/Film/Play writing). She also studied acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA – London England). She has a MFA in Playwriting from Ohio University. Her acting roles include the feature film RENT(feature), Serenity(film), Ruined(Play), In The Continuum(Play). Her plays include: Rust On Bone, Summer Nights & Fireflies, Black. Irish., Simply Bess, Battle Cry, and At the Rivers End.Her film Television/Film scripts include: Black Wall Street (WBTV), Blackthorn (Original Pilot), and Bridge Over Troubled Waters (feature Film), and Serenity (film). Awards and honors include Ingram New Works Fellow(Nashville Rep), Warner Brothers TV Writing Workshop, The Playwright Center Core Apprentice (2014), KCACTF Lorraine Hansberry(2nd place), KCACTF Rosa Parks Award (2ndplace), Kennedy Center/Eugene O’Neill New Play Conference fellow, Jane Chambers Student Playwright Award/Athe(2nd Place 2013 & 2014), Scott McPherson Playwright Award, Playwright Foundation BAPF(finalist), Eugene O’Neill NPC(semifinalist), TRI Research Fellowship at Ohio State University, T. S. Eliot Acting Fellowship, Tracking Board 2016 Young & Hungry List, and WriteHerList 2017. She previously worked as a staff writer on the WB/CBS TV Show Training Daystarring Bill Paxton and The Originalson the CW with Julie Plec & Jeffrey Lieber. Bianca is represented by Echo Lake Management and Abrams Artists.Find her monologues here.
Boston-born Susan Surman lived and worked in London and Sydney for 23 years as Susan Kramer and Gracie Luck. Her acting credits include London’s West End, Edinburgh, the Sydney Opera House, Ensemble Theatre, BBC radio, TV and film. Early writing credits include television material for Tracey Ullman, two plays (one commissioned for TV), and a play and a screenplay. After returning to the USA, she taught acting for non-actors (“Dramatically Increase Your Ability to Communicate” and “Creative Communication”). For the past 17 years, she has focused on writing fiction and plays weaving in her extensive background in acting and travel, the main theme of her work being self-development. Ask her where she gets her ideas and she will say, “Why invent? All I have to do is remember.”Find her monologues here.
Plays include: CITIZENS MARKET; THE BALLAD OF ELLA MAY; MY SECRET LANGUAGE OF WISHES; PA’S HAT; FLIGHT 109; IN THE BEGINNING; WHEN JANUARY FEELS LIKE SUMMER…
O’Neill Playwrights Conference, Sundance Theatre Lab, Goodman Theatre, Pittsburgh City Theatre, Page 73, Women’s Project, Playwrights Horizons, The Lark, EST, Going To The River, Pillsbury House Theatre, New Federal Theater, National Black Theater, Macdowell Colony, Rattlestick Theatre, Bogliasco Foundation, Baryshnikov Fellow, Mixed Blood, The New Black Fest, American Slavery Project,New Dramatists class of 2022. HBO FILMS -Original Screenplay, San Quentin State Prison- Guest Artist. Upcoming: LOCKDOWN World Premiere 2019 Spring Rattlestick TheaterFind her monologues here.
Playwright, director-deviser, and teaching artist with credits in the U.S, Germany, Guam, and Ireland; co-founder of ArtPlay, Inc. and multiShades.atlanta; former Director of Theatre for Youth at the Academy Theatre; Director of Theatre/Film at Ben Franklin Academy-Emory. Original plays produced by 7 Stages; Found Stages; Circle Ensemble Theatre; Alliance Theatre; Center for Puppetry Arts; UGA University Theatre; Piccolo Spoleto Festival USA; American Theatre Co-op; Live-Wire Theatre; Theatre Gael; Pulse Theatre; Atelier Stage; Del-Mar Productions; Port City Theatre; Independent Actors Theatre; 1996 Atlanta Cultural Olympiad. Winner Ethel Wilson Award and Chester Horn “Outstanding Playwright” award; finalist for Heideman Award and Red Theater Chicago new play prize; semi-finalist for the O’NeillPlaywrights Conference and Multi Stages NYC competition. Commissioned by 7 Stages, Alliance Theatre, Theatre Gael, Fly-By Theatre, and 1996 Atlanta Cultural Olympiad. Member of the Dramatists Guild and the DG Atlanta Regional Rep.Find her monologues here.
Dr. Mary E. Weems’ is a poet, playwright and foundations scholar. Her plays and/or excerpts have been published or produced since 1997. Her play Another Way to Dance won a Cleveland Public Theater’s Chilcote Award. Weems’ play Move to the Back of the Bus, a 45-minute overview of the Civil Rights Movement was produced by Young Audiences through 2007. Publications include “Another Way to Dance,” and “Dead Soul 4413,” published in The Theatre Audition Book 2 and “Two Sides to Every Story,” in Still More Monologues for Women, By Women. Weems’ book Blackeyed: Plays and Monologues includes MEATwhich won her the 2015 Cleveland Arts Prize, Emerging Artist Award. She may be reached at www.maryeweems.orgFind her monologues here.
Ms. Woodard is a two-time Obie Award winner and a Tony Award nominee. Ms. Woodard has written and performed four acclaimed solo plays: Pretty Fire (LA Drama Critics and NAACP awards); Neat, (Irving and Blanche Laurie Theatre Vision Award, Outer Critics Circle nomination); In Real Life (Audelco, Backstage West Garland and NAACP awards, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle nominations); and, The Night Watcher (LA Drama Critics and NAACP awards), all directed by Daniel Sullivan. She has also written the play, Flight, an adaptation of African and African-American folktales. Her ten minute play, Phenom, premiered at La Jolla Playhouse’s Without Walls Festival. Her new play, The Garden, is commissioned by The La Jolla Playhouse and was recently developed at the Ojai New Works Festival. Her plays are published by Dramatists Play Service and her solo plays are available on Audible.com. Ms. Woodard trained at Goodman School of Drama and is a lifetime member of The Actor’s Studio. She serves on the Dramatist Guild Council; The Council of Actors’ Equity Assoc.; the Board of Directors at The La Jolla Playhouse; and, is a fellow of the Sundance Film and Theatre Labs, Ojai Playwrights Conference and the Marble House Project. Guest Artist at USC and Cal Arts.Find her monologues here.
Amber Valois is a Florida-based playwright and director. She never thought she would find herself in theater, but was inspired by working on a number of productions in college. Her first play writing endeavor was a 5-minute short play called “To Woo and To Woe is I” and was performed by her peers from Valencia College. A year later, her second 5-minute short play, “Dear You,” was also performed by Valencia College. Since then, she has directed several short play productions and has had more of her short plays locally produced and performed. She currently toils on expanding her writing into larger plays, screenplays and poetry.Find her monologues here.
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