The week after Easter, 2016, saw some milestones for the performance life of American Moor.
The production of the play that had taken place in DC, at the Anacostia Playhouse in the summer of the previous year, was recognized by the Folger Shakespeare Library, the preeminent institution of Shakespearean scholarship, and the largest collection of Renaissance literature in the world. And what in the world does one say about a thing like that??!!
Plays are like people. You give birth to them, and they evolve over time. The summer production at The Playhouse was just another stop on the developmental arc of the work. And that’s all that any of us involved were doing, nurturing the health of a new and exciting piece of theatre. No one was expecting the recognition of so august an institution as the Folger.
We were no more expecting that than we were expecting the Audelco Award, recognizing the Phoenix Theatre Ensemble production the previous spring.
It feels funny to say, “We’ve got something special here.” Self-praise does nothing to enhance the honest growth of any artistic work. But other voices are speaking rather loudly on behalf of our efforts, and I’m beginning to believe them.
On the evening of March 28th, we celebrated the Folger’s acceptance of our work with a cocktail reception at the Anacostia Playhouse.
The following evening, there was yet one more one-off performance of American Moor in the Kogod Theatre at the University of Maryland’s Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center. The Kogod is a one hundred and seventy seat black box space, and different than any other space in which we had played to date.
The event was sponsored by the university’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion. It was well attended, and followed by a post-performance discussion lead by Khalid Long, a doctoral candidate in the School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies. As with every new space, the need to adapt to unique, and previously unaccustomed surroundings created new moments of discovery and growth; the magic in doing something different for the first time because the circumstances demand it… At the Kogod, the stage space was small, and only six inches or so off the floor. This allowed me to step down off the actual stage and walk right up to people seated in the first row, bringing them deeper into the play itself, and not allowing them the safety and remove of spectators.
The end of the week in the DC/Maryland area culminated with The Third Annual Black Theatre Symposium at the University of Maryland. I was able to engage with other theatre makers, and connect with students involved in creating the next generation of performance art.
So here we are… The sights remain set on NYC… We have been out in the countryside, created friends and colleagues in several states, in the halls of academia, in multiple theatre communities, and among the people around the country who are inevitably moved by this work. It now needs a home, at least a temporary one, to sharpen the edges of the presentation just a little more; to define moments, to hone in on every subtle nuance, and then to run for weeks. There are any number of theaters in any number of major cities that could serve to raise the national profile of American Moor, but New York is my home. It’s where all this started. It is the theatre community from which so much of the material that fabricates the play is drawn. American Moor is asking for huge questions to be addressed. They are questions the answers to which will govern what the future will be, in the American Theatre, and in the world from which it draws it’s stories.
I’m restless to put these questions before the American populace at large.
I am eager to hear what it will say.