Three Black Playwrights Shine in Center Theater Group’s Los Angeles Writers’ Workshop – Los Angeles Sentinel | Los Angeles Sentinel

Three black playwrights shine in Center Theater Group’s LA Writer’s Workshop

Penelope Lowder, playwright of “Barbara George” (Photo courtesy)

For the first time in the history of the Center Theater Group’s (CTG) LA Writer’s Workshop, the 10 cohort playwrights presented their work at the Culver City Theater with the CTG’s Writers’ Workshop Festival from September 9-11 and September 16 to September 18. at the Kirk Douglas Theatre.

Since its inception in 2005, CTG has supported a cohort of writers to help them create new plays within the LA Writer’s Workshop. This year, 10 women were selected to work together under the guidance of Center Theater Group Associate Artistic Director Luis Alfaro to write 10 plays, which were presented to a live audience for the first time.

June Carryl, Penelope Lowder and Julie Taiwo Quarles were three gorgeous black playwrights who were selected as cohorts in the Writer’s Workshop. In an interview with the Los Angeles Sentinel, each playwright went into great detail about the plays of the cohort, but also the monumental strides CTG is making in being inclusive to BIPOC playwrights, and what it means to them.

“I manifested this moment,” said Penelope Lowder, author of the play “Barbara George.” “A year ago I said I wanted my play to be at the Kirk Douglas Theater so when I was selected to be part of this workshop I was thrilled.”

June Carryl, playwright of “Girl Blue” (photo offered)

“It feels like I’m accomplishing something on my to-do list,” said “Girl Blue” writer June Carryl. “Luis inviting women of color to CTG, in particular, is honestly groundbreaking and means more than I have words for. I think when a theater says, ‘We want to hear your voice, we want to see what you do’, there’s no feeling like that. There’s encouragement that just comes from being seen and heard.

“It’s really an exciting time,” Julie Taiwo Quarles, who wrote the play “Yojmt.” share. “I know Luis was very intentional with his goal of bringing together a diverse group of playwrights who he felt represented Los Angeles, so it’s been super exciting to collaborate with all of these women and certainly to have two more black playwrights in the group, which is not super common.

Black playwrights do not have it easy in this industry, with the job being twice as difficult for black playwrights. All of the women discussed, despite having a strong passion and love for their writing, how they all suffered from struggles due to their femininity and race. However, they shared that theater people like Luis Alfaro are making this industry a more inclusive space.

Carryl shared, “As a culture, in general, black women – being both women and black people – we are doubly excluded. No one wants to hear about us unless it’s sexy or reflects a lot of the culture in a positive way, but things are changing. The theater recognizes and reckon with its exclusivity. He’s trying to bring in new audiences, so I think we’re kind of on a testing ground right now.

“Yoj™” playwright Julie Taiwo Quarles (Photo courtesy)

Both Lowder and Quarles agreed that more spaces for black female playwrights have opened up in the theater industry.

“There’s a lot of significance, even outside of LA, for black female writers. We have more opportunities these days, and that’s really exciting. We are at a time when there is more consideration for a story by someone like us than a few years ago.

Penelope Lowder said: “I think our [Black women] voices are recognized. We are not a monolith. There are so many different perspectives of our experience that haven’t been in the acting world, and I think people are starting to really find that appealing. There’s still a lot to do and a way to go, but at least it’s starting… the conversations are starting. Theaters are starting to open up, and I may be just an optimist, but I believe that in the future we’ll see more black female playwrights, and just black playwrights in general, in more big houses.

By participating in this cohort, each of the three playwrights gives voice to a small part of the black perspective. With plays on stories that include a variety of topics surrounding different aspects of black culture, life and entertainment, Carryl, Quarles and Lowder work diligently to ensure that not only their voices, but also the voice of their people, be heard.

In Lowder’s “Barbara George” she is challenged to decode the human condition with a 90-minute nightmare following a Crenshaw realtor, Barbara “Gorgeous” George, who must figure out how she can stay visible for the community where it is slowly erased. . Lowder’s new work reflected topics such as race and relationships during the Jim Crow era and highlighted the chilling supernatural elements that encompass them.

“Girl Blue,” written by Carryl, explored the mind of artist and activist Nina Simone over two iconic years – 1968 and 1977. Exploring the intersections of race, gender and ethnicity, the story takes place at the center of The Troubadour nightclub in Los Angeles and the Airport Ramada Inn hotel in New York.

Quarles’ play, “YojMT“, is inspired by her Nigerian father and her American mother as well as interactions between the West and Africa. “YojMTfollows two couples debating the trademark of African culture. Quarles’ new work follows the Reeds, a bookstore owner and Yoj, a descendant and professor of African studies and the blues, and the Wells, an assistant professor of African and African-American literature, and pastry chef and owner of the “Afro Artisanal” pastry company. .

Each playwright also took the time to commend CTG for their work towards equity and inclusion within theater spaces and the theater industry. Penelope took the time to acknowledge that it started with Jeremy O. Harris’ “Slave Play.”

“CTG was one of the only theaters that recognized the voices of black playwrights in the past and continues to do so. Now, I think they know they have a pivotal role, now, and can play a major role in having black voices not just during Black History Month, but throughout the year. I like this. I love that CTG is pushing for more Black Experiences throughout the season. They take the lead and I’m glad they do.

Associate Artistic Director Luis Alfaro also took a moment to reflect on the work CTG is doing on inclusivity in theater and making more space for black people and other BIPOCs.

“The CTG Writer’s Workshop is not only an opportunity to develop one’s work, but also to disseminate it in the regional theater community. My goal this year was to organize a cohort that spoke of a community effort in multiple ways. One was to focus primarily on women of color, a large demographic that has traditionally been overlooked in American theater. The other was to offer playwrights retribution for the time they spent joining me every two weeks throughout the year to write a play of THEIR choice,” Alfaro said.

“Afterwards, the writers wrote stories that in almost all of the plays have a female protagonist and a story centered on Los Angeles, which is very exciting. We built these plays as a community, and our dramaturgy was a shared process. It’s very exciting to the extent that we can share our best practices and create a supportive environment for truth and culturally appropriate work. We make art to make a difference. This group tells me has proved.

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