PREVIEW SEPTEMBER 26, 2013
By Nathan Louis Jackson
Rich in spirit, poor in cash, William King wants his sons to have a better life. But as his health fails, the brothers come home to face tough decisions. Can they keep their sense of human and home intact?
Produced in association with The Hansberry Project
Directed by Valerie Curtis-Newton, featuring the acting talents of Corey Spruill (Theater Schmeater’s A Behanding in Spokane), Tyler Trerise (Taproot Theatre’s The Whipping Man), Troy Allen Johnson (SPT’s Superior Donuts), and Amber Wolfe (SPT’s The Violet Hour).
An interview with Broke-ology director and Hansberry Project artistic director, Valerie Curtis-Newton.
By Cole Hornaday, SPT Communication and PR Manager
Q: Please tell us a little about the origins of The Hansberry Project?
Valerie: Officially launched in 2006, The Hansberry Project (HP) is the result of a long-term collaboration between local black theater professionals and A Contemporary Theatre (ACT). Vivian Phillips, ACT Artistic Director Kurt Beattie, and I created HP as a professional African-American theater lab. With ACT as an incubator, HP was designed to provide the entire community with consistent access to the African-American artistic voice. From initial sketches to fully realized productions, HP promotes and supports black theater artists of diverse interests and disciplines, speaking on a range of themes and working in a variety of styles.
Q: The Hansberry Project has some particular goals in mind for the kind of work you want to produce in Seattle. Do you feel HP is succeeding in those goals?
Valerie: Absolutely. A critical goal for us is to present the work of black writers to as broad and diverse an audience as possible. We are doing that. We have produced both classic plays and new works. For example, Alice Childress’ Wine in the Wilderness was our inaugural production while Michael Bradford’s Father and Sons was our first world premiere. We have provided workshops for new plays and over the course of the last seven years we have seldom produced a project whose playwright was not in the room collaborating with us. We have collaborated with dozens of organizations throughout the region, working to promote a theater that looks like the world we live in.
Q: What excites you about this play?
Valerie: I’m attracted to plays that speak to families finding ways to love each other through tough times. Broke-ology does that. I relate strongly to one of the central issues in the play: How do we care for our elders? My parents are getting into their late 70s and early 80s and we’re having conversations about their wishes and about our responsibilities to each other. That this play addresses those questions so artfully is exciting to me
Q: What do you hope SPT audiences will take away from Broke-ology?
Valerie: I hope they hear that we need to do more talking between the generations because each of us is somebody's child. I hope they learn that most dreams require some degree of sacrifice. I hope they ask themselves what sacrifices they are willing to make to secure those dreams. And I hope they consider what they would you do in the same situation?
Q: Your HP work has been vigorous of late. This last summer you directed Trouble in Mind, a joint project with Intiman Theatre Festival, and now Broke-ology at SPT. How do both plays fit into HP’s mission?
Valerie: Very directly. Our mission is to celebrate, support and present the work of black theatre artists. Our ultimate vision is: “A community in which the voices of black theatre artists – artfully expressing their observations, investigations, hopes and dreams – are an integral part of a rich, full-throated civic conversation.” From initial sketches to fully realized productions, the HP promotes and supports black theatre artists of diverse interests and disciplines, speaking on a range of themes and working in a variety of styles. Why the focus on black theatre artists? We present the work of black artists because we are committed to the idea of an American Theatre that accurately reflects of the richness and diversity of American life.
Q: Together, SPT and HP hope to begin a conversation about creating more culturally diverse theater in our city. How do we continue to have this conversation?
Valerie: That's a tough one because it requires that we get real with each other and that we care enough for each other to hear and to say hard things in good faith, so that we can get to new ideas. We have to create opportunities to gather and to share. We must ultimately continue to be the change we want to see. That's why collaborations like this one are so important; they provide the call to gather. What we do with the opportunity is still an open question.
Valerie Curtis-Newton is currently the Head of Performance - Acting and Directing at the University of Washington School of Drama and serves as the Artistic Director for The Hansberry Project. She has previously served as Artistic Director of both Seattle's Ethnic Cultural Theatre and Hartford's Performing Ensemble, Inc. and worked with Actors’ Theatre of Louisville, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Intiman Theatre, Seattle Children’s Theatre, The Mark Taper Forum, New York Theatre Workshop, Tacoma Actors’ Guild, Southern Repertory Theatre, Capitol Repertory Theatre, and Northwest Asian American Theatre among others.