When I arrived at Drake almost ten years ago I remember vividly the first time I encountered a list of mostly Black plays and musicals on the back of the costume shop door in the basement of the Harmon Fine Arts Center. An upperclassmen saw me examining the list one day and quickly explained to me that it was the list of shows that Drake Theatre could never produce. The list included The Wiz, an August Wilson play or two, and A Raisin in the Sun. I don't know if that list is still there or not. I don't know who started it. People explained to me over and over again that it was made in jest of the fact that the school had so little to offer in terms of diversity. It wasn't malicious and I understood the humor behind it as the department made fun of itself. That didn't change the fact that I didn't find it funny and it pissed me off. I wasn't mad at Drake, I wasn't mad at the department, I wasn't even mad at the snickering students who thought it WAS funny. I was mad because I didn't want another Black student to ever see that list and accept it as their reality. I had to graduate from Drake, work in the Drake Admission office while moonlighting as a producer, quit my job, start a theatre company, and get on a lot of people's nerves but FINALLY I can say with full authority F*#@ that list! On Saturday, January 23rd, Pyramid Theatre Company announced it's 2016 season and I couldn't be more proud to say that we'll be producing A Raisin in the Sun at Drake University this summer.
In April of 2010 I played Clay in a production of Amiri Baraka's Dutchman at this scrappy new little place called the Des Moines Social Club. It was my first gig in Des Moines outside of Drake and introduced me to the beauty of seeing something created from the ground up. The play was produced by the late Frank Burnette and the production changed my life. I didn't realize it then but that show would become the first time as an actor that I actually paid attention to what a producer did. The Social Club was still at it's old location on Locust and we were rehearsing on the third floor of this building badly in need of renovation. It was cold, there were animal droppings in the corner on the floor, and on the first day of rehearsal my director regaled us with tales of the homeless men and women who once slept there. I loved every minute of it. The following summer I was working as an actor in the Voices at the River Festival at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre and got a chance to meet and briefly work with one of Baraka's contemporaries, Ed Bullins. He was quiet the day he came in unannounced to watch me rehearse a monologue from his play In the Wine Time, but I'll never forget his approving smile. I performed that monologue at a gala honoring him a few days later and his wife told me afterwards, "He doesn't speak much but he said you got it." That summer is when I realized that telling stories reflective of my Blackness was more important to me than just telling any story that came my way. During that same festival I met another playwright named Tearrance Chisholm. I sat in on rehearsals of his play, Liddy’s Sammiches, Potions & Baths, and I remember identifying strongly with his use of language and his characters. He was only a few years older than me and is also a fellow brother of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc. so naturally I promised myself that I would work with him one day. This summer I'm producing a developmental production of Tearrance's play Hooded; or Being Black For Dummies at the Des Moines Social Club. I've never been shy about sharing my belief in God and specifically my belief that every thing happens for a reason. I don't take any of these moments lightly and I'm happy to see things come full circle in my life. Here's to another summer filled with new stories to be told and lessons to be learned.