Featuring , Hassan Jamal, Julie Taiwo Oni, Cornell Hubert Calhoun III, and Inda Craig-Galván.
July 19 – 20
Bringing together 20 years of signature work, Robey presents a two-day festival of one-act plays developed through the Robey Playwrights Program, performed and directed by alumni from Robey’s theatre productions and workshops.
During the McCarthy era, a selected group of people were called before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), where they were asked to answer whether they were a communist or not, and if so, to give the names of other communists. Paul Robeson was one of these persons called and he refused to answer, stating as an American it was within his right not to answer such a question. He was then asked about a recent trip he took to the Soviet Union. He replied:
“In Russia, I felt for the first time like a full human being…no color prejudice like in Mississippi, no color prejudice like in Washington.”
When the committee asked if he liked Russia so much, why didn’t he stay there, he answered:
“Because my father was a slave and my people died to build this country and I am going to stay here and have a part in it just like you. And no fascist-minded people will drive me from it. Is that clear?”
This fearless social consciousness and command Paul Robeson had is what inspired the Robey Theatre Company to launch its first Paul Robeson Theatre Festival, to be held at the Los Angeles Theatre Center July 18-19, 2014. There will be 16 playwrights in this year’s festival, featuring a few writers each week for the next three weeks until the festival begins.
The playwrights were asked to submit their original play or a scene from a body of work (no more than 20 pages long), that addressed and/or reflected Paul Robeson’s principles concerning social consciousness. The plays submitted did not have to be about Mr. Robeson per se, only to have been inspired by his values.
This week we are featuring the following writers:
- Hassan Jamal
- Julie Taiwo Oni
- Cornell Hubert Calhoun, III
- Inda Craig-Galván
A short one-act play
Written by: Hassan Jamal
I wrote Dark Comedy after watching a documentary on Mr. Robeson that was narrated by Sidney Poitier. For weeks I could not get that documentary off my mind. I finally came to the conclusion the only way I could have some peace is if I wrote this play. With all the injustices that were done to Paul I knew I had to add my thank you to this man’s amazing contributions. Paul could of died a rich man but I really think money meant very little to him. All he wanted was to see people all over the world treated as equals. And for that he had his passport recalled by the state department and was branded an enemy of the state. Because most of my writing leans toward the satirical and experimental theater, my play is a fictional piece. I felt that only in that way could I speak from my heart about a man I truly love.
I’ve written three plays and two screen plays. I am also a poet and have produced poetry readings around Los Angeles. One of my passions is a web series I’m producing and directing called LA Subway Shakespeare Project which is an African American Shakespeare Company that performs at the subway stations around LA. We do very short 4 or 5 minute pieces from scenes from Shakespeare’s plays. The web series can be viewed on YouTube.
Hassan Jamal Website: www.beyondbaroque.org
A short one-act play
Written by: Julie Taiwo Oni
ETHIOP-ICA is a short play that I have devised specifically for the Paul Robeson Festival, inspired by a ten-minute piece I created a few years back with some developments. It is the story of a couple-LILY, an African American, and NOÉ, a black South American-and their conflict with cultural acceptance while on a date at an Ethiopian restaurant in L.A. As a Nigerian-American, I am fascinated by the intersection of cultures and the language and stereotyping that go along with it. My research on Paul Robeson in preparation for the festival led me to background about his passion for his African roots. I think that the conflict of having a desire to connect with Africa yet simultaneously feeling no connection to the cultures from which slaves were imported so long ago is an ongoing struggle for Black culture. I feel a similar tension myself, even as somebody who knows my African ancestry but is entirely American-raised.
I also wanted to play with the idea of the U.S. as a culture of immigrants. I have traveled to South America and have a lot of friends and students from there, and I am often envious of the patriotism from all members of society-no matter their social status or the current struggles that may exist. That is something you don’t find a lot of here. I wish residency were enough to join us, but it actually seems to segregate: we are inhabitants of our own social/cultural groups, but we separate/name/critique/fear/misunderstand each other, and even sometimes ourselves. For how long?
Julie Taiwo Oni is a Nigerian-American playwright and teacher. Her research and writing focuses on inter/intra-cultural intersections and their surrounding language and relationships, particularly within the context of colonial, African-American and mixed-race cultures. She has an MFA in Dramatic Writing from USC and teaches English, Literature and Culture at the New York Film Academy. Recent productions include BUNK for Son of Semele Ensemble’s Company Creation Festival and nat&EM for Company of Angels.
Julie Taiwo Oni Website: julieoni.wix.com/julietaiwooni
A one act play
Written by: Cornell Hubert Calhoun III
In my short play, Miss Pauline is a relative of Paul Robeson. She is a colored girl selected to integrate all-White Talladega High School. Miss Pauline is an intelligent, resilient young sixteen year old growing up in the racist small town of Talladega, Alabama. Talladega, Alabama is a well-known hot bed Klu Klux Klan activity. Miss Pauline is also an aspiring actress. The play takes place on the day of the historic March on Washington on August 28, 1963. Like Mr. Robeson, Miss Pauline illuminates the stage with strength and determination. Miss Pauline embodies Mr. Robeson’s principles of striving for excellence, leading by example, and visioning a world of justice and peace.
Cornell Calhoun III, is a three-time semi-finalist (2006, 2007 and 2013) at the Eugene O’Neill National Playwrighting Conference. His plays Bloooz, and Any Man & Five Cents were selected at the National Black Theater Festival in Winston-Salem, NC. He is a three time nominee (2010, 2013, 2014) for the Cleveland Art Prize for Literature. He credits much of his success to Cleveland, Ohio theatre legends, Reuben Silver PhD, and Dorothy Silver, his long-time mentors.
Rules of the Debate
A short one-act play
Written by: Inda Craig-Galván
The work submitted is written specifically for the call of this festival. This is a modern-day story inspired by Paul Robeson’s brilliant academics and his often-tested courageous acts of social consciousness. I wanted to echo Robeson’s triumphs in scholastic excellence, and placed my characters, Paul and Lance, in a powder-keg situation within their high school debate team. What happens when school violence is met head-on with courage, conviction and compassion?
The play explores the themes of brotherhood and what it means to stand with someone you consider a brother throughout the good times as well as during the dark and trying times.
A Chicago native, Inda is an artistic associate of MPAACT Theatre Company where she co-wrote Blaxploitation: The Remix, and Blaxploitation 2: You Know How We Deux (Black Theater Alliance Nominations – Best Playwriting). She’s half of the sketch writing/performing duo kevINd (HBO US Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, NBC Sketch Showcase in Los Angeles, Steppenwolf Theatre Traffic series in Chicago). Inda begins the MFA program in Dramatic Writing at USC’s School of Dramatic Arts this Fall.
Link for Inda Craig-Galván: www.indacraig-galvan.com
Los Angeles Theatre Center
514 South Spring Street
Los Angeles, CA. 90013