Not that long ago I happened to run into James J. Johnson, an actor in the DC area who did a pretty tremendous thing a few years ago: he devoted many long hours of labor to interviewing and posting profiles of African American theater professionals on Facebook. Day after day, week after week, he introduced people to some really talented folks, and he did it out of the kindness of his heart, nothing more. He wanted to show off what a great community we have in DC, and he didn’t ask for anything in return. I followed his work with great passion, and when he expanded the criteria for his interview subjects, I was honored to be included. In part to return that honor, I wanted to call attention to him now… and say thank you.
I also wanted to try to pay that honor forward in a slightly different way.
For a long while now, I’ve been advocating for the need to restore what I call the import-export balance of culture in DC. Right now, we’re a net importer of theater; more work gets made elsewhere and brought into the city than made here and exported elsewhere. We desperately need to be focusing on finding our own voice in this city. We’re the nation’s capital, for goodness’ sake: we definitely have stories that need to be told.
And yet… I happen to know that plays are being written here by a great many talented playwrights with diverse voices. (For a variety of reasons, I suspect the number is close to, if not over, 200.) We just don’t get as much attention as I believe we deserve. And so, taking a page out of James Johnson’s play book (and with a nod to Adam Szymkowicz and his highly estimable “I Interview Playwrights” series), I thought I might offer this admittedly modest platform of mine as a way for us all to show the world how many of us there are.
The following is an alphabetical list of playwrights living and writing in the DC area with whom I am familiar. I know this list is incomplete; my hope is that theater practitioners in the area will circulate the link as widely as possible and send me (via the Contact Info link on the right, via Twitter, on Facebook, or anywhere) any names I might be missing. I’d like to grow this list until it really does represent the depth and breadth of storytelling voices in our city. I’d like to change the perception that we don’t have a lot to say… because we do. With that in mind, I’ve also included the names of people who might not typically identify primarily as playwrights, but who I happen to know have written and produced plays. Feel free to be loose and inclusive in who you suggest.
Oh, and once we get a really good list going, we’ll get everybody together to start the revolution. Or at least to hang out. Or both.
And so, with no further adieu… the DC playwrights list.