In this episode of Out of the Rehearsal Hall, assistant literary director Fran DaSilveira and I talk with playwrights Kirsten Greenidge and Chisa Hutchinson. It’s an impassioned conversation about their work and inspirations, how August Wilson impacted them both as young people, and the renaissance of the Black horror genre. And of course, a conversation about their work featured in Geva’s Recognition Radio Festival. Note: the conversation includes a couple of swear words.
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Chisa and Kirsten both have plays featured in Recognition Radio, Geva’s audio play festival celebrating Black stories. Kirsten Greenidge’s play Feeding Beatrice is available beginning on October 27, and Chisa Hutchinson’s play The Bleeding Class begins two weeks later, on November 10. While the plays were written under very different circumstances (Kirsten wrote her first draft 20 years ago, and Chisa began her first draft in early 2020), they are both incredibly resonant today, even while the genres they inhabit offer us visits to an alternate reality.
During our conversation, the late American playwright August Wilson came up several times. His influential “Ground on Which I Stand” speech was delivered in 1996 at a Theatre Communications Group conference, and has been inspirational for over 20 years. And as a student, Chisa Hutchinson was in the room when he delivered that speech – and cites that moment as sparking her desire to write plays. And for Kirsten Greenidge, seeing a production of August Wilson’s Joe Turner’s Come and Gone at Boston’s Huntington Theatre provided that same inspiration.
Kirsten, Chisa and Fran talked about the experience of being a Black theatre artist, and the added labor involved in confronting the expectation of what an artist looks like. It’s a critical conversation as Geva and the majority of professional theatres around the country come to terms with – and work to dismantle – the history of exclusion and racism that has led to predominantly white theatre institutions. The overdue changes that are currently in process have been inspired inspired, in part, by a very public statement by a group of Black theatre practitioners under the name of We See You White American Theatre.
And we turned our attention to the exciting resurgence of the Black horror genre, with films like Get Out and Us, and TV’s Watchmen and Lovecraft Country, among others. Which of course meant a conversation about Jordan Peele and Blumhouse Productions, the producers of the most high profile examples. (Have you watched these? I’m a total scaredy-cat when it comes to TV and film, but I am glued to the TV every Sunday, waiting for the next episode of Lovecraft Country to come out…)
While the conversation was often about weighty topics, it was also full of delight. I hope you’ll give it a listen!
Here are Chisa and Kirsten’s bios:
Chisa Hutchinson (B.A. Vassar College; M.F.A NYU – TSoA) is a New York-based playwright and screenwriter. Most recently, her radio drama, Proof of Love, was presented by Audible and New York Theatre Workshop at the Minetta Lane Theater in NYC and can now be found on Audible’s digital platform. With a 4.6 rating and everything, too. So that’s pretty cool. Chisa’s happily presented her other plays, which include Dirt Rich, She Like Girls, This Is Not The Play, Sex On Sunday, Tunde’s Trumpet, The Subject, Somebody’s Daughter, Alondra Was Here, Surely Goodness And Mercy, From The Author Of, Whitelisted and Dead & Breathing at such venues as the Lark Theater, SummerStage, Atlantic Theater Company, Rattlestick Theater, the Contemporary American Theater Festival, the National Black Theatre, Delaware REP, Second Stage Theater and Arch 468 in London. She has been a Humanitas Fellow, a Dramatists Guild Fellow, a Lark Fellow, Resident at Second Stage Theater and New Dramatists, a New York NeoFuturist, and a staff writer for the Blue Man Group. Here are some of her awards and whatnot: a GLAAD Award, a Lilly Award, a New York Innovative Theatre Award, the Paul Green Award, a Helen Merrill Award, the Lanford Wilson Award. Currently, Chisa is wondering when, if ever, the adaptation of Terms of Endearment that she worked on with Lee Daniels for Paramount will go into production, having been pandemically postponed. Meanwhile, she’s working on an adaptation of Oliver Twist with Ice Cube for Disney. She writes original screenplays, too. Her first feature, The Subject, an indie about a white documentarian dealing with the moral fallout from exploiting the death of a Black teen, has been selected for seventeen festivals and counting, including the Art of Brooklyn Film Festival,The Lighthouse International Film Festival, and the Bronze Lens Film Festival where it won Best Narrative Feature. To learn more, visit www.chisahutchinson.com
Kirsten Greenidge’s plays are best described as works that place hyper realism on stage as they examine the nexus of race, class, gender, and the African American experience. Recently recognized as playwright laureate of Boston, she is the author of Beacon, Little Row Boat, Feeding Beatrice, Our Daughters, Like Pillars, Greater Good, Baltimore, Bud, Not Buddy (an adaptation of the children’s novel by Christopher Paul Curtis, with music by Terence Blanchard) The Luck of the Irish and Milk Like Sugar, which was nominated for a Lucille Lortel Award and received an Independent Reviewers of New England Award, a San Diego Critics Award, and a Village Voice Obie Award, among others. She’s enjoyed development experiences at the Family Residency at the Space at Ryder Farm, the Huntington’s Summer Play Festival, Cleveland Playhouse as the 2016 Roe Green New Play Award recipient, The Goodman, Denver Center, Sundance, Bay Area Playwright’s Festival, Sundance at Ucross, and the O’Neill. Kirsten is currently working on commissions from the Huntington (Common Ground with Melia Bensussen), La Jolla Playhouse (To The Quick), and Oregon Shakespeare American Revolutions Project (Roll, Belinda, Roll). A recent PEN/Laura Pels Playwrighting Award recipient and current Andrew W. Mellon/Howlround Fellow in residence at Company One Theatre, she is an alum of New Dramatists, a member of the Honor Roll, and has proudly graced the Kilroys list of New Plays by women and women identified playwrights several years running. She attended the Playwright’s Workshop at the University of Iowa and Wesleyan University and oversees the BFA playwrighting track at Boston University’s School of Theatre where she is currently acting co-chair of Performance and acting chair of Theatre Arts.