In episode 3 of Out of the Rehearsal Hall, I am joined by Geva’s associate artistic director, Pirronne Yousefzadeh for a conversation with playwrights Christina Anderson and Harrison David Rivers. It’s a joyful discussion about listening to the voices in your head, finding inspiration in poetry, novels and raunchy rap lyrics, making space and time for imagination, and representation onstage.
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Christina Anderson and Harrison David Rivers are two of the four playwrights featured in Recognition Radio, Geva’s audio play festival celebrating Black stories. Harrison’s play we are continuous launches on November 24, and Christina’s play The Resurrection of Michelle Morgan launches on December 8. Both Christina and Harrison are writers that Geva’s artistic staff has long admired, and we’re thrilled to introduce them to you during this festival. These two plays are intensely personal and simultaneously universal, and explore some of the many ways in which we love, heal and thrive.
During our conversation, Christina and Harrison shared some of the artists – poets, playwrights, and musicians – whose work has been impactful to them. We discussed novelists Zadie Smith and her novel On Beauty and the Nobel Prize-winning novelist Doris Lessing; poets Danez Smith, Pat Parker and Essex Hemphill; playwrights Dael Orlandersmith (especially Yellowman), debbie tucker green, Dipika Guha, Aishah Rahman (especially Only in America) and Paula Vogel. And we talked about musicians – the rappers CupcakKe, Pusha T and Andre 3000. As you listen to Christina and Harrison’s plays, you might listen for the conversation between all of these incredible artists.
And we talked about the importance of representation – of finding yourself reflected in someone else’s artistic expression, and about the changing nature of the stories. Harrison spoke specifically about the importance for him of Stew and Heidi Rodewald’s 2008 rock musical Passing Strange, which was inspirational to him as a young writer. And as recognition expands for work that is representative of a broader range of experiences, and as the many ways for consuming stories expand, more and more people experience that often-elusive feeling of being seen, when their stories – or stories that feel authentic to their identities – are told onstage.
There’s so much more to share, and I know you’ll enjoy listening to the conversation more than reading about it! But before I go, here are Harrison and Christina’s bios:
Christina Anderson‘s work has appeared at The Public Theatre, Yale Repertory Theatre, Penumbra Theatre Company, Playwrights Horizons, and other theaters in the United States and Canada. Awards and honors: Inaugural Harper Lee Award for Playwriting, two PONY nominations, three Susan Smith Blackburn nominations, and Woursell Prize Finalist. Christina obtained her B.A. from Brown University and an M.F.A. from the Yale School of Drama’s Playwriting Program. She’s a resident playwright at New Dramatists, Epic Theatre Ensemble, and a DNAWORKS Ensemble member.
Harrison David Rivers is the winner of the 2018 Relentless Award for his play the bandaged place (New York Stage & Film). His produced plays include: When Last We Flew (GLAAD Media Award, NYFringe Excellence in Playwriting Award, NYFringe, Diversionary Theatre, TheatreLAB, Real Live Theatre), Sweet (AUDELCO nomination for Best Play, National Black Theatre), And She Would Stand Like This (20% Theatre Company, The Movement Theatre Company), Where Storms Are Born (Berkshire Theatre Award nomination for Best New Play, Edgerton Foundation New Play Award, Williamstown Theatre Festival), A Crack in the Sky (History Theatre), Five Points (MN Theatre Award for Exceptional New Work, Lavender Magazine citation for Outstanding New Playwriting, BroadwayWorld Minneapolis Award for Best New Work, Inclusion in MinnPost’s year-end “Best” List, Theatre Latte Da) This Bitter Earth (MN Theatre Award for Exceptional New Work, Lavender Magazine citation for Outstanding New Playwriting, Joseph Jefferson Award nomination for Best Production, New Conservatory Theatre Center, Penumbra, About Face), To Let Go and Fall (Theatre Latte Da) and Broadbend, Arkansas (Transport Group/Public Theater). Harrison was named a Runner-up for the 2018 Artist of the Year by the Star Tribune and a 2017 Artist of the Year by City Pages. He has received McKnight and Many Voices Jerome Fellowships, a Van Lier Fellowship, an Emerging Artist of Color Fellowship and residencies with the Bogliasco Foundation, the Siena Art Institute, the Hermitage and Duke University. Harrison was the 2016 Playwright-in-Residence at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. Harrison is an alum of the Public Theater’s Emerging Writers’ Group, Interstate 73, NAMT and The Lincoln Center Directors’ Lab. He is a NYTW Usual Suspect and a member of the Playwright Center’s Board of Directors.