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2009/10 Research

During academic year 2009/10 Hart executed a number of creative activities: 

Scholarly Review Equivalencies 

There are specific scholarly review equivalencies for creative activities designed to support the promotion portfolio review for the Department of Theatre Arts. The full description of review equivalencies are outlined in the Howard University College of Arts and Sciences "Criteria for Appointments, Promotion, Tenure and Career Status" guidelines. Click here for the scholarly review equivalencies for the Department of Theatre Arts. 

Creative Activity 'A' - (Scholarly Equivalency - Book)

Hart's Role: Production Director & Dramaturge

Play:  Zooman and the Sign written by Charles Fuller
Producer:  Howard University Department of Theatre Arts
Location: Washington DC
Rehearsal Dates:  September 14 - October 8, 2009
Production Dates:  October 9 - 15, 2009

Director's Notes:

In 1965, a gang member comes into a neighborhood in West Philadelphia intent upon shooting a rival gang member and as the shots ring out, a little girl sitting on her front steps is shot and killed. This incident served as the impetus for Pulitzer Prize winning Playwright Charles Fuller to begin writing Zooman & the Sign.  Fuller did not complete the play until 1979, the time period in which the play is set.  Long before gansta rap’s inciting lyrics begin to influence the consciousness of many of our youth; Fuller is noted for saying that after King’s death in 1968 there were Zooman’s everywhere; in every urban city all over America.  Zooman was running rampant. 

Fast forward to 2008, when one of my 16 year old twin nephews is arrested for allegedly shooting into a crowd at an October-fest in my hometown of Omaha Nebraska. Thankfully, no one was hurt.  The police told my brother that both of my nephews were known gang members.  My entire family was in shock. We of middle class upbringing, college educated people with good jobs... how could this be happening?  We were in denial until I called a family meeting and asked my nephews to tell us the truth.  Eventually they affirmed what the police had said. They said that college wasn’t for them; that they wanted the glamorous life of the gangster.  I remember watching them sitting across from me and thinking that if we didn’t do something, they would become the Zooman of 2008 and onward. 

My nephews along with all of the other black males who feel that their only choice is to become a predator amongst their own are the impetus for my decision to tell this story.  A friend of mine said to me that the storyline of Zooman is so intense and it’s rather disturbing.  I responded that the play is only as intense and disturbing as our real lives can be.  Let’s not look away from that truth.

Despite a multitude of advancements in our country, on the play’s 30 year anniversary, unfortunately the consciousness of Zooman continues to permeate our communities and society at large.  With the advent of the internet this consciousness has only become more visible as seen with the recent YouTube video showing the beating death of Derrion Albert in Chicago.  Similar to the community in Zooman the onlookers of Derrion’s death initially would not come forward to identify the perpetrators.  They said they feared retaliation.  As well, the perpetuation of the ‘No Snitch’ campaign has created even more confusion in the hearts and minds of those who would be inclined to do the right thing (even anonymously), but don’t want to seem un-cool.  The solutions to eradicate the consciousness that creates a Zooman and a morally conflicted community are complex.  

The play does offer a resolution, but not a solution.  Yet, the play does provoke us to think and to feel and hopefully to confront the unspoken questions reverberating throughout: What would you do if this were to happen to you? What would you do if you or your loved ones become the Tates?  What would you do if a Zooman is in your family or your community?  What can/should/will you do?

Photos: final dress rehearsal photos:

Representative Dramaturgy Research

Interview with playwright Charles Fuller:
A View from the Inside 

Hope Seen for Curbing Youth Violence 
Old School Rap 
A Little Girl Shot, and a Crowd That Didn’t See 

The Return of the Gang 

Supportive Artifacts
Play Script Zooman and the Sign - Click Here
Rehearsal Schedule - Click Here
Rehearsal Report 1 - Click Here
Rehearsal Report 2 - Click Here

Video Clips:

Zooman-Scene 1

Zooman-Cast Interviews

Creative Activity 'B' - (Scholarly Equivalency - Refereed Article)

Hart's Role: Workshop Coordinator & Production Director

Play: Melancholy of Barbarians written by Kofi Kwahule
Event: Playwrights in Process Visiting Playwright Series 
Location: Howard University Department of Theatre Arts
Master Class Date: February 18, 2010
Rehearsal Dates: February 19 - 20, 2010
Production Date: February 20, 2010

(Playwright Kofi Kwahule)

Through the Playwrights in Process Visiting Playwright Series, in the Spring of 2010 Professor Denise J. Hart collaborated with the Lark Play Development center in New York to offer a unique experience  to the students in the Howard University Department of Theatre Arts and the Washington DC community. International playwright Kofi Kwahule (and his translator, Chantal Bilodeau) spent a short but impactful in residency in the department for a reading of his play, Melancholy of Barbarians. 

In addition, Kwahule, led one 90 minute master class for the student body.

The residency allowed Kwahule to participate in all rehearsals along with Professor Hart and the cast, table discussions with eh director and cast and the selection of actors.  The process posed a unique challenge in that Mr. Kwahule spoke French. All communication with the Director and cast was done via his translator Chantal Bilodeau. 

Photos: Kwahule with students, Hart leading round table discussion, student actors discussing the play:

Supportive Artifacts
Photos and insights from the first table read/rehearsal - Click Here
The playwright shares his thoughts about the Playwrights in Process workshop - Click Here
Play Script Melancholy of Barbarians - Click Here
Production Program - Click Here

Creative Activity 'C' (Scholarly Equivalency - Book)

Hart's Role: Playwright & Production Director

Play: DC County Spelling Bee from A to Z!
Producer:  The Children's Theatre Workshop
Location: Washington DC
Rehearsal Dates: June 20 - July 23, 2010
Production Date: July 22 & 23, 2010


This production was inspired by the unfortunate epidemic of bullying that is adversely affecting our communities.  Whether it's cyber bullying or in person, bullying has a devastating effect on everyone, from young to old and in between.   Sometimes people choose to bully because of their own insecurities and feeling  lack of belief in their own capabilities.  Sometimes people choose to bully others because they grew up in an environment where that kind of behavior was reinforced like on of my favorite new television shows, Glee.  

The story at the center of Glee, the extreme competition between the two glee club coaches and how it impacts everyone at each school, is both humorous and thought provoking.  It’s also a lesson for us adults to remember how much of an impact we have on our young charges.  

When I presented the final draft of The DC County Spelling Bee from A to Z, the students loved how the story played out and they took the story and characters and really made it their own. 

Photos: rehearsal process.

Supportive Artifacts:
Script Development Notes DC County Spelling Bee - Click Here
Play Script DC County Spelling Bee - Click Here
Production Program - Click Here