Teaching, Research, Service, Professional Development
During my years of service in the Department of Theatre Arts at Howard University, through my specialization in the area of Playwriting with an additional focus on Dramaturgy and Directing, as well as my expertise teaching a variety of courses across the Theatre Arts curriculum, I have demonstrated a body of research and creative work that reflects both artistic and commercial merit on a national and international level. My contributions in and outside of the classroom have significantly enhanced the department’s capacity to train Howard University students to be competitive and prepared to meet the rigorous demands of their chosen fields.
In addition, my scholarly research/creative work has enabled both the Department of Theatre Arts and the University to be showcased at the forefront of the artistic and academic national and international arenas.
Further, my professional development and service to the University and local, national and international theatre community has remained consistent through my willing, active participation, often in key positions, in the vital activities outside the classroom that are so integral to the overall theatre arts experience at Howard University.
Since my last promotion appointment in 2009, my teaching load oftentimes consisted of teaching five to seven courses each semester and two courses during summer school. It wasn’t until spring 2016 that my teaching load was reduced to a 3/3 workload.
In 2018 I was honored to receive the Outstanding Associate Professor in the Division of Fine Arts” award. This award acknowledges excellence and emphasizes overall achievements in research, teaching and service.
During my academic career, I have made many significant contributions to the University through teaching. However, at this time, I will highlight my teaching contributions since my last promotion. During the 2009 - 2011 terms, after the former area coordinator retired, I served as the interim area coordinator of the Theatre Education major in the Department of Theatre Arts. I advised the remaining 7 students in the major, assisted in teaching the core courses in Theatre Education and arranged for the students to become members of the Educational Theatre Association, as well as coordinated a trip for the students to attend the organizations’ annual conference. Those students have since graduated and many attended graduate school and most are now theatre teachers.
In 2011, I developed a popular new course, Creativity in Life and Theatre, which was modeled after the course, Creativity and Personal Mastery, taught by Professor Srikumar Rao, at Columbia Business School. My course combines the techniques of acting, public speaking and creative aptitude exercises and was designed to help both theatre and non-theatre students develop the vital skills necessary to increase their creative aptitude and create a road map for success in life and theatre.
From 2009 – 2013, through reinstating Playwriting as a major area of concentration, I demonstrated my commitment to the department’s effort to maintain its competitive edge among our national peers. One key element of the Playwriting area is the development of new works for the American stage through our Visiting Playwrights Series: Playwrights in Process. This series provides a unique opportunity for students to work alongside esteemed professional playwrights in a relatively real world situation of play development.
Over the past few years, the program has hosted several national and internationally recognized playwrights. In 2010, the department and theatre community had the pleasure of having international French speaking playwright, Kofi Kwahule in residence with his play Melancholy of Barbarians, for a staged reading, cast with departmental students. Mr. Kwahule also taught two workshops in the department. Mr. Kwahule’s participation was made possible as a result of my successful effort to partner with the Lark Play Development Center in New York where Mr. Kwahule was in residence. I not only directed Mr. Kwahule’s play, Melancholy of Barbarians, I supported him with co-facilitation of a master class on play development.
Other invited playwrights include A. Peter Bailey, Peter Harris and more recently, in fall 2017, through the Visiting Playwrights Series, I directed a developmental reading of department alum, Nikkole Salter’s new play, Torn Asunder.
Currently, I serve as the Area Coordinator of the Playwriting Minor. The minor trains and supports students from the departments of English and Communications, as well as students from other departments on campus and a few within the Department of Theatre Arts, with becoming better story tellers and prepares them for a professional career by expanding and developing their plot and character development skills.
In this role, I advise approximately 35 students during the academic year. Many of the playwriting minors graduate and pursue careers as television and film writers. However, one recent playwriting minor graduate, Alric Davis, has created his own thriving theatre company in Houston Texas, Bayou Theatre Company; while another recent graduate was accepted into the prestigious "Current Series Development with Freeform network under Disney ABC Television Group," where her cohort will be producing one of her stories.
Since fall 2017, I have also served as the academic advisor and Area Coordinator for the Theatre Arts Minor. As academic advisor, I support the students with course selections that coincide with the designed curriculum scheme for the minor.
In 2017, my new course Introduction to Production Dramaturgy was approved. The implementation of this course will be the first time a codified course on Dramaturgy will be taught at any HBCU in the country. The major strength of this course is that it addresses a lack of minority diversity in the field of dramaturgy as reflected on a local, regional and national level. The course attempts to address a national need for training of dramaturges who may proceed to graduate study, become educators in the arts, as well as transition into the film and television, archivist and museum disciplines.
Lastly, I have also extended learning beyond the classroom via requiring attendance at professional plays and coordinating events such as the 2017 August Wilson Society Conference and symposium to support departmental productions; serving as the moderator and/or mistress of ceremonies for many of these events. In 2018, through the launch of the Alumni Legacy Project, I have invited departmental alumni such as, Ryan Jamal Swain, Clinton Roane, Mark McKinnon and Princess Mhoon to serve as panelists and guest artists to lead workshops and share their career development experience with the students in the department.
Since my last promotion, my contributions of scholarly research/creative work have remained consistent through collaborations with regional, national and internationally recognized organizations.
In spring 2018, I was invited to serve as a Visiting Professor at St. Mary’s College in the department of Theater, Film and. While on sabbatical I served their student population in the role of guest artist, instructor and director.
Since there aren't any African American faculty members in the Department of Theater, Film and Media, the students of color were especially excited about my presence on campus. They were also eager to be under the direction of a black director and to be cast in a play written by a black playwright. Being in residence at a predominately white institution presented a wonderful opportunity to present material with the African American experience at the center of the subject matter and discourse for an audience less accustomed to encountering such material. I choose to direct the play Stick Fly written by award winning playwright, Lydia Diamond. The play is filled with tensions centered on race, class and the power and impact of family secretes. Additionally, I taught a course entitled, Dramaturgy and Analysis: the plays of August Wilson.
In the field of dramaturgy there are two tracts that my work focuses on: Production Dramaturgy and Public Dramaturgy:
- Production dramaturgy is the research process of providing historical, social and economic context further defining the world of the play for the production team and sometimes providing both written articulation of such, along with physical artifacts that illuminate and bring the research to life.
- Public-focused dramaturgical efforts function to contextualize and offer frameworks for interpretation, critique and analysis of a play via a publicly shared medium such as presentations, pre and post show discussions and curated artifacts for lobby design.
One of my most recent endeavors as a professional production dramaturge occurred in spring 2018 when I was contracted by Hattiloo Theatre in Memphis TN, to provide dramaturgical support for Jitney written by August Wilson.
Hattiloo Theatre, is the only freestanding Black repertory theatre in five surrounding states, and has developed a strong regional audience (32% in 2015). Hattiloo is known for offering high-quality, free programming and performances staged throughout the city, engaging over 5,000 people each year. In June 2014, following a $4.3M capital campaign, Hattiloo moved from its 75-seat theatre to a newly-constructed facility, debt free, and established a $500K endowment. The evolution of its artistic vision and programming, and the success of its business model has made Hattiloo a sought-after resource nationwide.
In my role as production dramaturge, I supported and enhanced the work of the director and production team by creating a production of artistic merit and meaning. I helped the director and production team discover the multiple layers of meaning and value in the text and in the visual, aural and physical atmosphere of the play. This was accomplished by conducting thorough research to create a dramaturgy resource packet that examined and articulated the inner structure of the play. As a result of my contribution, the production was nominated for 9 Ostrander Awards and took home awards for "Best Production of a Drama and Best Featured Performer in a Drama". The Ostrander awards is the annual Arts Memphis and Memphis magazine-sponsored celebration of Memphis’ vibrant theater community.
In my continued commitment to elevating the creative and scholarly reputation of the department, since 2014, I’ve shared my knowledge of public-focused dramaturgy and expertise as a writer and researcher for Blackademics TV, which is nationally broadcast via PBS, and produced at the University of Texas at Austin. Spring 2018, was my sixth year working on the series as a scholarly writing/presentation coach. Serving as a scholar coach for consecutive years has helped to create a consistent high quality aesthetic and brand for the series. This kind of consistency and attention to excellence produces a series that has both artistic and commercial merit.
The focus of Blackademics TV is to offer researched based scholarship to local, national and global communities through live studio participation, the internet and television. The finished product reaches approximately 3 million television viewers and airs in Texas, New Mexico, Michigan, Wisconsin, Colorado and Florida. The series is also available via the internet on the 350 PBS member stations that serve all 50 states, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam and American Samoa.
In my role as a coach I provide support and training for a cohort of up to six nationally and internationally recognized scholars, artists and activists preparing them to write compelling scholarly researched based presentations to communicate their research focus for a television audience and conduct interactive, engaging academic presentations.
The scholar presenters are the "face" of the series. With my help scholar presenters create a nine-minute segment that focuses on their research expertise and interest.
The selection process is highly competitive. Scholars must submit a research abstract and a committee of scholars makes the final selection of twelve scholars for each cohort. Over a twelve week process I hold writing and coaching sessions with each of my six scholars to review and provide feedback on their research abstract. Next, the scholars submit a draft outline of their research critique based presentation. The critique focuses on the strengths and limitations of the research. We engage in discussion and brainstorming via at least two teleconferences or videoconferences to further develop their presentation and analyze the merits and faults of their critique. As we move to the final presentation draft I help the scholars title their talk and pay special attention to editing to create a nine-minute presentation segment centered on the scholars’ research focus.
Over the six-year tenure of my work on the series I have taped a presentation in front of a live audience twice. The first time, my topic, Not Just Talent: Black Excellence in the Theatre Arts, explored and deconstructed the myth that black performers are born with natural talent and rarely require advanced training. In 2018, I presented on the topic, The Historic Necessity of HBCU's. Both presentations aired on national PBS stations and remain available for research and viewing purposes on the PBS website.
An additional example of the national impact of my research as a public dramaturge was the presentation of the preliminary results of my archival research project, Beyond Respectability Politics: The Evolution of Black Theatre at Howard University, at the 2018 Black Theatre Network Conference.
Inherent in the field of dramaturgy, specifically public-dramaturgy and literary management, is the awareness of writing trends and the ability to find and articulate the narrative within the context of a season or a specific time period. My archival research project, Beyond Respectability Politics: The Evolution of Black Theatre at Howard University, is situated in uncovering the narrative found in examining the production history of black theatre on the campus of Howard University.
Presently the heart of the research is the creation of the 108-year production history of theatre production on the campus of Howard University and the student drama organization The Howard Players role in the evolution of theatre at Howard. This phase of the research was compiled using the resources documented in the left sidebar.
For the delivery of the presentation of my research at the 2018 Black Theatre Network Conference I utilized my expertise in public-focused dramaturgy. I executed a slide presentation that moved the audience through select time periods in the 108-year production history, oftentimes sharing information that had not been previously shared publicly. I also posed questions to the audience inviting them to critique their perspectives on the evolution of black theatre, as well as shared the ongoing questions I seek to answer as I continue to conduct my research.
Although African American playwrights continue to make a significant contribution to the diversification of the American Theatre canon, in a 2015 study (The Count), the Dramatist Guild noted that only 3.4% of the plays produced in the US were by women of color, while 62% were by white men. Despite this rather abysmal percentage, I, through my playwriting have continued to write and produce plays that center its storytelling on the African American experience.
The role of a professional playwright is to tell relate-able impactful and entertaining stories that fit inside a theatrical structure and have artistic and commercial merit. During my career, I have written 25 plays suitable for adult and youth audiences and over the years I've been honored to have my plays produced by nationally recognized theaters such as: Urban Stages of NYC, the Smith Coleman Artistic Center in Los Angeles, Kennedy Center Page-to-Stage, The African Continuum Theatre Company, The Playwrights Forum, Howard University, DC Black Theatre Festival, and The Serenity Players in Washington DC. Additionally, my playwriting efforts have been honored on a international level via some of the most prestigious play development centers and competitions in the world, including The Eugene O’Neill National Playwright’s Conference, Lark Theatre Play Development Fellow, Black and Latino Playwrights Conference, Writer's Digest Scriptwriting competition and the Bay Area Playwrights Festival, of which I achieved semi-finalist status and placed in the top 5% out of over 1000 competitors.
In 2018, my play, Nothing to Lose, received national recognition when I was honored as a semi-finalist, ranked in the top 5% in the highly competitive Bay Area Playwrights Festival. This same play was honored in 2012 as a semi-finalist in the Black and Latino playwrights conference. In 2011 and 2012 “Nothing to Lose,” was also developed through two nationally recognized organizations, the Playwright’s Forum and the African Continuum Theatre Company. Each of these organizations invested in the development of my work through hosting developmental staged readings including a rehearsal process supported by a team of actors, a director and dramaturge to assist me in the play development process.
As a playwright, directing plays has actually taught me the most regarding what it really means to write a good play, because it’s when you must reveal the inner structure of a play to the cast of actors, that you then know what works well and not so well within a play.
Throughout my career, I have directed 33 plays. In my role as production director in an educational environment I lead the project by creating an environment where student artists in collaboration with a professional academic production team can implement the concept/vision set forth by the director and create a production that has artistic and commercial merit worthy of public viewing. Additionally, directing in an educational environment expands teaching beyond the classroom and places the student in a professional culture where they receive guidance on professional standards and protocol. In a supportive environment students are able to move beyond theory to application of the performance techniques learned in the classroom setting. My directing approach is discovery and process focused while achieving necessary milestones that result in a production worthy of public viewing.
Recently, I have continued to bring well-deserved regional and national exposure and recognition to the Department, by serving as the production director of Stick Fly written by Lydia Diamond produced at St. Mary’s College, Milk Like Sugar written by Kirsten Greenidge, Zooman and the Sign written by Charles Fuller and Spunk written by George C. Wolfe. I have also served as production director for the nationally recognized DC Queer Theatre Festival in 2012 and 2013 and directed plays during the 2011 and 2013 DC Black Theater Festival.
In the area of professional development, it has been my honor and privilege to represent Howard University through my professional service in the academic and professional theatre arenas.
Presently I serve as the managing editor of the online open access peer reviewed scholarly journal, Continuum Journal, a service organization of the Black Theatre Network (BTN). For 30 years, the Black Theatre Network has collected, processed and distributed information that supports the professional and personal development of its membership which is comprised of individuals engaged in the full range of theatre professions, professional and community theaters and organizations, and academic institutions.
The goals of Continuum Journal are dedicated to fostering scholarship on the past, present, and future of African diaspora performing arts. The journal publishes articles on any aspect of Black theater, theory, historiography, and practice.
In my role as managing editor of Continuum Journal, I support the spread of academic discourse centered on black theatre around the globe. Through fulfilling my responsibilities as editor, I help academics and theatre practitioners publish their research as well as increase citations of their research by fellow academics. Additionally, the global reach of the journal helps to further position a contributors’ research within the broader context of their given field. As this is a volunteer service role, it’s heart-centered work for me, as nothing means more to me than helping someone achieve their professional and personal goals.
In October 2016, I served as Conference Team Planner for the August Wilson Society Conference sponsored by several departments in the College of Arts and Sciences. In my role, I managed and facilitated a smooth conference experience for over 55 guests and also served as production manager, supporting the 12 invited scholars presenting on a variety of topics. Additionally, I presented on the panel "Approaches to Teaching the Plays of August Wilson."
During the 2017/18, fiscal year I was delighted to be selected to represent theatre on the Delta Sigma Theta National Arts and Letters commission. This prestigious commission specifically focuses on elevating and celebrating the contributions of black artists.
From 1997-2018 I served the WDC area as the Founder and Artistic Director of one of the premier performing arts training studios in the Washington DC area, The Performing Arts Training Studio (PATStudio) through which we produced The Children’s Theatre Workshop summer camp (TCTW). Since my last promotion, I offered a number of playwriting and acting classes serving the Washington DC Area through the Performing Arts Training Studio. From 2010 – 2014 I taught private acting coaching, held the annual Actor’s Boot Camp conference and facilitated the Playwright’s Posse play development course. I also wrote and directed three children’s plays: “Hot Fun in the Summer Time”, “DC County Spelling Bee from A to Z!” and “The Mysterious Case of Classroom #459”.
Through 2018, the summer camp program remained a viable financial supporter of the Department of Theatre arts through renting space in the department during the summer and through supporting the Departmental internship initiative by offering paid internships to the student body. The program has employed over 45 Fine Arts students since my last promotion and helped students to make the connection between the probability of using theatre as an educational and career endeavor. Summer 2017 marked the 13th annual Department of Theatre Arts Benefit Performance Fundraiser held by TCTW. I am very proud that during its tenure, TCTW supported the departmental production seasons through financial contributions totaling over $38,000.
Through my presence serving on boards such as the Black Theatre Association, a sub group of the Association of Theatre for Higher Education, and previous board memberships on Takoma Theatre Conservancy (secretary), DC Black Theatre Festival (Secretary), A.Salon/DC Artist’s Studios (Secretary) and the advisory board of The Playwrights Forum, I have helped to make substantial impact on the development of black theatre in the national arena and in the Washington DC region.
I continue to demonstrate a high level of commitment to service to the community by remaining active in the scholastic and scholarly community lending my professional expertise to research, theatre, and performance based workshops at Cardozo High School teaching playwriting, The McKinnon Acting Studio and Actor’s Center through acting workshops, University of Maryland Graduate Student Association as a guest speaker, "Let Freedom Sing - The Marian Anderson Story in Opera" a co-production between Takoma Theatre Conservancy and the Washington Opera, Piney Branch Elementary School, Whittier Elementary School, St. Michaels School, guest judge for the Monologue Madness Competition in Washington DC, multiple segments on WHUR Radio and guest expert on a Fox 5 News segment which focused on a discussion on the representation of black men in the film version of Ntozake Shange's play, For Colored Girls.
Through my commitment to service to the University, College, Division and the Department I have participated in the creation of policies and procedures which have resulted in improved student outcomes in the Department of Theatre Arts, the College of Arts and Sciences and across the entire campus.
Most recently, in 2017-2019, at the University level, I have served on the: Program Prioritization Task Force Evaluator Team; Missions and Goals working group: Howard University Self-Study for Re-accreditation; University Wide General Education Committee and the Howard West Entertainment ad-hoc Committee as Chair.
In previous years, I have served as a member of the Howard University Budget Advisory Committee led by president Wayne Frederick. From 2009 – 2013 I served as Vice President of the Division of Fine Arts and during the 2009-2012 academic years I served as the Recording Secretary for the College of Arts and Sciences and from 2015-2018 I served as chair of the Academic Policy Standards and General Education Committee.
Presently, in the division of Fine Arts, I am serving as the facilitator/chair of the College of Fine Arts Working Group which was formed to finalize the creation of the COFA bylaws and APT guidelines.
Within the Department of Theatre Arts, I remain an active member on the Curriculum Committee, on which I served as chair for 4 years, and during my tenure we successfully reduced our curriculum hours to 120 credits as mandated by the Board of Trustees. I have also served on the Scholarship committee (chair for 3 years), Owen Dodson Awards committee, Executive Committee and the Alumni Affairs Committee. Currently I serve on a host of departmental committees including the Appointments, Promotion and Tenure Committee.
The contribution of my services as an educator and a professional theatre practitioner is reflected in the hundreds of students who have received the kind of training that has supported them with achieving their dreams. Throughout my tenure at Howard University I have helped to train hundreds of graduates of the University and the Department of Theatre Arts who are now seen on stage and screen as actors, while others are directing, writing, diversifying companies and starting institutions of their own. Through my role as managing editor of the peer reviewed Continuum journal, I have supported the spread of academic discourse centered on black theatre around the globe.
My contribution on a national and international level as an educator and theatre practitioner has helped foster a more inclusive world on stage and off. My commitment to utilizing theatre in service to truth, inclusion, disruption and inspiration continues to develop future global leaders.
My e-portfolio demonstrates the sustained record and quality of scholarship research/creative work appropriate to the disciplines of playwriting and dramaturgy, my service executed academically and nationally, and the acknowledged impact of my teaching.