BlackList: A Celebration of the African American Voice

BlackList celebrates the African American voice. By spotlighting the individual works of an influential artist, we shed light on the stories of those who have been otherwise cast in the dark. BlackList is a platform for communication about African American Artistry and its place in our shared American experience, which is important to my goal of weaving the African American experience into the quilt of The American experience.

“Wilson sends a clear message that we must honor our history and our elders. He is equally clear about not allowing us to be tyrannized by either...Wilson created characters that long for companionship and intimacy despite the upheaval and impermanence in their circumstances. There is an ache, and a tenderness at the center of every single character.” - Caleen Sinette Jennings; Professor of Theatre, American University

August Wilson was a poet before he was a playwright, and this is evident through his work. He uses language that evokes all of your five senses and turns the stage into a vivid reality. Hearing his work is a visceral experience, which is why it is so powerful. Now is the time to celebrate the works of this great man, ten years after his passing. Numbers are very important to Wilson, in all of his plays they have a significance. None of them are chosen arbitrarily, which is why it was important to me for us to celebrate his Century Cycle, ten plays that represent each decade of African American experience in America (1900-1990) on the ten year anniversary of his death.

Not everyone gets the opportunity to have their dreams turn into reality. I am beyond fortunate for the opportunity to create BlackList. In this world, I often feel like - due to their origins - it is just easier to push the stories of people of color under the rug. But I would rather cast a light on these ugly events so that we may have the opportunity to heal and reconcile. Acting like grave injustice never happened does not fix the problem. We must ALL look at the ugliness of our shared past so that we may forge forward. "Color blindness" is not the solution to racial equality. There is nothing wrong with diversity -- we can all be Americans and acknowledge that our origins are different and still love each other just the same.

I want to thank TheatreLAB for believing in my cause. I reached a place in my feelings of “otherness” where even I was starting to doubt if these things mattered. As a CompanyArtist for TheatreLAB, I can see that there is a place for sharing and learning together in the community, not just for African Americans but for all peoples that do not fit into the heteronormative patriarchy. Our stories are important and once we see our stories cast in the light, it makes us feel more at ease knowing that we are not alone. Meeting the actors and people that want to take part in this project makes me feel incredibly honored. This was my first opportunity to work with some of these actors and I have been moved to tears knowing that we all feel the importance of sharing these works.

-Mary Shaw

TheatreLAB CompanyArtist

BlackList: August Wilson will consist of scenes and monologues from each play in Wilson’s American magnum opus, The Century Cycle. The event will take place on October 18th at 7pm at TheatreLAB’s home, The Basement. The evening’s proceeds will fund a scholarship for a current or college-bound African American theatre student. Tickets are $15 for adults and $5 for students. Seating is limited. Purchase tickets online today at

Also, as part of TheatreLAB's upcoming BlackList celebration, on October 17th, TheatreLAB welcomes their #weRVA Community Partner, The Conciliation Project, to host a workshop (10am-Noon; STORYTELLING: an oral tradition) and panel discussion, (1pm-3pm; “The Ground on Which I Stand: the Black Aesthetic”) led by Dr. Tawnya Pettiford-Wates. Admission for the workshop is a $10 suggested donation, while the lunchtime panel will be free to the public.

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