Saturday, November 19, 2011
I Interview Playwrights Part 404: Charity Henson-Ballard
Tricky question for an Army kid. I was born in Columbia, South Carolina, but we moved away when I was just an infant. My family’s in Riverview, Florida now, but I’ve been in New York City the longest. Prior to New York, Germany was the place where I had lived the longest.
Q: Tell me about your upcoming show with Rising Circle and Culture Project. When does it go up?
A: In March of next year, Rising Circle Theater Collective’s Refinery and Culture Project’s 2012 Women Center Stage Festival will be producing a workshop production of my play, Pete the Girl. I’m very excited about this collaboration and what information it will provide me about the magical world I’ve created for the play’s characters. The play focuses on the rise to power of a young African-American teenage softball prodigy, Petrice Kincaide, and her burgeoning relationship with Vera, an agoraphobic physicist who lives in her housing project. The play deals with many themes I’m curious about, specifically the politics of being a Black woman sports celebrity. The world of sports is quickly merging with the entertainment world and with this particular piece, I’ve tried tying together many elements that may not seem inherently connected initially, but when they are brought together, they reflect and refract off of one another to create something that (I believe) tells us about ourselves. Our society. But that all said, whether these random elements successfully interplay is something I’ll leave up to the audience. I wouldn’t dare do the audience’s work. I’m leaving it up to the person in the seat to decide whether they are watching a serious play about something ridiculous or a ridiculous play about something serious. Hopefully that question will lead to self-discovery for the individual watching the show.
Q: What else are you working on?
A: I’m currently developing a play called Tower In a Garden with Rising Circle and Casita Maria about environmental racism and public housing. The play weaves tenant testimonials, reports, new articles, scientific data and Biblical imagery.
Q: If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?
A: That we would return to discussing the issues addressed in a play rather than simply whether or not we liked a play, the acting, the set, etc.
Q: What kind of theater excites you?
A: I’m excited by theater that sets out to educate me, not just entertain me. Theater that lingers in my psyche long after I’ve seen it. Theater that makes me Google something to see if it’s true. Something that makes me want to tell my co-worker that he or she has to see what I just saw. Something that makes me blog, that might actually implicate me as a member of American society. (I’m willing to risk it.) Add to that a theatrical experience that is beautiful, thoughtful, nuanced and responsible. Art that is a conversation between playwright, director, designer, actor and audience. A community experience. A community conversation.
Q: What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?
A: Be passionate about your work. Have conversations ABOUT your work. Have conversations IN your work. Find your artistic support system and be part of someone else’s support system. We help each other, remember?
Q: Plugs, please:
A: Pete the Girl will be going up at the Living Theater March 27th through April 2nd, 2012. It’s being directed by WP alumna Donya Washington. The woman is amazing and I’m excited to work with her again.