B.j Tindal is in constant conversation with the director and cast/crew of TROUBLE IN MIND, and their role includes researching extensive of historical information such as the time period, lifestyle, the play's structure, its language, its themes, etc. to make Alice Childress's play and the presented interpretation as authentic as possible.
B.J Tindal (they/them) is a Black queer playwright, teaching artist, and sour candy enthusiast. They recently moved back to their hometown of Philadelphia after completing their MFA in Writing for the Screen and Stage at Northwestern University. Since moving back to the city, BJ has been working with a number of organizations devoted to arts-Education, including Philly Young Playwrights and After-School Activities Partnerships as well as creating their own workshops designed to encourage writing-confidence for elementary school students. BJ’s play Goodnight, Tyler received its world premiere in February 2019 at the Alliance Theater and has been published by Samuel French/Concord Theatricals in Fall 2020. Their other play, What We Look Like, had its inaugural production at Oberlin College’s new Irene and Alan Wurtzel Theater also in February 2019. BJ is honored to move forward in this new way of collaborating with Philadelphia artists at the Philly Artist’ Collective
B.J has been vital in helping the actors familiarize themselves and understand Alice Childress's TROUBLE IN MIND world set in 1950s' New York!
And also what it was like for black actors & actresses on stage and in film during that time period!
Welcome to the 50's
Join us on Saturday, October 24th @ 7pm!FREE to attend; ALL donations benefit BLM Philly
Alice Childress's TROUBLE IN MIND is brought to life through Amina's visionary direction!
INTRODUCING: Amina Robinson
Born and raised in Philadelphia, Amina Robinson is a professional actor, director, and currently a Professor of Acting and Musical Theater at Temple University.
Amina's directing credits include Sunset Baby at Azuka Theatre, Dauphin Island at Passage Theater, The Color Purple at Theatre Horizon, Seventy Four Seconds to Judgment at The Arden Theatre, Godspell, and the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at Temple University, and Seventy IV Seconds to Judgement as presented with Go Kash Onstage in Residence at the Arden. Amina is also the first Black woman to win a Barrymore Award for Outstanding Direction of a Musical for The Color Purple.
Trouble in Mind follows an experienced Black stage actress through rehearsals of a major Broadway production of an anti-lynching play written by a white man. It's a wry and moving look at racism, identity and ego in not only the world of theater, but in American society.
Regarding Trouble in Mind, Amina says:
“The world of Trouble in Mind, for me, is very similar to the world we live in today. We find ourselves unable to break the chains of racism and white supremacy, even today. Our now moment is the now moment of my mother, my mom mom and my nana, each time taking slightly different shape. In the arts, this moment has led and leads us to the exact same place that many of these characters find themselves in, in this play. We oftentimes hide our truths for fear of losing our livelihoods, whitewash stories and narratives for white comfort and consumption, abide by the notion that we should be grateful for crumbs from the American Theater’s table of plenty. Some shuck and some jive, others fight against hope, and every other way of survival found in between. This is Trouble in Mind.
For me the “trouble” is actually that Wiletta has reached a place where she is saying 'NO, I will not abide in it any longer… even if that means my own destruction and the death of my life’s dreams.' She is torn, and the sad reality is, this trouble only holds value in her mind because the world that she lives in couldn’t care less."
Experience Amina’s vision for the world of Alice Childress’s TROUBLE IN MIND
in the virtual reading on Saturday, October 24th @ 7pm
Introducing Joilet F. Harris as leading lady "Wiletta" in PAC's virtual reading of Alice Childress’s TROUBLE IN MIND.
Joilet Harris is a Philadelphia treasure. Throughout her 30 year career, Joilet consistently proves that she is a powerful and dynamic presence on stage as well as on television, with roles on The Wire, Do No Harm and Law & Order: SVU. Joilet has also toured the world as a vocalist, most recently playing Ella Fitzgerald in Ella, The Ella Fitzgerald Story. She has appeared on many Philadelphia stages including the Walnut Street Theatre, Act 2 Playhouse, People’s Light and Theatre Company and Delaware Theatre Company. She most recently starred as Gloria in the Broadway-bound Because of Winn Dixie and has also appeared as Motormouth Maybelle in Hairspray, Miss Jones in How to Succeed in Business… and in Ain’t Misbehavin’ and It Ain’t Nothin But the Blues. In addition to her many talents, Harris is a founding and former board member of The Philadelphia Black Theatre Festival, and is an active member of the Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church where she serves as a soloist choir member and assistant choir director.
“Wiletta” is a veteran black actress who made a career out of playing stereotypical black roles but aspires to be cast in parts more deserving of her rich talents; as antics from her white director and scenes from a stereotypical script intensify will Wiletta be able to sustain the “act”?
Watch Joilet’s magnetic portrayal on Saturday, October 24th @ 7pm
FREE to attend; ALL donations benefit BLM Philly
Welcome back Victoria Goins as our Assistant Director for the PAC's virtual reading of Alice Childress's TROUBLE IN MIND!
Victoria Aaliyah Goins is an emerging director who has a desire to utilize storytelling to reveal the depths of humanity. She is currently directing a devised piece at Arcadia University entitled, "Who Are You?". Recently she has directed virtual plays for the "Going Viral Festival" and Jouska Playworks. She is also a member of Director's Gathering and her work has been featured at the 2019 DG 'Wonder Womxn' JAM. Victoria has also worked as an Assistant Director at The Arden alongside Terry Nolen and Amina Robinson as well as at InterAct Theatre alongside KC MacMillan. Victoria is also a Philadelphia based actor. Recent Credits Include: Nina (Sunset Baby), Squeak (The Color Purple), and Maria Marten (Maria Marten or The Murder in the Red Barn). For more info visit victoriaagoins.com .
We surely can't wait to share this special project with Victoria and with all of you
on Saturday, October 24th @ 7pm!
FREE to attend; ALL donations benefit BLM Philly!
Written by: Natajia Sconiers
On September 10th at 7pm, Philadelphia Shakespeare and theatre lovers rejoiced when the Revolution Shakespeare team uploaded the filmed adaptation of Shakespeare’s sonnets, written by, filmed and produced by a broad spectrum of artists in the Philadelphia community.
This impressive project spearheaded by Revolution Shakespeare’s Artistic Director Tai Verley, brings a complicated and often over simplified universal theme to this year’s philly fringe: love.
With a project this huge, one is sure to find at least one Philadelphia Artist they recognize, know or have seen perform, and if you are reading this blog...you can now say you know two!
The Philadelphia Artists’ Collective is proud to say that two of our own Artistic Associates (Charlotte Northeast and myself: Natajia Sconiers) were a part of such a unique and impacting project.
Below you’ll find a short interview in which Charlotte and I discuss our unique experiences as writer (Charlotte) and actor (myself) and our process and bringing Shakespeare’s classic words and their powerful adaptation to your screens!
What sonnets did you work on and in what capacity?
Charlotte: I was a writer for Sonnets 65, 96 and 150
Tay: I performed in sonnet 82, adapted by Erlina Ortiz
Had you had any experience adapting classical work before?
Charlotte: I have had experience taking classical work and creating a streamlined script for production. The most intense piece I ever did was taking Fair Maid of the West, parts 1 and 2 and making them into one script for the PAC production in 2015. That took me AGES. Basically, almost every script that PAC produces has gone through some sort of process. Classical work is like bread - gotta knead the dough to make good bread. That might be a silly metaphor but that's what I got.
Tay: Never! This was my 1st time working on a piece that was directly adapted from Shakespeare’s works, and I was really excited to discover and also curious to learn more about the process and Tai was super gracious and more than willing to sit down and discuss with me all the work that went into this project and the entire process
What is your experience with Revolution Shakespeare as a company?
Charlotte: I have been a part of 2 of the all-women readings and have directed one. I love what Tai is doing and can't wait to see what she does next.
Tay: I’d seen a couple productions and worked with Tai Verley during my time at Del Shakes but this is my first (and hopefully not the last) project with Revolution Shakespeare.
What resonated with you the most in your sonnets?
Charlotte: Maybe it's just my cynicism speaking but I definitely heard some snarky voices in my head when I was working on these pieces. The sonnets are pretty raw in terms of the emotion that threads throughout them. The raw love and passion and self-flagellation at times can be overwhelming, appealing and repulsing all at once for me. Definitely speaks to the passion of love in perhaps a younger Shakespeare. Yeah, I feel like an old lady when I read some of them - they are just so private in public, you know?
Tay: What was so endearing to me about the sonnet I performed in is that the writer is expressing or acknowledging that this person they admire makes an effort to get attention/validation from others online and they are good at it. They are acknowledging “hey, you are gorgeous and other people/strangers you don’t even know think so too… but I see you without all the makeup and the show of social media, and I think you are beautiful in public and private”. It’s not shaming or belittling the person for “performing” for others ( because who are we kidding? I think we all do that/seek validation to some degree) but it is accepting all parts of the person. Saying i see all parts of you and i think they are all equally beautiful.
What is similar in the sonnets (or) how would one identify the sonnet as coming from you? What about your sonnets are essentially "you"?
Charlotte: Sonnet 150 spoke to me the most. As an immigrant, the thought of loving something so flawed and yet wanting to put all you have into it made me examine my own relationship with the United States. People often ask me, "Why do you live here?" "Why don't you go back to Canada - especially now?" And I really struggle with the answer because most of my adult life has been spent in the US and I have a deep love/hate relationship with it. And the US I moved to in the late 90's isn't the same place as it is now. So, Sonnet 150 somehow speaks to that - I'm not sure I achieved that but that's what I was going for…
Tay: I've always been super into visuals and cinematography, mood achieved through colors and lighting and effects. I’ve always been super aware of aesthetics in television and film and how are they affecting/manipulating my emotions and experience as an audience member overtly or subtly? I tried to achieve that in the way I filmed my sonnet.
What was the most fun about working on this project? What was the most challenging?
Charlotte: Fun was trusting myself and actually putting pen on paper. Challenging was actually trusting myself and putting pen on paper.
Tay: The most fun was actually filming the things outside and seeing how things came together when editing. The most challenging was trying to figure out how i would physically achieve the things i wanted to do in my head...and the sound quality! I hope everything I did matched what the playwright wanted or they were at least interested/intrigued by my take on their words.
Now that you’ve got an insiders peek at our process, see how our sonnets and the sonnets of even more talented artists came out!
You only have until October 4th, so better start binging!
Written By: Jamie Hafner
On the sidewalks of Fishtown, Harriet’s Bookshop owner Jeannine Cook can be found bringing the store’s shelves of books and other goods outside on the weekends.
The Coronavirus outbreak has not stopped Cook’s mission; To celebrate female writers, activists, and artists while creating a space for dialogue and discussion.
“Our mission is slightly different now” Cook noted when discussing the adjustments her bookshop made to continue to serve customers, adding that, “We [Harriet’s Bookshop] took some lemons and made lemonade”.
Harriet’s Bookshop continues to serve the community every Thursday through Saturday, creating socially distant spaces for conversation and book-sharing in a Coronavirus-safe manner. The bookshop’s collection of books changes monthly, thanks to Cook’s monthly collaborations with different female artists who curate the shop’s book selection.
“This is the right thing for me, celebrating women,” Cook said, detailing that “For the most part, [I had] never been to a bookstore that celebrated women and black people. There was a void”.
Harriet's Bookshop is located on:
258 E Girard Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19125
Fellow Philadelphia bookstore owner, Lynn Washington, also noticed a void when serving as Design Studio Supervisor at the Free Library of Philadelphia in 2001.
“My job put me in the position to be acutely aware of the abysmal numbers of African-American children who were not able to read by third grade,” Washington remembers.
“My daughter learned to read by kindergarten, and I knew that that happened because I and her father talked, read and sang to her since she was a baby”.
Once Washington discovered that she could create her own bookselling business, she knew that she could make a difference in the lives of Philadelphia African-American children.
“My main objective was to get quality books and other educational items, such as puzzles, quiz cards, into the hands and homes of low-income parents, for themselves and their children”.
Now, Washington houses Philadelphia’s largest selection of Afrocentric Children’s Books at her bookshop, Books & Stuff.
Even though the pandemic has temporarily shut Books & Stuff’s doors, interested customers can still purchase books and merchandise online, including by purchasing new SURPRISE! packages.
“My daughter prompted the idea of "surprise" packages. Soon after I had to close, because of COVID-19, I began thinking about closing the shop for good. She encouraged me to refocus my efforts towards my website shop. My daughter suggested selling packages of books/gifts for children to have something to do, as summer was approaching” Washington stated.
Shoppers can select a price point and age range, allowing Books & Stuff to tailor the perfect package for each customer.
Books & Stuff is located on:
23 Maplewood Mall, Philadelphia, PA 19144
Across the city, Hakim’s Bookstore & Gift Shop continues to sell books online and has been able to safely open its doors to the public once more.
Opened in the mid-1950s by prominent black scholar, publisher, and speaker Dakum Hakim, Hakim’s Bookstore was one of the first bookstores in Philadelphia to carry books on African American history and culture as well as Islamic history and culture. Hakim was also one of the first to ship books to prison inmates.
Now operated by Hakim’s daughter, Yvonne Blake, the store continues to have an impact on the community.
“[Hakim’s Bookstore] is an institution. [The community] knew my dad. He did not have just a bookstore, it was a gathering place in the community. He was a force in the community” Blake described, adding that “My father left a great legacy. He was ahead of his time. Now more than ever I wish he was still alive”.
Since Hakim’s passing in 1997, the bookstore continues to thrive as it adapts to internet sales, social media, and even a global pandemic.
“We had 30 Online orders after the murder of George Floyd. Everyone wanted the same books” Blake said, citing “lots of orders from Portland, Oregon, Guam, including International Orders from London and Ireland”.
Readers from around the world can purchase books from Hakim’s online, and lucky Philadelphians can stop by the West Philadelphia location, even as people stay isolated during the Coronavirus outbreak.
Hakim's Bookstore & Gift Shop is located on:
210 S 52nd St, Philadelphia, PA 19139
No matter the obstacle, these Black-Owned Philadelphia bookstores continue to find ways to reach customers in times of uncertainty. Such inspiration comes from people like Dakum Hakim and the namesake of Harriet Bookshop’s, Harriet Tubman.
“Harriet exemplifies what is possible when you think about it. How was it possible for her to do all these things” Cook explained, adding that Tubman’s mission to better the lives of Black people helped her accomplish so much.
“That’s the power of a mission. Harriet has a north star and we have our mission. Harriet is our north star”.
Written by: Jamie Hafner
PAC has taken a deep dive into the influential works of Black authors and playwrights to compile an extensive list of literary resources for our audience, including poems, short stories, and contemporary and classical plays. This week’s blog highlights four of many, providing a short summary of the plays and ways to enjoy them for free!
The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window - Lorraine Hansberry (1964)
As the final staged work of the legendary Black female playwright, Lorraine Hansberry, this comedy-drama tells the story of a struggling writer and artist in 1960s New York City. themes of race, suicide, and even homosexuality in an age where presenting these topics on stage was taboo. The three-act play follows Sidney, who must face corrupt politics, societal conformity, and the dreams of his actress wife, Iris, as she pursues a career on television and he begins printing an artistic underground newspaper for the Greenwich Village. Hansberry’s play brings to life the vibrant world of the underground New York City press and explores the Bohemian Culture that changed communities and inspired new movements.
Read Hansberry’s play here: https://www.southshoreinternational.org/ourpages/auto/2016/5/18/59134211/Lorraine%20Hansberry%20The%20Sign%20in%20Sidney%20Brusteins%20Window.pdf
Ceremonies in Dark Old Men - Lonne Elder III (1969)
This play-turned-movie from Pulitzer Prize nominee Lonne Elder III focuses on former vaudeville dancer Russell B Parker and his struggling barbershop in Harlem. Russell and his two sons can barely keep their barbershop alive, while Russell’s daughter, Adele, works endlessly to keep the family afloat. Russell’s wife works herself to death to provide for the family, due to Russell’s lack of ambition since his departure from vaudeville. When the Parkers become divided over illegal activity that brings riches to the family, Russell must confront his past and the racist society he lives in to save himself and the Parker family. While the barbershop protects the family from the racism they face in the world, the games that Russell and his family play with society and with the economy. From the temptations of illegal activity to wealth, Elder’s play shines a light on what threatens Black families in 1960s America and the need to break these societal and economic cycles.
Read Elder’s Play here:
Listen to the Audio Version here:
In Splendid Error - William B. Branch (1954)
William B. Branch’s drama, (produced in February by PAC and Theatre in the X for our Venture Reading Series), follows the highs and lows of the friendship of Fredrick Douglass and John Brown in the years prior to the Civil War. As Brown plans what becomes the notorious 1859 Raid on Harpers Ferry, Douglass struggles to support it. Branch guides audiences through Douglass’s internal conflict while accounting for the historic details of the Raid of Harpers Ferry. Such playwriting gives the stories we read in history books a personal narrative, driven by personal gain, ego, humanity, and the need to create a better future.
Read Branch’s Play here:
Rachel - by Angela Grimke (1916)
The oldest play on this list, Angela Grimke’s female-driven play follows Rachel, a recent high-school graduate whose family lives in the North during the early 20th century. Not only does Rachel face systematic and societal racism head-on, but also sacrifices her dream of having children in order to save others from the harsh realities of racism in America. Even though Grimke’s play was first developed and performed over 100 years ago, the themes of the play still highly relevant today.
Read Grimke’s Play here:
By reading more books and plays by Black Authors and Playwrights, readers can not only gain new perspectives on the experiences of others but will become more educated on the Black experience in America and beyond!
An in depth conversation with our Artist-In-Residence, Andrew Criss & the inspiration behind his vivid oceanic creations for our fall fringe production...The Sea Voyage!
PAC’s first show of this season started with a figurative and literal bang! From gunshots to sword fights, love triangles and romantic reunions, Fletcher & Massinger’s The Sea Voyage directed by Dan Hodge was a vibrant and bold work of art and the same has been said about the artwork created by fellow cast mate and PAC’s Artist in Resident for the season, Andrew Criss. Audience members and readers alike may be shocked to find out the actor playing the charismatic, brawny authoritative sailor known as “Tibalt” had another talent up his nautically stripped muscle clad sleeve; he is also the genius behind all the vibrant artwork and character portraits created for PAC’s fringe production; The Sea Voyage.
The Artist in residency program allows collaboration between performance art and other art mediums and provides a space for various artists to find inspiration in a particular PAC production and create their own art in alliance with the show’s themes and aesthetics. As an Artist in Residence, Andrew Criss designs all visual art and graphics for the fall and spring production for PAC’s 2019-20 season.
One of Andrew Criss’s side jobs in his 20s was as an illustrator in graphic design. His first introduction to print media came around while attending school in Austin, where he quickly became enthralled with the play posters he’d seen for a small theatre company. He wanted to create play posters that were as popular “ the music venue posters [and] cool enough that people would want to tear them down and collect them and keep them”. Traditionally an oil painter with more experience in portraits and landscapes, Criss missed out on the “storytelling aspect” that his past work , in creating theatre posters for shows provided and his excitement in going back to print media combined with painting is evidently presented in his work.
“It was kind of a perfect amalgam of my interest in design and performing and visual art...that ability to weave storytelling into the painting as well which was particularly appealing to me”
- Andrew Criss
The 3-d miniature ship, uniquely shaped moon and boldly colored waters in Criss’s image shown above dazzle the eye and seem to invoke the feeling of swaying or constant motion, that make the image feel fresh and alive but also invoke a feeling of nostalgia in it’s viewer. Andrew Criss’s artistic style for The Sea Voyage was inspired by classic illustrations from the golden age of illustration and is a nod to that, Criss looked at two acclaimed storybook illustrators in particular, N.C. Wyeth and Howard Pyle. Howard Pyle is of particular interest to Andrew Criss as Pyle is from Brandywine Valley, Delaware where Criss currently lives. Criss also used “hand applied” materials (oil painting etc) in the beginning construction of his illustrations.
“Howard Pyle is the person who gave us what we think pirates look like. He illustrated Treasure Island and he’s the one who sort of gave us the “hodge-podge” costume, sash on the head, random mis-match clothes. That was really his visual invention and then N.C. Wyeth continued that tradition with some of his illustrations as well”- Andrew Criss
“An attack on A Galleon” - oil canvas by Howard Pyle
Along with creating the image for The Sea Voyage also created portraits for each character based on each actor cast in the role in the show. These eleven portraits were also created in a similar style as the graphic created for the show. Andrew Criss’s idea to incorporate a “meet the cast” component to his vision for the artistic media for The Sea Voyage was extremely unique, and a refreshing take on allowing the cast faces to be a part of the storytelling as well.
“When you do a portrait you really study the person... get to know them and you're also telling the story of their character, so it's a great way to begin character research as well, as well as study the play and think how can I tell the story of this play... the graphics are the first introduction to the play, so that poster that advertisement that postcard, is the very first thing that the audience might see, especially if they don’t know the play, it's one of the first impressions of the play that they have, so there's an important responsibility" - Andrew Criss
You can look forward to more of Andrew Criss’s work that was created for our currently postponed production of Strindberg’s The Dance of Death directed by Damon Bonetti, and check back in to see what inspired his creations for this tumultuous dark drama!
Actor Bob Weick plays Papa Briquet, the weary, long-suffering ringmaster and owner of the circus in He Who Gets Slapped. We extend the invitation to all of our actors, collaborators, and artists to share their thoughts on our PAC blog, and we were so delighted that Bob had a lovely portrait of his own journey to share alongside his portrayal of Papa, and his exploration of the play's themes on today's political climate.
How do we begin again? How can we remake our lives? How do we face the inevitable pain that comes with this brief gift of life? Must we run away from our past? How do we throw off the chains that hold us back? And, should we somehow find the courage to do so, where do we go? What awaits us on this new adventure?
Should you ever find yourself asking these questions, remember, "the circus turns no one away".
The story being told in He Who Gets Slapped, though written in 1916, is one we can still connect to today. Along with a great deal of humor and evocative music, we witness the horrors of class warfare.
"One of the many benefits of wealth....you can get away with anything".
"The rich buy up everything and lock it away."
The dehumanizing view of women as property: "Just put her in a pretty dress."
The fear of loneliness and aging. "You are not young or beautiful. What does it matter what you want."
The ever present threat of jealousy, despair: "There is only one thing for you.... To forget."
All this and more can be experienced in this production.
How we live our lives matters. Asking questions matters. Theatre has a special way of reminding us to look at the ourselves and the world we inherited. A world we will pass on the others.
Join us as we tell a tale of the beauty and courage to be found in life ... and in death.
- Bob Weick
Bob Weick in an undated photo, courtesy of Kaki Burns.
We've worked with a number of tremendously talented photographers over the years -- look no further than David Comdico's stunning images of the men aboard the Tall Ship Gazela in The Sea Plays or his etherial black-and-white portrait of Chris Coucill's Timon of Athens. We've jumped up and down excitedly when collaborating with Kate Raines (yielding images such as our eerie, falling bride of Blood Wedding), and there was simply nothing else to do when viewing Kyle Cassidy's Vanity Fair-style portrait of our actors in Mary Stuart but gasp, and have it framed immediately.
So photographer Ashley LaBonde had some tall shoes to fill when tackling the promotional shots for "He Who Gets Slapped" -- during which we asked her to arrive at our space, capture images of the actors on a tight schedule after being thrown into makeshift costumes, and document the process.
Her work continues to astonish and astound us, and some of our favorite images from that shoot are the behind-the-scenes candids of makeup artist Jessica DalCanton hard at work, or the glimmering moment when actor Bob Weick, killing time before his costume fitting, began practicing a hat trick. The decision to photoshop her images into the poster design was directly inspired by the painterly quality that she brings to the table, yielding our oil-painting poster with our actors' faces, perfectly captured by Ashley. Enjoy this gallery of images, and don't miss HE WHO GETS SLAPPED.
Thanks for reading the PAC blog, where we share what's happening behind the scenes, what we're thinking about this week, and what classic stories are inspiring us right now.