Human beings are a marvel: complex, perplexing, and always sub textual – their ‘come from’ informed by race, gender, their culture, history, one’s own personal set of circumstances and of course the times In which one lives. Fascinating.
Place these human beings (characters) in the given circumstances and the world created by an August Wilson, Lorraine Hansberry, James Baldwin, Amiri Baraka, John Henry Redwood, Ifa Bayeza, Lynn Nottage, William Shakespeare, Eugene O’Neill, Anton Chekov and the like and I am ecstatic working to fully realize this work -to tell these stories on the American Stage both as a director and actress in my own unique way.
My work is always extensively researched for I love history; black history in particularly. Ah what the human race has endured, survived and triumphed against!
As an African-American women I take great pride in my history and the contributions my people have made; their beauty, strength, pain, and suffering that has produced gospel, jazz, blues, soul food, classical literature, and art and an oral tradition of black and unknown bards.
All of my work will be informed by these rhythms and tones and will always be universal by being quite specific, for universality comes from the truthful identity of what is…specificity.
As the Co-founder and Artistic Director of Going to the River, I concentrate on developing, nurturing, and presenting the under-served and unheard voices of female playwrights of color. Our presentations, readings, panels, guest speakers are always multi-cultural including female directors, designers, technicians and staff.
Going to the River was founded in 1999 and since that time has presented the work of hundreds of female playwrights via an annual festival of readings of new work and or work never produced in New York. A partial listing of playwrights read would include: France-Luce Benson, the late Marti Evans-Charles, Cheryl Davis, Lydia Diamond, Nancy Giles, Cassandra Medley, T.Tara Turk, Shay Youngblood, Breena Clarke, the late Glenda Dickeron, Micki Grant, Aishah Rahman, Regina Taylor, and many more.
Going to the River Festival of Short Plays by Women of Color has produced 23 short plays on the main-stage at the Ensemble Studio theatre written by Holly Harms, Naveen Bahar Choudhury, Desi Moreno Penson, P.J. Gibson, Ruby Dee, Kia Corthron, Lynn Nottage, Cori Thomas, J.e. Franklin, Nan Ewing, Kara Corthron, Regina Taylor, Philana Omorotionwan, Bridgett Wimberly, Pearl Cleage, and Christine Jean Chambers. Featuring Ruby Dee, Carmen De Lavallade, and Micki Grant and directed by the late Chuck Patterson, Talvin Wilks, Woodie King, Lydia Fort, Jamie Richards, and Dean Irby.
The New York Times, Backstage, Timeout, The Beacon, The Amsterdam News, and The Village Voice reviewed these plays. The work of Cori Thomas, Bridgett Wimberly, Kara Corthton and Desi Moreno Penson were published in The Best Short Plays of 2009.
WHEN JANUARY FEELS LIKE SUMMER, by Cori Thomas is currently on the main-stage at The Ensemble Studio Theatre. This play had its first reading at Going To The River Festival 2007.
I am gratified that Going To The River has accomplished so much; yet, I am ever aware that there is still so much to be done.
And so, I am about doing that work by Artistic Directing, directing, acting, and or writing and conceiving work.
This fulfills me, inspires me, and is my reason d’etre as an artist. How very blessed I am to do what I love: to be a part of the American Theatre!
Elizabeth Van Dyke