‘Black Matters’ anthology showcases emerging ‘audacious’ playwright | The University of Kansas – news. ku. edu

LAWRENCE — What word best describes the work of Lewis Morrow?

“Audacious, ” said Nicole Hodges Persley, associate professor associated with American studies and African & African American studies at the University of Kansas.

Nicole Hodges Persley, University of Kansas professor She is the editor of a new book titled “Black Matters: Lewis Morrow Plays, ” an anthology of three works written by growing Kansas City-based playwright Morrow that focus on the vivid emotional realities of modern Black life. It’s published by Methuen Drama/Bloomsbury.

“I can’t name a playwright right now who is writing such unapologetic language, ” Hodges Persley said. “And he’s not doing it so that someone will see his work and hopefully pick it up for a TV series. He writes stories that really appeal to the urgency associated with what it means to live as a Black person in America. ”

Morrow’s trilogy includes “Baybra’s Tulips, ” about a former convict who moves in with his sister under the particular pretense of rehabilitation but is actually there to take revenge on his abusive brother-in-law. “Begetters” explores generational trauma through the lens of a couple in their 60s. “Mother/son” finds a Black man hoping to help their drug-addicted white parent get clean, only to discover that may be the least of their problems.

Hodges Persley said two of the 3 plays that are bookends are tales about absence.

"Black Matters: Lewis Morrow Plays" book cover “There’s this idea of how you wish your mother would be within ‘Mother/son. ’ She’s not really that, but it doesn’t mean that need doesn’t go away. Same with ‘Baybra’s Tulips. ’ He wanted a relationship with both his mother and father that will turned out very different, but even the absence of those relationships shaped him, ” said Hodges Persley, that is also serving as interim vice provost for diversity, equity, inclusion & belonging at KU.

In addition to Morrow’s command of language, Hodges Persley particularly appreciates his ability to counter the particular cliches often seen in mainstream American theatre regarding Black lives.

“When a person see these tropes around absence associated with a father figure or a certain negative stereotypical representation of Black mothers, he doesn’t give you those. This individual gives you families that have money, they have a partnership, they’re not living in poverty. He’s taking average representations of Dark families plus saying, ‘You can’t continue to impose these stereotypes and mythologies on us. ’”

Also serving because artistic director of the KC Melting Pot Theatre (the city’s premier Africa American theatrical company), Hodges Persley has directed four of Morrow’s plays. At times, she feels they have the comparable working relationship similar to the particular late Lloyd Richards and August Wilson of “The Piano Lesson. ” Richards and Wilson had a collaborative relationship since director-playwright that will Hodges Persley admires.

“We share apartments in each other’s brains, ” Hodges Persley said. “We can have the best hangout plus collab, and then when we’re ready in order to slam doors, we’re ready to slam doors. We often agree to disagree yet ultimately have created a great partnership. I completely trust his composing, and he trusts me as a director to turn the story into a 3D, living, moving thing that reflects the intention of what this individual wants like a playwright. ”

Already in the middle of two book projects with London-based Bloomsbury (best known as the original publisher of the particular Harry Potter books), the professor took a gamble that Morrow’s work might also get the company’s attention. But she made this clear their talent went deeper than mere cultural zeitgeist.

“I pitched it with this framework that he’s not writing to Black Lives Matter. He’s not really talking about post-George Floyd. He’s contextualizing this within the larger Black history: ‘This isn’t the first time we’ve been here, ’” the girl said.

A Detroit native, Hodges Persley came to KU in 2009, where she honed her expertise in Photography equipment American theatre and hip-hop performance. (She is one of a small group of scholars in the U. S. that concentrate on hip-hop’s musical and cultural influence in theater. ) Her recent publications include “Breaking It Down: Audition Techniques for Actors of the particular Global Majority” (Rowman & Littlefield, 2021) and Sampling and Remixing Blackness in Hip-Hop Theater and Performance (University associated with Michigan Press, 2021).

With constant political assaults on Black rights and culture going on now, do theatrical plays actually matter?

“In African American communities and particularly within the United states theatre, the erasure of Black theatre voices historically and systemically in the United States offers been strategic, ” Hodges Persley stated. “We need the theater — whether that be the church pulpit or the street corner or the particular library. It’s vital with regard to us to continue to tell our stories because if we don’t inform our tales, they don’t exist. ”

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