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Look Upon Our Lowliness, a spoken word elegy for a chorus of male voices

nytheatre.com q&a preview by Harrison Davd Rivers
March 14, 2013

What is your job on this show?
Playwright.

What is your show about?
A spoken word elegy for a chorus of male voices.

What type of theater do you like most to work on?
I write what I know. As such, my plays are a clear extension of myself. They tend to be about missed connections, miscommunication and possible redemption. They tend to feature middle class people of color and gay men and grandmothers and precocious young people and phones and song and dance and usually some kind of magical thing—like snow or fireflies or sand falling from the sky. More generally, I am excited by theater that moves me—to laughter, to tears, to action. Theater that gets my heart racing, my blood boiling and my palms sweating. I love theater that is playful and heady and real and rough and raw.

What are some of your previous theater credits? (Be specific! Name shows, etc.)
My plays FELL, And She Said, He Said, I Said Yes and When Last We Flew were all produced as part of the New York International Fringe Festival. When Last We Flew, which was directed by Colette Robert and presented at the Lucille Lortel Theatre, received an Excellence in Playwriting Award and a GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Off Off Broadway Theater. The play also received a lovely production at Diversionary Theatre in San Diego last fall. My short plays have been produced at Joe’s Pub, Fresh Ground Pepper, Second Stage, Dixon Place, Atlantic Theater and Atlantic Stage 2, Headlong Theatre in London and the American Airlines Theater on Broadway.

Is there a particular moment in this show that you really love or look forward to? Without giving away surprises, what happens in that moment and why does it jazz you?
Honestly, I am MOST excited about the fact that Look Upon Our Lowliness is being produced in Harlem, a neighborhood with such a rich history of activism and creativity and a tremendously exciting energy. I love that it’s being produced at the same time as Dominique Morisseau’s beautiful play Detroit ’67. I love that so many Harlem based organizations are supporting the show: The Movement Theater Company, Radical Evolution, Project1Voice, Harlem School of the Arts , The National Black Theatre, Hi-Arts, Classical Theatre of Harlem, Harlem Pride, Maison Harlem, Harlem Food Bar, Song Paint and Haute Butch. And lastly, I love (and am enormously grateful) that the play is being helmed by an excellent director, assistant director and dedicated team of producers; that it is being stunningly (and cleverly) designed; and that it features an incredibly talented, beautifully diverse and fiercely committed cast of men.

Which “S” word best describes your show: SMOOTH, SEXY, SMART, SURPRISING?
I’m sort of embarrassed to say this, but… Look Upon Our Lowliness is definitely a sexy show. I mean, it’s a lot of OTHER things too, but of the four options, yes… I have to go with sexy. I don’t know that I necessarily WROTE a sexy show (I definitely did not set out to write a sexy show), but as we explore the text in the rehearsal room, the sexiness is pretty much undeniable. Maybe it’s because the show features nine very good looking men?

If you had ten million dollars that you had to spend on theatrical endeavors, how would you use the money?
Productions. Seriously, I would give money to playwright/director teams and say… go forth! Find a space! Gather a team! And put on a show! There are so many incredible writers in New York City and beyond that are still waiting for their big break—their first big show. And ten million dollars would give at least some of them the chance to shine.