The Robey Theatre Company launches its Playwright Series

The Robey Theatre Company launches its Playwright Series

The Robey Theatre Company co-founders Danny Glover and
Producing Artistic Director Ben Guillory.

  The Robey Theatre Company Playwright Series: Because Black voices matter. Because Black stories matter.

The Robey Theatre Company has presented award-winning African-American theatre in Los Angeles for over two decades.

For twenty-six years, The Robey Theatre Company has made its mission the telling of the stories of the Black global experience on stage. It is now also doing so in print.

The Robey Theatre Company Playwright Series currently has nine play scripts in publication, available in paperback edition and also in Kindle format. For the first time, these plays—all written by Black playwrights—are available for purchase directly through The Robey Theatre Company. These important plays have been published in handsome editions with striking new cover art and text.

The titles can all be purchased here.  

            The plays are:

            Birdland Blue by Randy Ross Ph.D. Birdland Blue, a two-act play, offers a fictionalized riff on a sticky, warm night in the life of legendary musician Miles Davis. It’s summer 1959. The place: Birdland, the famed New York City jazz club. Possessed by the incompatible goals of both creating innovative music and living the life of the rich and famous, Miles comes under great pressure: (1) a nightclub owner doesn’t want to pay him what he’s worth; (2) the police threaten his livelihood; (3) key members of his great sextet (including Cannonball Adderley and John Coltrane) are rebelling or threatening to quit the band; and (4) a beautiful writer shows up to tilt his balance. Wrestling with his personal demons, will Miles make it through the night unscathed? 

            Pity the Proud Ones by Kurt Maxey. It is 1915 and America is about to lose its innocence. Martin O’Grady has lost his, and his mulatto son shows no intention of letting it be forgotten. That is, as long as he hasn’t been paid for services rendered to his father. The two men clash when the father is forced to pay his son, by the only woman he ever loved: an ex-prostitute, who is a part owner of the most profitable bordello in St. Augustine, Florida. Promises are made; contracts to be honored. Yet a hurricane makes its deadly approach. Will there be enough time for suffering to be resolved and love to win out over pride? Only time will tell.

            The Emperor’s Last Performance by Melvin Ishmael Johnson. Charles Gilpin’s performance in Eugene O’Neill’s play, The Emperor Jones, propelled him to the height of his craft and, at the same time, made O’Neill one of America’s greatest playwrights. But the role of Brutus Jones in The Emperor Jones was not Charles Gilpin’s greatest performance. His greatest performance was in pretending that he liked the role that made him a star. The Emperor’s Last Performance traces the life and career of pioneering African-American actor Charles Sidney Gilpin, from his early days in vaudeville, to his rise to fame in Eugene O’Neill’s The Emperor Jones

            Sabado Mornings by George Corbin. Set in contemporary Los Angeles, we’re introduced to Eddie – ex-LAPD detective and widower, still struggling with personal pain and shame over his wife’s unnecessary death. Rosa, a Latina Mexican waitress has remained in a state of suspended animation refusing to realize that her husband, who disappeared while visiting family in Mexico, is not likely to return. The play explores the budding mutual attraction and unveils the evolution of a reluctant love story. 

            92 Grove Street by Randy Ross PhD. Beginning in 1963, a fiery minister, Malcolm X, and a struggling writer, Alex Haley, began meeting late night in a small room to create what would become a touchstone book of the 20th century, “The Autobiography of Malcolm X”. 92 Grove Street probes what went on in that room over 50 years ago. 

            The Magnificent Dunbar Hotel by Levy Lee Simon. We want to take you on a journey, a ride, back to a time not too long gone, when the men were so dashing and the women were so fine, if you weren’t careful you might lose your mind. Come with us back to the ’30s and ’40s on Central Avenue in LA, where jazz was the music of the day. Back to a time when men kept their hair cut and their shoes shined, and you could get a chicken sandwich for a dime. Sunshine and palm trees, cruising on Central Avenue with ease, where the Duke, the Count, Dorothy Dandridge and Lena Horne performed your favorite songs, and intellectuals debated the politics going on, and the average everyday folk felt right at home. Feel that LA night breeze, as the jazz music makes you tap your feet and grab your knees. Where was this place you might ask, this place to be, that had all that jazz! Well, do tell, do tell, ring the bell. Come with us back to the Magnificent Dunbar Hotel! It stood high and majestic on Central Avenue in the 30s and 40s, this place to be for the Black community. Entertainers, socialites, athletes, intellectuals, and everyday folk, made The Dunbar Hotel their home before she stood forgotten and all alone.

            The Wrong Kind of People by George Corbin. Theo, an African-American law student needing privacy to study for the California Bar Exam in 1942, checks in at the exclusive Guardian Hotel located in downtown Los Angeles. He is assigned to “The Colored Room” a rarely used, run-down room at the back of the hotel. During his first night at the Guardian, his studies are interrupted by four diverse “denizens of the night” who seek private entry to the hotel via his window. Over the course of the evening, Theo gains the real world education needed to prepare him for the challenges of a career as an attorney. 

            The Reckoning by Kimba Henderson. One plantation. Two families. So many secrets. Rubaiyat, a thriving Louisiana crawfish farm owned by the Robillards, an affluent African-American family, was once a sugar plantation worked by slaves, and is consequently filled with ghosts of the pasts and all manner of secrets and treacheries. As LJ, the family’s fiery but ailing patriarch, prepares to hand over control of the estate to his devoted, yet defiant daughter, Nathalie, her own dashed dreams and family secrets long-buried coming to light put Rubaiyat’s future at risk. Then, the resurgence of an age-old betrayal brings the Robillards face to face with the Burnsides, a White family, whose long-held claims to Rubaiyat and bitter desperation to possess it by any means, have made them a dangerous force that will be reckoned with.

            The Daughters of the Kush by George Corbin. When Kathy Greenberg Battle, a young white woman raised in Black culture, decides to pledge the only African-American sorority at the small, midwestern university she attends, it triggers unexpected consequences. The year is 1963 and if Kathy is accepted to become one of the Daughters of the Kush, she would be their first white member. Soon, one of the Daughters responsible for admitting new sisters into Lambda Kappa Nu finds herself succumbing to a volatile mixture of implicit bias, jealousy, and her self-assigned power as the Defender of the Daughters, leading to unexpected moral dilemmas and tragedy. 

            With the exception of The Magnificent Dunbar Hotel, all of the plays were developed in whole or in part in The Robey Theatre Company Playwrights Lab.

            Six of the plays received their World Premieres on the mainstage of The Robey Theatre Company: The Magnificent Dunbar Hotel; The Reckoning; The Wrong Kind of People; The Emperor’s Last Performance; Pity the Proud Ones; and Birdland Blue.

            The Robey Theatre Company, a non-profit organization, was founded in 1994 by Danny Glover and Producing Artistic Director Ben Guillory. 

            The Robey Theatre Company is named for actor, singer and civil rights and labor activist Paul Robeson. For more information about the productions of The Robey Theatre Company, its Playwrights Lab, and The Robey’s long devotion to excellence in Black theatre, go here.

            The Playwright Series books, in paperback or on Kindle, provide an excellent resource for theatre companies, producers and actors seeking successfully produced plays by contemporary Black playwrights. The new books also make excellent presents for Christmas and Kwanzaa for those on your gift list who love theatre or appreciate an absorbing read.

            The Robey Theatre Company Playwright Series: Because Black voices matter. Because Black stories matter.

Pauline Adamek

Pauline Adamek is a Los Angeles-based arts enthusiast with twenty-five years' experience covering International Film Festivals and reviewing new Theatre, Film and Restaurants.


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