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      S.Robert Morgan

  Founder/Artistic Director

The Official Newsletter of the Essential Theatre Spring 2013 Volume VI, Issue I

DSCExclusiveA DSC Exclusive...

The Resurrection of Alice

A Probing Look at Child Brides in African-American Families

Photo of Actress/Playwright/Author Perri Gaffney   


Down Stage Center (DSC) was absolutely farklempt to learn of past practices using child brides in some African-American communities and abroad. anyone with a level of intelligence pondered why?  What is the benefit and to who?  Well!...when DSC got the answers she could hardly wait to tell it because she knew you, our dedicated E-patrons would want to know prior to coming to the show.  Here, in an E-Patron exclusive, Helen Hayes nominated actress, Author and Playwright Perri Gaffney (PG) took a break between performances at Perseverance Theatre in Juneau Alaska to address some of DSC's most probing questions about making "The Resurrection of Alice.  Here goes it...




What was the inspiration for, "The Resurrection of Alice?



A friend, Loretta, told me about her mother being raised in rural Alabama. She was the first person in her family to graduate from high school and received a full four year scholarship to attend college. But her mother's parents told her she couldn't go to college because she had to marry Mr. Thompson, the family benefactor. This man was older than her parents, but that's why he had been their benefactor. I was appalled. I told my 87 year old aunt who told me that was a very common practice with black folks up through the mid 1950's. She said it was done throughout the country, not just in the south and she named six of her friends that were put in arranged marriages in Cleveland, Ohio. I wanted this to be a biography, but my friend's mother died before I met her so it's a novel dedicated to countless women who were made to marry prosperous, old men.


Why do you feel this story is important?



Arranged marriages have been happening throughout the world for thousands of years and continue to this day. So I think the topic remains pertinent and important on a global level. The difference in what African Americans used to practice and what has always been done, is in America the bride's price was paid years before there ever was a wedding and if the old man married someone else before the young girl grew up, or if the old man died, or if the old man lost his fortune before he was married to the young girl, then the wedding was off and nothing was owed to the prospective husband even though he had been paying for years. I think that difference adds interest and intrigue to the African American historical footnote of dabbling in arranged marriages.



How long have you been performing this script and how long did it take you to get to this point in the performance? 




I performed my very first "... Alice" excerpt in the Fall of 2006 in Ashland, Oregon while working at Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF). I debuted the first full-length workshop version in the Spring of 2007 for a week at the Flashpoint Theatre in DC, and that script changed daily. I got the script to this pared down version in the Fall of 2007 with the help of The Ultimate Dramaturge/Director, Talvin Wilkes.



You have found lots of funny moments in the play despite its topic's seriousness; how did you do that?




Alice was caught totally unaware when she found herself obligated to marry Mr. Tucker. That in and of itself can be shocking and sickening for a reader to learn. But to help the audience/reader experience the full impact of Alice's loss, they need to feel the happy, hopeful life she lived, and the love and plans for which she worked and longed. So I peppered the beginning of the story with warm, whimsical humor. I find people funny in general, particularly when they're not trying to be, so I laced the middle of the story with a  humor born of manipulation and rationalizations. The humor is more ironical. And it all serves to support the old adage; You wanna make God laugh? Tell Him your plans.



As the Playwright/Performer what were some of your unique challenges?



Since I also wrote the book, it was hard for me to delete information because everything was "important" to me. Also, it was hard for me to catch the holes in the story's flow when I did delete information. And apparently it was difficult for Shona and Sherri, my first directors, because they both had read the book.  Talvin didn't know the story and he pointed out several holes that needed to be filled, then he deleted about 18 pages saying that the information didn't propel the story forward. The words could be replaced with a paragraph, a sentence, or a gesture... I love Talvin! I love Shona and Sherri, too! 



How does the version of the play vary from the textbook?



There are fewer historical references, although I tried to include as much history as possible about the times (WWII, education in the rural south, Jim Crow, etc.). The play explains less of what Alice feels about a situation or certain people and demonstrates her feelings instead. Sound cues, especially music cues, enhance the moods that are described in the book.


Threee photos of actress Perri Gaffney in various stages of Alice.
Perri Gaffney in various stages of Alice.


As the writer creating a story about what could be considered a  cultural practice, at what points did you feel safe taking dramatic liberties?



I never took liberties about the cultural practice. I used Loretta's personal recounting of her mother's life (however few the details) and I used my aunt's recounting of what went on back then. I did take liberties with the details of Loretta's mother's life because I never spoke with her and no one could tell me what she was feeling but her. Loretta suggested talking to some uncles and aunts about her mother, but I declined the offer saying, "Only your mother can tell me about her life. Your aunts and uncles will give their opinions and I have opinions of my own."  When presenting the play and selling the book around the country people have told me; "That was my grandmother." "That was my aunt." "I wonder if that was my godmother's story"



Are you still writing and doing edits or is this story for the stage complete?




This script is done and done. I always wanted the play to be a multi-media production. When I performed it as the 2012-2013 season opener for the off-Broadway Billie Holiday Theatre in Brooklyn, New York, I had pictures projected on a screen behind me that many people who have seen the play 2 and 3 times said enhanced the show. Although a couple of people found the pictures distracting.



What memories do you want an audience member to take away from your performance?



I want audiences to walk away feeling inspired and empowered to take charge of their lives, really knowing that they are ultimately in charge. Bad things happen to good people all the time, but it is within us and up to us to make lemonade from the sour lemons we are given. The original title when I was writing the novel was "A Dream Deferred." I changed it to "The Resurrection of Alice" to imply a hopeful and happy resolution to circumstances that were so dreadful and heavy, that young girls in them felt dead and buried, but Alice was one who made a way out.


Do you know someone in an arranged marriage?  DSC wants to know. Follow us to tweet it up on Twitter@essentialtDC and become eligible for our drawing for free tickets and more.


What: The Resurrection of Alice

When: August 26-September 7th

Where Undercroft Theatre

Mt. Vernon Pl. United Methodist Church

900 Massachusetts Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20001

For more Info and tickets visit:


 Made possible in Part by  Support from the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation Special presenters Initiative in partnership with DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities and The National Endowment for the Arts.




Perfecting the Art of Partnership

Diversity Theatre Co & The Essential Theatre 4 Real
By Kyle Bell

We frequently hear about partnerships that come and go for one reason or another.  Some explode because of personality differences, others fade for lack of communication, some just look good on paper and there are those that of course sink like a ship under the tremendous weight of too many generals at its tilting top with overtly over sized egos.  Molding a new template in community partnership is Diversity Theatre Company (DT CO) and The Essential Theatre.  DT CO's mission is to cultivate & build communities, bridging the gap between generations through thought provoking and enlightening creative arts.  The Company was founded in 2007 by Donnie L. Joyner, Jr. and Dakota L. Cotton Smith as undergraduates at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) located in Richmond, VA. "Minted out of a need for direction, DT CO's President/Co-Founder, Joyner, approached us for needed advice upon the referral of his Artistic Director, Michelle Orr explained S. Robert Morgan, Artistic Director for Essential Theatre. I was happy to 

Photo of actress Marjuan Canady.
Pictured actress/playwright, Marjuan Canady, in a co presentation of "Girls!, Girls?, Girls."

oblige because I remember too well what it was like twenty-four years ago when we began our artistic journey...somebody had to sit down with me and that somebody was Carla Perlo, Artistic Director at Dance Place here in DC.  We must have sat and talked way into the night about IRS requirements and the whole nine."  Accelerating Perlo's act of kindness, Morgan extended an open door allowing Joyner to call for assistance as needed, and that he has.  Like Morgan's initial talk with Perlo, Joyner and Morgan engaged in multiple directional conversations about IRS requirements for non profits and filing requirements for various agencies to remain compliant.  Joyner needed a co presenter with resources to present at VCU , "Girls!, Girls?, Girls.," written and performed by Marjuan Canady..."and we were happy to present with them as it too provided an opportunity for us. It was a situation where both boats in the water rose higher."  When confronted by the obvious question regarding conflicts of interests, Morgan frowns at the question and responds, "I prefer to think of it as a Welding of the community. If something is for us it will happen and nothing can get in the way of that...certainly not helping someone in need.  We know that's not how the universe works."  From his vantage point Joyner says, "It creates a stronger artistic community that advocates and empowers creative relationships for artist seeking to express their stories as well as promote growth in various art forms. "  One such display will be DT CO's Breaking The Fourth Wall Festival, a community inclusive theatre festival scheduled for Saturday, June 1st.  Joyner exclaimed, "the event will be a time of celebration and public artistic exploration focusing on social issues such as mental health, healing, understanding, and awareness." Yet another opportunity allowing the public to witness the power of theatre.


Who: Diversity Theatre Company (DT CO)

What: Breaking The Fourth Wall Festival

When: Saturday June 1st 11:00 A.M. until 5:00 PM

Where: Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation Arts Center

              930 King Street

              Silver Spring, MD 20910

              Admission: FREE!

For more info call (301) 836-1019 or

*All Patrons must be 18 years of age


KliffsKliff's Notes


Events associated with "The Resurrection of Alice."

Post-Performance discussions:


Tuesday August 27th

A Strategy for Survival

Making Child Brides in African-American Families


Saturday August 31st Matinee

What's Your Story?

Telling it From Page to Stage


Invitation to Leadership


The Essential Theatre is currently in search of qualified Board members from corporate, medical, legal, federal and local government communities.  Those who can govern may express interest at


Begin your Summer at The Place To Be Seen!

The 4th annual DC Black Theatre Festival! June 21st thru 30th

For more Info visit


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Photo of children raising hands to ask questions during in school performance.
Photo: Students for Children's Program in Public Schools.

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