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The Official Newsletter of The Essential Theatre Spring 2023 Volume VIII, Issue I 
34th Anniversary Banner

It’s our 34th anniversary!

Celebrate with us by donating to our Annual Campaign.

Donating $34 each month allows us to do well and do good by supporting our programs and keeping ticket prices affordable.

Photo of Helen Hayes Awards nominated Actress Crystal Henry Arful-Addoh

It is often said in show business circles across the world, “actors are a dime a dozen,” because of the competitive nature of the field. And many actors have heard of the devaluing statement, but forge ahead anyway. One such trouper is our highly valued nominee for the prestigious Helen Hayes Award ®, Crystal Henry Arful-Addoh. Nominated as an Outstanding Supporting Performer in a Play for her work in, From the Mississippi Delta, she worked with the famed St. Louis Black Repertory Company for nine seasons. She took a twelve year hiatus following a move to Virginia and marriage.


She would jump back into the world of theatre through working with area community theatres. From the Mississippi Delta represents her first foray into working with a professional theatre company in the “DMV” an acronym often used for referring to the region that comprises DC Maryland and Virginia. She credits her inspiration for becoming an actor in theatre to Dr. Clyde Ruffin, a former professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia where she received the bulk of her theatre training. “Coming from a small town in rural Missouri, I had never been exposed to African American theatre or playwrights. It was quite an awakening for me,” she said.

Upon reflecting back on her beginnings as a professional actor at St. Louis Black Rep, Addoh remembers her first show, “Jelly Belly” by Charles Smith. “I was the only female in a five-character play” she explained. “I struggled early in the rehearsal period because the character I played used filthy language, and I couldn’t imagine inviting my grandmothers, pastor or fellow church members to see the play” she said. “Ironically, it was my pastor at the time, Rev. Dr. J.L. Brown, who helped me get past my uneasiness.” “God bless him.” According to Addoh, There was no shortage of people willing to coach her on the fine art of authentically cussing-people-out.


She was born and reared in rural Southeast Missouri, locally known as “The Bootheel.” Addoh explained, “The region forms a portion of the northern tip of the 35,000 square-mile performance link, a nominee at work region that is ironically called the Mississippi Delta. Primarily the land is used for agriculture, where cotton was the primary crop at that time,” said Addoh.


“The most plentiful summer employment opportunities were often packaged as chopping or picking cotton,” she said. “I never chopped cotton.” Addoh continued, “I called myself picking cotton one time.” “That ONE TIME was enough to last me a lifetime.”


On her preparation process for the role for which she earned the Helen Hayes Award®) nomination, “My formative years included colorful, unforgettable people like the characters Endesha Ida Mae Holland included in her play.” “My Big Mama (maternal grandmother) was a serial entrepreneur and once was the sole proprietor of a juke joint, and Sugar Mama.” “My Granddaddy (paternal grandparents) lived across the road from another juke joint establishment.” “The Mississippi Delta is my heritage.”

The Helen Hayes Awards ® will be held on Monday, the 22nd of May, beginning at 4:30 pm at Washington, DC’s Anthem. For more information, visit

Take a look at our Nominee!

Take a look at our Nominee!

Pay What You Can (pwyc) each Tuesday & Wednesday!

At door sales only. Tuesday pwyc Proceeds Benefit Period Poverty Project to purchase feminine hygiene products for women

and girls in DC homeless shelters.

Celebrate with us our 34th Anniversary Year!

Guarantee Seating! Limited numbers of advanced pwyc date tix $34

available online @

Click Here to see Dramaturgy at Work

Click Here to see Dramaturgy at Work

Theatre patrons often bump into the word Dramaturge while exploring playbills at various performances across the world without understanding the function of the position and its role in a production. Most degreed theatre folk, sometimes, don’t know what a Dramaturge is or how one functions in the creation of a play. DSC thought it would not be robbery if we took time to provide that information for you in a way wherein you would leave the publication more informed:

First a Dramaturge is more or less a script doctor. If the play is a new Play a Dramaturge would first read the play and inform the Playwright of areas in the script that might not work well perhaps because the script might not yet be historically accurate.

The Dramaturge, for the actors might provide articles, photos, film footage or music that might help place the play in context for the actors during the rehearsal period. For instance, if a script read as follows:

(AS the lights rise on the stage, we see a fully well furnished, but used living area. There is a staircase at upstage right. Jimmy a tall bald man in his late twenties enters the front door at stage left as Lucy, his help mate enters from a staircase at upstage right.)


Today is a great day for side-pieces everywhere! (Lucy looks at him trying not to laugh.) You just hang in there long enough…and You get a coronation, and you get a coronation, and you get a coronation!


(cannot hold her amusement any longer and bursts out laughing)

You so crazy…Leave that woman alone. She did hang in there though. She is wearing that crown like, and what! What yall’ got now. And she ain’t no magazine picture either… Jimmy that go to show you looks not everything. She just might be a girl who don’t mind going to breakfast.

Although there may be some people in the audience and cast members who will be familiar, the Dramaturge would need to first identify the vernacular in the language to determine if it is regional or a pejorative and make sure the actors understand what is being said to allow the cast to effectively perform the lines so the audience can be clear on any underlying meanings. That is generally regarded as subtext. What exactly is a “sidepiece.” Most adult age people would understand that is a person engaged in an extra-marital affair. And the Turge, as the Dramaturge is often referred to among cast members would prompt cast members that one could reasonably assume the reference to coronation is a joke on the British Royals and the most recent wedding

nuptials delivered in an Oprah Winfrey like manner when giving out cars to audience members on her former day time talk show. A good Dramaturge might have to explore local Barbershops and Beauty Salons to understand the phrase “a girl who don’t mind going to breakfast,” and would quickly

learn that is subtext for a sexual act and one often used by men in polite company during the periods 80’s and 90’s. Some Dramaturge might even brand the play utilizing references from the 1980’s or 90’s as a period piece, which could be debatable. But it’s No different than what we know as Shakespeare. It was the language of the day and the manner in which people of that time spoke. The goal is to understand it by knowing what they meant in speaking to each other and others outside of their immediate social circles. The most important thing one should understand about dramaturgy and the work of the Dramaturge is that it is a position that functions to bring clarity for theatre patrons, the actors and design team if necessary.

  • We're looking for great Board members and Community Advisory Board members. If you consider yourself a great leader, contact us @ [email protected]

  • The DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities is looking for panelists. Interested...visit here.

  • We gratefully acknowledge the generous support of: The DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, The Nora Roberts Foundation, Eversheds Sutherland (US) LLP.

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Essential Theatre!


Contributions are accepted year round and tax deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law. The Essential Theatre is a 501 (c) (3) organization. Contributions can be mailed or done online at

Encourage and inspire your company to give. Most corporations have matching gifts programs that match your contribution dollar for dollar. Some even match your volunteer hours with the cash equivalent. Call your Human Resources department Today!

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[email protected]

Support specific programs by joining The Essential Theatre’s Playmakers Guild. Membership directly supports our new play development program, and you receive:

  • Special invitations to closed readings
  • Special invitations to selected previews
  • Invitations to world premieres during membership year and much more!

Include The Essential Theatre in your Testamentary Giving. Be assured that your gift will leave a lasting legacy in your honor or in honor of a beloved family member by providing our company sustainability for future generations. Contact us regarding language at [email protected]


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The Essential Theatre is a 501 (c3) non-profit organization. All contributions are tax-deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law in the United States of America.

Federal Tax ID# 52-1749748

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Howard University Interns Discuss Benefits of Program

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