Sunday, June 29, 2014

Featuring: Levy Lee, Sophia Washam, Ryan Anderson, and Dr. Alicia Tycer.

The Robey Theatre Company proudly presents its inaugural Paul Robeson Theatre Festival

During the McCarthy era, a selected group of people were called before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), where they were asked to answer whether they were a communist or not, and if so, to give the names of other communists.  Paul Robeson was one of these persons called and he refused to answer, stating as an American it was within his right not to answer such a question.  He was then asked about a recent trip he took to the Soviet Union.  He replied:

"In Russia, I felt for the first time like a full human being…no color prejudice like in Mississippi, no color prejudice like in Washington.''
1956 Paul Robeson before the HUAC

When the committee asked if he liked Russia so much, why didn’t he stay there, he answered:

"Because my father was a slave and my people died to build this country and I am going to stay here and have a part in it just like you.  And no fascist-minded people will drive me from it. Is that clear?''

This fearless social consciousness and command Paul Robeson had is what inspired the Robey Theatre Company to launch its first Paul Robeson Theatre Festival, to be held at the Los Angeles Theatre Center July 18-19, 2014
This blog will serve as an outlet to feature the 15 playwrights of this year’s festival, featuring a few writers each week until the festival begins.

The playwrights were asked to submit their original play or a scene from a body of work (no more than 20 pages long), that addressed and/or reflected Paul Robeson’s principles concerning social consciousness.  The plays submitted did not have to be about Mr. Robeson per se, only to have been inspired by his values.

This week we are featuring the following writers:

  • Levy Lee
  • Sophia Washam
  • Ryan Anderson
  • Dr. Alicia Tycer

Levy Lee

Title of the play - I SHOT the Sheriff

Directed by Ben Guillory

This work is a short play from a collection of short plays written by Levy Lee, based on popular songs.
Levy Lee

Synopsis –“ Sheriff John Brown always hated me, for what, I don't know; Every time I plant a seed, he said kill it before it grow.”  --- Bob Marley --In this two-character play, a father confronts Sheriff John Brown about Brown’s attempt to arrest his only surviving son, knowing that his other sons were killed by Sheriff John Brown.

Multiple award winning playwright, actor and director, Levy Lee Simon is originally from Harlem USA, and a graduate of the prestigious University of Iowa Playwright’s Workshop. He is the author of twenty plus plays which have received productions and readings in the US and Caribbean.  He is best known for hisFor the Love of Freedom trilogy, produced by the Robey Theatre Company, collective of several awards, including  three best playwright nominations, The Bow Wow Club, winner of the Kennedy Center, “Lorraine Hansberry Award,”  the cult hits, Same Train, and God the Crackhouse and the Devil, plus The Guest at Central Park West , winner of NYC’s, “Audelco Theatre Award,” for “Best Dramatic Production” and “Best Playwright.”  
 His latest plays include; Pitbulls and Daffodills, Smell the Power, and The Last Revolutionary. An actor too, Levy Lee has performed On Broadway, Off Broadway, in Regional Theatres, England, and the Caribbean.  Levy Lee is also a teacher of acting, screenwriting and playwriting, with his Lion’s Den Workshop, in LA and NYC. He was a recent “Guest Artist” at the 2014 Great Plains Theatre Conference in Omaha, Nebraska.

Sophia Washam

Title of play - La Loteria

Directed by Josiah Davis

This work is part of a full length play in development entitled La Loteria.
Sophia Washam

Paul Robeson took his stand for justice not just in word but in deed.  His exceptional willingness to sacrifice financial gain and self-interest for the sake of moral principles renders him a courageous example of someone who was willing to do the right thing, regardless of the cost.  La Loteria is a dramatic exploration of the economic decisions and rationalizations we make when our principles and our checkbooks square off.

Sophia Washam received her BA in philosophy from Columbia University in New York. After a stint at Columbia Law School, she decided to move to Paris and become a writer, following in the footsteps of James Baldwin. She has lived in Los Angeles and worked in the entertainment business for nearly 20 years and has written several screenplays and a novel in her spare time. La Loteria is her first foray into playwriting.

Ryan Vincent Anderson

The Title of the play - out:side 

Directed by Ryan Anderson

This work is a short play.

I chose to write a piece specifically for this festival. After learning about Paul Robeson's life as both an artist and activist, I decided to write a piece that explored the struggle of standing your ground based on your identity and uniqueness, through the eyes of a teenager.  I was mostly inspired by a famous picture of Paul Robeson as Othello, and by a story he told first hand of how he was discriminated against at Rutgers University by his football teammates.  Although Paul Robeson was a grand man with grand influence, his struggles were universal, and can be related to even in the smallest of scales.
Ryan Anderson

A native New Yorker residing in LA, Ryan received his MFA from Calarts. Regional theater acting credits: Much Ado About Nothing (African-American Shakespeare Company), In The Red And Brown Water (Marin Theater Company), Queenie Pie (Long Beach Opera), Clybourne Park (PCPA), Eurydice (A Noise Within), You Can't Take It With You (Antaeus), Hamlet (Independent Shakespeare Company), The Old Settler (International City Theater), Death and the King's Horseman (Oregon Shakespeare Festival). 

Link to Ryan Anderson:

Alicia Tycer
Dr. Alicia Tycer

Title of play - H.U.A.C

Directed by Dylan Southard

This work is a short play.

My play, H.U.A.C focuses on the House of Un-American Activities committee and the ethical questions that the “Red Scare” raised regarding free speech and civil liberties in America.  I have often wondered what I would do if I was called before such a committee and how far I would be willing to go to stand up for my principles. Paul Robeson sacrificed his career and popularity for his political beliefs, but he remained true to his own conscience.  My character the Accused echoes Robeson, referring to his life story and quoting from his brave response to the committee.  Robeson called out the kangaroo court, inspiring me to re-imagine the committee as an absurdist courtroom.  I chose to make the Accused an every man character to emphasize that the struggle for political, economic, and racial justice remains ongoing. Although McCarthyism can be seen as a thing of the past, Robeson’s story reminds us to remain vigilant. As Gregory Peck warned in 1947, “There is more than one way to lose your liberty. It can be torn out of your hands by a tyrant- but it can also slip away, day by day, while you’re too busy to notice, or too confused, or too scared.” 

Alicia Tycer received her PH.D in Drama and Theatre from U.C. Irvine and M.F.A from Cal State L.A. in Television, Film, and Theatre.  Her works include: The Wall: A Musical Misdeed (CSULA); The Civil War: A Tragi-Comedy (John Lion New Plays Festival); Lysistrata: A Re-Imagining (Unknown Artists, Grove Theatre Center); Dreaming of Women (Moving Arts); and Space: The Final Frontier (with Opera Del Espacio at Son of Semele, South Coast Repertory).  Dr. Tycer teaches at CSULA.

The Paul Robeson Theatre Festival will be performed July 18th - July 19th 
The Los Angeles Theatre Center
514 South Spring Street
Los Angeles, CA 90013

Schedule of events
  • Friday, July 18, 2014 at 7pm – Reception and reading for Paul Robeson in Berlinby Robert Coles and Bartley McSwine.
  • Saturday, July 19, 2014 1pm – 6pm – One Act Plays.

For tickets and pricing information:
Friday, July 18 – $25
Saturday, July 19 – $35
Festival Pass (Friday and Saturday) – $50
Online at
Or, call (866) 811-4111

For further information about the festival contact The Robey Theatre Company:
Office: 213-489-7402

Writing content contributor: Kellie Dantzler

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