Sunday, July 13, 2014

Featuring: Kellie Dantzler, George W. Corbin, Paula Neiman, and Nui Brown.

The 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

Paul Robeson

On Saturday, July 19th, 15 short one-act plays written by both emerging and established playwrights will be performed.

This blog is written to celebrate these writers.  

All of the plays accepted were inspired by Robeson’s principles, his dignity and intelligence.  Each play reminds us of the extraordinary scholarship, talents, suffering, and the triumphs in one man’s lifetime which forged the legacy we know as Paul Robeson.  His fight for social justice and human rights is the making of dramatic tension, joy, and celebration. The festival serves not just as a homage to Robeson, but also provides a space for artists at various skill levels an opportunity to display and cultivate their craft.  

Attendees will leave inspired by Paul Robeson's legacy.

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:

  • Kellie Dantzler
  • George W. Corbin
  • Paula Neiman
  • Nui Brown

Kellie Dantzler

Title of Play - The Rhythm Keepers

Directed by Adleane Hunter

This work is a scene from a full length play called The Rhythm Keepers.

I submitted a scene from my new play, The Rhythm Keepers, developed through the Robey Theatre Company's Playwrights' Lab.  It addresses Paul Robeson’s charge that the white patriarchal society in which we live has designed a system which fails the majority of its citizens.  
The scene explores the complexities of this “game” and its psychological “super trick” designed for people to fail; people of color in particular.  The scene touches on the topic of healing, community, and suggests using the
Kellie Dantzler
rhythmic healing-medicine, under the custodianship of Black women, to heal ourselves and our communities for a healthier us.  And, until we, all people, do the healing work within our own personal framework and families, can any of our communities ever really be free?  What is the cost when we refuse to confront and embrace the "darker" aspects of our lives.

Kellie Dantzler's skills as a writer comes from her bones, from a grandfather she never knew.  Her grandfather was George Wylie Henderson, a little known Harlem Renaissance writer who wrote two novels, Ollie Miss, and Jule; and several short stories.  Although Kellie minored in Journalism at Eastern Michigan University, it was her work as a teaching artist for Hospital Audiences Inc. (HAI) in New York City where her work as a writer began.  While working for HAI, she teamed up with other teaching artists and created Shelter: Refugees of the American Dream, which debuted at New Perspectives Theatre in NYC. 
In the summer of 2010, the Robey Theatre Company in conjunction with The Los Angeles Theatre Center, produced Kellie Dantzler’s play, Transitions: A Trilogy of One-Act Plays.  Since then Transitions has been remounted at two very prestigious theatre festivals: The 2010 NAACP Theatre Festival, and the 2011 National Black Theatre Festival.  Transitions also received five NAACP Theatre nominations, winning the 2011 NAACP Theatre Award for Best Playwright Local and the 2011 NAACP Theatre Award for Best Ensemble.  Her short play Evolutionary was featured in the 2011 SCV Space Theatre Festival in Santa Clarita, California; more recently featured in a Black Women State of the Union (BWSOTU) production in Los Angeles.  
Kellie rejoices in having a place like the Robey Theatre Company to give her voice, helping her to develop the talent given by God.  She wants to give a special thanks to Samuel Davis III for all his love, encouragement, and support.

George W. Corbin

Title of Play - Plantin

Directed by Robert Clements

This play is a short one-act play.

George W. Corbin
Paul Robeson rejected any slight to his dignity, was attuned to the suffering of others and exhibited compassion for all of his "brothers".  He was especially supportive of those of those of a low station in life.

"...and my ancestors in the time of George Washington baked bread for his troops when they crossed the Delaware, and my father was born a slave."

Paul Robeson's  father escaped from his plantation as a teenager and later in life, as an educated Black man he lost his job as a preacher and as a result had to take a menial job.  I have attempted to weave together all of the above mentioned elements in my play Plantin and have them inform the story of three Black men, who two years after the end of the Civil War, confront a unique legacy of slavery.

George is a member of the Robey Theatre Company’s Playwrights’ Lab and had three plays performed in the NAACP’S Ten Minute Play Festivals – Hi Lo LA, Phone Booth, and The Robe.  This past year his play, Galveston, was performed in the Towne Street Theatre’s Ten Minute Play Festival.  The Towne Street Theatre also had a public reading last November of George’s The Daughters of the Kush, developed at the Robey.

Paula Neiman

Title of Play - We Wear The Mask

Directed by Ben Guillory

This work is a short based off her full length play, Grande Central.
Paula Neiman

“Shuffle, hump, strut, play, step, bump...Central Avenue, it swangs like none other!”  It’s 1929 and caught up in the excitement of the times, Lauren finds herself in the epicenter of the Los Angeles’ Harlem Renaissance.  Here she meets Russell, the publisher of the underground advocacy newsletter, Two Strikes.  We Wear The Mask unfolds the story of love, passion, and pain between a young dancer racially passing, and a brilliant political activist/poet unaware of her secret.

Paula has served in various aspects of entertainment, primarily as a writer.  She's written and/or created over two dozen screenplay/TV projects, music videos, along with an AUDIES award winning audio book.  Some of her other distributed works include the feature STRAIGHT OUT, and her directorial debut, the multiple award-winning short film Within The Wall (both of which she wrote/produced).  Writing for the stage commenced with GRANDE CENTRAL, followed by NAT TURNER: FOLLOWING FAITH, and the musical THE RIDE (co-written with Frank Underwood).  This lead to producing two one-person shows, both directed by Michael P. Edwards: BURN starring Ingez Rameau,and I AM NOT SAM starring Tony Award winning actor Tom Sizemore.

Nui Brown

Title of Play - Eslanda Unplugged

Directed by Robert Clements

This work is a one-act play.

Behind every great man, there is truly an amazing woman.  There can only be one Paul Robeson. But in the making of the man, there is an even more fabulous piece to Paul’s intricate and amazing life…his wife Eslanda Cardozo Goode Robeson.
Eslanda Unplugged is the story of a marriage and partnership that had its complications with Paul’s infidelity but ultimately endured. The marriage between Paul and Essie survived because there were ties between them more enduring than sexual attraction.  It is the story of two people who could not live with each other but could not survive without one another.  I wanted to write this play to bring to the forefront this Unsung hero in Paul’s life.  Many people know about the great Paul Robeson, but his wife affectionately known as “Essie” was more than just a wife. She was more than just Paul’s manager and acting coach.  Eslanda was an independent and accomplished trailblazer in her own right.  She was an anthropologist and the first Black woman chemist to work in pathology at Colombian Presbyterian Hospital in New York City, and the first Black female to lead such a unit.  Eslanda traveled all over the globe with and without her husband, journeying several times to Africa.  She wrote and published several books and was present at the founding meeting of the United Nations.  She was a journalist, advocate for women’s rights, ally for the oppressed and disenfranchised, fought against racism and was a sought after speaker.  While Essie led such an amazing life, being Mrs. Paul Robeson was very important to her.  She loved her husband very much as he was her first love, but she was a wife and mother hidden in the shadow of her famous husband. And in the shadows, Essie had to deal with the infidelity of her husband all while standing her ground as being the fierce and strong woman, the driving force behind such a great man.

Nui Brown was born in Cleveland, OH and raised in Southern California.  She is the youngest of
Nui Brown
four with two oldest sisters and an older brother.  Nui has two degrees in Health and has earned a Certificate in Feature Film Writing at UCLA Writers Program.  For the last few year's, Nui has been a participant in the Robey Theatre Playwright’s Lab.  She also writes poetry and has formerly worked in television production at Viacom Productions.

Please join us for the inaugural opening event for the Paul Robeson Theatre Festival, a reading of Paul Robeson in Berlin by Robert Coles and Bartley McSwine, on Friday, July 18th.  Reception to follow the reading.

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 6pm – Reception and reading for Paul Robeson in Berlinby Robert Coles and Bartley McSwine.
  • Saturday, July 19, 2014 1pm – 6pm – One Act Plays.  (Details of the order of plays TBA).

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

A little Introduction to Paul Robeson

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?''

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

Writing content contributor: Kellie Dantzler

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