Monday, July 7, 2014

Featuring: La'Chris Jordan, Mohammed Ali Ojarigi, Dominique Miller, and Kurt Maxey.

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 by featuring a few writers each week until the festival begins.  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 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:

  • La'Chris Jordan
  • Mohammed Ali Ojarigi
  • Dominique Miller
  • Kurt Maxey

La’Chris Jordan

Title of Play – Deep Rivers 

Directed by Dwain A. Perry

The work is a short one-act play.
La'Chris Jordan

Deep Rivers is a short play I wrote specifically for the Festival.  I love history, so I went back in time and explored the various milestones of Robeson’s life, particularly the role he played during the civil rights movement.  In reading Paul Robeson Jr.’s The Undiscovered Paul Robeson: Quest for Freedom and James Farmer’s Lay Bare the Heart, I noticed some glaring contradictions in the recounting of a key conversation the civil rights leader had with Robeson. This intrigued me and so I began exploring the dynamics of who these men were at the time and why their accounts of that moment were so different. What was being left out and why?  Had their memories of that meeting truly failed them or were they simply controlling their own narratives? And what were the external and internal forces pulling them apart? 
I wanted Robeson’s voice to come alive in this piece, and to show how his lifelong struggle and fight for social justice came at a great cost. Yet, I also wanted Farmer (who was depicted in the film The Great Debaters by Denzel Whitaker) to have his say as he was probably one of the few who could truly hold his own with Robeson.  Essentially, this play explores what happens when two men with great minds challenge each other’s political ideologies, even when those ideologies, at the core, have striking similarities.

La’Chris is an actress, novelist and award-winning playwright who was named one of the “50 to Watch” by the Dramatists Guild of America. Her plays have been produced and developed in theatres across the country including Urban Stages, ACT Theatre, Seattle Repertory Theatre, Ashland New Play Festival, and the Arkansas Repertory Theatre.  La’Chris’ debut historical fiction novel The Memories of Bellevue was recently released on

La'Chris Jordan. Named one of the '50 to Watch' by the Dramatists Guild of America.
Links for La'Chris:

Mohammed Ali Ojarigi
Mohammed Ali Ojarigi

Title of the play - GREENWOOD 1964

Directed by Mohammed Ali Ojarigi

This is a full one-act play.

GREENWOOD 1964 made its official debut run April 12th 2014 to rave reviews.  When asked to participate in the Paul Robeson Theatre Festival it was not only an honor but also fitting. The giant Paul Robeson served as a mentor and moral compass to many people; his most recognizable mentees are none other than Harry Belafonte and Sidney Poitier. The play Greenwood 1964 takes us into an actual trip made by Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte.  Two very great friends and once industry's most successful sought after duo. Sidney Poitier the first Black to win an Academy Award for best actor and Harry Belafonte, activist and first music artist ever to sell a million copies in the US & England. The show takes place in Greenwood Mississippi 1964, a time in which Dr. King called it "The year of promise" due to the rise of racial tension versus the quest for social equality. This brilliantly crafted fictional debate between Mr. Poitier and Mr. Belfafonte eloquently explores the individual approaches on how to achieve liberation for people of color; as well as illuminating some of the core systematic struggles which still exist today even with more Black Star Power than ever before.  The action takes place inside of an attic "safe-house" in the racially charged segregated deep south of Mississippi.  Both men have traveled down to drop a bundle of cash for relief funds and show moral support for the civil rights workers who have been killed trying to register black voters.

Mohammed Ali Ojarigi is a Nigerian American Actor / Writer / Director / Producer born in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He received his Bachelor’s Degree in Theater Performing Arts at UNLV.  Has landed work in several National Commercial ads & currently has a reoccurring role on General Hospital as Officer Fleet Adams.  Displeased with the level of opportunity and depth in roles for people of color in Film and Television.  He started his own production company Inner Child Artistry Productions that also provides private coaching sessions for key acting and writing techniques.  Mohammed’s current passion project is adapting his very first stage play; the highly acclaimed Guardin’ Roots into a film. This robust story follows the life cycle of a recently released ex-con who attempts to re-enter his community. Struggling with surviving in a society as a convicted felon, he finds understanding through the power of Urban Gardening.  Please visit the site below to view the promo video and much more.

Link for Mohammed Ali Ojarigi:

Dominique Miller

Dominique Miller

Title of the play - Say Something

Directed by Tommy Hicks

The work submitted is part two of a trilogy of one-act plays.

Say Something is about the balance between moral obligation and mainstream success. This piece follows a successful writer and former activist who lost his faith in humanity and change.  He is torn between following a path similar to Paul Robeson’s or a commercially successful life.  Paul Robeson was a world renowned performance artist demeaned, ostracized, and black listed by his country and fellow African Americans because of his outspoken commitment to global equality.  He chose to use his status and talent to support the notion of true freedom instead of solely to become wealthy.  I was inspired by Paul’s relentless pursuit of equality during a time period where consequences could be financial ruin or even death. 

Dominique is an emerging playwright whose interests in social justice and underrepresented perspectives come through in her work.  Her first play, Say Something, has the privilege of being part of The Robey Theatre Company’s 1st Annual Paul Robeson Theatre Festival.  After years of academic writing and completing her Master’s degree in Arts Management, she looks forward to participating in the Playwright’s lab at The Robey to further develop her skills as a writer and explore her creative side.

Kurt Maxey

Title of the play - The Agreement

Directed by Dylan Southard

This work is a short play.
Kurt Maxey

In 1946 Paul Robeson initiated the American Crusade Against Lynching, which was officially launched September 23 in Washington D.C.  The Agreement depicts a secret meeting between Paul Robeson and Harry S. Truman, underneath the West Wing of the White House.

Kurt Maxey received his BA in History from USC, and Master’s Degree in Communication Arts from Loyola University.  2011 brought the world premiere of his play Pity The Proud Ones; produced by the  Robey Theater Company; winner of two NAACP Theater Awards.  He has been associated with the Mark Taper  Forum (Blacksmyths), East-West Players, LATC , and South Coast Repertory.  Kurt extends his  appreciation to Mr. Ben Guillory and the Robey family. 

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 7pm – 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 into 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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