Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

Lia Chang Multimedia: Q & A with Playwright Camille Darby, 2014-15 Dramatists Guild Playwrighting Fellow

Camille Darby. Photo by Lia Chang

Camille Darby. Photo by Lia Chang

Camille Darby. Photo by Lia Chang

Camille Darby. Photo by Lia Chang

Congrats to Camille Darby who has received a 2014-2015 Dramatists Guild Playwriting Fellowship. Now in it’s 14th season, the Dramatists Guild Fellows Program provides continued support and training to a select group of new theatre writers. The nine-month program includes group sessions with theatre professionals, one-on-one mentoring, and opportunities to become interns or observers with dramatists involved in professional productions.

Camille Darby was born in Jamaica, West Indies, but migrated to New York City with her family at 6 years old. Her constant attempts at adjusting to American culture—she soon discovered—were best manifested through her writing. It was her first play Mother, May I? written as a high school student during the Theatre Development Fund’s Residency Arts Program that drew the attention of acclaimed playwright, Wendy Wasserstein. With Wasserstein as her mentor, the budding playwright continued to study theatre, literature and film at Sarah Lawrence College where she received her B.A. in 2005.

Camille Darby. Photo by Lia Chang

Camille Darby. Photo by Lia Chang

Ms. Darby’s play, Lords Resistance, directed by Christopher Burris, was produced at The Kraine Theater in New York during The Horse Trade Theatre Group’s Fire This Time Festival, Season Five in January 2014. The Horse Trade Theatre Group’s Fire This Time Festival provides a platform for playwrights of African-American and African descent to present new work. The cast of Lords Resistance featured Tracey Conyer Lee as Pauline, Lelund Durond as Harvey, Matthew Murumba as Okello, and Carmen LoBue as Michelle. This is Ms. Darby’s third consecutive season with the festival. Her play, Exodus was produced in the sold-out 2011 Festival showcase.

Christopher Burris, Matthew Muramba, Camille Darby, Carmen LoBue, Tracey Conyer Lee, Lelund Durond Thompson and Barbara Matovu. Photo by Lia Chang

Christopher Burris, Matthew Muramba, Camille Darby, Carmen LoBue, Tracey Conyer Lee, Lelund Durond Thompson and Barbara Matovu. Photo by Lia Chang

Camille Darby in her Brooklyn apartment. Photo by Lia Chang

Camille Darby in her Brooklyn apartment. Photo by Lia Chang

Darby is the recipient of the Bronx Recognizes Its Own (BRIO, 2008) playwriting prize from the Bronx Council on the Arts for her full-length play Lords Resistance. The play was part of the 2012 Fire This Time Festival reading series, and was presented at the 2013 National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Darby is a 2011 finalist for the Van Lier Fellowship program at The Lark Play Development Center, and a 2012 Women’s Project Lab finalist. She holds an M.F.A (2007) in Dramatic Writing from New York University’s, Tisch School of the Arts.

I had lunch with Ms. Darby in her Brooklyn neighborhood to talk about Lords Resistance, her current projects, and her path to becoming a playwright.
Click below for Camille’s full interview.

Lia: What inspired you to write Lords Resistance?
Camille: So I was watching Oprah Winfrey, and she had three young adults, college students who had come on to the show to talk about their experience having visited Uganda. They just brought their video camera for a summer trip to explore. And in their exploration, came across these young boys and girls who had escaped their villages in the middle of the night to prevent being abducted to be part of a vicious army.

Later on in the show, they had a family who had adopted one of these children who was a former child soldier, she was both a victim and a perpetrator of the war. And being on stage, face partly disfigured, clearly nervous, a little bit terrified, all the lights and the audience in front of her. Listening to her tell her story, I was intrigued by that, and so I decided I would do a lot more research as to what was going on in Uganda, and there Lords Resistance was born.

Lelund Durond, Carmen LoBue, Matthew Murumba, and Tracey Conyer Lee  Camille Darby’s Lords Resistance at the Kraine Theater. Photo by Lia Chang

Lelund Durond, Carmen LoBue, Matthew Murumba, and Tracey Conyer Lee Camille Darby’s Lords Resistance at the Kraine Theater. Photo by Lia Chang

My play is about a well-to-do black family. They’re from Chicago.  They decide to adopt a former child soldier who happens to be a boy. He’s 17 years old when they adopt him, so he’s almost a man. But those are always the kids that are left behind. No one wants teenagers. Everyone wants babies. This family thought they should go with that was appropriate for their lifestyle. And they did that. And when he arrives, all sorts of bombs go off.

Tracey Conyer Lee and Matthew Murumba in Camille Darby’s Lords Resistance at the Kraine Theater through January 31, 2014. Photo by Lia Chang

Tracey Conyer Lee and Matthew Murumba in Camille Darby’s Lords Resistance at the Kraine Theater through January 31, 2014. Photo by Lia Chang

Well, Okello’s arrival (Okello is the child soldier), his arrival alone causes a lot of things to be unearthed between the marriage between Pauline and Harvey. And things that had already existed, but had not been brought up to the surface. We clearly see in the very beginning of the play the dysfunction between Pauline and Harvey. Once Okello arrives, that only gets worse. Without giving too much about the play, I would just say that he experienced one war in Uganda and come home to Chicago and experiences another war.

Lelund Durond and Tracey Conyer Lee in Camille Darby’s Lords Resistance at the Kraine Theater. Photo by Lia Chang

Lelund Durond and Tracey Conyer Lee in Camille Darby’s Lords Resistance at the Kraine Theater. Photo by Lia Chang

The thing that is more important to me is being able to show and share there are different types of stories within our community. This is a family who in their eyes have achieved the American Dream. They have gone to school. They have amazing jobs. They’re successful. They have a certain level of wealth that has afforded them to type of lifestyle they have, and they just happen to be Black.

Lia: What do you hope audiences will take away after seeing Lords Resistance?
Camille: I think that a lot of times, whether it is on stage, or in film or in television, were sort of use of seeing families, characters who are Black portrayed in one particular way, or a couple different ways. I just want to add some balance to what we see, and I think that this family, outside of whatever it is they have accomplished, they’re also very complex people. I think it’s important to share those complexities, because there is a lot to discuss and I would hope an audience would leave the theater after seeing this play with some things to think about or some things to talk about. I think that for me is one of my biggest goals in writing, is to be able to share something that people can then can have discourse about.

Carmen LoBue, Matthew Murumba, Tracey Conyer Lee and Lelund Durond in Camille Darby’s Lords Resistance at the Kraine Theater through January 31, 2014. Photo by Lia Chang

Carmen LoBue, Matthew Murumba, Tracey Conyer Lee and Lelund Durond in Camille Darby’s Lords Resistance at the Kraine Theater through January 31, 2014. Photo by Lia Chang

Camille Darby's grandmother surrounded by her children.

Camille Darby’s grandmother surrounded by her children.

Lia: What projects are you working on now?
Camille: The first is a play that deals with unconditional love. The story is born out of me catching my grandmother talking to herself. Or I thought she was talking to herself. It turns out she was actually talking to her husband who had been deceased for 35 years. The way in which she continues to love this man is astounding to me. Especially as how unconditional love plays a role today, just between men and women. Some of things that I have experienced, the things that my friends have experienced, preservation now. I wonder if we’ll ever get to a place where we’re looking to give, and not just to get, as my grandmother has done with her husband. It’s a little eerie the way in which she speaks about him. But I think it’s really dope. It’s awesome.

The second project is about West Indian nannies in New York city. I’m West Indian and very rarely do I see in plays that deal with any sort of cultural nuances that deal with any island in the West Indies. So that’s one.


Secondly, I always though it was interesting- what is it like when you’re leaving your family at whatever hour of the day or morning or whatever, to go take care of someone else’s, because this is your livelihood. You need this money to take care of your own family, but the time may not necessarily be there because it is not being shared with another family. What is that like? What does that do to the other family. I’ve sort of had that some of those experiences in my own family. And I’ve seen the abandonment that has taken place, and I’ve seen how people come out if that, or maybe not come out of that. I don’t know, I ‘m still working on a few things with that story. That’s pretty much the foundation of it.

Camille Darby in her Brooklyn apartment. Photo by Lia Chang

Camille Darby in her Brooklyn apartment. Photo by Lia Chang

Lia: How did you decide to become a playwright?
Camille: I’ve always been interested in stories, whether I was reading them, watching them on television, or actually telling them myself. I love the English language. I love dialogue. I love talking, or listening to people talk. I think I have a pretty good ear for it. I think that’s sort of where it started.

In 1999, Wendy Wasserstein wrote this article for the New York Times. She talked about the TDF open doors program that kickstarted Darby's writing overall; and talked about the importance of theatre in young lives. Darby was 15 years old at the time of this article.

In 1999, Wendy Wasserstein wrote this article for the New York Times. She talked about the TDF open doors program that kickstarted Darby’s writing overall; and talked about the importance of theatre in young lives. Darby was 15 years old at the time of this article.

Becoming a playwright though, was something I didn’t decide until I graduated with an actual MFA. I have this thing now, so I guess I should actually start calling myself a playwright. I’m paying for this. I’m still paying for this degree, so maybe I should assume the title. I love the arts. I love theater. I love dialogue. I love stories. I think the best way for me to immerse myself in that world was through theater, was through plays.

Other articles on Camille Darby:
Photos: The Fire This Time Festival Presents Tracey Conyer Lee, Lelund Durond, Matthew Murumba, and Carmen LoBue in Camille Darby’s Lords Resistance at The Kraine Theater through January 31, 2014.
Jan. 22-31: Photos: Tracey Conyer Lee, Lelund Durond Thompson, Matthew Murumba, and Carmen LoBue set for Camille Darby’s Lords Resistance Featured in The Fire This Time Festival at The Kraine Theater
Jan. 22- 31, 2014: Camille Darby’s Lords Resistance Featured in The Fire This Time Festival at The Kraine Theater
Camille Darby’s The White Peacock in The Classical Theatre of Harlem’s inaugural Future Classics Festival at The Malcolm X & Dr. Betty Shabazz Center on June 27, 2012
Photos: Tonya Pinkins, Billy Eugene Jones, Matthew Murumba and Toccarra Cash in Reading of Camille Darby’s Lords Resistance
Reading of Camille Darby’s Lords Resistance Stars Tonya Pinkins, Billy Eugene Jones, Tocarra Cash and Matthew Murumba at The Red Room on January 18
Camille Darby’s Lord’s Resistance

Other articles by Lia Chang:
The Fortress of Solitude, starring Adam Chanler-Berat, André De Shields, Kyle Beltran, Kevin Mambo, Rebecca Naomi Jones ends extended run 11/16; Ghostlight to Record Cast Album
Stephen Adly Guirgis to Receive the Steinberg Distinguished Playwright Award at the Seventh Annual Steinberg Playwright “Mimi” Awards on November 17
Yellow Sound Label to Release BD Wong’s Debut CD HERRINGBONE on December 2, 2014
NYU Theatrical Production Presents the World Premiere of Rajiv Joseph’s Describe the Night in the Shubert Theatre at Tisch School of the Arts through November 24
Photos: Ron Domingo, Julie Fitzpatrick, Julienne Hanzelka Kim, Moses Villarama, Jeena Yi, Jojo Gonzalez at Ma-Yi’s Chairs and a Long Table
Photos: BD Wong, Cindy Cheung, Brooke Ishibashi,Thom Sesma, Manna Nichols, Steven Eng, Ariel Estrada and Lori Tan Chinn at Leviathan Lab’s Ghost Stories
Dec. 1: Behind the Scenes with Disney on Broadway with David Henry Hwang, Chad Beguelin and Rick Elice at New York Public Library for the Performing Arts
New York Times Critics’ Pick OUR LADY OF KIBEHO by Katori Hall, extends through December 14
Cheryl L. Davis’ Maid’s Door Sweeps AUDELCOs with 7 Wins; Complete List of 2014 AUDELCO Recipients
The Public Theater Extends Suzan-Lori Parks’s FATHER COMES HOME FROM THE WARS through December 7
Six Questions for Melody Butiu, Currently Appearing as Estrella in David Byrne and Fat Boy Slim’s Here Lies Love at The Public
Costume Institute’s Spring 2015 Exhibition at Metropolitan Museum to Focus on Chinese Imagery in Art, Film, and Fashion, May 7–August 16, 2015
Photos: André De Shields, Adam Chanler-Berat, Jose Llana, Kevin Mambo, Rebecca Naomi Jones, Kyle Beltran, Kim Brockington and More at The Fortress of Solitude 
Suzan-Lori Parks’ Father Comes Home From The Wars, Extends at The Public Theater through November 30
Opening Night Photos: Father Comes Home From the Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3) by Suzan-Lori Parks at The Public Theater
Photos: David Byrne, Jaygee Macapugay, Jose Llana and Conrad Ricamora Bring the ‘Here Lies Love’ Disco to the Apple Store Soho
Multimedia: Ambassador Attalah Shabazz, Tomie Arai, Jamal Joseph, Janice Robinson, Soh Daiko, Taiyo Na and More Celebrate the Life of Yuri Kochiyama in New York
Photos: Tommy Tune, Bob Avian, Lee Roy Reams, Christine Toy Johnson, Orville Mendoza, Lori Tan Chinn, Raul Aranas, Virginia Wing and More Celebrate 2014 Paul Robeson Citation Award Recipient Baayork Lee
Photos: Art Salon with Artist Yang Chihung and Dr. Agnes Hsu-Tang at New-York Historical Society
Geoffrey Holder, Artist, Dancer, Choreographer, Two-Time Tony Award-winning Director and Costume Designer for The Wiz, Dies at 84; Son Pens Intimate Account of Last Days
Photos: Chinese American: Exclusion/Inclusion on View through April 19, 2015 at New York Historical Society
Coming to America through The Angel Island Immigration Station
Joe Mantegna to Helm ‘Criminal Minds’ Season 10 Episode to Honor the late Meshach Taylor
Joe Mantegna, Delta Burke, Gerald McRaney, President Bill Clinton and More Remember Meshach Taylor
Late Night Singing with Garth Kravits at 54 Below with The Skivvies, at Jim Caruso’s Cast Party at Birdland and Michael Raye’s Soul Gathering
Photos: Maxine Hong Kingston, Billie Tsien, Bill T. Jones, Linda Ronstadt, John Kander, Julia Alvarez, Jeffrey Katzenberg Receive 2013 National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama 
Photos and Video: Ben Vereen Performs at Carnegie Hall in The Black Stars of The Great White Way Broadway Reunion: Live The Dream
Photos and Video: Obba Babatunde and cast members from the original cast of Dreamgirls perform at Carnegie Hall in The Black Stars of The Great White Way Broadway Reunion: Live The Dream
Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.

Lia Chang Photo by GK

Lia Chang Photo by GK

Lia Chang is an actor, a performance and fine art botanical photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist. Lia made her jazz vocalist debut in Rome Neal’s Banana Puddin’ Jazz “LADY” at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in New York.

All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2014 Lia Chang Multimedia. All rights reserved. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Lia Chang. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content. For permission, please contact Lia at liachangpr@gmail.com

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