• Oct 15, 2020

Playwright Development Note

From Leila Buck:

In 2016, Tamilla Woodard and I started dreaming about how to create something that would invite audiences to engage with what it means to them to be and to become a citizen of this country.  Tamilla’s ideas, feedback, research, and words are woven through every moment of this piece, and she has been an incredibly inspiring and committed collaborator and co-creator.  Jens Rasmussen has been with us since the beginning, and offered feedback, ideas, language, and research integral to the development of each character and the entire production.   

The original stage version first came to life thanks to Sophia Salguero-McGee and the Center for Ethnic, Racial and Religious Understanding at Queens College, where Monte Bezell, Ahmad Maksoud, Jens Rasmussen and Rasha Zamamiri improvised with us and brought that very first seed to life.  

Our next huge lift came from Handan Ozbilgin Bromley and Steven Hitt’s Rough Draft Festival at La Guardia Performing Arts Center, who gave us our first full workshop of the piece, with Varín Ayala, Osh Ghanimah, Jens Rasmussen, Imran Sheikh, and myself.

Raymond Bobgan saw our workshop at LPAC and committed immediately to bringing it to Cleveland.  He and his CPT staff and community went above and beyond to give us time, space, and support to develop the seed that Raymond saw into the world premiere at CPT.  Their dedication to creating, developing, and producing work by, with, in and for so many communities is moving and inspiring, and has been a huge part of our process.

Much of the original stage play was generated through improvisations with our actors.  Imran Sheikh’s research and improvisation skills were essential to creating the character of Usman and his journey.  Osh Ghanimah’s improvisations became essential parts of the character of Adil, and Ali Andre Ali has given generously of his time and talent to bring that character to life.  Andrew Aaron Valdez helped develop the character of Alejandro, and U.S. Army Veteran Jason Drevenak was a key consultant in that process.  India Nicole Burton helped create the character of Floor Director in Cleveland, and BREE in this online version.  Brenton Sullivan, Christopher Hisey, Joshua D. Brown and Lynna Metrisin were wonderful collaborators in creating the world of the play with us in Cleveland.  Sam Kusnetz’ sound, T. Paul Lowry’s projection design, Ryan Patterson’s scenic design, Wes Calkin’s lights, Kerry McCarthy’s costumes along with Colleen McCaughey’s stage management and Merit Glover’s support were critical parts of bringing the original world to life.

This online version is a huge and brand-new experiment in process, created in deep and ongoing collaboration with Tamilla Woodard, and with our designers and company.  This online tour would not have been possible without the tireless work of Tamilla Woodard, Jens Rasmussen, and our incredible tour producer Amanda Cooper.  No words can possibly express my gratitude for their indefatigable commitment to sharing this play with as many people as possible all over this country.  

Last but not least -- immeasurable thanks to you, our audience members, for being our final collaborators.  Your participation is essential to this production, and the reason we created it.  Our hope and intention since the beginning of this journey has been to create opportunities for people across the U.S. and beyond it to engage with what it means to us to be(come) better neighbors and citizens.  While this moment in our nation and the world feels pivotal in so many ways, we believe that engaging with ourselves and each other about what it means to us to be good neighbors and citizens, and who we choose to believe, protect, and welcome into our hearts, communities and dreams will continue to be essential to our survival and healing for generations to come.  

To share reflections, responses, questions or recommendations of organizations and actions supporting voting rights, immigration rights, Indigenous rights, or other ways of being good citizens, please email feedback@americandreamsplay.com.