Each morning I go on a five mile walk. Each morning I train myself to fight human curiosity. I try to walk without looking too long at a new car that catches my eye. I try to walk without looking too long at a nice house that I might aspire to own one day. I try to walk without looking too long at the flowers and the curb appeal of my neighbors’ yards. I try not to look away when a police cruiser drives by. I try to walk without being too big. I try to walk without being too black. I try to walk in a manner that brings no suspicion. I try to walk so I get back home. I try to walk so my mother doesn't receive that phone call. Each morning I train myself not to be human. It’s a painful process.
As a theater maker, I write about the pain of being Black in America. I explore the unachieved dream of not being judged by the color of your skin but the content of your character. In a dark theater, amongst red velvet seats, in the quiet is where I allow myself not to be small, not to make adjustments, not to comfort anyone’s fragility. I allow myself to be as black as I want to be. The theater and the script is where I’m my most authentic self. Most likely because I came to theater on my own terms. No one introduced me to the art of writing compelling characters, explosive dialogue and dramatic action. I learned those things from the black storytellers in my family; my mother, aunts, uncles and family friends. As an overweight gay nine year-old, the company of adults was my sanctuary from the unrelenting teasing of first cousins and the children of family friends. Unknowingly, family gatherings turned into my classroom. Their stories of southern poverty, childhood struggles, barroom fights, messy love relations and interactions with white America taught me how to develop rich characters, dramatic action, pacing and dialogue that rings true to the ear.
I’m a traditional storyteller and lean towards linear action. My style is influenced by writers across a realm of genres. August Wilson, Mel Brooks, Norman Lear and John Irving better show up in everything I write. I rely on humor to disarm my audiences and then deliver the knockout punch. If I don’t get laughs in the first act and tears in the second then I’ve failed.
I have two main goals as a writer. The first is legacy. I’m striving to create work that is worthy of a life on Broadway stages to regional stages to English classrooms. My second goal is to become as free walking in my neighborhood as I am in the darkness of the theater.