Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company has been around for about 30 years now, all under the guidance of beloved artistic director Howard Shalwitz. His leadership has distinguished the theater as one of the longest lasting contemporary American theaters dedicated to producing some seriously provocative work. As such, it was my immense pleasure to accept a seven-week internship here at the theater working in the Connectivity Department. Woolly’s reputation is known far and wide, even reaching to the corners of Vermont, where I have spent the last year and a half in my cozy little liberal arts college.
My experience with Africa has been limited to a bleary-eyed 8am class about its democratization record (spoiler: not stellar). Imagine my surprise and ultimately, my excitement, when I realized that my internship would essentially revolve around The Convert, a unique play simply by virtue of the fact that it is an African play written by an African woman about African people. Wait, it gets better – not just a play about African people, but about an African woman.
Through my work in the Connectivity Department here at Woolly, I have plunged into a deep, refreshing pool of diverse theatre. The unfortunate reality of being a drama student (and this is anywhere) is that what is often filtered down are the classics—all important, yet all very white. The unfortunate reality is that not very many stories on the stage have been told about black women – or African women for that matter. Besides For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Was Enuf, and a few notable others, I’m not sure I can think of many famous shows telling the stories of black women. And when you broaden the racial scope, you find yourself with even less choices—Hispanic women (West Side Story doesn’t count)? Asian women? Arab women?
That’s why I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to work at a theater that has the means and the resources to commit to new shows written by women and men who are striving to diversify contemporary theater. It makes my job at Woolly even more daunting – while the playwrights are aiming to diversify the plays available, my department is essentially aiming to diversify the audience to match the play.
I hope I’ve done the task justice.
-Tenara Calem, Connectivity Intern