Everybody wants to be Black until they face Black problems. Four white friends learn this when they decide to enter an underground “Black Immersion Experience.”
About DON'T LOOK BLACK - A MORAL STORY with Playwright Preston Crowder and Director Alicia Haymer
Tennessee Playwrights Studio (TPS) is proud to produce the world premiere of Don't Look Black, written by Preston Crowder and directed by Alicia Haymer, as one of four productions in our 2022 Season.
Don’t Look Black was developed during Crowder’s Fellowship with TPS in 2020. TPS presented a workshop reading of Don't Look Black as part of its 2020 Virtual Reading Festival, and comments from that audience include:
Fully desperate to produce this
Need to see this all over again
This is so hard to watch in all the right ways
This is DEEP and I love IT!!!
This just keeps twisting
I am FLOORED
Crying in Australia. SOOOO powerful
The final weekend of Don't Look Black is presented as part of the 16th Annual Shades of Black Theatre Festival, which runs September 1st through October 1st and includes theatre productions from Destiny Theatre Experience, Dream 7 Productions, Global Education Center, SistaStyle Productions and more!
Read about the Don't Look Black cast and creatives below, and we will see you at the Darkhorse in August and September!
Proof of vaccination and masks are required at the Darkhorse Theater.
Gabe Atchley (he/him) (Billy) got his roots in the performing arts thru stand up comedy. Though he still has a great fondness for the craft, his main passion was discovered thru live theatre. This play is exactly the type of project that strikes at the core of his goals in theatre -- thought provoking. He hopes you will continue to frequent live theatre & hopes to live a more sustainable life through gardening, solar energy and recycling.
MeJah Balams (she/her) (Scenic Designer) is a multi-disciplined visual artist residing in Atlanta, Ga. She received a BFA in Theatre Design and Technology from Auburn University and extended her studies at the reputable Cobalt Studios, for scenic art. Her work has been credited as scenic, lighting, and props designer. She has also had the privilege of touring as art department lead for theatre production. Her most notable collaboration was a lighting designer for Prague Quadrennial 2019’s main creative centerpiece “Blue Hour”, a large scale multifaceted and immersive installation. She most recently designed for the Summit Performance Indianapolis production of Skeleton Crew.
Dee Benn (she/they) (Costume Designer) is a native of Knoxville, Tennessee where she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Music Education from Carson-Newman University. She started costuming while performing in college musicals and fell in love! You can catch her tye dying vintage clothes and interning with The Nashville Repertory Theatre in their design program! You may have also seen her designs in “The Naughty Tree” presented by Oz Arts earlier this summer! This will be one of her last projects as she is heading to Brooklyn, NY this October to peruse her dreams! Wish her well and enjoy the show!”
Candace-Omnira (she/her) (Lee Ann/Sarah Lee/Manager), Associate Executive Producer for SistaStyle Productions, is an artist & activist. She has been in the Nashville theatre scene for the last seven years performing, stage managing, and directing for various companies, including: Destiny Theatre Experience, Nashville Rep, Street Theatre Company, and Actors Bridge Ensemble. Her belief is that theatre can be used as a way to reflect the world to an audience and chooses to do shows that showcase black history and social justice. She has a passion for protest through art, disruption, and changing the world with peace, love and liberation.
Born and raised in Nashville, TN, Preston Crowder (he/they) (Playwright) is a playwright-actor-director-songwriter with a passion for telling stories surrounding the vast experiences of being Black and Queer in the United States. Production history includes Don’t Look Black (Tennessee Playwrights Studio, 2022), Break Your Chains (Juilliard School, 2017), and Flames (University School of Nashville, 2016). Acting Credits include Is God Is (Scotch, The New School), Night Into Morning (Xavier, Short Film), Maidens (Figure 3, Tennessee Playwrights Studio), Sweat (Chris, Humanity Theater Project) and Clybourne Park (Kevin/Albert, Circle Players). Directing credits include Night Into Morning (Short Film) and Detroit ’67 (Assistant Director, Karamu House). Preston is a past fellow for the Tennessee Playwrights Studio and was named a semi-finalist for the 2022 Obsidian Theater Festival (Bocking). Preston holds a MFA degree from The New School of Drama and a BFA degree from Oberlin College, where they currently serve as a visiting Professor of Theater and Africana Studies.
Daniel DeVault (he/him) (Lighting Designer) is a theatre professional, born and raised in Nashville, TN. He holds a B.A. in Theatre Performance and Design from Roanoke College, and has worked as Director, Stage Manager, Lighting Designer, and Performer throughout middle Tennessee. Notable credits include Co-Founder/Artistic Director of Humanity Theatre Project, Resident Lighting Designer/Executive Artistic Team at Chaffin’s Barn Dinner Theatre, and is currently a Stage Manager/Associate Producer for Matt Davenport Productions. He has provided lighting to dozens of productions in and around Nashville, and was previously Lighting Designer for TPS' premiere production, Maidens by Kenley Smith. Daniel is excited and grateful to now be able to dive into Preston Crowder's Don't Look Black.
Dianne DeWald (she/they) (Mandy) graduated from Austin Peay State University with a BFA in Acting and Directing, cum laude with honors. Some of her favorite credits include: Maidens (Tennessee Playwrights Studio), Spirit (The Bell Witch Fall Festival), Turandot (Nashville Opera), and The Consequences of Madison Mumbry (Roxy Regional Theatre). When Dianne isn’t on stage, she coaches dialects and teaches workshops and private lessons on audition techniques, dialects, and acting. Some of her recent workshops include sessions with TPAC and Thescon. Dianne sends all of her love to you, the audience, and to Boots and Ben.
Sound/Projection Technician (he/him) Aaron Finley is on lend from Dream7 Theatre Productions where he is Technical Director, lighting designer, sound tech and board member. He comes with experience both on the floor and in the booth, where he says he “shines”. He credits D7 leadership, both past and present, for his love of theatre and the journey its taken him on thus far. And a personal thank you to Molly Breen for this opportunity…Always ready to learn more.
Alicia Haymer (she/her) (Director) is always excited when the opportunity to direct another compelling piece of work comes about. She's had the pleasure of directing with Actor's Bridge Ensemble, Street Theatre Company, Nashville Story Garden, Kindling Arts Festival, and Nashville Repertory Theatre. Alicia has also directed developmental works with Tennessee Playwright’s Studio, Destiny Theatre Experience, and MTSU’s In Process: A Creative Writing Series. In addition to directing, Alicia is also a mentor for the Young Voices Competition, a monologue competition using the work of contemporary Black writers. Alicia is always grateful for any opportunity to express herself with creative authenticity.
Chantéa Kirkwood (she/her) (Nicole/Derika) is a multi-dimensional actress who loves telling a story that changes perspectives like that of Don’t Look Black. She can be seen in commercials for BlueCross BlueShield, Hughes and Coleman, and the TV series Nashville. Recent Theater Credits: Music City Jubilee, Our Town, The Devil’s Funeral, Let’s Straighten it Out and The WIZ Adaptation. Chantea hopes that her portrayal of strong unapologetic female warriors will be the catalyst that makes love popular again, bringing healing to a hurting world.
Sawyer Latham (he/him) (Jake/Cop) is a local actor, native to Nashville. He is extremely grateful for the opportunity to breathe life into such an important piece of work. Other work in town includes shows with the Nashville Shakespeare Festival and Circle Players. He is currently a student of The 4th Wall Acting Studio. He hopes you all enjoy the show!
Leonard Ledford III (he/him) (Chinny/Derek/
Schuyler) is an actor, writer, & director. He has been performing on stages in the Nashville area since 2016 in productions such as Stick Fly, Sweat,The Piano Lesson, & most recently Music City Jubilee. He has been in performances with other companies, including Destiny Theatre Experience, Centerstage Theatre & Humanity Theatre Project. He wrote & directed the feature film Drought, which is streaming on Tubi. He is also the Assistant Artistic Director of Dream 7 Productions, having learned from mentor & Dream 7 founder, Michael L. Walker. He also is known as hip hop artist and songwriter Boogie Dollars, is Co-founder of Actin Up Media & host of The Session
E. Roy Lee (Scenic Artist) (he/she/they) has spent almost as much time working on sets as he has performing on stage. He has designed, built, and painted a number of theatres across the Middle Tennessee area, including The Nashville Children's Theatre, ACT 1, Studio Tenn, and The Nashville Shakespeare Company.
Roy is also a prolific artist. His work can be found on Instagram (@the.e.roy.lee) and his website (www.eroylee.com).
LaTia L .Lewis (she/her) (Stage Manager) is a native of Nashville, TN. She is a graduate of Middle Tennessee State University. She has been acting in her adult life since 2010. She is honored to be a part of this great production.
Enjoli Morgan (Assistant Stage Manager) Denver native, happy to work with this amazing production.
Taryn Pray (she/her) (Carli) is thrilled to be making her Tennessee Playwrights Studio on-stage debut as a part of this amazing cast! During the pandemic, Taryn participated in numerous virtual readings and workshops with TPS, Pipeline Collective, Nashville Film Festival and Actors Bridge Ensemble, and performed in Pipeline Collective’s Outside of Here. She currently serves on Street Theatre Company’s Board of Directors, is a founding member of Stoke Performing Arts in Nolensville, TN, and has performed as an actor volunteer with Backlight Productions, a theater arts company for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She wants to thank her husband Brad, her kids – Brynn, Harrison and Charlotte – for all their love and support, and you, the audience, for supporting local Nashville theatre!
Elliott Winston Robinson (he/his) (Mr. Cadaverous/Perio/Reporter) – Nashville-based actor/singer/voiceover artist; chaser of opportunities to tell good stories. Elliott was last seen in the country jukebox musical May We All at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center. His favorite dramatic roles include: Joseph Asagai in A Raisin in the Sun; Homer Smith in Lilies of the Field; Hoke Coleburn in Driving Miss Daisy; Pvt. James Wilkie in A Soldier’s Play; Sam Semela in Master Harold… and the Boys; Brucie in Sweat; and Dr. Larabee in Akeelah and the Bee. He has also made it halfway through August Wilson’s Pittsburgh cycle, having played Solly Two Kings in Gem of the Ocean; Wining Boy and Doaker in The Piano Lesson; Troy Maxson in Fences; Shealy and Doub in Jitney; and Memphis Lee in a staged reading of Two Trains Running. When he's not on stage, you will find him presenting to groups on Nashville history in the Civil Rights Room at the main library downtown. I had the pleasure of taking part in the virtual reading of DON’T LOOK BLACK last year, and I thought then how exciting and important it would be to get this thing on a stage; so, I’m incredibly proud of Preston, and honored to be a part of the cast for this real-life premiere! Special thanks to my sweetheart, Jessica, and my family, for continued love and support. Enjoy the show!
Gabe Suico (he/his) (Sound Designer) is excited to be helping Don’t Look Black with the sound design for the show. A long time Nashvillian, Gabe started his work in technical theater while in high school and has gone from making Wizard of Oz poppies out of coat hangers to light, sound, and set design with youth, high school, and community theaters in the Nashville area. While not working behind the scenes or at his day job, Gabe enjoys carpentry, digital & drone photography, or doing just about anything working with his hands. He would like to thank Terri, Cathie, Steve, and Vanessa for his involvement in the world of theater. From the valleys of Chattanooga, TN to the country singing streets of Nashville,TN.
Chandra J. Walton or CJ (she/hers) (Cherry/Atlantic) is an actress and stand-up comedian. She's been performing since a child and graduated with a degree in Theater from Tennessee State University. She has been on stages with the likes of Dave Hollister and Gary Jenkins, to Bernadette Stanis and Regina McCrary. As a comedian, she has traveled from Chicago to New Orleans to do comedy, and she won the 2018 Actress of the Year for her stage performance in Clybourne Park as Lena/Francine and was also nominated in Nashville Broadway World for best actress. From hosting the very first Music City Talent show to managing a camp for youth, The YES MA’AM NO MA’AM Int., Chandra loves kids and people and to help. She gives every credit and all performances to her late grandmother who was one of the funniest, sweetest and most honest person I know. “Without my granny, I would never know how to really love people. Even when they are not the nicest.”.
Gillión Welsh (he/they) (Master of Blackness) is very excited to be performing at the Darkhorse Theater again! He’s been active in performing since the age of 9, and outside of theatre, Gillión enjoys playing violin, producing large scale secret shows, and impulsively buying shoes. He has performed at many venues and with many companies, including: Schermerhorn’s Laura Turner Concert Hall, Carnegie Hall, Circle Players, The Larry Keeton Theatre, and Street Theatre. His most recent theatre endeavors include: Hair, Hunchback of Notre Dame, Annie Get Your Gun, Cabaret, Dreamgirls, Footloose, and Reefer Madness. Gillión believes that theatre is the best way to anthropologically preserve our culture via verbal storytelling. Furthermore, Gillión would also like to thank all of the educators who have helped fine tune his craftsmanship in the performing arts and taught him how to use the sauce to create an etheric experience anywhere he steps foot
Lauren Wilson (Program Designer) is a full-time art director and graphic designer based in Nashville, TN. A native New Yorker, she fell in love with theater and performing at a young age and performed in many New York productions over the years before attending C.W. Post University to study art and design. Lauren moved to Nashville back in 2012 and immediately felt at home in Nashville’s growing theater and art scene. She loves being able to work and collaborate with other Nashville creatives and local organizations, and continues to provide design services and creative direction for theater companies, independent businesses, and artists all over the city. (www.lwilsondesign.com)