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Donnetta Lavinia Grays, Drama


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Donnetta Lavinia Grays. Photo: Beowulf Sheehan.

Donnetta Lavinia Grays is a Brooklyn-based playwright who proudly hails from Columbia, SC. Her plays include Where We Stand, Warriors Don’t Cry, Last Night and the Night Before, Laid to Rest, The Review of How to Eat Your Opposition, The New Normal, and The Cowboy is Dying. Donnetta is a Lucille Lortel, Drama League, and AUDELCO Award Nominee. She is the recipient of the Helen Merrill Playwright Award, National Theater Conference Barrie and Bernice Stavis Playwright Award, the Lilly Award, Todd McNerney National Playwriting Award, and is the inaugural recipient of the Doric Wilson Independent Playwright Award. She is currently under commission from Steppenwolf, The Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, WP Theater, and True Love Productions.

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An excerpt from Where We Stand:

Eyes widen as we walk the streets of this shiny unfamiliar. And Ohhs and so many Ahhs.

What’s that moment when your spirit finally sees what your children see in you? Hero. Protector. Smartest person in the room. And that wealth of responsibility and expectation washes over you … in fear. I never knew I could be as big as y’all imagined me to be. We walked the length of this town like to have all y’alls hope pressed into my chest. A hope we didn’t think possible.

A still could be?
A better than?

WE DIDN’T KNOW

And like those new gleaming buildings, that change came gunning for us too.
Here come a, “Man, we looking fit today, y’all!”
As we turned to see suited up, dressed to the nines and church hats beaming.
Seersucker, loafer, high heeled and high steppin’ all. All shades of royal set into our gaits.
Here come a, “Man! I could get used to this!”

CAUSE’ GOLD IS ALL THE RAGE
…….YES, GOLD IS ALL THE RAGE NOW
GOLD IS ALL THE RAGE
…….NOW

AM I A KING
…….AM I?

We all skip hop skip down the street. Like how we guess easy moments to be. Borrowed images of hope from some film we seen as kids maybe? Smiles curled. Sight sharpened.
Here come a, “When I step foot in my new house…”
Here come a, “Can’t nobody tell me nothin!”
Here come a, “You ain’t ate no pies like the pies I’m ‘bout to bake from the fruit in my orchard, baby!”
Here come, “Just watch me stunning in that new car. Crusin’ like what!”
Here come a, “Imma be the person I wished I could be with this new money way of living.”

AM I A KING
AM I A KING

Our imaginations set us into motion. The months pass. And gold becomes a throwaway thing like water, air or that morning kiss goodbye. We don’t even notice the unusual unusualness of it. Easy from a faucet easy.

THE DAYS MIGHT STILL PASS BY
THE DAYS THEY DO GO BY
TIP OF THE HAT
…….HELLO GOODNIGHT
THEY STILL PASS BY
THE DAYS…
BUT THIS TIME THERE’S A GLANCE
…….A SMILING LITTLE GLANCE (FOR ME)
IT’S ALL WORTH IT.

And every day there’s you. Come to me. Asking me for a little blessing here and there. Lay a hand on a new baby’s head.
Here come me saying, “Well, now, you wanna see if Cooper’s got that steed ready for breeding come May.”
Here come me saying, “Ain’t nothing the two of you can’t work out. Love will find a way.” Here come me saying, “Sell ‘em for about five cents cheaper. Seem fair enough. She’s you neighbor. Keep her.”

Admiration. Respect.

WAS IT WORTH IT?

Real friendship…

AM I A KING
AM I A KING

How high? How high? How high can a man be?
Life saver y’all say. Statue center of town. Of ME.

AM I A KING

Townsquare. Pageantry! Music! And favorite color painted faces. And all on this day to celebrate our storied walk into this…newness. Feasts of fruits without a blemish.

And as the wine flows
…….My speech goes…

A town ain’t nothing but history waiting for future!
And we turned our future to good that day.

Here come a, “Yes. Yes. You bettah preach, now.
You bettah go on! What you say!”

Towns are built by its people. That’s you. And that’s the person to ya side.

Here come a “Yes. Yes!”

I’m talking ‘bout a kind of joyful building. One that lessens the divide
Between us.
‘Cause between us
That joyful building Is us building joyfulness from the inside.

And that edifice? It don’t just stand on joy.
It stands on our duty to one another.
An edifice built on how we call each other sister
And how we call each other brother.

View the full article

Michael Neff
Algonkian Producer
New York Pitch Director
Author, Development Exec, Editor

We are the makers of novels, and we are the dreamers of dreams.

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