Friday, July 15, 2011
my interview with Kathy Perkins about Alice Childress
Yesterday I had the pleasure of talking with Kathy Perkins, Professor of Theatre at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, about a book she edited called SELECTED PLAYS: ALICE CHILDRESS. Published by Northwestern University Press. To me, Alice Childress (1916-1994) along with Lorraine Hansberry is one of the most important mentors to me as a playwright. Her artistic vision in all her plays fearlessly confront racism and sexism in powerful ways that I try to emulate as a playwright. Before we interviewed, I had the phenomenal opportunity of reading this entire book including Kathy Perkins' introduction where she describes Childress as a writer who is "resilient, vocal, no nonsense...uncompromising." We discussed each play in this book in-depth, starting with FLORENCE (1949), GOLD THROUGH THE TREES (1952), TROUBLE IN MIND (1955), WEDDING BAND (1966), and WINE IN THE WILDERNESS (1969). Professor Perkins is so familiar with each of them and what enhanced this interview was hearing her personal experience with Ms. Childress herself, and hearing her work on some of these plays, most recently WINE IN THE WILDERNESS. I also loved reading an excerpt with Professor Perkins of Childress's most popular play TROUBLE IN MIND where I read the role of Al Manners and she read the role of Wiletta Mayer. I hope this interview enhances our appreciation and understanding of the incredibly bold and relevant artistic vision of Alice Childress. I hope more of her plays are read and produced as a result of my interview with Professor Kathy Perkins here. Thank you Professor Perkins for editing this book, and for personally making a fulfilled promise to Ms. Childress to write an anthology dedicated to just her. -RF.