Tonight at 7pm in the Schwartz Center at Emory, former Essential Theatre collaborator Patricia Henritze’s play, The Bitch of Balaclava, is being read as part of Theater Emory’s Brave New Works series.
Jennifer Kimball, Managing Director
I’ve been meaning to write this post for awhile now, but every time I sit down to write, I get lost in the photos, my own memories and the Facebook posts from friends of Daniel’s. It’s been almost a month, and I still can’t believe we’ve done our last show together, that I’ve seen Daniel’s amazing talent onstage for the last time. This Thanksgiving, there’s a lot to give thanks for. And through the tears that still well up for a man that, let’s face it, I worked with once a year at most, I suppose it’s fitting that it took me till Thanksgiving week to be able to say it. Thank you, Daniel. There aren’t words enough, so just — thanks.
On October 25, 2013, the world lost a wonderful actor and human being, Mr. Daniel Burnley. The Essential Theatre was blessed to have him on our stage and in our family for many years, and our world will not be the same without him. He was an unforgettable man to those who knew him, and the characters he created onstage were unparalleled in my experience.
Here are some thoughts that our artistic director, Peter Hardy, shared with me around the time of Daniel’s wake, which fittingly enough was held at Manuel’s Tavern, a longtime haven for the Atlanta theatre community.
“Most people in the Atlanta theatre community knew Daniel Burnley — over the past few decades he’d worked with most of the companies in town, at one time or another, along with a bunch of film work. I got to know him in 2005, when I directed him in the Essential Theatre’s production of Sam Shepard’s THE LATE HENRY MOSS, which is a play I loved and really wanted to do, but don’t think I would have had the courage to take on if Daniel hadn’t been willing to do the title roll. Which he was, and without really knowing me much at all, for which I’ll always be grateful. He was splendid, and that show is still one of my proudest memories with the Essential Theatre, and Daniel went on to do exemplary work for us in four more productions — CHARM SCHOOL, JIM CROW AND THE RHYTHM DARLINGS, THE DARKER FACE OF THE EARTH and QUALITIES OF STARLIGHT. In just about every case, Daniel was taking on a role for us that no one else (that was available to us) would have been willing or able to do — or, at least, not nearly as well as he did them. Daniel told me repeatedly how much he believed in the work Essential was doing, and how he’d give up the chance to get (much) better playing work in films to do one of our projects. Which was an honor for us, but also just a testament to the generous and committed person that he was. All that being said, he was also just a good guy, a good friend, and someone that all of us will miss a lot.”
Thank you, Daniel, for your crass humor, your quick laughter, your generous spirit, your belief in the work we do at Essential, and for making that work better with your involvement. We love you, and we miss you!
In 2013 for the first time, sign language interpretation was offered as part of the Essential Theatre Festival. This was a pretty big undertaking for us – there’s a lot of work and a lot of money that goes into making this happen smoothly and well – and we were very excited to be bringing this new aspect into our festival.
To help fund the project, we participated in our first ever power2give crowdfunding project. If you’re not familiar with power2give, it’s actually pretty awesome, and you can learn more about it here. We’d started out hoping to raise money, but through our power2give project, we gained so much more. The outpouring of community support and enthusiasm was touching, encouraging and absolutely inspiring to all of us. People we’d known for years contacted us thanking us for the work we do every year, for our years of support of Georgia artists, and for our commitment to sharing quality theatre with anyone and everyone we meet. People we’d never realized had an interest reached out to say thank you for bringing new theatre to Deaf audiences, and thank you for engaging us in conversation. And the support we received from members of Atlanta’s own Deaf community was heartening and inspiring as well. The video you see if you go to our project page would never have been possible without two of our most committed Deaf collaborators, Amy Cohen Efron and AJ Wooddall. And the geographic extent of the response was impressive too: Terp Theatre in Detroit, MI, contacted us and said,
“You are embarking on a wonderful project, which will greatly enhance your local theatre community’s ability to better reflect the diversity of our world…Your community-centered approach is to be lauded…Our heartfelt congratulations to you, from your friends in ‘The D’.”
Interview with playwright Theroun Patterson
Learn more about actor and playwright Theroun Patterson, winner of the 2011 Essential Theatre Playwriting Award and author of this Wednesday night’s Bare Essential play, That Uganda Play
About That Uganda Play: I originally wrote the play in late 2011-early 2012 with a staged reading of the original draft with Working Title Playwrights and Academy Theatre in January 2012. The play started as a sort of knee jerk reaction to reading an NPR interview with David Bahati , a Ugandan Member of Parliament that introduced his Anti-Gay Legislation, causing an uproar with Gay Rights groups because the Bill essentially criminalized homosexuality and would have allowed for unprecedented governmental persecution of gays. The article simply made me angry. I started writing to try and understand that type of hatred, to know where it came from, and perhaps to feel better about a my own frustrations about a prejudice that I can’t control; that I can’t stamp out on my own. With the virulent anti-homosexual sentiments and violence in Africa and recently with the legislation signed into law in Russia, this play is timely and a sheds light on a very American involvement with such a controversial figure like Bahati. Not only that, but I wanted to ground the play within two families and show how a global problem works its way down into our most personal relationships. Honestly I hope a theatre with an interest in starting a community dialogue about social issues will produce this play. My hope is that it provokes debate and conversations late into the night long after its over.
About Theroun: I started as an actor, working for eleven years on Atlanta stages. I started seriously writing plays in 2005, producing and directing my own readings with the help of generous peers that donated their time and talents. In 2009, I joined Working Title Playwrights and wrote the first of four plays that year. I’ve written a dozen full lengths since 2006. I’m pleased to be working with Essential again after the production of my play A Thousand Circlets.
On the Bare Essentials Series: The reading series allows me the opportunity to refine the play and find new audiences for it to continue a dialogue generated by art.
What is it like to transition from acting to writing? As an actor, there was always an underlying anxiety about performing, but as a writer I have absolutely no fear. I’m willing to learn in front of others, to continue to grow and experiment with story and structure. Playwriting is the form of expression that fits me best as an artist. Acting is secondary to that.
Next for me, is a production of fugitive:EROS and The Chemicals Between Us with Out of Box Theatre next season, as well as the production of Origin Story with Academy Theatre in their new home. I’m also about to start on a new commission with Pinch N Ouch Theatre as well as Mad Hope Theatre Project.
The Bare Essentials series is free and open to the public. Donations graciously accepted. Complimentary wine before and after the show. For more information on all the readings as well as the other plays in the festival, visit www.essentialtheatre.com