Drama Mamas! A Salute to Black Women Directors

Article excerpt

Drama Mamas!

A Salute to Black Women Directors

Drama Mamas!©, a feature-length documentary film by writer, director and producer, Rhonda "Passion" Hansome, highlights the world of Black women theater directors. In Drama Mamas!, Passion chronicles both the professional and personal lives of some of theater's most accomplished Black women directors through a series of intimate interviews. "We want to speak to women who have directed landmark works in a range of categories, but have been overlooked by popular culture until now," says Passion. She interviews a list of directorial legends that include Shauneille Perry, Glenda Dickerson, Barbara Ann Teer, Gertrude Jeannette, Billie Allen, Vy Higginsen, Seret Scott, Jaye Austin Williams and discusses the legacy of the late Vinnette Carroll. Passion also interviews several artists, including the legendary Ruby Dee. In a promotional trailer, Dee gives her thoughts on the film, saying, "I think this project is provocative and catchy, and I like the title-Drama Mamas!"

Passion, first known as a comedienne and actress and now as a director, has had her work featured in numerous forums: Chekhov NOW Festival, Estrogenius Festivals, Voices From The Edge, NYU Festival of New Works and N.Y.C. College of Technology (CUNY). Most recently, she directed Tony Award winner Melba Moore in Sweet Songs of the Soul for New Federal Theatre at the Henry Street Settlement's Abrons Arts Center. The play is also appearing at the National Black Theater Festival in August.

Passion says her idea for the film came a few years ago after speaking to director Shauneille Perry about theater works from the 1960s. "I told her I was interested in seeing some of her early works, particularly as a teaching tool," says Passion. "When she told me that there was no documentation of her early work, I was astonished. But it soon became the inspiration for [developing] this project."

Passion's vision and format of the film is influenced by Woodie King Jr's. Black Theater: Making of a Movement and Rosanna Arquette's Searching for Debra Winger. "The film is a combination of these two works, but the inspiration is my knowing that Shauneille Perry had no documentation of her early work." She adds that the project is part filmmaking, part investigation. "We want to highlight these theatrical luminaries, but also examine why these talented women have remained in the shadows for so many years."

As the film continues to develop, Passion remains open to new submissions and recommendations for directors to feature in the film. "Part of the process is to discover new directors in addition to the legends and trailblazers that we feature in this film. We are interested in speaking to theater directors around the country." A director's bio and photo can be sent to the website, www.dramamamasthefilm.org, or by e-mail to info@ dramamamasthefilm.org.

Drama Mamas! will feature an original soundtrack created by internationally acclaimed musician and arranger Michael Bearden. His work includes music for Spike Lee's Drop Squad and Jordan Walker Pearlman's indie film, The Visit. Recently, he also completed work on Patti LaBelle's latest album, Classic Moments. "Michael is extraordinarily talented and well respected," says Drama Mamas! associate producer, Janine Carter. …