Jennifer Nelson, Director of Red Velvet

What’s your “deal?”
I’ve been working in professional theatre since 1972—45 years!

Tell us a little bit about your path to directing.
I began my professional career as an actress in the Living Stage Theatre (LSTC), the community outreach company of Arena Stage. Our programming was based on the improvisational practices of Viola Spolin. LSTC was devoted to working with people who had little or no access to the arts. We used creative, interactive improv as a means to encourage people to express themselves. My interest in directing grew from helping non-actors find the courage to externalize what they could live out loud. I gradually realized I have little interest in actually being on stage myself.

A Raisin in the Sun, Everyman Theatre

A Raisin in the Sun, Everyman Theatre

What fuels you creatively or what is your super power?
A very active imagination!

Gospel at Colonus, AvantBard Theatre

Gospel at Colonus, AvantBard Theatre

What made you say yes to directing Red Velvet and what part of it gets you excited?
I am a lover of history: how political and social trends collide and coalesce to form realities. The story of Ira Aldridge is little known in America—but ironically, he might never have become the groundbreaking artist he did had it not been for the racism that drove him to Europe. I was delighted to see that a play had been written about him; and the opportunity to do it on this side of the Atlantic was irresistible.

Who is your favorite playwright and why?
Hard to pick only one! Currently I am particularly enamored with the exciting contemporary African American women writing for the stage: Lynn Nottage stays on top of the list. But I’m also a big fan of August Wilson. I’ve directed eight of his cycle of 10—and hope to complete the set.

Intimate Apparel, University of Maryland

Intimate Apparel, University of Maryland

What did you care most about when you were 10 years old?
Books!

Describe yourself in three alliterative words.
Independent, intelligent, intuitive

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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