Amina Henry – Playwright – An American Family Takes a Lover

Amina Henry is a first generation American of Jamaican descent. She has a BA in English/Film Studies from Yale University and an MA in Performance Studies from New York University. She is a writer/actress who currently works as a Resident Teaching Artist for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon. She is in the process of applying to MFA Playwriting programs at Brooklyn College and Yale University. She has written several 10 minute plays, 3 one-acts and is in the process of writing a full length play. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, doing yoga, or watching movies with her dog


Name, Theatre Background…
1. Amina Henry, I came to the theatre as an actress first, doing children’s shows and experimental theatre.`I began getting teaching artist work and went back to get my Masters in Performance Studies at NYU after doing a lot of volunteer work in correctional facilities in New York. More teaching artist work followed, as well as a move away from my desire to perform, although my passion for theatre was increasing. Eventually I began to realize that I wanted to enter the conversation of a play in a different way. Hence, I began writing plays.
Why is it important for you to be part of series devoted to Black Playwrights?
2. It’s important for me to be part of a series devoted to Black Playwrights because I am one and I feel that Black Playwrights need as many forums as possible for their voices to be heard.
What is important to you about a Black Community of Artists?
3. A Black Community of Artists to me feels like an artistic home and refuge. To me it means a group of family members who feel free to express their ideas and have conversations with people who speak a similar language and come from a similar life experience, even while acknowledging individual differences. It’s a place where everyone is validated and doesn’t have to expend the energy to be acknowledged. Everyone is welcomed into the room.
What does your play say about the Black Community to you?
4. An American Family Takes A Lover really seeks to explore The Stockholm Syndrome through a sexual and racial lens. I think it attempts to explore how hard it is to be free from societal constraints when imprisonment begins to feel like the norm and is almost comfortable. It’s a very feminine play in that I am looking at what it means to be a Black Woman in particular. Black women have been institutionalized in a certain sense; it’s very difficult to build ourselves up when we have been told for so long that we’re less than others. The election of a Black man was a siren call to my ears; now’s the time to change and really get it together. Now there are no excuses to remain complacent. Yet young Black women still seek to be in the music videos and viewed as sex objects, we want to shake our bodies in our underwear so that men will tell us that we’re beautiful and loved. We link power with our sexuality. I think that this play touches on how far we have yet to go, but also how necessary it is for us to really empower ourselves since no one will do it but us.
How did you begin writing this play?
5. I began writing this play a week after Obama’s election, although it took me several months to really get a grip on what the story would be. I had a lot of strong feelings when he was elected: elation, hope and a sort of panic. I had a very strong image of the first scene and that image seemed to carry me through to the end.

About blackboardplays

Familiar with the collectives for poets and other Black writers that had been created over the years and slightly envious of that sense of community, I became curious about a similar place for playwrights. I wanted to see Black playwrights, actors and directors excited over each others work and supporting each other. I was longing for a “home” as a Black playwright and wanted to see other Black artists in that home, not to be exclusive, but because there was a void. I was also eager to find other Black playwrights who shared a passion for the craft of storytelling. The stories of the Black community are diverse and are often hidden behind the blockbuster stereotyped versions. The non-artistic Black community, not involved in the writing of these stories, is yearning to see themselves in our stories and it is apart of my life’s work to ensure that happens. the cell is any artists’ dream: a new space that supports you as you grow, committed to new work and the art. This allows the writer to focus on the craft - to focus on their story. Nancy Manocherian and Kira Simring welcomed this idea with open arms and instantly became apart of what we later called “Blackboard Reading Series”. Every reading will conclude a twenty minute talk-back with the audience. Dialogue with the community is essential to what we want to do with the series. As we grow, there may be more readings a month, play festivals and of course productions. We want to nurture and develop new black playwrights for this generation! Thank You! Garlia Cornelia Jones Founder, Blackboard Reading Series
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