Review Fix chats with playwright Jacqueline Wade, who discusses her new production, â€œBlack Panther Women,â€ which is set for a run at the 13 Street Repertory Theatre in New York City through June 22.
Review Fix: What was the inspiration for this project?
Jacqueline Wade: My inspiration for this project was I read Assata Shakur autobiography I was moved by her story. It was a history I had not learned about going to an all catholic school. From reading this autobiography, I started reading more material about the Black Panther Party what they went through and all they achieved.
Review Fix: What’s your creative process like?
Wade: My creative process is to first have the women(actresses) do improvisations based on my play, “Black Panther Women” and the time period. From the improvisations the cast begin to get a sense of the characters and the time period. The improvisations are powerful tool to step into the world of the play. I also have the actresses do research about the time period and their characters. I also talk to them about how it makes them feel to learn about the Black Panther Party and what they went through especially the women. A lot of emotions come to the surface. We always have reflection time during rehearsal. I then proceed to block the play. It is a process. It is amazing and powerful.
Review Fix: What makes this different or special?
Wade: What makes this different or special is that all the women will be playing male and female roles. They will also play Black Panther Women. You don’t hear to much about Black Panther Women. You hear more about the men. There are also a lot of negative misconception about the Black Panther Party and what happened. I want to help create clarity and understanding. The Black Panthers were young warriors-activist fighting for the rights of all oppressed people especially African Americans. Where they perfect, no. However, they tried their best. At the same time, a lot of forces were up against them, Cointelpro, the FBI and so on.
Review Fix: What did you learn about yourself through this process?
Wade: I learn to understand the world I am living in especially police brutality and that times have not changed. I learn to have more love and tolerance and to constantly seek knowledge and the truth. I also learned that other Black Women especially young African American Women know very little to nothing about the Black Panther Party and the contributions they have given especially the women. I want to expose this play to as many people as possible and to have dialogue about it.
Review Fix: How does it feel to be a part of something like this?
Wade: It feels really major, empowering, and special.
Review Fix: What are your ultimate goals for this production and for the future?
Wade: The ultimate goal for this production is for it to tour so that more people can see it. I’d also like to make a film from this.
Review Fix: What do you think your audiences will enjoy the most?
Wade: I feel the audience will enjoy getting to know the various characters who made up the Black Panther Party especially the women and their contributions and what they went through.
Review Fix: What’s next?
Wade: Next will be my play, “Miles Davis” about the life and times of Miles Davis.