Review Fix chats with playwright Michael Hagins about his newest work and more.
About Michael Hagins:
Michael Hagins, an African-American playwright, director, fight director, actor, and producer, has used the racism and prejudice he dealt with at an early age to fuel his writing, since age 9. When not writing about injustice, Michael has lent his name to over 1,000 plays and films over his artistic career. An avid lover of Shakespeare, Michaels boasts having done every play in the Canon.
Hagins has two productions preparing for June runs:
WORLD PREMIERE: A Shot Rang Out
Thursday, June 23 @ 8:00 pm; Theatre Row Studios (Theatre 2) , NYC
Produced in association with the Downtown Urban Arts Festival
A white police officer is trapped in a warehouse during an increasingly violent protest with a scared Black teen and a disgruntled schoolteacher.
SPECIAL ENCORE PERFORMANCE: S.U.N. in the U.S.A.
Saturday, June 25, @ 2 pm at Theatre Row Studios (Theatre 4), NYC
Michael Hagins’ unapologetic envelope-pushing history of how white voices have been speaking for black people since the dawn of our nation and the damage silence has caused a community.
Stephanie Cox-Connelly returns as director along with Duane Ferguson, who created the role of BLACK in the original production. They are joined by Alexandra Doering-Dorival, Gigi Principe, Michael Pichardo, Jeremy Goren, Michael Joseph Whitten, Tiffany Knight, Beth Griffith, Mary Sheridan, Alaina Hammond, Kofi Mills, and Tucker Dally Johnston
S.U.N. in the U.S.A. is a story that looks at history through the eyes of an African-American known as BLACK, who is “kindly” reminded just how good he has it in his time in the United States of America-from the beginning of African slavery to today’s culture.
Production stage managed by Stage managed by Sara Minisquero and Adam Sherwin; with costume design by Ellie Raab
THEATRE ROW THEATRES AND STUDIOS ARE LOCATED AT 420 WEST 42ND STREET, NYC
Michael Hagins credentials include: Off-Broadway: The Long Rail North (Soho Rep, FringeNYC); Basement (Roly Poly Productions); Michael is Black and The Renaissance Dueling Plays (Planet Connections Theatre Festivity); The Vengeance Room (FRIGID Festival). Regional credits include Hit and Match (Chicago Fringe, Johannesburg Fringe). Awards include Outstanding Playwriting – Hit and Match, 2013; Outstanding Overall Production of a Solo Show – Michael is Black; Winner of Best Playwriting, Best Director and Best Overall Production of NEPTA Awards for As You Wish It or The Bride Princess or What You Will, 2020; Winner – Best Play and Best Streaming Play, Off-Broadway Regional Awards – Hawai’i for A Shot Rang Out. Artistic Director, C.A.G.E. Theatre Company, 2021. Member, Dramatists Guild and an Advanced Actor-Combatant for the Society of American Fight Directors.
Review Fix: What’s your creative process like?
Michael Hagins: I have an idea for a piece, and I just HAVE to finish. I sit down and make myself finish it to give me time to revise and edit as needed. Once done, I get friends of mine to help me by reading it out loud. Only then will I know that it has a chance of working. I need to hear it flow before I want to go further.
Review Fix: What makes this different or special?
Hagins: Both of these plays were responses to violence against African-Americans. A Shot Rang Out was written as a response to Michael Brown, while S.U.N. in the U.S.A. was written in response to George Floyd. I want these plays to be heard and make people think about the choices they’ve made and their perceptions changed at least enough to understand the pain that comes from systemic racism.
Review Fix: What did you learn about yourself through this process?
Hagins: That I do well better speaking my feelings through my plays. I find ways to break through the trope of the “angry Black man” by creating work that doesn’t have one. If you won’t listen to the “angry Black man,” maybe you’ll listen to the intelligent one. Maybe you’ll listen to the quiet one. Or maybe you’ll listen to your own people telling the story for the Black man.
Review Fix: What are your ultimate goals for this production and for the future?
Hagins: Well, the goal would be to let my plays be put up in a bigger setting like Broadway or even in some touring capacity. I would want them to mean something in someone’s eyes someday. I’ll temper my expectations, though: while A Shot Rang Out is a little short for some theaters, I don’t expect S.U.N. in the U.S.A. to be something that people will run to see again. It’s a tough pill for many to take in.
Review Fix: What’s next?
Hagins: I’ll be directing Othello in the fall, I have a new musical about a cult that I finished, and I just finished a new political play about a Republican senator. I’m hoping to keep having new ideas and find producers to help me not have to mount my own work anymore.