1) What is your background? Where are you from and where are you currently now?
I grew up in York, SC, went to Duke University to be a doctor, and instead of going to medical school, I studied theatre in London and dance with the Alvin Ailey school in NYC. (You can imagine how my family loved that). I now am a writer/director dividing my time between New York, Los Angeles and D.C.
2) How did you get started in writing, specifically playwriting? Have you always wanted to write?
I’ve always written. My mother was an English teacher, so I guess it’s in my blood. Toni Morrison said “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”
I started writing plays because I didn’t see people I knew represented on stage.
3) What are you hoping audiences will take from Blue? What is the overall message of this play?
We have far more in common with each other than what divides us. When Blue was first produced, it was criticized that it was not about race (not by audiences, but by critics). Actually, that criticism ignited me because I did not want to write the expected southern play filled with angst about racial relations. Ten years later, Blue has broken theatre records and has been produced all over the country. It attests to the fact that audiences relate to this family, no matter where they come from, what color they are, how much money they make, etc. Blue is about family, and that love of family can conquer extraordinary difficulties.
4) Whose work would you recommend for emerging writers to study?
There are so many. My recommendation is to be as varied as possible. Discover worlds that are completely alien to you or opposite to you. The classic works are very important because you must know what works before you attempt to change it.
5) If for some reason you were suddenly forbidden to write, what would you end up doing?
Luckily I also direct, and I was a performer. If I were not in the entertainment industry, I would probably work in some form of education.
6) What is most helpful to you as you sit down to write a first draft?
It’s the idea, the journey that compels me to create. I love telling stories, and I give thanks everyday that I am given the opportunity to do so.
I am thrilled that my play will be performed in the historic Dock Street Theater. Especially as a South Carolinian, I am honored that my words will be heard there. Years after I decided not to pursue my medical career, my mother saw one of my productions and said, “You have healed far more people with your work than you ever could have as a doctor.” I hope that Blue not only entertains, but may have a small part in helping to heal what is becoming a disturbingly polarized country. I feel it is our duty as artists to work toward finding a common voice. We don’t have to agree, but we must find a way to communicate.
Charles Randolph-Wright has built a dynamic and diversified career in directing, writing, and producing for film, television and theatre. Most recently, Actor’s Equity named Charles the recipient of the 2010 Paul Robeson Award, an award that recognizes the person who best exemplifies the principles by which Mr. Robeson lived. Charles directed the 75th anniversary international tour of Porgy and Bess, currently on tour, and Daniel Beaty’s Through the Night, which will open Off-Broadway at the Union Square Theatre this fall. Charles wrote the play Blue, starring Phylicia Rashad, which broke box office records in its premiere at Arena Stage, the Roundabout Theatre, and the Pasadena Playhouse and has had subsequent productions throughout the United States.