Top Broadway talent will join forces to create new works that will be featured in a one-night only event to benefit civil rights organizations.
The event, dubbed #WhileWeBreathe: A Night of Creative Protest, is the brainchild of two producers Brian Moreland (“Lifespan of a Fact,” “Blue”) and Arvind Ethan David (“Jagged Little Pill”), and comes as many members of the theater community are looking for ways to get involved at a time when the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery are bringing greater attention to social justice issues. In the aftermath of Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police, Moreland began searching for ways to use his platform to draw attention to the issue.
“I reached out to all of my colleagues on Broadway and begged them to speak up, speak out and just say something,” says Moreland. “I felt we needed to do something more.”
David answered that call, and reached out to Moreland proposing they join forces.
“We went out to every writer, every director of color that we knew and said write something that responds to this moment,” said David. “Use your voice.”
To that end, #WhileWeBreathe: A Night of Creative Protest will include new works written by Lee Edward Colston II (“The First Deep Breath,” “For Life”), Arvind Ethan David (“Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency”), Cheryl Davis (“The Bones of Giants,” “Law & Order: SVU”), Nathan Alan Davis (“Nat Turner in Jerusalem,” “Sorry for Your Loss”), Steve Harper (“God Friended Me,” “American Crime”), Bianca Sams (“At Rivers End,” “Charmed”), Keenan Scott II (“Thoughts of a Colored Man,” “A Luv Tale”), Aurin Squire (“Fire Season,” “Good Fight”), Khari Wyatt (“Stomping Down at Sugar’s Love,” “Africana!”), and Karen Zacarias (“Native Gardens,” “Destiny of Desire”). At least 11 of these world premiere short works were written and produced to comment on the political movement sweeping across the country.
Directors will include Steve Broadnax III (“The Hot Wing King,” “The Hip Hop Project”), Bianca LaVerne Jones (“Armed, FEAST”), Patricia McGregor (“Lights Out,” “Nat King Cole,” The Public’s “Hamlet”), Pratibha Parmar (“Nina’s Heavenly Delights,” “Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth”) and Charles Randolph-Wright (“Motown: The Musical on Broadway,” OWN’s “Greenleaf”). Casting is ongoing and will be announced at a future time.
#WhileWeBreathe will premiere on July 29 at 6 p.m. PT/9 p.m. ET on WhileWeBreathe.com, as well as YouTube Live and Facebook Live. Following the premiere, all of the works will be available for viewing.
The event will raise money for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., The Bail Project, Black Organizing for Leadership and Dignity (BOLD), BYP100 Education Fund, Forced Trajectory Project (FTP), The Justice Committee and SONG.
Shannon Baker Davis is the head editor. Mandi Price is the postproduction supervisor. Casting is by Venus Kanani, CSA and Benton Whitley, CSA of Stewart/Whitley. Digital marketing is conducted by Situation Interactive. Pro-bono legal representation is by Sidley Austin LLP. Matt Ross Public Relations is the press representative. Special thanks to Leigh Dana Jackson, Nichelle Carr, Lisa Gifford and Olivier Sultan.
Both David and Moreland note that they are the exceptions to the rule in Broadway, two producers of color in an industry that is dominated by white powerbrokers. While #WhileWeBreathe: A Night of Creative Protest is focused on highlighting national inequities, Moreland and David hope that the social protests will inspire Broadway to change when it reopens from its coronavirus shutdown.
“People across the entire industry have to open doors and put more people of color in their plays and their musicals, and have them write and direct their shows,” said Moreland.
“At the moment Broadway is a mountain in terms of biodiversity,” adds David. “You walk up and towards the bottom there’s dense greenery, but you get to the snow line and then it’s white all the way up.”
#WhileWeBreathe made the following statement:
We are a group of BIPOC Artists and Allies, unconditionally committed to ending police and state brutality, institutionalized racism and the interrelated structural issues of racial and economic injustice, both in the broader world and in the theatre and entertainment industries.
These issues have been with us too long and are now tragically exacerbated by the corona virus pandemic.
We know that Black Lives Matter.
We are optimistic that this crux moment can bring reform and meaningful systemic change. We are motivated by the fierce energy of now.
We believe that as storytellers, we have an obligation to contribute to this moment. We have the platform and the freedom and the breath to speak truth to power and tell the stories that reveal the common truth in us all.
“I can’t breathe” cried George Floyd, cried Eric Garner and too many untold others before they were murdered.
We can breathe, and While We Breathe, we will use our breath to tell our stories, and use those stories to raise awareness, to raise fund
s and to make change.
Our words have power, they have fire, they have force.
While We Breathe: listen, learn, act.