Silenced Voices The Anacostia Playhouse New Play Festival 2019
What happens when a city loses its soul?
The silence is deafening.
In 1968 more than 3,000 people from the Poor People’s Campaign set up camp on the National Mall for six weeks in an effort to organize collective activism that would bring economic empowerment and a true end to poverty in America.
Unfortunately the memory of that event and the voices of the people who lived, worked and educated their children in that tent city in the hopes of achieving real change were silenced, drowned out by the celebrity-filled success of the August 1963 March on Washington.
Over fifty years have passed. The go-go music on the corner of Florida and Georgia Avenue proved too loud for a resident in a shiny new condo close by. The city acquiesced and silenced the music. But even though the outrage was immediate, owner Don Campbell couldn’t turn the music back on back on until T-Mobile CEO John Légère said so. Weeks later, the noise of outrage rose again against those who chose not to honor, or even attempt to understand, the sacred space that is Howard University’s campus. The question was posed: Why don’t “they” just move out of the city?
While other American cities have found ways to allow bike lanes, yoga studios and pet friendly coffee shops to coexist with long time residents and low income housing , DC has chosen a different path.
Washington DC has the highest rate of displacing African American residents to make room for developers who serve primarily affluent white residents. According to the National Community Reinvestment Coalition in Washington DC, gentrification does not mean increased investment or physical improvements. In Washington DC, gentrification is removing people of color.
These voices are now going unheard, silenced by the constant noise of construction projects.
What happens when the creation is valued more than the creators?
As artists we focus on inspiration. Inspiration that, regardless of race, religion, or economic background, allows us to connect on a spark that is foundational to humanity. That spark is why we create art, write songs, and author plays. It’s the spark that’s found in go-go music, the unique language and fashion of DC’s children, mumbo sauce, and Howard University students. And now, 20,000 of the very people who invented countless ingenuities have been forced out of the city.
This city once captured good food, great music, beautiful art, and a warm, welcoming environment in which to enjoy it all. We had this in Shaw, Petworth, and Anacostia. Unfortunately, in the name of progress and improvement, the creators of these vibrant places were displaced. What they created was appropriated and the creators were no longer needed.
The Anacostia Playhouse asks playwrights to imagine what could happen East of the Anacostia if new residents awoke to find that their new communities no longer had that vibrancy they craved and now they must make a life in a place devoid of the soul that drew them to it.
Let us also imagine the next chapter of the creators as they propose to own their space and, perhaps, to withhold their gifts of soul from the displacers.
Shine a spotlight on the voices that are being silenced: The corner cell phone store that plays a musical genre invented in DC ; the special cuisine that was once a neighborhood cornerstone; and the people themselves who built an amazing culture, despite limited resources, over policing, and a lack of access to financing. The people who were brushed aside and left behind. And whose voices were silenced.
The play should be short: 10-15 minutes
The play should have no more than 4 characters
The play should focus on neighborhoods east of the Anacostia river
Deadline for submissions August 15, 2019
Winners notified October 1, 2019