“The Gratitude Monologues” with All Souls Church, NYC

Fresh off the “Grace Project” I’m up again with “The Gratitude Monologues,” part of an initiative with All Souls Church in New York. Needless to say I’m excited to participate. The monlologues and musical performances run for 6 weeks and I’ll be reading mine, “Baltimore Bound,” on July 27th. The event starts at 10:00am.

The monologues are 10 minutes or less, and “Baltimore Bound” is something I created several years back. Never thinking it would fit a particular theme. But lo and behold….it fits! Many thanks to Leslie Corn (my favorite Genealogical Forensics person) for reaching out. She’d heard me read an excerpt of “B-Side Man,” on one of Roland Tec’s monologue events. Looking over Leslie’s background it illustrates that RIGHT NOW folks are making deeper dives into the world of connections, connections on a very organic level. I think “Grace” and “Gratitude” are perfect examples of this. They explore what makes us human and what brings us together. Though the monologues and performances are all very different, the chords they strike will ring true with all of us.

The role of a “playwright” — certainly the one I grew up with — has expanded exponentially. And over the course of my career writing opportunities are no longer limited to which theatre or artistic director deems you suitable for a production. If you’re willing to create from a more expansive place, then you may find an audience that appreciates more than your purely dramatic efforts. If you can speak to the humanity that everyone wants to feel part of, you may be “discovered” by people who’re seeking observations that open up our senses, and allow us to reflect on our spirituality.

Here’s some more info about the All Souls event.

Grace

The “Grace” project is now officially underway. I’ve got on a BIG smiley face. I’m so proud and humbled to be part of this effort. It’s been created and launched by Peter Bruun, who I worked with on the New Day Campaign several years back. New Day was an incredible experience. From October 1-December 31, 2015, over 92 days, the New Day Campaign presented 16 art exhibitions and 63 free public events, and conducted a community outreach campaign in the Baltimore region that opened hearts, changed thinking and conversations, and offered pathways to action. To be a participant and a witness to the power of New Day was for me, beyond vocabulary.

And here we are again with Grace. A journey that takes you on an interior ride with six artists. We all choose different vehicles for the trip. My Grace efforts start right here. And if you’d like to register for a “speaking about Grace” event — you can do so now.

Special thanks to Holly Morse-Ellington for her exquisite storytelling and narration, and Julie Golonka for all her help with editing. I mentioned in a Zoom discussion that when you mention the word “Grace” in conversation now, because of what we faced during the last year, it feels as if folks just naturally bow their heads. As if no more words need be said. That pretty much sums up where I feel we are, collectively.

So let’s raise an imaginary champagne toast to a new project that arrives with so much heart and soul.

Zooming Into Summer

New Projects On The Way — “Gratitude Monologues” and “Grace”

Hello From the Bright Side!

Aside from Cedric Mullins, centerfielder for the Baltimore Orioles who seems to make great highlights every/single/day — I think this summer is working the same magic for your humble playwright.

I was recently invited to participate in the Gratitude Monologues, a Zoom event with All Souls Unitarian Church in NYC. Performances will be one hour a week in July and August, and will have monologues and songs. “Gratitude” will be the theme and the monologues and songs will serve as the catalyst to help attendees explore their own lives, dreams, loves, longing and feelings of separation or despair. Here’s a sample of All Souls performing “Shenandoah“.

There’s no cost and people from around the world will be attending. After the performances, there will be a conversation with the writers, composers, and actors. The audience will be encouraged to talk about what the monologues or songs bring up for them, in their own lives. Not the usual post performance audience talk back, by any stretch.

I’m excited to be invited — someone heard me reading an excerpt from “B-Side Man” back in December for Roland Tec’s Some1Speaking Monologue event, and thought I’d be a good fit for “Gratitude”. You never know what the small ripple in the pond will touch.

I’ll provide more info when it becomes available.

In the same vein, I’m also a contributor for Peter Bruun’s online exhibition of “Grace” that kicks off June 24th.

Click the link and scroll down you’ll see the list of the six artists, along with yours truly. I’m equally excited to contribute to Grace. My contribution is something in the multi-media vein. I’ll keep it a surprise till things kick off. But, I think it works. Both projects are tapping into the vein of where I believe we all are right. Coming out of 2020, I can’t think of better themes than Gratitude and Grace. Can you?

Good News from Tennessee Williams Literary Festival!

Well now. Doesn’t this feel just fine n’ dandy. I’m smiling ear to ear. Turns out “Exposed To Strangers” came across the finish line like a pro.

Here (below) I’m listed as a finalist. Now you know and I know that being a finalist is very, very “nice”. In the nicest sense of the word.

However, as I continued to discover — here I am listed with distinction (bold print my own 🙂 as the 3rd place winner. HOLY WHOOP-DE-DO! Stop the Apolcaypse! There I am in black and white.

Winner: “Fourteen”by Amy Crider, Chicago, IL
2nd Place: “This Imperfect Vessel”by Josh Baxt, La Mesa, CA
3rd Place: “Exposed to Strangers” by Alonzo Lamont, Baltimore, MD.

If there wasn’t no gosh-darn “dam-denic” I’d be headed down to the bayou in March. But will take a Zoom Festival with all the trimmings, thank you very much. What an inspiring start to 2021. And with my latest play that’s fresh as the driven snow, barely outta my computer bake shop. Alls it had was a reading at my friends Holly and Jason’s house a while back (Holly Morse-Ellington and Jason Tinney are now kick-ass Theater Faculty at McCallie School down in Chattanooga) —

— but other than that reading, that’s about it.

Since July I of 2020 I will have had three Zoom readings from three separate organizations. The Dominion Arts Foundation in Atlanta did a reading of “That Serious He-Man Ball,” Some1Speaking chose “B-Side Man,” and now the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival chose “Exposed”.

Maybe I’m onna roll. How grand is that? I don’t have any existential expressions regarding the playwriting life. Like everything else in life, it’s a daily grind. There’s always levels of acceptance, and in most cases, the acceptance levels are downright invisible. You just have to know that what you write is either that good, or that special or that different. And that may seem woefully obvious to you, but to someone reading your stuff it could be completely lost in translation.

It’s good when people get it, and it’s you they’re getting.

2021 Brings A Smile

So there I am at my trusty MAC when some hopeful news comes my way. You may or may not know that I apply to contests and theatres who advertise for submissions all the time. This is a blessing and a curse, since you can guess who comes out on top of that equation. Let’s just say the odds are not in the playwright’s favor. Anyway, the Tenessee Williams and New Orleans Literary Festival wrote to say that my play “Exposed To Strangers” was a finalist. Hooray! That’s hellzapoppin stuff! That’s big slices of chocolate cake for everybody stuff!

I’ll get their yea or nay decision sometime in February. Who knows? I could be one of 20,000 “Finalists”. But my aim is high, and I’ll stack up my play with anybody’s play. That’s the run-a-muk optimism 2021 has hypnotized me with. Yessssssss buddy. Yesssssssss sir-reeney. I’ve done humble long enough, now I’m showing my real colors. So the Tennessee Williams Festival folk had better come to their senses and pick me da winner. No ifs/ands/or buts. Here’s the short synopsis for “Exposed To Strangers”:

“A married middle-aged librarian, Odysseus, decides to send letters to a “famously” imprisoned middle-school teacher who had a controversial affair with a 12 yr. old student of hers. The controversy evolved into a full-scale tabloid media spectacle, and drew national outrage. Ultimately, the teacher was found guilty of sex with a minor. Though Odysseus writes letters, he’s never received one in return. Till one day a letter arrives, much to the surprise of his wife.”

Thankful ruminations over the years….

Since we’re getting into the full “giving and thanking” spirit that’s Thanksgiving, I’m continuing to reflect on my own writing history. If you’re reading this, you may have guessed that I don’t exactly keep a blog for crowds. I’m not looking to be trending in any direction. I’m not even particularly looking to build an audience. Surprise.

I keep this going so I can look back and see the accomplishments, disappointments and all the in-between passages that writers navigate through. Certainly, I can recall and recollect what my writing life has accumulated over time, but seeing it in B&W reinforces in a concrete way what may ultimately, dim with time. That’s what kinda happens with Theater anyway. There’s no visual history to speak of. Whereas cats and kids on youtube are killing it…..

I was invited out to the Oakland Ensemble Theatre for rehearsals and loved what I saw. While I was there, someone on the OET administrative staff questioned me about having an all-male cast (3 characters), and would this possibly “inhibit” a female audience from attending. I responded that they should be ready for a female audience, since that made up so much of other “He-Man Ball” audiences. And that was indeed the case. Audiences were very mixed on the male/female scale. I think the person asking the question was somehow trying to “showcase” whatever misogynistic brush she wanted to paint me with.

I went out to Chicago for this production, directed by my good buddy and first-rate Director, Chuck Smith. Sadly, the reviews were not so hot. One called the play a “hip hop flop”. I thought that was catchy. Well, I still believe in “Vivisections,” and take heart from different perspectives about the play. I still think it’s mind-blowing stuff.

So all in all, I’m very thankful for all the “look backs” I can do.

Here comes December — and another reading

Yes, you read right. “B-Side Man” has come up big once again. It was chosen to be included in an evening of “Some1Speaking” monologues (scroll down I’m there!) on December 7th. I’ll be reading an excerpt, in fact it’ll be the very beginning of the play.

And people say this pandemic is all bad. (I keed). What it’s done is transform the world of theatre into a more creative dynamic. Actors are dying to act, directors to direct, and theatres — along with all the entrepreneurial spirits connected to theatre — want to keep things moving forward. Most especially surrounding “spoken word” drama since all the alternatives for traditional plays are now officially open for business. Who’d-a-thunk I’d be on the spoken word forefront? It’s as if I found myself in “Being There,” only I was there all along.

“B-Side” has had it’s share of readings. I don’t know what it’ll take for some lucky artistic director to say, “huh, maybe I need to get on this B-Side Man gravy train and produce a full production.” Till that happens, I’ll take everything that comes my way. Being here, there and all points in-between.

Career Hurdles

A couple thoughts for fall…..as the seasons change it seems as though revelations drop like pretty colored leaves.

I’m channeling my archives again with the article below. This is from Baltimore Magazine. Not sure of the date (again!!!) but I think it’s around 1993. I was mentioned as one of “Baltimore’s most prominent playwrights,” and aside from talking about what yours truly has been up to, the magazine sought out Center Stage for a comment about why I hadn’t had a play produced at Center Stage (CS). I thought the comment they received perfectly reflects what I’d felt towards CS for years. To me, their quote had the same snarky, condescending and privileged air that I’d been fighting against for years.

Here’s the final quote if you can’t make it out: “I’m sure I speak for Stan when I say Alonzo is a talent. Stan just hasn’t felt strongly enough to devote one sixth of our season to him.”

I’m reminded of this when yet another CEO apologizes for his comments about the obstacles in finding qualified candidates for jobs at Wells Fargo. I’ve heard similar sentiments regurgitated from the mouths of Artistic Directors, and other theatre personnel. Somehow, there’s always an elusive standard that some “candidates” (or playwrights) don’t meet. Somehow, we’re either hard to find, or when they do find us — we come up short.

At this point in my career, I’d been produced off-Broadway, had a production in LA and written for network TV. Yet, I couldn’t get in the door at my local regional theatre.

But hey, I still LOVE this picture.

Playwriting — Forward and Back

Let’s see where the next zoom opportunity comes from. When I look back at my creative history, I’m amazed at some of the achievements that run across my radar. I was looking back at several amazing productions in Austin & Houston Texas that seemed to have generate lotsa buzz. More reviews, pics and Alonzo Activity are available in “Alonzo’s Archive”. It’s a true gift to be able review moments from my artistic life. If the coming years are even half as good, then I’m one lucky fella. One theme I’ve heard several times over, and this comes from Corona-V, that it’s time for American Theatre to re-evaluate the classics that have been passed over, most especially from African-American playwrights. Such as moi. Our work from the 1960’s on has never really re-surfaced. And speaking from experience, this is most definitely true from my early days in the 80’s. But, life goes on. I think folks are “warming” to black theatre, and/or white theatres performing more works by playwrights of color. (That be me)

And this poster from Houston is sooooooo jazzy it’s positively outta-sight.