Although I am told and reminded often of the notice that Tyler Perry and the others need to take because I have arrived on the scene, I take pride in the fact that I have spent the last five years developing Stanley C Jackson SR, the Playwright. Maybe one day, someone will get a boost by being told, “you are the next Stanley C Jackson SR”, and I’ll have to take notice. So the journey continues…. Coming to a theater near you!
But this time I wanted more...
Let’s branch out I said. I submitted a script of my newest play “Can’t Wait Till Sunday” to one of the many theater festivals that are held all over the country to recognize the little people in this crazy theatrical world like me. To my surprise my script was selected and would be produced, for a small fee mind you, in New Orleans at the New Orleans Urban Theater Festival. Look at us go! Moving on up in the world. We prepare, we charter a bus, have bake sales and such and arrive at NOLA. There is no sign of a festival being held at all. We make contact with one of the promoters expressing our concern and after a great deal of prayer by cast and crew members, without my participation, we agreed to perform this show in this little room with fold up chairs, in front of the few individuals that were as disgusted as we were about the lack of preparation by this board. So it’s a flop in my eyes, aside from the moral victory declaring that we did what we came to do, even under less than adequate conditions. We delivered our message. Whatever!
A Playwrights JouRney
I kept writing...
There is a rich history of theater in the United States. Nearly everyone has at least heard of the phrase “On Broadway” as a way of declaring the success of a production or actor appearing on a prestigious stage in New York City. It is held in high esteem by most of the planet as the ultimate accomplishment in the world of theatrical presentations. African American Theater shares this rich history having made significant contributions with the productions of plays like August Wilson’s “Fences“ or Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin In the Sun” which took the stage on Broadway in 1959, to name a few of the more popular scripts. The question is, where are the African American Stories now? Where are our storytellers now? A playwright can write and produce plays until he or she is blue in the face and never be heard of or even entertain the thought of having it appear on Broadway, off Broadway, off, off Broadway, way, way, off ….you get the point!
The truth is, it has become such a grind to even attempt to take a script even to the local stage, that we may have forgotten what the journey was to begin with. That’s not to say the some of todays playwrights are not perfectly fine with performing in the local community theaters or maybe the church or community center, and that’s great. But it has become more and more obvious that in the African American community, the new standard has become your ability to mimic the theatrical style of playwrights like Tyler Perry or David Talbert and marvel at the comparisons from friends and family after you launch successful local production. These are efforts performed with borrowed furniture and props, a set built in the church garage with your own hands and the support of a faithful few that share the passion you have for the arts and the opportunity to tell a story our way, for us, by us.
That’s me.Stanley C Jackson SR, The Playwright. That’s my story. It was in fact the rise in popularity of Tyler Perry’s Madea character that excited me and led me to look for other African American playwrights that shared this passion that I ultimately developed and decided to pursue. Surprise! It’s not as easy as it looks on stage. This, I found out the hard way.
After a successful career in Corporate America, I must admit, for me this venture was a no brainer. Being the class-clown, a musician and songwriter of sorts, a storyteller at heart, this was my calling. Following the path of the new generation of playwrights set in motion by trailblazers like Shelly Garrett, the author of the hit stage play “Beauty Shop”, I wrote my first script “Yet Holding On” and performed it under the umbrella of my church family, to a crowd of nearly 800. Excited,
My second play, a sequel called “Who Do You Think You Are”, then a Christmas play “Guess Who’s Coming for Christmas”. Wow! I’m off and running and people are actually coming to see a Stanley C Jackson SR play. I was riding the wave. Nothing could stop me now. Even when I became a little discouraged about how much work it actually was, and how sometimes the support wasn’t there, someone would give me that infamous comparison to Tyler Perry and all would be good in the world and I would be off and running again.
- Stanley C Jackson SR
SJM Productions, LLC
So this is what this playwright thing looks like huh? You get your hugs from family and friends, the elders at the church, and the grind continues. Now I’m looking for more. There’s got to be more. I submitted to the DPI Playwrights Awards Gala the same script, along with my body of work to date. This one had been around for a few years so I felt it was safe. I attended the festivities in New York, and had the opportunity to perform on the Historic ApoIlo Theater Stage in Harlem, all while capturing the 2014 Playwright of the Year Award during the gala. I then began researching historical plays and watching you-tube video clips of old Broadway shows after my Apollo Theater inspiration. I am again motivated by these productions and the stories about the authors of these scripts. While all of my shows include music, I set out to write a true musical. I wanted an opening number with choreography and a large cast. I wanted a show that was diverse and included more than African American humor. I wanted a universal story. I wanted to be a REAL playwright. So “It Takes A Village” is born. It is a stretch and a step up for sure. What an awesome production is was for me. Now the bar is raised, we are on another level. In comes a commission to take a true story and adapt it to the stage. “Living In The Black” stretches me even more and is set to tour multiple cities.
The revival of my first production “Yet Holding On” seemed an obvious production for my Five Year Anniversary Celebration.
I’m well on my way. I’ve just won another award, Stage Play of The Year for “It Takes A Village” and now I wonder, after all of this success and sweat, highs and lows. What about that Broadway thing? What about the traditional road of a playwright that writes a great script and gets published and has theaters all over the country performing his works until he is so popular that someone wants to take that script and make a run for a Broadway Theater. What about that? Well, I’m still interested. Lets get published, let’s submit to theaters all over the world, lets do all of that. But in the meantime, let’s keep an eye out for the hundreds of great talented playwrights just like me, doing shows in your cities, local neighborhoods and churches. Using their own rent money, mortgages payments, and credit cards to produce the art they believe in, to tell the story the way we see it. Support them and embrace them.