Miss Julie, Clarissa, and John
Angry Black Man Poetry
January 2009, Wheeling Jesuit University
February 2009, Teatr Śląski, Katowice, Poland
March 2009, Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre
Halfway through writing this play the reality that there was a real possibility that a man of African decent could become our next president became more and more apparent. With that in mind I wondered how would the world's opinion of people of color change and how would this new world view affect not only this Culture Clash series and myself, but playwrights of African decent. Would our plays have to be labeled as period pieces? Pre Obama, post Obama?
I set the script aside for three months while thousands of thoughts roamed in and out of my conscious.
I finally returned to it fully dedicated to what the mission of the Culture Clash series is, which is to bring cultures together, here under one roof, to sit and laugh and cry, to rejoice and most importantly to learn about and from one another.
I dedicated this play to, well this is what it says in the script. "For the many wonderful and talented actors from my home town of Pittsburgh, whose mere appearance and nuanced approach to their craft, assist me in envisioning all of the theatrical possibilities that exist within our collaboration."
I hope you enjoy the evening and leave this place with some hope and belief that this country does have the possibility of a bright future. I certainly do. Oh, and just for the hell of it, go up and introduce yourself to a stranger at intermission. Shake hands and expand your repertoire.
Mark Clayton Southers
September 2007, Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre
The Exile of King Harold
October 2006, Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre
May 2006, Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre
December 2005, Bricolage Production Company's B.U.S., a 24 Hour Play Festival
Nine Days in the Sun
Won 2012 AAPEX Angel Effective Playwright Award and 2012 AAPEX Angel Masterpiece Award from African American Playwrights Exchange
May 2005, Pittsburgh
October 17 2011, African American Playwrights Exchange, Metro Parks Theatre Department, William Jenkins & Mary Coleman Theater Project, Nashville, Tennessee (staged reading). See video excerpts of two scenes. More press.
October 2004, Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre
The Girls From Kankakee
October 2003, Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre
Ashes to Africa
When the Water Turns Clear
May 2001, ETA Creative Arts
September 2003, Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre
Published in Best Black Plays: The Theodore Ward Prize for African American Playwriting, edited by Chuck Smith, Northwestern University Press
Theodore Ward Prize for African American Playwriting
First-Place Winner 2003-2004
An Appraisal by Literary Artist Tameka Cage Conley, PhD
A Class All Its Own: How Mark Southers' Ma Noah Is Challenging Black Theater
One might best describe Mark Southers’ award-winning play, Ma Noah, as a story that merges the best components of 1970s African-American sitcoms, the legendary work of August Wilson, with the accessibility of Tyler Perry’s stage and theater productions. The play is at once wildly entertaining in its offering of side-splitting humor, yet Southers drops critical, conscious, modern thought into the script, as the characters explore race, class, and social issues that affect them individually and as a family. To have penned a script that challenges the socio-cultural environment that forces main character and mother “Rebecca Pratt,” to use extreme measures to keep her family intact in a way that demonstrates the seriousness of the family’s plight without being depressing is a worthy feat. With Ma Noah, Southers challenges the idea that Black theater exists on an “either/or” plane: either the brand of “high art” in the tradition of Wilson, Hansberry, and Baraka, or “low art,” in the tradition of the “after-church” plays of Perry and others.
In Ma Noah, there is something for all, rooted in Southers’ ability to create a unique, engaging plot that celebrates the Black mother, from her ingenuity and craftiness, to her heart-wide-open generosity and forgiveness, to her steeliness and unflinching sense of justice. Yet, this is a play about the human experience as much as it is about a struggling family headed by a determined matriarch, namely because of the focus on hope in the face of hopelessness, the triumph of the human spirit and, above all, the sacred bonds of family. The characters seem to be in a constant push-and-pull, caught between their past, present, and future and the trappings of their economically depraved environment, with “Rebecca,” masterfully played by Christal Bates, at the helm, guiding the family to success and teaching them, even in their adulthood, the difference between right and wrong and their glorious potential to be great in the world, despite their struggles.
In its own way, Ma Noah suggests that just as the Black mother keeps her family intact, so has the Black woman been the backbone of American society in a historical context. Take a look at the White House, then take a look at what’s happening at Pittsburgh Playwrights Theater. Many Americans love our President. Yet so many have fallen in love with Michelle Obama, who handles being a mother to her daughters and the role of First Lady—which, in essence, is like being “First Mother” to the United States—with unparalleled grace, beauty, elegance, class, and confidence. With every step of her purposeful kitten heel pump, we want Mrs. Obama to succeed. We applaud and cheer for her, just as we applaud “Rebecca Pratt,” who at the end of the play, stands wrapped in light, regal in red, cloaked in justice.
Go see this play and take someone you love. You won’t regret a moment, as you laugh, snap your fingers, and wonder how you, too, can make the world a bit more livable, a bit less gray with our blues and woes.
Tameka Cage Conley, PhD
February 2004, Columbia College Chicago Theater Department
October 2004, New Horizon Theater, Pittsburgh
February 2012, Stockton Performing Arts Center, Pomona, New Jersey
April 2013, Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre