The Whiting Awards have long been pinpointing important new literary talents before they hit it big — past honorees of the annual writing prize include Ocean Vuong, Ling Ma, Jia Tolentino, and Nadia Owusu. This year's crop of recipients has just been revealed in a virtual ceremony, and EW had the honor of checking in with winner Donnetta Lavinia Grays. A playwright by trade, Grays is also the Executive Story Editor on Joe Exotic, the upcoming Kate McKinnon-starring NBC series about the big cat enthusiast. Her most recent play is Where We Stand, a solo show about a community that is seduced by a mysterious benefactor — it uses fable-like storytelling to explore class issues.
PLAYBILL: Queer Black Playwrights to Know and Support
Donnetta Lavinia Grays (also known as Gap Toothed Griot) is a Brooklyn-based playwright, screenwriter, and award-winning performer. In an interview with The Interval, Grays says of her work, “My inspiration is drawn from the personal but also from the world around me and the political…Largely what I am attempting to do with my work is bring that black lady queerness into spaces where we’ve traditionally been ignored or invisible.”
PLAYS TO See: Donnetta Lavinia Grays A New Voice For the American Theatre?
"Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, playwright-actress-screenwriter Donnetta Lavinia Grays had just wrapped a run of her solo show “Where We Stand” at WP Theater in Manhattan and was about to bring it to Center Stage in Baltimore, Maryland. The production — whose examination of punitive vs. restorative justice has proven, in hindsight, especially timely — received rave reviews from critics and earned Grays Drama League, Lortel and Antonyo Award nominations."
Working in the Theatre: Play at Home
This growing program, now with over 100 plays, 100 playwrights, and $50,000 paid directly to those playwrights, allows us, the audience, to create the work from home. Whether you’re reading these plays as a family quarantining together, via video conference, or by yourself on a quiet afternoon, this is an opportunity to spark your love of theatre.
ALL-ARTS: IN “THE REVIEW,” WP THEATER TAPS INTO THE POST-9/11 AMERICAN PSYCHE
How do you really talk about a country in crisis? Beyond the broad strokes of the news headlines and underneath the glossy sheen that nostalgia lays over recollections of the past, how can we get to the emotional truths of a political moment?
These are the questions at work in Donnetta Lavina Grays’s play “The Review or How to Eat Your Opposition.”
Space on Ryder Farm: Interview with Donnetta Lavinia Grays, The Working Farm 2018
Donnetta talks about what inspires her. Her process in writing Where We Stand. Country music and queering space.
The IntervaL: Women to Watch
"Despite the dearth of women writing, directing, and designing on Broadway, there are a lot of fabulous women making theatre and changing the theatrical landscape beyond the Great White Way. We asked women who had been featured on The Interval, and those in the know in the theatre community, to recommend emerging female theatre artists who they’re excited by and who deserve more exposure and support. So here are 16 female writers, directors, designers, and producers who the theatre community should be watching"
Go Magazine: Dyke drama
Actor, playwright and newly-appointed Artistic Director of the Coyote REP theater company Donnetta Lavinia Grays’ solo show, the cowboy is dying, was a coming-of-age comedy about being a black Southern lesbian falling in and dealing with love. “I truly understood what it meant to create theatre after I was cast in Well on Broadway,” Grays says. “I was an understudy and got to watch Lisa Kron and [director] Leigh Silverman shape and reshape elements of the show day in and day out. Leigh and Lisa also serve as advisors to Coyote REP. I have learned not to fear setting up an image or idea and how to follow through with that vision from both of these women.”