“What I’m trying to get at as a writer is perhaps altering our perspective of the social landscape itself, to the extent that I can. I’m tired of seeing history repeat itself. I’m asking, ‘How can I open up a pocket of understanding that will allow something new to happen?'’’
Nathan Alan Davis is a playwright you’re definitely going to want to know. His artistic mission is to increase the representation of Black voices in theater, as he has done with Nat Turner in Jerusalem; Dontrell, Who Kissed the Sea; and many more. Born in Illinois to a family of creatives, he was inspired to pursue the arts at a young age. While attending the University of Illinois, he started writing plays, but never knew how to finish them—a problem he’s certainly overcome with his growing body of powerful work.
“After graduating, I decided to put my pencil down, pause on playwriting, and pursue an acting career,” shared Davis. His next stop was Chicago where he performed in productions like The Piano Tuner and A Few Good Men. “After six years in this industry, I found myself struggling to book roles and decided to return to my passion for writing.” He went on to earn his master’s degree from Indiana University and later attended The Juilliard School for playwriting.
Now an award-winning playwright and father of three daughters, Davis continues to create remarkable art and mentions that fatherhood plays a large role in creating his stories. “I definitely draw a lot of inspiration from my own children—I try to write with an eye toward the future,” stated Davis in an interview with Cleveland Public Theatre. “I really believe in the idea that as human beings, we are capable of eventually working things out and coming together and creating a more harmonious existence.”
Davis stays quite busy these days. He is currently the Associate Professor of the Practice of Playwriting at Boston University and continues to write prolifically. He has expanded into television, working on feature projects for HBO Max, Netflix, AMC, and Paramount. In addition, he has written for shows like American Soul and Sorry for Your Loss. He is currently working with Angela Bassett (Black Panther: Wakanda Forever) and Courtney B. Vance (61st Street) on a limited series about the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921.
“Exploring the history of Tulsa’s Greenwood District [is] a precious opportunity and a deep responsibility. I greatly look forward to crafting a story that will not only shed light on the people of Black Wall Street, but give fresh life to the spirit, ideas, hopes, fears, and dreams that motivated them.”
Davis’ newest play, which also explores the Tulsa Race Massacre, The High Ground, finally premiered this month at Arena Stage. It was originally scheduled for Arena’s 2020/21 Season, but was postponed due to the pandemic. Traversing space and time, The High Ground is a lyrical story of the mysteries of love and loss, reminding us of what it takes to re-emerge from the devastation of a century, long after the embers have turned to ash. Be sure to see the world premiere of The High Ground, running now through April 2 in Arena Stage’s Arlene and Robert Kogod Cradle.
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