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Playwright Darren Canady has associations with Topeka, Kansas
Darren Canady

Darren
Canady

Darren with False Creeds poster

 

Muddy the Water graphic

 

Brothers of the Dust graphic

Hardtland Playbill

Biography  
          

Darren Canady is a playwright from Topeka, Kansas, and graduated from Topeka High School. His talent and passion for writing theatre lead him to attend two well-known schools, Julliard and New York University. At Julliard he recieved an Artist Diploma and at New York University he recieved an MFA from the Tisch School of Arts. He is now an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Kansas in Lawrence.

His plays that have been produced include: Brothers of the Dust (Congo Square Theatre; Chicago, IL), You're Invited! (Old Vic New Voices, Old Vic Theatre; London, UK), False Creeds (Alliance Theatre; Atlanta, GA), One Night Dickie Didn't Come Home (New York University; New York, NY), Black Idiot Box (Scotch 'n' Soda Theatre, Carnegie Mellon University; Pittsburgh, PA), No Sparkle in the Dust (Scotch 'n' Soda Theatre, Carnegie Mellon University; Pittsburgh, PA), No Kerchiefs (The BE Company), Muddy the Water (The BE Company, The Red Room Theatre; New york, NY), How Theo Changed His Name (Music By Matthew Heap, Libretto By Darren Canady), and One Night at Ferns (Quo Vladimus Arts' ID America Festival; New York, NY). His Hardtland (2013) premiered with Topeka's Ad Astra Theatre group.

According to his KU Faculty page, his family told colorful stories when he was a child, which gave him a knack for story telling.


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Honors and Awards  
 
  • America-in-Play (Residency)
  • Primary Stages' Dorothy Strelsin New American Writers Group (Residency)
  • Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (Residency)
    - Kendeda Graduate Playwriting Award (Alliance Theatre; Atlanta, GA) May 2006
    - Lecomte du Nouy Prize (The Julliard School/ Lincoln Center Theatre)
  • Lorraine Hansberry Playwriting Award
  • Theodore Ward Prize for African-American Playwrights
  • M. Elizabeth Osborn New Play Award 2012

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Author Interview by Adam Syzmkowicz

 
 

Read the full interview

Q: While you were at Juilliard, you had a show at the Alliance. Can you tell me about the play, the program there and what it was like? Also what did you think of Atlanta? (My current town)

A: So. The play I had up at The Alliance was called FALSE CREEDS--it's the story of how a young man discovers his family's involvement in the Tulsa Disaster of 1921. For anyone who might be in the dark about that historical event: 1920s Tulsa, Oklahoma, was the home of Greenwood, one of the most prosperous black communities in America--so prosperous, in fact, that it was known as "The Black Wall Street." In June of that year, however, a white mob swept through Greenwood, burned it to the ground and murdered hundreds of residents. My play dealt with not only that one horrific day, but also how a family began to try to put their life back together.

The Alliance production came about because FALSE CREEDS won their Kendeda Graduate Play Competition while I was at New York University. The competition is aimed at playwrights who are in their final year of a graduate program--the winners are given a full production in The Alliance's season. In addition, that year The Alliance partnered with The O'Neill Playwrights Conference to offer me a residency there that summer to do some intense development of the piece ahead of the Alliance premiere.

Honestly, that entire experience was sick--I mean, just truly amazing. When Celise Kalke called me from Atlanta to tell me I had won, I was at a place in my head/life where I was seriously doubting my abilities as a writer, I really needed to hear that I was saying something worth hearing. That phone call began a year-long process of really learning what play development was like from the inside. Throughout the O'Neill and Atlanta productions I got to knock heads with some of the most gifted artists and professionals I have ever encountered. What really floored me though, was that all of these people were really earnestly working to make this play the truest representation of my vision possible. Which is not to say that everything was all bubble gum and lollipops (Drama draws drama, folks), but it was an experience that there is no substitute for.

As for Atlanta, heck, who could complain about being below the Mason-Dixon Line in the middle of February?! The Alliance was a great temporary home--they took such excellent care of this know-nothing kid from Kansas clutching his little script. What I think would surprise some people is just how vibrant the arts scene in general is in Atlanta. While I was there, I had the chance to see gospel performances, the premiere of Pearl Cleage's A SONG FOR CORETTA, artwork on loan from the Louvre, local rock bands...there is plenty going on. I'd do a show down there again in a heartbeat (y'all heard that, right?!)!

Q:Tell me a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a person or a writer.

A: When I was a kid, I remember one of my uncles was known to be quite the Ladies' Man. Despite having been in a loooooooooooooooooooooong term relationship with a very lovely woman, he would quite often bring his latest jump-off over to my parent's house, believing full well that he needn't worry about my parents revealing his indiscretions. One day, after my uncle introduced me to his latest "friend" (she said I was very charming), it became quickly apparent to all the adults that I was no fool and that I knew this cheap broad was certainly not the "Auntie" I was used to seeing my uncle with. My dad pulled him aside and said: "Hey man, look here now, don't you get angry at Darren if he starts runnin' his mouth one day and lets loose that you been bringin' all these women by here. That's your fault brotha, and then, I'd have to kick your ass myself."

Now, what I find interesting is less that my dad threatened my uncle (that was par for the course), more that he already knew my personality even at that young age. To this day, I am still nosy, messy, and occasionally itchy to instigate conflict. So instead of subjecting real people to that, I do it to my characters.

Q: What kind of theater excites you?

A: Anything with an element of surprise and some theatrical magic. A compelling story that won't let me turn away.

Q: What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?

A: I have to sort of laugh at that one--that's pretty much giving advice to myself. I guess I'd say two things I've done for myself so far that I think were truly worthwhile were 1) I got over the fear of exposing myself in my writing--whatever is the most personal tends to be the most compelling, and 2) started to surround myself with creative, diverse theatre artists whom I could respect and look to for both inspiration and support.



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Other  
 

Darren Canady's KU staff page

Darren Canady's 2012 award

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