Masking our Blackness
Vincent Terrell Durham
Five friends gather to welcome in the new year and share their resolutions on how to survive another 365 days of being Black in America.
Vincent Terrell Durham is a playwright who first honed his storytelling skills as a stand-up comic in comedy clubs across the country. He is a 2019 National New Play Network finalist and Eugene O’Neill semifinalist for his powerful new play Polar Bears, Black Boys & Prairie Fringed Orchids. Vincent confronts what it means to be Black in America with clarity, irony and humor. His voice as a proud gay man of color is fresh, compelling and his marksmanship for piercing the soul of a theater audience is unerring. He goes unflinchingly to the heart of the matter and pulls no punches. Vincent writes to pay honor to the Johnson family. The best storytellers a little Black boy could ever have.
A BIT ABOUT THE PLAYWRIGHT
1. When did you start writing plays? If you had a moment where you realized you wanted to write, what was it?
I wrote my first play in 2012. My writing moment happened while I was reuniting with an old high school friend over beer and wings in the summer of 2012. I was sharing details about my job as an accounting manager for a small trade association. When I finished he looked at me and said, “You were supposed to have been a writer.” We were in 12th grade creative writing class together and he was certain I had gone on to be a writer. His gentle reminder had me writing my first play a week later.
2. How did you come to write your OOB play? Was there a particular inspiration behind its creation? How has it developed?
The play started from a PlayGround-LA prompt, which was simply: New Year’s Resolutions. As I prepared to write I thought of all the usual resolutions, but then it hit me that as a Black man in America I better hope not to get shot and killed by the police in the upcoming new year. The script in hand reading at PlayGround-LA was received really well and I went on to tweak and expand the play.
3. What are 5 words that describe who you are as a playwright?
Black, Funny, Aggrieved, Intense, Happy
4. What/who are some of the major influences on your writing?
The humor and storytelling of John Irving, August Wilson and Mel Brooks have been the major influences on my writing style. Navigating life as a closeted, gay, black child and then as a closeted, gay, black man created the pain that can be found in a lot of my plays. Living out loud as a gay black man has created the light and truth that can also be found in my work.
5. What’s one fact someone would never guess about you?
I was the most fierce drag queen from age 6 to 13.
6. What are some of your favorite plays?
Jitney, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, The Fertile River, A Trip to Bountiful (with Cicely Tyson), A Raisin in the Sun, God of Carnage, August: Osage County
7. Any new projects you’re working on or shameless plugs?
I’m working to join a number of my fellow playwrights in making the leap from the stage to the small screen. I recently wrote a 30 minute pilot for a series titled CLEAN and I’m working to complete the entire first season of episodes.