Mysticism, spirituality, racism and redemption are major themes of every tongue confess, a new work by playwright Marcus Gardley that saw its world premiere at the Arlene and Robert Kogod Cradle at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., in October.
Set in the backwater town of Boligee, Ala., during the summer of 1996, the play uses biblical allegory to examine familial relationships during a wave of black church burnings. The production is directed by Kenny Leon, who also directed the recent Broadway revival of August Wilson’s Fences, and features an all-star acting ensemble, including Phylicia Rashad, who won a 2004 Tony Award for her Broadway appearance in A Raisin in the Sun.
“My characters make a home in my mind and speak to me until I put them onstage,” says Gardley, a professor of playwriting and African American studies at UMass-Amherst, and the winner of a Helen Merrill Award and a Kesselring honor. “And now, these characters get to speak to D.C. in a new home. This is the story I want to share with the world.”
NewsHour Extra recently talked to Gardley and Rashad, as well as some students who attended a performance of every tongue confess. In these excerpts for Art Beat, Gardley and Rashad pay homage to prominent African-American playwrights August Wilson, Lorraine Hansberry and Ntozoke Shange, and explore how every tongue confess expounds on their legacies, while stamping Gardley’s unique mark in American theater.