Brooks wins play contest for third time

Drama: His play `Down With the King' will be filmed at Arena and aired on WMAR next month.


January 03, 2002|By J. Wynn Rousuck | J. Wynn Rousuck,SUN THEATER CRITIC

Donald Dankwa Brooks has achieved a theatrical hat trick. He has just become the first three-time winner of the annual black playwrights competition co-sponsored by WMAR-TV (Channel 2) and Arena Players.

Despite two previous wins, Brooks, a 30-year-old Towson University senior who has entered the contest every year since 1993, said this year's victory for Down With the King caught him unawares. "I found out the day after Christmas. WMAR sent me a letter. Usually when I won before they called me. Usually when I haven't won, they've sent me a letter. I said, `Oh, well, here we go.' So it was really a surprise this time."

Down With the King focuses on a pair of estranged sisters who discover that their recently deceased FBI agent father was in Memphis on the day Martin Luther King was assassinated.

Although the King assassination "fueled the story," Brooks said, "it's more about the sisters, and this brings them together."

Describing the play's appeal, Ed Terry, artistic director of Arena Players, said, "For Black History Month, the connection with Martin Luther King was a good thing, and it was a play about family relationships that seem to be positive. ... We've had so much trauma this year particularly, we didn't want a lot of shoot-'em ups."

Brooks, a film major at Towson, first won the WMAR-Arena Players competition in 1995 with a mystery called Without a Doubt. Three years later, he took top honors for a play with music, Love, Rhythm & Blues.

Down With the King is peripherally related to both of Brooks' other award winners. One sister in the new play - an FBI agent who has followed in her father's footsteps - also was a character in Without a Doubt. And, Down With the King was written on the computer Brooks purchased with his $1,000 prize money from Love, Rhythm & Blues. He hasn't de- cided how he will spend this year's $1,000 prize.

The hourlong drama will be filmed at Arena this month and will air on WMAR at 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 17. It is the 20th anniversary play produced by the two organizations. The production will be co-directed by Arena's Randolph Smith and WMAR's Dante Wilson.

The authors of this year's second- and third-place scripts are both incarcerated. Second prize of $500 went to Skin Deep by Tyrone M. Colbert, an inmate at the Maryland House of Correction in Jessup. Third prize of $250 went to Omar's Epiphany, by Calvert M. Porter, an inmate at the Western Correctional Institution in Cumberland.

Play readings

There's a host of play readings by local playwrights in the next few weeks. Scripts by four writers who teach in Center Stage's Playwrights-in-Schools program will receive readings at the theater in January and February. Here's the schedule:

Fatty Falls Down, by John Morogiello, a one-man show about silent film comedian Fatty Arbuckle, who was accused of murder in 1921. (Jan. 14)

The Agreement, by mj Perrin, a drama about a serial killer and the ex-cop determined to track him down. (Feb. 11)

Mind Field, by Judlyne A. Lilly, an account of a 50-year-old childless woman who consults her conscience when she finds herself "in the family way." (Feb. 11)

Birds/Disturbance in the Air, by Steven Schutzman, a play about transformation and sexual war. (Feb. 18).

All readings begin at 7:30 p.m. in the Head Theater at Center Stage, 700 N. Calvert St. Admission is free, but reservations are advised. Call 410-685-3200, extension 361.

Meanwhile, the Baltimore Playwrights Festival continues its free readings of plays being considered for the 2002 festival. Three marathon sessions are scheduled this month - Jan. 12, 19 and 26 - at Fell's Point Corner Theatre, 251 S. Ann St. Each session begins at 11 a.m. The Jan. 12 lineup consists of: The Stirrup Cup (a sequel to last summer's Why Do Men Have Nipples?), by Ray Hamby; Connections, by Devorah Namm; and Cannibals, by Emilio Iasiello. For Information, call 410-276-2153.

`Mikado' redux

Ford's Theatre in Washington will conclude its 2001-2002 season with a revival of its 1994 hit Hot Mikado. The 1940s update of the Gilbert and Sullivan classic debuted at Ford's in 1986 and was brought back in a revised version eight years later.

This season's revival will once again by directed and choreographed by David H. Bell, who adapted the book and lyrics. Hot Mikado will open March 13 and continue into June at Ford's, 511 Tenth St., N.W., Washington. Tickets cost $27-$45. For information, call 202-347-4833.

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