Playwright Katori Hall on Creating Original Work for Black Women

By Qimmah Saafir Apr 21, 2015

Memphis native Katori Hall and her acting partner tried hard to find theater roles casting two black women after taking an acting class in college — to no avail. Hall, now a noted playwright, decided to dedicate herself and her work to, as she puts it, "excavat[ing] what the black female experience is in America.”

Her new play, “The Blood Quilt,” which is directed by Kamilah Forbes, is about an annual reunion of four sisters with the same mother and different fathers. Forbes, who was an actress before directing, expressed her feelings around the lack of roles available to her. 

If Studio Theatre is doing ‘Two Trains Running,’ and you don’t get that one [female] role, and you know there are 40 black actresses here in D.C. that could do it — and in New York, times that by 200 — it becomes frustrating.

"The Blood Quilt" will follow up Hall’s “Our Lady of Kibeho,” a production based on an occurrence involving Catholic schoolgirls in Rwanda during the early ’80s, which premiered last fall. It will precede "Pussy Valley" — her play about strippers in a Mississippi club.

Hall says of her work:

There are so many hoops you have to go through when you are a content creator who is of color.  . . . I don’t really care who my collaborators are in terms of race. But I must admit, when I have an opportunity to work with a person of color and in particular with a black woman, that to me is the first choice. Because if I don’t give her an opportunity, nobody else will. You have to walk the walk.

"The Blood Quilt" premieres April 24 at Arena Stage in Washington D.C., and is entirely produced, created, directed and starring black women. 

Read more.