As part of the “Arena Riffs” program that began March 17 with “My Joy is Heavy!” by the Bengsons, Arena Stage will be presenting “The Freewheelin’ Insurgents” starting March 31, 2021. The play is composed and directed by Psalmayene ‘Psalm’ 24.
Psalmayene 24 is an award-winning playwright, director, and actor. He is currently the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Playwright in Residence at Mosaic Theater and the Doris Duke Artist in Residence at Studio Theatre. His directing credits include “Pass Over” at Studio Theatre, “Native Son” at Mosaic, “Word Becomes Flesh” at Theater Alliance (where he won a Helen Hayes Award for Direction), and “The Shipment “at the Forum. He was one of the writers (and also directed Arena’s film “May 22, 2020.” He was one of the directors for their film “The 51st State.” Among his writing accomplishments is the play, “Les Deux Noirs,” which was nominated in 2020 for the Charles MacArthur Award for Outstanding Original New Play or Musical and also a Venturous Capital Grant recipient. His new play, “Dear Mapel” will premiere this fall at Mosaic.
“The Freewheelin’ Insurgents” is a love letter to the Black Lives Matter movement and focuses on the pain of the pandemic as well as the awakening of the racial injustice in our county. It is joyful but helps us individually discover our own relationship to the United states.
The cast includes Louis E. Davis as Church, Shannon Dorsey as Zora, Gary L. Perkins III as Noble, and Justin Weaks as Dante.
Mr. Davis is excited to be working again and especially with Psalmayene 24 at Arena Stage on this piece. Louis is a recent recipient of the 2020 Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Lead Performer in a Play for his work in “Topdog/Underdog” (WSC Avant Bard). His past credits include Folger Theatre’s “The Merry Wives of Windsor” and “Second Shepard’s Play;” Solas Nua’s “The Frederick Douglass Project;” Theater Alliance’s “Word Becomes Flesh,” “Dontrell,” and “Who Kissed the Sea;” Imagination Stage’s “The Freshest Snow Whyte;” and Mosaic Theater’s “Charm.”
MD Theatre Guide had a chance to ask Louis E. Davis some questions about himself and the production.
Where are you from originally and where do you reside now?
I am from Baltimore, MD and reside in Greenbelt, MD
What is your background, particularly your music and theatrical training?
I have a B.F.A from Howard University where I majored in Theatre Arts/Acting. And music is life. It’s around us constantly in everything. I’m always striving to hit the right note.
What was your favorite production before this one and why?
“Word Becomes Flesh” at Theater Alliance. It was a special production from audition to now.
What drew you to this production?
Psalm. His talent, writing, and vision are remarkable. I also worked in the Box Office at Arena Stage for six years. So it’s family on both fronts.
This piece is filmed in black and white. Did you enjoy doing the show in this format?
Absolutely. The black and white matches the energy of the script, which is indicative of the times were in. Can’t wait for folks to see it!
Arena Stage continues to give us outstanding and inventive productions online during the pandemic. Currently, you can watch “My Joy is Heavy” as well as reserve tickets here for “The Freewheelin’ Insurgents” on March 31, 2021 at 7 p.m. and “A More Perfect Union,” written by award-winning composer, Rona Siddiqui, on April 14, 2021 at 7 p.m. All viewings are free. To find out more about other productions and offerings from Arena Stage, go to their website.