Momentum Collective, Inc. is presently showing “Last Call, the musical,” the latest “playcert” from Prince George’s County resident, playwright, Jason A. Ellis. He is also the executive director for Momentum Collective, Inc. Using music from the Motown era, the production is part concert, part play and uses the talents of 26 performers. The music was originally to open in 2020, but like many others, it was been delayed.
Focusing on the 1960s Washington, DC, the play presents the “unifying principle that, there is nothing women can’t achieve through sisterhood, and that friendships forged through adversity produces something rare, special, and valuable.” The two protagonists, Agatha and Gail (Daniyah Prosser and Jenell Biggs), although different, join forces.
“The musical explores a variety of topics including race relations, women’s empowerment, the underside of the entertainment industry, family values, love and friendship. The storyline highlights that when an opportunity presents itself, one is faced with a choice: you can either take advantage of it or let it pass you by because it may cause more harm than good.” Like the “last call” at a bar, this last drink can turn out well or badly.
Proceeds from the production support scholarships for first generation college students and help provide free, after-school arts education to under-resourced youth.
Jason A. Ellis has worked in the public sector in various professional capacities for over 20 years and has been involved in the performing arts for twice that long. A native of Kingston, Jamaica, he holds a bachelor’s degree in International Relations and Political Science from the University of the West Indies; a master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Memphis; and a post-master’s degree in Educational Leadership and Administration from George Washington University. He finished both his advanced degrees summa cum laude. He plans to continue his studies with a future PhD program in Education Policy.
He has deep roots in the city of Alexandria, having worked nine years in the Resident and Community Services Department with the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority. He also served on the Youth Arts Festival committee, the city of Alexandria’s Youth Master Plan Committee, on the board of the Northern Virginia Black Chamber of Commerce, and was a member of the Northern Virginia Urban League Young Professionals Network. His current commitments include serving on the board of First Night Alexandria and the founder and executive director of Momentum Collective Inc., which was incorporated as an Alexandria-based nonprofit in 2016.
For the last 10 years he has established himself as a recognized playwright having written, directed, and produced original, social commentary musicals annually. In 2018, he was recognized by the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce as one of their 40-under-40 awardees. That same year was identified as one of the city’s Living Legends. He brings a wealth of skill sets to his professional spheres including volunteer management, program development, leadership, public speaking, special events planning, partnership development, and public relations. As a lifelong performer, he routinely assists local theater companies as a director and choreographer while also performing in a variety of theatrical productions. He also currently serves as a judge for Washington Area Theater Community Honors (WATCH) and NAACP Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics (ACT-SO)
You have had many roles in theatre. Which do you prefer: acting, directing, choreography, playwriting or being the executive artistic director of Momentum Collective, Inc.?
On the artistic front, I love being a playwright as it gives me a platform to tell authentic stories and engage audiences in critically needed discourse in the theater space. Of course, as the founder and executive director of Momentum Collective Inc. I love that the most as it is the embodiment of what I see as my contribution to society.
Do your other plays have similar messages to “Last Call” or are they different?
All the productions that I have written explore the arts through a social justice lens. Previous productions have explored homelessness in America, absentee fathers, adoption, ageism, racism, and stereotypes of people who live in government assisted housing, to name a few. I see my role as that to “edutainment”—entertain and educate.
You are involved a great deal in community service. How do you think 21st century theatre can help in meeting the needs of their communities?
The tagline for Momentum Collective is “The Art of Service.” It is incredibly important now for those in the arts to lend their voices (and talents) to advance social change and speak truth to power. Proceeds from ticket sales to concerts can be used for more things than covering overheads. They can find scholarships and provide arts training workshops to underserved communities. That’s actually the premise under which Momentum Collective operates.
Is there any particular section of the community you are trying to reach with your plays or your organization, Momentive Collective, Inc.?
We create art for the masses and all our productions feature a very diverse cast. However, we are intentional about bringing the arts to nontraditional audiences. This includes providing significantly discounted tickets to public housing residents as well as providing free arts education to low-income minority communities.
Do you have a theatrical project you are either presently working on or one you would like to work on in the near future?
For my next project in August, I am directing “#WOKE” which was written by Dennis Williams. I originally directed this powerful social justice play at the DC Black Theater Festival, for which I was recognized for having the best staged reading. I opted to direct this production because of its alignment with my own creative work. This will be the official stage mounting of the production and I am excited about making it at reality. The production will be in Alexandria, VA running for two nights on August 18 and 19.
Momentum Collective Inc., is a 501(c)3 nonprofit, based in Alexandria, VA whose mission is to use the arts as a conduit to educate, enrich, and empower the lives of youth. The organization has both an arts education arm and is a performing arts company.
“Last Call” runs through July 9, 2022 at 1108 Jefferson Street, Arlington, Virginia 22314. For tickets go to this link For more information about the “Last Call” or the group, go the Momentum Collective, Inc. website.