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Essential Theatre Celebrates Two Georgia Playwrights With This Year’s Award

This year's Essential Theatre playwright winners are Erin Considine and Anthony Lamarr White.
This year's Essential Theatre playwright winners are Erin Considine and Anthony Lamarr White.
Credit Essential Theatre

Essential Theatre, the longest-running theater company dedicated exclusively to Georgia playwrights, brings us two new plays this year for their Essential Theatre Festival in November. But first, on Aug. 28 at Manuel’s Tavern, the company celebrates the two winners of the 2021 Essential Theatre Playwriting Award, Anthony Lamarr White and Erin Considine. It’s a free, casual gathering where the playwrights will share words and break bread with all comers. White joined “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes via Zoom and the artistic director of Essential Theatre, Peter Hardy, to talk about the award-winning plays and the events accompanying their debuts.

The criteria used to choose Essential Theatre’s plays doesn’t ask for much, just quality work by artists within the community. “The main criteria is that they are Georgia residents,” said Hardy. “Most of the writers we do are fairly new on the writing scene. We just look for artistic quality, and that’s a subjective judgment. Among the things that we look for are originality, a sense of authenticity, a sense that the writer is genuinely connected to their material, and just imagination, and truth, humor; all the things that you look for in a play when you go to the theatre and you want to have a good experience.”

White’s play, “Calming the Man,” delivered what the Theatre was looking for while tackling the difficult subject of generational trauma. “’Calming the Man’ is a play about the inherent anger passed from generations of Black males to the younger generations,” said White. “The play is set in the 1970s right after integration, in a small town called Greenville. And it’s about a father raising two sons. The father is an angry man; segregation and living in the Deep South has formed this angry man and in a lot of ways he has passed this anger off on his two sons, who are trying to break free of this anger.”

White himself grew up in the 1970s, going first to a segregated school and then to an integrated school afterward. He came away from the experience feeling that the harm segregation had done to his community, and the anger it bred, needed to be addressed. “I know in my uncles, and in my father, they were expecting so much… that they would finally get a piece of the pie,” said White. “And when it didn’t happen that way, they became bitter. My dad, started drinking, and he did a lot of things, so I ended up being raised by a single mom, and that, in itself, was the result of all of that.”

White’s play shares themes with another featured production Essential Theatre is developing, Erin Considine’s “Raising the Dead.” “Both of the plays that we’re doing this year… they’re both about people trying to escape,” said Hardy. “’Raising the Dead’ is about two women… who are both ‘women of a certain age,’ as they say, who feel trapped in a kind of living death. They feel invisible, that no one sees them, no one hears them, no one touches them. They’re trying to find a way to connect with each other and escape from that living death.”

“Both the plays are very powerful,” said Hardy. “They both will be intimate, and I think will both really touch people. We’re really looking forward to presenting them to the public for the first time.”

More information about the Manuel’s Tavern celebration on Aug. 28 is available at www.essentialtheatre.com/event/2021-celebration-of-georgia-playwrights/.