The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas

December 21, 2012

Cayuga graduate selected for playwright program

Staff Reports
Courtesy Photo

PALESTINE — Playwright Jacqueline E. Lawton, a 1996 graduate of Cayuga High School, was one of six Washington D.C. area playwrights to be selected to participate in a prestigious program at the Mead Center for American Theater in Washington, D.C.

Lawton will participate in the inaugural Playwrights’ Arena as part of the American Voices New Play Institute at Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater. Playwrights’ Arena is a collaborative group of local writers dedicated to the support and development of one another’s work and practice. The year-long program commences in January and the inaugural members include Norman Allen, Randy Baker, Lawton, Heather McDonald, Danielle Mohlman and Shawn Northrip.

“I’m proud and quite amazed to be part of the inaugural Playwrights’ Arena. Arena Stage was one of my first theater homes as an arts administrator and educator, so it’s wonderful to return as a playwright,” Lawton said. “I feel fortunate to be able to spend a year dedicated to communing with such exceptionally talented and diverse playwrights, to working with everyone at Arena Stage and to discovering new depths and dimensions of my own writing.”

More than 30 applicants were considered for the D.C. program, which will include bimonthly three-hour meetings on a weeknight at the Mead Center to investigate their work and develop their dramaturgical practice. They will meet regularly with the Institute’s resident playwrights and Arena Stage directors, designers and staff. At least twice during the year actors will read their work in private laboratory rehearsals, giving the playwrights a chance to hear their work and respond to it. The playwrights will be able to attend opening nights and special events and be supported as members of the Arena Stage artistic community.

Even before receiving this opportunity, Lawton was named one of 30 of the nation’s leading black playwrights by Arena Stage’s American Voices New Play Institute.

Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater is a national center dedicated to the production, presentation, development and study of American theater. Under the leadership of Smith and Executive Director Edgar Dobie, Arena Stage is the largest company in the country dedicated to American plays and playwrights. Arena Stage produces huge plays and presents diverse and ground-breaking work from some of the best artists around the country. Arena Stage is committed to commissioning and developing new plays through the American Voices New Play Institute. Now in its seventh decade, Arena Stage serves a diverse annual audience of more than 300,000.

Lawton is the daughter of James E. Lawton Jr. and Earnestine B. Lawton of Tennessee Colony.

“Her mom and I are very proud parents of all that she has done,” her father James. E. Lawton Jr. said Thursday during a phone interview with the Herald-Press.

A military brat, her family spent her early years at Fort Huachuca in Arizona, later moving to El Paso and eventually to Tennessee Colony in 1982, where her parents still reside.

Lawton received her Master’s of Fine Arts in Playwriting degree from the University of Texas at Austin, where she was a James A. Michener Fellow. She participated in the Kennedy Center’s Playwrights’ Intensive (2002) and World Interplay (2003).

She is the author of “Anna K,” “Blood-bound and Tongue-tied,” “Deep Belly Beautiful,” “The Devil’s Sweet Water,” “The Hampton Years, Ira Aldridge: the African Roscius,” “Lions of Industry, Mothers of Invention,” “Love Brothers Serenade,” and “Mad Breed and Our Man Beverly Snow.”  

Lawton’s work has been developed and presented at the following venues: Active Cultures, Classical Theater of Harlem, Folger Shakespeare Library, the Hegira, Howard University, Kennedy Center’s Page to Stage Festival, Rorschach Theater Company, Savannah Black Heritage Festival (Armstrong Atlantic State University), Shakespeare Theatre Company, Source Theatre Festival, Theater J, and Woolly Mammoth Theater Company.

Lawton is a 2012 TCG Nathan Cummings Young Leaders of Color award recipient. She has been nominated for the Wendy Wasserstein Prize and a PONY Fellowship from the Lark New Play Development Center. Since 2010, Lawton has served on Round House Theatre’s Artists’ Roundtable. She is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships including two Young Artist Program Grants from the D.C .Commission on the Arts and Humanities for Playwriting.

Every summer, Lawton works at the Smithsonian Institute with children during special workshops, her father said. In high school, her one-act play team went to state, leading to her love for the theater.

Lawton has worked as a dramaturg and research consultant at various theaters and has taught classes on acting, directing, dramaturgy, movement, playwriting, Shakespeare and solo performance at Arena Stage, Duke Ellington School of the Arts, Folger Shakespeare Library, the John F. Kennedy Center, Round House Theatre, Shakespeare Theatre Company, Smithsonian Associates, Towson University and the Young Playwright’s Theatre. Additionally, she has taught theater residencies and professional development workshops to adults and teachers wanting to integrate arts into the classroom.

Currently, she is a Professor of Theater at the University of the District of Columbia.

For more insight into the life and work of Lawton, visit her website online: