Fellows Spotlight is our summer blog series that invites you to take a behind-the-scenes look at our Fellows program.
Over the coming weeks, we’ll be hearing from all our 2018-2019 Fellows: Jay Adana, Rae Binstock, Zeniba Britt, Erika Dickerson-Despenza, Mathilde Dratwa, Aryanna Garber, Charles Gershman, Nambi E. Kelley, Melissa Li, Benjamin Velez, Kit Yan, and Zack Zadek.
Each of the Fellows/teams were asked the same 5 questions, exploring where these writers have been, are now, and are journeying towards. Our Fellows took this gentle structure and ran, each submitting responses as unique and creative as they are.
This week, we invite you to get to know Nambi E. Kelley:
What was your first experience with theater?
My first experience in the theatre was being in a production of The Mouse That Roared in high school. I played the secretary. I wanted to play the general. I understood completely why they cast a boy in that part, and I was mad as hell about it.
When did you decide to become a writer? Is there a writer, show, or piece of writing that was particularly influential on your path?
I became a writer when I was about 8 years old. I spent half my childhood in places where children were not valued. I wrote to understand the world around me because it was never explained to me why things were so hard for some people.
How do you describe your work overall? What sets your work apart?
My work stages a character’s interior thoughts. Other writers do that through subtext or immediate action. I am fascinated with seeing how someone arrives at a thought and staging that.
Can you tell us a little bit about the work you’ve been developing as a Fellow?
The fellowship play I’m developing is an adaptation of Toni Morrison’s Jazz. I have chosen to structure the play like Rashomon, so it is structured into 5 different perspectives based on a singular event of a young girl being murdered in 1920s Harlem by her lover.
What do you find most rewarding about your work as a writer?
I saw a lot of suffering as a young person. What’s most rewarding for me as a writer is to be able to illuminate those dark spaces for others who may be in similar spaces. If I am not writing to make someone’s world better, or at least for someone to see a piece of their own experience in a character and provide perspective and context on their sufferings, I am not in a space of joy around creating work. My goal is to tell as many truths as I can, it helps me to know the suffering I’ve endured in my life was not in vain, but in service of others. And that gives me great peace.