Open Auditions : Ain’t I A Woman?

Produced by Landé Belo. Directors: Marian Akingbade, Beverly Andrews, Landé Belo 

A theatrical initiative which aims to champion a diverse range of black female, trans and non-binary voices.

Performance dates and venue :
Evenings at 7.30pm: Wednesday 10 July – Saturday 13 July and Tuesday 16 July to Saturday 20 July 
Matinées at 3pm: Saturdays 13 July and 20 July
To be performed in the Tower Theatre, Stoke Newington

Audition dates and time :

Mary, Queen of Thots, has now been cast.
Auditions for the other four plays will take place on Monday 15 April and Friday 19 April at 7-9pm and recalls on Saturday 20 April, 10am-12pm at the Tower Theatre, Stoke Newington.

If you are interested in auditioning, please contact the Directors to confirm which date you would like to attend and to obtain audition pieces to prepare. 
Important note on auditions 
Auditions are open to all, though please note that you will be required to join the Tower Theatre as a fully paid up member if cast in this production.

If you would like to join the Company, please click here for more information.

About the production: 

No black woman writer in this culture can write “too much”. Indeed, no woman writer can write “too much”…No woman has ever written enough. – bell hooks 

2037: The Burden of representation weighs heavily on Fin as she faces an invidious choice: self over cause? Zuri, in her Upwards Spiral, is desperately trying to break free from the shackles of being a “strong black woman”…..Will Ngozi actually resort to self-inflicted grievous bodily harm and succumb to the physical and metaphysical “whitewashing” promulgated by Changing Rays? Mary, Queen of Thots optimistically ventures into digital dating….the perfect antidote for her self-loathing and depression….Meanwhile, Tiwa exposes the insidious impact of the economic crisis on her world and wonders why we are not all In Conversation about this or don’t we care…? 

From a London flat to a dystopian future, a sci-fi mystery to a TV studio, five women tell their different stories, sharing their perspectives of being black and female in contemporary Britain…. 

Playing ages given below are for guidance and are flexible. If you wish to audition for a role but feel you are not the right playing age, please either audition in any event or contact the Directors prior to the audition. 
Please contact the Directors for a copy of the scripts and for the audition pieces. 

The production comprises five short plays. There are 13 parts across the five plays: eleven female and two male. 

The Plays are: 

Changing Rays by Mauricia Lewis. Directed by Landé Belo 

– labelled the angry black woman whenever I challenge the status quo 

Enter the world of Changing Rays where willing participants can undergo treatment to change their skin colour from black to white. Will Ngozi finally get the acceptance and recognition she craves by undergoing this treatment? A dystopian satire offering a strong social commentary on western conventions of beauty standards and the pervasive impact on the black psyche. 

KAREN: [Female, White American, 30-50s] 
Head Conformant at Changing Rays. Described as “the typical archetype of a 21st century White Karen”. She wears her hair in a bob, has a vocal affectation and uses “ethnic flourishes/gestures”. 

NGOZI: [Female, Black British, Nigerian heritage, 20s] 
Studying journalism at University of Kent. Described as bright and naïve and “communicating best with non-verbal cues and is somewhat introverted”. Her parents, Isaac and Chikaorderey Chukwu, have accused her of rebelling against tradition. 

Mary, Queen of Thots by Katrina Smith-Jackson. Directed by: Beverly Andrews 

– But if prayer’s the answer to ‘hashtag winning’…where’s my Academy Award at, Lord?! 

Sick of rejection being the theme tune to her love life, Mary decides to bite the bullet and give dating apps a go. Yet throwing herself head first into the deep end of messy love (and even messier sex) as a depressed Black zillennial definitely has its “kinks”…race play fetishes to name one! But as touch starvation and swipe addiction begin to wash over her, will Mary sink or swim in the murky waters of the digital dating pool? 

This piece requires a versatile character actor willing to experiment and play multiple roles in this one-woman show. 

MARY: [Female, Black British, Nigerian heritage, 20s] 
Red Bull drinking 25-year-old Mary loves 19th century interiors. She thought she’d be married with kids by now. Escaping from a weird landlady, she’d rather stay in her friend’s annex by the vicarage than move back home to her mother’s “hell hole”. 

Other parts played by ‘Mary’: 
MAX: “Oxbridge soft-boi”, RP accent, carries a handkerchief to wipe his nose, doing his PGCE in Cambridge 
FUNKE: Mary’s mother. Strong Nigerian accent, church goer, has food delivered from Asda 
CHLOE: Mary’s best friend. Vicar’s daughter. Cocks her hips and plucks her lips. Has fillers and shellac nails. Smokes B&H kings and has an iPhone 13. Likes to drag Mary to go and eat pie and mash, though she knows Mary hates it. 

In Conversation by Eileen Gbagbo. Directed by Marian Akingbade 

– we’re not going anywhere until you get my name right 

Who better to wax lyrical about managing personal finances than expert Dr Tiwa Sowunmi-Smith and what better platform than TV show, Inside Money in front of a live audience? If only the host will let her get a word in edgeways…. 

TIWA SOWUNMI-SMITH: [Female, Black British. 20-30s] 
Personal Finance expert and coach. She has a PHD and recently released a report about the Racial Wealth Gap. She works with clients (mainly black women) to help them with financial planning and achieving their definition of financial freedom. She’s also written a book which she wants to promote on this show. 

LAUREN MORRIS: [Female, White British. 30-50s] 
She is the host of TV show, Inside Money. She is smartly dressed. She disagrees with the concept of a “black tax” and feels like the cost-of-living crisis affects everyone equally. 

PRODUCER: [Female, Black British. 20-30s] 
A woman in her early 20s. She owes a lot to her mother, who’s had to scrimp and save to give her and her brother opportunities in life. 

Upwards Spiral by Christina O’Donovan-Lopes. Directed by Marian Akingbade 

It’s a prison of your own creation. Locked in by the images of the woman you are meant to be. 

Zuri is battling with the pain of assault but is too afraid to tell anyone. Through this moving monologue we get a glimpse of her inner struggle, as she comes to terms with her new normal. 

ZURI: [Female, Black British. 20s] 
She lives in an apartment in London, where she hides indoors with her phone for company. She is the survivor of a horrific crime which took place halfway across the world when she was travelling. She grew up without parents and refers to her “African features”. She wears baggy clothes and walks around listening to music through her headphones. Her friend Liz says Zuri is the strongest person she knows. 

2037: The Burden by Rukiat Ashawe. Directed by Landé Belo 

– They always want us to be “strong”, the one who everyone else depends on. 

It’s 2037 and the beginning of the end for The Movement. After valiant resistance in a 20-year war, they have been decimated by a deadly virus released by the other side. Their survival hangs in the balance and their leader, Fin, has a very difficult decision to make… 

FIN: [Female, Black, 20-30] 
The leader of The Movement – a rebellion group that has been fighting a war for 20 years. She likes Tequila. She is in hospital suffering from what everyone suspects is the virus. 

MAX: [Male, Black, Mixed-heritage Black 20-30] 
A comrade of Fin’s and part of her resistance group. He puts pressure on Fin regarding the decision she has to make. He doesn’t understand the burden that Fin carries. 

BRAVE: [Female, White, 20-30] 
A comrade of Fin’s and part of her resistance group. She feels the war has been hard on them all and doesn’t understand the burden. She feels they have all stood by their principals and morals. She feels strongly that Fin should put The Movement before herself. 

JINX: [Female, Asian, 20-30] 
A comrade of Fin’s and part of her resistance group. She’s keen to find a cure to the virus and optimistic that with this they can win the war. 

CLIVE: [Male, White, 20-30] 
A comrade of Fin’s and part of her resistance group. He defends Fin vehemently and accuses the others of disregarding Fin’s feelings and seeing her simply as a vessel. He works in a lab. Described as the most level-headed and calm one of the group. 

DOCTOR: [Female, Black, 35-45] 
She believes strongly in Fin and feels that Fin must do what is right for her. She understands why Fin no longer wants to fight. 

Rehearsals will take place on weekday evenings and weekends and will begin from Monday 13 May to the run of the play. The exact dates and times will be provided at the auditions. 
All cast members are required to assist with the get-in and set build and to attend tech rehearsals all day on Sunday 7 and Monday 8 July and dress rehearsal from 6.30-10pm on Tuesday 9 July
Please come prepared at the auditions to give the Directors any dates during the rehearsal period that you are unavailable. Please make it clear if you wish to audition for certain roles only and are not prepared to accept another part. 

About the Directors: 

Landé Belo

Landé Belo’s directing credits with the Tower include Fix Up (2019); I can’t breathe: being black in a time of Covid (part of the Love [and Survival] Festival) (2021), Mules (2021), Leave Taking (2022) and The Gift (2023). Her acting credits with the Tower include Francine/Lena in Clybourne Park, multiple characters in Doctor Faustus, Prudence in The House of Bernarda Alba, Pope Joan/Louise in Top Girls, Jellaby in Arcadia, Cynthia in Sweat and Queen Elizabeth in Richard III. She produced In Hiding, a critically acclaimed show which premièred at Tower Theatre in June 2023 and sold out its entire run, making it one of the most successful productions in Tower history and the first production as part of Landé’s initiative to promote black, female voices in theatre. Ain’t I A Woman? is the next instalment in this initiative.

Beverly Andrews is a playwright, director, documentary filmmaker and the current immersive artist in residence at Britten Pears Arts (home of the Aldeburgh classical music festival), through the European Network of Opera Academies. An alumnus of two Sundance Institute’s film directors courses, she recently co-directed the Arts Council funded workshop presentation of her musical The Coloured Valentino. Her plays have been produced internationally, from the UK, US, India to Bhutan, earning her various accolades including: most anticipated play for Annawon’s Song at the 2020 Vault Festival; recipient of the Roland Rees Playwright’s bursary; and runner up (twice!) of the Alfred Fagon award. She won three international awards for I am Going to Make a Miracle (a documentary about the Arcola Theatre which she wrote and directed and was bought by Sky Arts). Sophia, a play which she wrote and produced, depicting the life of Asian suffragette Sophia Duleep Singh, will appear at this year’s Dhaka International Film festival celebrating the work of female filmmakers.

Marian Akingbade trained as an actor at Identity Drama School and has featured in over 4 short films and 2 stage plays at the Canal Cafe Theatre in London. Since graduating with a distinction in Masters in Film from University of Arts London, she has produced a range of short films, documentaries and web series. Her most recent film, Endswell (2022) focuses on the issue of toxic masculinity and how men often suffer in silence from not being able to express their emotions for fear of how they may be perceived externally.  She works as a Public Relations Manager at a Tech Agency in London and also works to support independent films through her production company – MDMediaHouse (now 633 Media). Her focus as a creative is to bring forth new and interesting work by filmmakers and playwrights who have unique experiences and viewpoints about human existence. Aint I A Woman is her theatrical debut as director.

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