INTRODUCING SHAWANNA RENEE RIVON
ARNETT COBB PROJECT
Alley Theatre commission developed at the Alley at Ucross Residency by Houston playwright ShaWanna Renee Rivon. Her new play follows Arnett Cobb, the internationally acclaimed “wild man of the tenor sax,” a jazz musician who grew up in Houston and influenced some of the most world-renowned entertainers and musicians as he helped carve a jazz sound that was uniquely from Texas.
HISTORIC THIRD WARD VIRTUAL TOUR
Curated by ShaWanna
The tour is a documentary; a collection of interviews, historical information, storytelling by artists, activists and community elders, all celebrating the heritage of Houston's Third Ward. This website serves as a home base for information, including a map of the tour and a Facebook portal for participants to share their thoughts, experiences and insights. Because the tour is online, the information is accessible to not only the residents of Third Ward but the greater Houston community. If you are in the Houston area, we encourage your to visit Historic Third Ward and experience the sites live! The tour can be experienced as a walking tour (either solo or in small groups) or by car if preferred.
As a child I romanticized about the stories I heard about our black ancestors. The child in me, grew up to be a playwright who combines art and history; I’m an activist artist. Nina Simone’s music turned into a revolutionary movement about the state of Black life. My plays are equivalent to Nina Simone’s music. But it’s also Moms Mabley’s Comedy. Those two are such a contradiction, that’s me, that’s my writing. I write realism, romance, and comedy, but I’m not bound to these styles. I also write farces, sketches, and stand-up. The Black Surrealist movement excites me. As a Black Woman Playwright, I write from an accountable place of representation, that is often packaged in truth, love, and laughter. My writer’s heart rests in creating period-pieced comedies, and romantic comedies in the lives of Black women that, though each woman’s story and historical atmosphere is different for each protagonist, it exists in a surrounding world of experience that remains inherently and internally unchanged. There are countless stories of women that remain to be given a voice on stage, whose voices beacon for support and inclusion, and whose voices still stand and sound in women like me today. I write to amplify their voices. On stage and off, there are an array of human conditions that call for increased compassion and understanding in their delivery and reception. This is where the gift of comedy is a grace. Racism, sexism, gender inequality, and lack of equity in our art and society, are often too much and too bitter to ingest at once. Art is intended to entertain, and to enlighten. By use of comedy in these hard- to-deal situations, it is the hope and intention that, by use of comedy, the audience may be lost in the laughter through the historical context, so much so, that the viewer continues on even after they wake into the next day. By this, the call to compassionate thoughts, feelings, and actions, are satisfied in the people that have come to engage in the art. It is by use of comedy in these challenged historical contexts that allow access and community across time and cultural borders with the audience. Writers who have inspired my own works are, Lynn Nottage, Albert Albee, Suzan Lori Parks, Spike Lee, and I feel Neil Simon left some of the best examples of romantic comedies. The other writers have formed worlds and within them highlighted the injustices of those worlds. As such, I am driven to form impactful character worlds filled with everyday people who are driven through their own obstacles, goals, and dreams. The main distinctions of these worlds and characters are these: They are Black, they are women, and are inherently birthed into worlds and systems that have been erected against them. These are Black Americans and Women-Americans, pressing to achieve their goals and life dreams, of which are saturated with excessive external forces only meant to obstruct these Americans from their own accomplished American dreams. The ability for theater to enlighten and entertain is irrefutable and existent. In this, I believe we are called to instruct and enlighten ourselves of futures to come. In order for a future world full of life, laughs, and historically empathetic wisdom to exist, we must learn from the worlds that we have come from. My plays are written to be in service to human growth. It is my inherent artistic mission, my artist’s vocation, to use the toolbox and gifts granted me, to instruct us all about our shared futures and shared stories.
"My activism always existed. My art gave me the platform to do something about the activism."