Find your voice with writer/actor EISA DAVIS

by Tom Lee

In a "Harvard Magazine" profile on Eisa Davis '92 by Craig Lambert, the playwright and performer explains her double-threat talent: "I’m a much better playwright because I’m an actor. I can imagine what a character is experiencing in a sensory way, movement by movement."

Davis will have a chance to demonstrate her full skill set (which also includes experience as a singer-songwriter) and "pass it on" to a younger generation of aspiring writers and actors at Harvard when she leads a two-part workshop for the OFA's Learning From Performers program this fall.

The first part, on "finding your voice," will guide students in writing monologues and small scenes; it will be held on Monday, October 19 at 3 pm in the New College Theatre Rehearsal Studio. The second part will give participants a chance to perform what they have written in a "work-in-progress" production workshop; it will be held on a date in November, to be announced.

Davis is eager to spread the word about the importance of live theater as a vehicle for expressing yourself and establishing your identity—with the emphasis on "live." "What are plays for?" she asks. "Why do we still crave live performance when we can watch YouTube or television or movies 24-7 on a screen in our palms? What happens in the ephemeral relationship between performer and audience that nourishes us?

"This will be a process-based, exercise-driven playwriting workshop designed to pinpoint and explore the provenance of theatrical literature, and how you contribute to it," she adds. "I want students to bring their fears, dreams, idiosyncratic musical tastes, and utopian experiments."

Davis was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama for her play Bulrusher (published by Samuel French). Her other plays include The History of Light (produced by the Contemporary American Theater Festival, directed by Liesl Tommy), Paper Armor, Umkovu, Six Minutes, Warriors Don’t Cry, and Hip Hop Anansi.

Eisa is a winner of the Helen Merrill Award, the Whitfield Cook Award, and has received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, Cave Canem, and the Van Lier and Mellon Foundations. She is a resident playwright at New Dramatists, an organization that was instrumental in the development of Angela’s Mixtape, an autobiographical play about her relationship with her famous aunt, activist and educator Angela Davis.

As an actor, her recent work includes her Obie Award-winning performance in the Broadway rock musical Passing Strange, which is now a film directed by Spike Lee. Eisa is also featured in the films Welcome to the Rileys opposite James Gandolfini (upcoming), Robot Stories, The Architect, Confess, Happenstance, Pretty Bird, Apparition of the Eternal Church, and Brass Tacks.

On television she was Bubbles’ sister on "The Wire," is a repeat offender on "Law and Order" (the mothership and "SVU"), and she appears on "Damages" this season. Eisa is a member of the Actors Studio, and a Usual Suspect at New York Theater Workshop. As a singer-songwriter, her album "Something Else" is available through iTunes and CDBaby. She sings her original music at venues including Joe’s Pub, BAMCafé, Symphony Space, and the Whitney Museum.

If you are an undergraduate currently enrolled in Harvard College who is interested in participating in Eisa's workshop, contact Learning From Performers program manager Thomas Lee, lee16@fas.harvard.edu or 617.495.8676.

For more information about Eisa Davis, visit her website