Black Playwrights

Jun 26, 2020

Inspired by his love of theatre and per his request, actor and comedian Baron Vaughn is challenged to a game about Black playwrights.

Heard on: Jane Levy and Alex Newell: Zoey's Extraordinary Zoom Call.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

OPHIRA EISENBERG, HOST:

All right. Baron, would you like to play another game?

BARON VAUGHN: Yeah, sure. Let's do it.

EISENBERG: OK. Let's go for another because, you know, you - we asked you what subject you would like to play a game about and you said theater, specifically black playwrights. So we were pretty excited about that and we have a multiple choice quiz for you.

VAUGHN: OK, great.

EISENBERG: OK. Here we go. Let's just go right into it. "Eclipsed," which received six Tony nominations in 2016, was written by the multitalented Danai Gurira. We say multitalented, in part, because nerds also may recognize her as what - a voiceover artist for video games, including the Assassin's Creed series, an actor appearing in "The Walking Dead" and the Marvel Cinematic Universe or, C, an illustrator with her own acclaimed DC superhero series?

VAUGHN: B.

EISENBERG: Yeah, that's right.

VAUGHN: Yes, she plays Michonne on "The Walking Dead." And you also have seen her in "Black Panther" as one of the Dora Milaje.

EISENBERG: That's right. General Okoye.

VAUGHN: Yes, General Okoye. I saw that play in Washington, D.C., and it was incredible.

EISENBERG: All right, Baron. Jeremy O. Harris...

VAUGHN: Oh, yes.

EISENBERG: ...Made waves on Broadway recently with "Slave Play." He's also the co-writer of the upcoming film "Zola," which is adapted from what unconventional source material - A, a meme of a cat eating salami, B, a viral Twitter thread or C, an early 2000s fan-fiction website?

VAUGHN: It's B, a viral Twitter thread.

EISENBERG: You are correct. Yes, again. By the way, just reading those, I've got to say I miss 2015 Internet.

VAUGHN: (Laughter) Yes.

JONATHAN COULTON, BYLINE: Yeah, I know. It was so much - that was an innocent time.

EISENBERG: (Laughter) We didn't know what we were doing.

COULTON: Just fun pictures of cats everywhere. Here's another one. Lorraine Hansberry is best known for her play "A Raisin In The Sun," which gets its name from a line in the Langston Hughes poem "Harlem." But the show's original title came from a different Hughes poem. What was that original title? Was it A, broken-winged bird from "Dreams" or, B, in some place of the sun from "Dream" variations or, C, the crystal stair from "Mother To Son."

VAUGHN: Wow, those are all so beautiful. I'm going to go with broken-winged bird. Is that what the first one was?

COULTON: That is the first one. That is a fine guess, but it's incorrect. It is the crystal stair.

VAUGHN: Damn it. Damn it to hell.

(LAUGHTER)

VAUGHN: Also a lot of people don't know about what a great thinker and philosopher she was. She was very, very, very, very close with James Baldwin. They had such interesting friendships.

EISENBERG: All right. This is your last one. What Oscar-winning film was adapted from a project by playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney?

VAUGHN: "Moonlight."

EISENBERG: Oh, I didn't even get to them. I looked at you because you were already nodding. You are correct. It was going to be, A, "Spotlight," B "Moonlight", C "La La Land." And, of course, the answer in this case right ahead. I don't have to open up a ballot and misread it and then open up another ballot.

(LAUGHTER)

VAUGHN: Twist.

EISENBERG: (Laughter) It is "Moonlight."

VAUGHN: Yeah. That guy is incredible. Apparently, he and Barry Jenkins both grew up in the same neighborhood - which his play is based on - and they didn't know each other as children. And they're both men that grew up in the same neighborhood...

COULTON: Wow.

VAUGHN: ...And were, like, the same age. That's why when Barry Jenkins read his play he was like what? Who is this? Why does he know what happened to me?

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: That's amazing.

EISENBERG: Yeah. Right. And McCraney's autobiographical script that the film was adapted from was called "In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue." Baron Vaughn, you did amazing. You - yeah. Two quizzes, fun debates...

VAUGHN: Not good at science movies, real good at black playwrights, not good at science movies, but I am here for the fight. This song is not copyrighted because I am making it up. Sorry, guys. I'm trying to audition to be the next lead singer of Journey.

COULTON: Yeah, I'll give you the job.

EISENBERG: I don't think you need any other members.

VAUGHN: (Laughter) Exactly.

EISENBERG: I think Journey is now of one. Baron, thank you so much. It is just so nice to talk to you, as well.

VAUGHN: Great to talk to you, too.

EISENBERG: It is so nice to talk to you. Thank you for joining us. I look forward to seeing you on all of my screens.

VAUGHN: (Laughter) Well, I hope you have guests back because I would love to come back and be asked another.

COULTON: (Laughter) Totally.

EISENBERG: (Laughter) Now we have to just because that's - you're now our promotional material.

VAUGHN: Yeah.

EISENBERG: You can catch Baron's show "Call And Response" streaming live on Blavity and funnyordie.com. ASK ME ANOTHER's house musician is Jonathan Coulton.

COULTON: Hey, my name anagrams to thou jolt a cannon

EISENBERG: Our puzzles were written by our staff, along with Camilla Franklin, Jamie Greenberg (ph), Jack Lechner (ph), Emily Winter and senior writer Karen Lurie, with additional material by Cara Weinberger. ASK ME ANOTHER is produced by Travis Larchuk, Kiarra Powell (ph), Nancy Saechao, James Farber and Rommel Wood. Our senior supervising producer is Rachel Neel, and our bosses' bosses are Steve Nelson and Anya Grundmann. We'd like to thank our production partner WNYC. I'm her ripe begonias.

COULTON: Ophira Eisenberg.

EISENBERG: And this was ASK ME ANOTHER from NPR.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.