Oral History

Every 28 Hours Oral History Project

Playwright Madhuri Shekar (http://www.madhurishekar.com/) created this oral history project to discover how the project came to be, how it impacted artists and audiences alike, and what new possibilities it has opened up, with regards to theatre, activism and community building. Each interview was held with a contributor to the project and gives a unique perspective on this unique project.  

This oral history project seeks to discover how the festival came to be, how it impacted artists and audiences alike, and what new possibilities it has opened up, with regards to theatre, activism and community building.
Want to contribute your story? Email Madhuri to set up a time for a phone call! For quick and easy listening to all of the interviews on your smartphone, get the SpareMin app and follow the hashtag #every28hours. Read below for Madhuri’s descriptions of the calls, and links to listen to the full recordings.
Playwright Madhuri Shekar

Claudia Alick: Community Producer

I started off this project with a two-part call with Claudia Alick, a founder and producer of the Every 28 Hours national play project.

Claudia is an absolute delight and you can hear the energy and passion she has for this project, and her belief in people and communities. She starts by raving about the latest Every 28 Hours production she’d seen (the collaborative Bay Area edition), and then talks about the no-money model of the national project. She explains the history of the project, starting with The Ferguson Moment in 2014, and in part 2 of the conversation, she talks about her favorite moments and what inspired her own one-minute play.

Dominic D’Andrea: Founder of the One Minute Play Festival

We cannot understand how the Every 28 Hours Plays project came to be without first learning about the One Minute Play Festival (1MPF), which was founded way back in 2006 in New York, and has now emerged as the largest and longest running grass-roots theatre company in America.
In this call, Dominic talks about how long it took the 1MPF fest to discover and refine their vision, the uncomfortable but necessary process of making art with the Ferguson activist community, and what 1MPF has planned for the future.

David Henry Hwang: Playwright

The Every 28 Hours Plays can count several Tony Award winning playwrights amongst its ranks. Tony Award-winning American playwright, librettist, screenwriter, and theater professor David Henry Hwang was kind enough to share his voice for this oral history project.
In this call, David talks about the inspiration for his one-minute play, and its eerie reverberations in our post-election world. We talk Asian American solidarity with Black Lives Matter, and what theatre can and should do for social activism, going forward.

Jacqueline Thompson: Actor, director, St. Louis producer

Prof. Jacqueline Thompson was part of the inception of the festival in Ferguson and St. Louis, and I was thrilled to speak with her. She talks about the development of the idea from the very first meetings in Ferguson after the killing of Mike Brown, of using art to authentically reflect community, and her hopes for the future of theatre and activism in St. Louis. Can one-minute plays continue to tackle an issue this complex?
Be sure to listen to the end, when Prof Thompson shares a truly powerful testimonial from a student who saw the St. Louis production.

Arlene Eisen: Originator of the 'Every 28 Hours' Statistic

The title of the festival – Every 28 Hours – is taken from a statistic in the independent research paper ‘Operation Ghetto Storm’. The researcher, Arlene Eisen, estimated that there is – on average – a state-sanctioned, extrajudicial killing of a black person in the United States every 28 hours. The statistic has been called into question and often misquoted, so I was really glad to get a long, in-depth conversation with Arlene herself, where she talked about her inspiration and urge to delve deep into the problem, her methodology and choice of focus, the response, both good and bad, and what she hopes for the future.

“I hope that it continues and that the next series of plays look a little bit more at how to build resistance, and how to address the systemic part of the problem.”

Find her original report at operationghettostorm.org

Eric Coble: Playwright

A couple of people had singled out Cleveland Playhouse sponsored playwright Eric Coble’s one-minute play ‘Say Something’ as a remarkable piece in the play. We had a great conversation on how can people be better allies to each other. It starts with the courage to speak up – but also on cultivating an environment of goodwill. Mistakes can be made, and the wrong things said – but if they are said from a place of goodwill, and heard from a place of goodwill, and if that mistake isn’t the end of the conversation, but merely a point in learning and growing, then that may be the best way for all of us to move forward together.
Listen to the full interview to learn more.

Sarah Rose Leonard: Literary Manager at Berkeley Rep

As a playwright, I am fascinated by how Literary Managers think, so it was great to get a chance to talk some inside-baseball with Sarah Rose Leonard, the Lit Manager at Berkeley Rep. She talks about how energizing it was for the big regional theatres of the Bay Area to collaborate with smaller theatres in putting together the epic Bay Area edition of the Every 28 Hours Arts Festival. Theatre administrators get tapped out, even just doing their job, and a purely volunteer and cause-driven event like Every 28 Hours can help jolt big institutions into doing things differently, and stumbling upon avenues that they did not know were open to them.

 Plus stick around to the end to hear her fantastic thoughts on the power of the one-minute play as a theatrical format.

D’Lo: Playwright

I have been a long time fan of D’Lo, right from the time I first saw him perform in India over a decade ago. So it was an honor and great fun to chat with him about the inspiration for his one-minute play, and why, as a trans Sri-Lankan American, he aligns his identity closer to the Black community in America. We also talk about the absurdity of internalized South Asian racism, when the civil rights movement is what opened the doors for the influx of South Asian immigration in the 60s. A great conversation with one of my favorite artists.

Donya Washington: Director and Producer

The awesome Donya Washington, the new off-site Season Producer at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, took me through how disparate Atlanta theatre groups and artists came together to produce the show, and how big regional institutions can lead the charge of more diverse, inclusive and exciting theatre.

Matt Frazier: Actor and Producer

Actor and producer Matt Frazier talks about how the Every 28 Hours festival gave the Austin production a way to honor and celebrate the historically black East Austin community. Listen to our full conversation to hear how the Austin production went down, and check out salvagevanguard.org to find out more about Matt’s company.

Billy Flood: Director, Actor and Producer

I had a great time speaking with Billy Flood, who produced a University of Louisville staged reading of Every 28 Hours Plays. Billy talks about the transformative effect of the show on students who had never tried theatre before, and we chat a little bit about the state of Black theatre nationwide, inspired by his Howlround article. How can the theatre community – big institutions and independent artists alike – better support Black and POC voices? Follow Billy on Twitter at @bflood28.

Elizabeth Nearing: Community Engagement Manager at Long Wharf Theatre

Elizabeth Nearing is the Community Engagement Manager at Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven. She talks about using the festival to confront the idea that “it can’t happen here,” especially in a community like New Haven, and the value of artistic community engagement. If you haven’t seen the a production of the festival, this interview with Elizabeth includes her describing the powerful final play in the show.


Anu Yadav: Playwright

It’s always a pleasure to catch up with a friend, so I loved talking to rockstar activist performer and writer Anu Yadav. She talks about her initial hesitation around participating in a festival about the BLM movement as a non-Black artist, and why the diversity of artists in the festival eventually made sense to her. We chat about what makes activist theatre work – and about the times when it doesn’t. And learn about the inspiration for her one-minute play!

Seth Gordon: Artistic Director, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

I had the chance to speak with Seth Gordon the very next day after the 2016 St. Louis production of Every 28 Hours! He talks about how the show went on their main stage, the role of the Repertory Theatre as a larger artistic institution, and what everyone should know about the vibrant STL theatre scene.

Prince Gomolvilas: Playwright

I speak to my friend Prince Gomolvilas about social apathy, and how the iconic protest song ‘Outside of a Small Circle of Friends’ inspired his one-minute play of the same name. Prince speaks eloquently about how the Black Lives Matter movement must matter to everyone in the country, regardless of who we are, about the high cost of not caring, shutting down, and how easy it is to not pay attention. Post-election, I found this call more important than ever.

Emma Goldman-Sherman: Playwright

The lovely Emma Goldman-Sherman was inspired to make the first move when it came to contributing her work to the Every 28 Hours festival – perhaps a larger sign of how allies can make the first move in stepping up, across the board. She speaks about inspiration for her one-minute play ‘Hare’.

Learn more about the 29th Street Playwrights Collective here.

Syd Stewart: Playwright

Syd Stewart was asked to write for the festival by her long time friend and comrade, Claudia Alick.Listen to our conversation to learn more about her one-minute play, and follow her at @sydsteword on Twitter and Instagram.


Dyalekt: Playwright

Playwright, rapper, actor and activist Dyalekt talks about his comic book inspired one-minute play, and how pop culture can help move hearts and minds. Why can some people empathize with a blue guy but not a black guy?

Kila Kitu: Producer

Kila produced the LA edition of the 2016 festival! The LA production included a live artist Zachary Brown that painted freehand during the show, and Kila talks about that moving addition to the experince. She speaks about hearing from their town halls after the show, and her lessons learned in producing those post-show discussions.  

Mariah Richardson: Playwright

I speak with playwright and educator Mariah Richardson about the inspiration behind her one-minute play “The Lessons”, and the power of theatre to change hearts and minds.


Gisla Stringer: Playwright

Playwright and actor Gisla Stringer developed her one-minute play ‘Train of Dreams’ after meeting 5 remarkable young women at Michael Brown’s High School. I recommend listening just to hear about these 5 high school students and how they moved Gisla! She talks about her time in Ferguson – “phenomenal and touching” – and the process of developing the festival as a whole.


Niegel Smith: Artistic Director, The Flea

I speak to Niegel Smith, the artistic director of The Flea in New York, on how their production galvanized their resident artists, and the 2.5 hour conversation that happened after the show!


Rebecca Martinez: Director, actor

Director and actor Rebecca Martinez talks about responding to a call to action on Facebook, which led her to get involved with the Ferguson Moment in 2014, the point from which the Every 28 Hours festival eventually evolved. She talks about what the feeling was like in Ferguson in the immediate aftermath of Mike Brown’s death, and what stood out to Rebecca in how divided even a small community can be. We chat about role and responsibility of #artists in times of social crises. Learn more about Rebecca’s work at sojourntheatre.org 

Shondrika Moss-Bouldin: Director

Dr. Shondrika Moss-Bouldin teaches at Kennesaw State University and is very interested in theatre for social change. She talks about bringing the festival to Atlanta, directing its powerful opening & closing, and its rapturous reception from the audience! “Everybody was completely committed to the work, and when you have something like that, the audience is just moved to no end.”  

Lee Osorio: Producer, Actor

Actor Lee Osorio talks about bringing the fest to Atlanta after being part of the development process at Brown’s Trinity Rep, under Joe Wilson Jr. He talks about his strongest personal memory from the experience, and how this project gives him hope for the future of theatre.  

Migdalia Cruz: Playwright

Playwright Migdalia Cruz has had a long and storied career, and much of her writing on mourning, loss and racism. It was lovely to speak with her on what inspired her one-minute play for Every 28 Hours, and the importance of images, structure and emotion when it comes to conveying a message in such a short amount of time.

We also chat about what’s inspiring her now, and learn about her latest project!

Rick Dildine: Artistic Director, Shakespeare Theatre of St. Louis

I was so inspired talking to Rick Dildine about how Shakespeare can speak powerfully and evocatively to our times today. We chat about the activist role that a classic theatre like the Shakespeare Theatre can play, and whether Shakespeare would be up to writing a one-minute play!


Basmin Nadra: Playwright

Basmin is a poetess, pianist, lyricist, vocalist, storyteller, actress, spoken word artist, and as she adds, a mother! She speaks about her life in activism, her work in St. Louis, the inspiration for her one-minute play, her experience of joining the Water Protectors at Standing Rock, and much more. It was a lovely, illuminating conversation that I learned a lot from.

Kirsten Greenidge: Playwright

Kirsten Greenidge is the Mellon playwright-in-residence at Company One theatre in Boston. She spoke to me about how her perspective as the mother of a Black son inspired her one-minute play, what theatre can and should do post-election, and her experience of seeing the Boston production of the festival!