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“A PLAY ABOUT COMMUNITY”
An interview with Mia Kristin Smith, the director of PIPELINE
MIA KRISTIN SMITH gives her all to every artistic project she gets her hands on. An artistic director, director, dramaturg, actress, and playwright (amongst other things), Smith’s work has been named one of Atlanta’s Best Bets, and featured in Creative Loafing and Burnaway Magazine. Smith is a storyteller with a keen eye and clear voice, and she is the director of PIPELINE at Marietta’s New Theatre in the Square. We caught up with her to hear about her process.
INTERVIEWER: PIPELINE features several seminal literary works by Black authors (Gwendolyn Brooks’ “We Real Cool,” Richard Wright’s “Native Son,” and Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man”). Do you have a core work of Black art, literary or otherwise, that consistently inspires you?
MKS: Absolutely. I love Toni Morrison and her works. I love playwrights; I love the African American women playwrights- Pearl Cleage, but especially Suzan Lori-Parks, and Dominique Morisseau as well.
INTERVIEWER: This play explores the power of two parallel pipelines- the school to prison pipeline and the pipeline of those who are decided to be “gifted and talented.” Throughout, we witness the power of educators, particularly those who empower their students to be who they really are, uninhibited by stereotypes or respectability politics. Is there a teacher or mentor who has empowered you in this way? How have they inspired your experience with PIPELINE?
MKS: You know I was having a conversation with one of my cast members and my stage manager recently, and I was saying I feel that I missed out on a lot of that stuff. I went to a Catholic school, a lot of nuns, and it was predominantly white so I never felt like – and it’s not too say anything bad about the way they taught me – it was just I didn’t feel inspired inside, to be myself. I felt inspired to make sure that I became educated and that I was able to go on with my life and do something with myself, but never did I feel like I should be proud of who I am. It wasn’t until I decided to go back to school in my 30’s, my mid-30’s, that I started learning from African American women, and there were so many of them there, at the New School of General Studies. I started learning about African American female writers and the stories that we had gone through. For me to list one or two of [my teachers] during that period would be just- it’d be hard to do that! So I would say that it was when I went to New York, and I studied, and I decided to take African American Humanities and studies of women writers that made me feel inspired to be happy with who I am.
INTERVIEWER: PIPELINE is an emotionally complex play, exploring simultaneously dynamics
of race, class, and family. What drew you to this project?
MKS: The fact–as I have mentioned before–that I am a fan of Dominique Morisseau. I was drawn to this piece because my mother was a teacher all of our lives, and my sister is a teacher. I tried teaching; my brother is a teacher; we all followed in it because we were inspired by the work she was doing and how she would give of herself to her students. We used to laugh and say, “Mama you have the keys!” She’d be there at 6 AM, she’d come home at 6 PM. She taught special education so she was very into the lives of her kids and emotionally took it home with her. Hearing the story about Nya and knowing how we as kids sometimes were upset that my mom was giving so much of her time to her students–you know, you’re a child and you’re like “I want her with me,” and just listening to the stories she said about these kids, and these boys that were dealing with different stuff in their neighborhoods. I was inspired to see it from the other side and see how this woman, how Nya dealt with her personal stuff with her son and the stuff with her students and be able to bring those two worlds together. It’s actually made me appreciate her mom and her work a little more.
INTERVIEWER: You all are early in the creation process. What has brought you the most joy
working with this ensemble so far? What are you excited about?
MKS: Oh the discoveries. We’ve had some ups and downs with everyone because everyone has an opinion of what the story’s about–because our lives are different! It could be the same story but it affects everyone differently, and we’re discovering where even though we are in a difference of opinion when we come together we come together still wanting to tell the same story. It has been great, finding things that I didn’t come into the room with, or they didn’t come into the room with, and we’re like, “Oh my God!” So it’s the discoveries and the “ah-ha” moments.
INTERVIEWER: Dominique Morisseau displays an amazing use of language in this play, as each character speaks in their own unique musicality and cadence. It’s as if each person has their own poetry. How does the dialogue of this play affect your understanding of the story?
MKS: It’s relatable! When I pick [the script] up it’s not words that I have to go to the dictionary to look them up; I don’t have to try and research how people talk in a certain area of town. It is me; it is black woman! It is my son–I have a 13-year-old, and Omari is him! I love that Dominique made it a choice to talk with the cadence of it, even the articulations that she writes in there, it’s so real, it’s our everyday talking. It’s just inspiring.
INTERVIEWER: If you were recommending this play to a stranger, why would you say that they have to come see this production? What is special about this play to you?
MKS: Because this play is about community. It’s being told as a Black story, but it is a story that we all are going through. I think that especially if you are an educator or you know an educator, and that’s everyone- you’ve had a teacher, you’ve had someone that has inspired you, or you’ve had a student sit next to you (it might have been friend), that was going through the same thing that this story is talking about. It involves everyone. I think that it’s an injustice if you don’t come to see this play.
PIPELINE runs from March 6th through March 29th. Get your tickets by clicking here or by calling our box office at 770-426-4800. Group and educational rates available via phone.
WE STRIKE STRAIGHT
PIPELINE is a play for educators. Available to watch in your classroom!
What singular play can electrify students, educate on Black literature, navigate themes of American education, AND be delivered directly to your classroom? PIPELINE, at Marietta’s New Theatre in the Square!
PIPELINE follows the story of Nya, a public high school teacher in the inner-city, who is committed to her students, but is desperate to give her son opportunities they’ll never have. Enter Omari, her son, a black man in his late teens, who is tender and honest but wrestling with his identity. The two love each other fiercely, but clash as Omari faces the possibility of expulsion at the elite private school that Nya chose for him.
PIPELINE is a play in which students can see themselves navigating the difficult dynamics of coming of age. While they are entranced by the characters and plot of the play, they will be introduced to quintessential works of Black literature throughout. From Gwendolyn Brooks’ “We Real Cool” read in full, to extended references of Ralph Ellison’s The Invisible Man, PIPELINE connects experiences and themes from a variety of literary works.
Due to the strength of PIPELINE’s script and educational content, we at MNTITS are offering a new service to schools. While groups are still welcome to attend weekday matinees for reduced rates, they can also purchase a streaming pass. This pass will allow you to watch PIPELINE in the comfort of your own classroom, at whatever time is convenient for you. Both of these offerings are available by calling our box office at 770-426-4800.
See our graphic below for further information about how PIPELINE can be applied to the Georgia Standards of Excellence. We can’t wait to see you at the show!
PIPELINE contains strong language and consumption of alcohol and tobacco. We recommend it for audiences age 13 and older.
PIPELINE, a moving drama about a mother’s love, playing soon at Marietta’s New Theatre in the Square!
Nya is a powerful public school teacher working hard to give her son the opportunities he deserves. She sends him to an upstate private school, only to face such a controversy that he may be expelled. What follows is a moving drama of a mother’s fight for her family. PIPELINE is an urgent story about love, family, race, and class that will have audiences on the edge of their seats.
Directed by award-winning writer and theatre artist, Mia Kristin Smith, this production of PIPELINE features outstanding Atlanta talent that has been featured on stage and screen. The riveting story is a great pick for your Women’s History Month, as it showcases the power of maternal strength. Dominique Morriseau’s PIPELINE was the winner of the 2016 Edgerton Foundation New Play Award and is sure to leave audiences riveted and wanting more.
PIPELINE is available for schools and educational groups. This play discusses major works of African American literature and pairs well with the Georgia Standards of Excellence for high school students. Call our box office to learn about group rates or to purchase a streaming pass to watch the production in the comfort of your own classroom. PIPELINE contains strong language and depicts alcohol and tobacco consumption. We recommend it for audiences over the age of 13.
PIPELINE plays from March 6th through March 29th at Marietta’s New Theatre in the Square, located at 11 Whitlock Ave NW, Marietta, GA 30064. Tickets are available by clicking here or by calling the box office at (770) 426-4800.