I am sure that many of our subscribers will find a refreshing source of inspiration in the energy of our next guest. I mean she just so happens to live an eventful life of an activist, artist, humanitarian, playwright, poet, and writer. Recently, we had a chance to connect after some time. Well, hope you enjoy the conversation.
Warlock Asylum: Wow! It is such an honor and a delight that we have this opportunity to hear some insights and wisdom from one of New York City’s most beloved artists. However, for our readership that may not be familiar with your person, please introduce yourself. Who is Amina Henry?
Amina Henry: Amina Henry is a playwright and teaching artist based in Brooklyn.
Warlock Asylum: You are admired as a renaissance woman by many of your peers, including myself, because of the work you have put forth as a playwright. What is inspired you to pursue a career in the theatrical arts?
Amina Henry: I have always loved stories and I feel that I’m best put to use as a storyteller. It’s really important for me to encourage a diversity of perspectives in theater, which I think will lead to a greater understanding of who we ALL are. I’m also really interested in pushing tough conversations so that we can get closer to answers the answers about who we are and where we are going as humans.
Warlock Asylum: In establishing yourself in the arts, what obstacles did you have to overcome to be the playwright you are today?
Amina Henry: Well, I guess I had to overcome the feeling of art being an indulgence rather than a necessity and the feeling that my art is my work rather than simply a hobby.
Warlock Asylum: A lot of artists and writers have received a great deal of inspiration from their childhood experiences, which enabled them to pursue their dreams. I once read that when you were in the 5th grade you had the honor of playing cupid for a best friend. What was your childhood like? In what ways did it serve as a mold for the person you are today?
Amina Henry: My childhood was filled with a lot of books, television, film, music and alone time. This has perhaps created the person I am today, a woman who is very comfortable in the world of make-believe and continues to really be interested in what people think and feel about things.
Warlock Asylum: Your love for education has been a great source of encouragement to me. Congratulations on for your academic achievements in graduating from Yale University, NYU’s Performance Studies MA program, and the MFA Playwriting program at Brooklyn College! I also hear that you have done some teaching? Can you share with us a bit more about your work as an educator?
Amina Henry: Right now I’m an adjunct lecturer in the English Department at Brooklyn College which allows me to keep learning as I craft lessons to teach. I am also a teaching artist with the Teachers & Writers Collaborative and teach poetry to elementary school children which has actually deepened my appreciation for poetry. Once a week I teach Mighty Quills at the Hunts Point Alliance for Children (HPAC), an after school writing program for high school girls and these girls really inspire me with their strength and humor and general teenage fierceness.
Warlock Asylum: Over the past few years, you’ve had a string of successful productions. One that stands out in my mind the most is BULLY. Can you give us a brief overview about BULLY and some of the recognition it has received thus far?
Amina Henry: I wrote BULLY while I was still in the MFA Playwriting program at Brooklyn College; it grew out my desire to write an adaptation of “Lord of the Flies” as well as my desire to put some of my own female demons to rest. Since graduation, BULLY has landed on the Kilroys List, which has been awesome, has had numerous development opportunities and is now set to be produced by Heart & Dagger Theatre and The Interrobang Theatre Company, as well as a college production at Ball State University.
Warlock Asylum: Out of all of the plays that you have written, “An American Family Takes a Lover,” is still one of my favorites. Perhaps, because of the daring theme and just the whole dialogue was indeed, very cutting edge. Is there any particular work that you’ve authored, which you hold above the others? If so, please tell us how your other works got stuck in the friend’s zone?
Amina Henry: I don’t favor any of my children! That said, my play THE JOHNSONS may be a favorite because – well, I don’t know why!
Warlock Asylum: I can only imagine that after establishing a career where one authors dramatic scenarios that are imitative of life, you kind of gain an understanding of how life experiences come together. Has there been any spiritual path that has served as an aid in your work as an author? Do you see your work as a playwright as a spiritual experience?
Amina Henry: I’m not sure how to answer this question. I don’t know if I see my work as a spiritual experience, but I do think of it as a “ceaseless searching” and questioning of the world in which I live. I also take comfort in creating my work in a way that is perhaps what spirituality is meant to do.
Warlock Asylum: How do you find the work of directing and collaborating with other playwrights?
Amina Henry: I don’t really direct and I have a deep appreciation for those who do direct – putting together a production, bringing together so many different elements to create an experience for an audience – it’s amazing. I don’t generally collaborate with other playwrights, in terms of what I’m writing, but I DO have a lot of playwright friends and associates, and I’m aware of the work of other playwrights, and I often draw inspiration from them and would like to think that my work is in conversation with their work.
Warlock Asylum: What can we expect to hear of Amina Henry in the future? Any upcoming projects?
Amina Henry: The next substantial thing is my play DUCKLINGS which I am producing myself. DUCKLINGS is a satire about the American Dream and tells the story of four women competing in a dance-hall queen competition. It is going up May 25 – June 10 at JACK and everyone should come! It’s being directed by Christopher Burris and choreographed by Bessie Award-winning choreographer Joya Powell.
Warlock Asylum: What advice would you give to someone looking to begin a career as a playwright?
Amina Henry: Figure out what you’re going to do to make money as you’re writing your plays. Write your plays. Show your plays to people. Produce your plays. And then keep writing your plays.
Warlock Asylum: Thank you so much for allowing our readership to visit your element and learn from you insights. Any final thoughts?
Amina Henry: Thank you for the interview!
Thank you once again! It is truly delightful watching success unfold and the beauty of your dream becoming a reality. May prosperity always travel by your side. If you’re interested in learning more about Amina Henry, please check the listings below:
The Animals @ JACK
Directed by Gretchen Van Lente
June 30 – July 9, 2016
To read the NYTIMES review of The Animals click HERE
Ducklings @ JACK
Directed by Christopher Burris
May 25 – June 10, 2017
If you’d like to contribute to the production of DUCKLINGS, check out our IndieGogo campaign:
“The extremes always makes an impression.” – Heathers
Honorable Mention for 2014 Kilroys List (Bully, Eugene)
My play BULLY is on the 2015 Kilroys List
Honorable Mention for the 2016 Kilroys List (Burned)
Learn more at: www.thekilroys.org