Sukari Jones is a musical theater lyricist, reluctant musical theater book writer, playwright and now, screenwriter! With her B.A. Vassar College, M.F.A. NYU Tisch School of the Arts Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program, Sukari's memberships include: WP Lab, BMI Musical Theater Workshop, The Public Theater’s Emerging Writers Group, and Sappho Project's W*rk Lab. Productions/Development: The Public Theater, The Sappho Project W*rk Lab, Cherry Lane Theater, Lincoln Center, Lark Play Development Center, Barrington Stage Company, Joe’s Pub, Prospect Theater Company, Feinstein’s/54 Below, National Alliance of Musical Theatre Conference and Goodspeed Opera House. Fellowships/Residencies: The MacDowell Colony, W.K. Rose (Vassar College), Catwalk Art Residency, Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center National Music Theatre Conference INCUBATOR residency, NAMT Festival of New Musicals. Commissions: Atlantic Theater Company, The Civilians, Village Theatre, Atlantic Theater Kids.
I have wanted to chop all my hair off and get a tattoo for over twelve YEARS. I was in Terrible Corporate America day job for a long time though and was forced to be as un-scary as that was possible for a black woman, which meant bone straight hair and no tattoos.
I’m super jazzed to announce I’m a member of the inaugural cohort of The Sappho Project’s W*rk Lab!!
The W*rk Lab is a seven month workshop supporting the development of three new musicals by women, transgender, and gender non-conforming composers, lyricists, and book writers. Through a highly individualized approach and intentional community-building, the W*rk Lab aims to provide resources and visibility for the next generation of underrepresented musical theatre creators, and position them for future success.
I am working on a brand spanking new musical, POWER, inspired by the 1991 Clarence Thomas Senate Confirmation Hearings in which Anita Hill was looped into talk about Thomas’s past, obsession with pornography and his many flagrant and whack sexual advances upon herself and others that led ultimate to a liar being confirmed as Supreme Court Justice and Ms. Hill having her story co-opted every which way. I am passionate about centering an intelligent, overachieving, well-educated, from humble beginnings, morally-centered, naturally shy woman at the center of a farce as a meditation upon my own experience being microaggressioned and gas-lit nearly to death.
I’m envisioning a New Jack Swing-ass score, and am framing the story with a bit of time travel. Looking back at what we’ve accomplished as a way of looking forward and arm ourselves for what’s to come. A show reclaiming the word “we” to include black women.
I’m the book and lyrics on this project, and…..weirdly attempting to write my own music too! (That is until Jeanine Tesori sees my DMs) 🙂
Working on this fun new kids show based on the best-selling children’s book, SupaDupa Kid! It’s about a nerdy underdog little boy Javon who gets superpowers when he’s hit by lightening while holding some fancy-formula super glue and uses his power to fight bullies. I think people are figuring out I love little black boy superhero musicals lol!
I’m in a songwriting duo working on lyrics on the project with THE WONDERFUL AND PERFECT AND I LOVE HIM JOEL WAGGONER (composer for the project). So far, we’ve got a bunch of songs in the can, tinkering away, and we had this fun table read! Come on pandemic vaccine/theater and the world healing so we can see this show 🙂 And now…for me being a mom again and taking way too many pictures 🙂 🙂
Through fate hope and love, joined the WP Lab cohort! Writing a play and affirming myself that…I write plays too now 🙂 Focusing intensely on one project in particular for the lab: MY BABY –
When eldest daughter ESTELLE discovers that she is not a bone marrow donor for her stage 4 cancer suffering mother GLADYS, because they share no DNA in common, at first she is told that she is adopted, but when a strange woman, (TINESHA) shows up on her doorstep with newspaper clippings and 23-and-Me lab results, ESTELLE learns that the person she knows as her mother in reality is a person who kidnapped her as an infant from teenage girl TINESHA at a bus stop thirty-eight years ago. A full-length cosmic family drama about motherhood, responsibility and the choices we make.
Something in which I take great pride is sitting in the position of power of being a writer. Creating a world on the page is being the god of a universe. Often, I find myself sitting in a velvet seat looking up at a universe created by a benevolent god who does not seem to remember I exist. So it’s not lost on me what a privilege it is to get to be the genesis of words and characters, creating the bones upon which the actor and director will add the flesh, being the person in the casting discussions getting to say out loud “racial descriptions are intentional, please cast as noted.”
This is such a great group of humans! I feel in good company!
It was so wonderful to get to spend a magical and dream-fulfilling week in January ’19 at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center to work on The River Is Me for a wild week of dreaming and rehearsing with actors!
My writing partner Troy Anthony and I got to pick
some of our actor friends and head up to Waterford, CT for a 18/19 NMTC Incubator Residency. We had room and board and actors and PEACE AND QUIET IN OUR OWN COTTAGE!! And some of us found love in a lonely place but that’s another story…
Anyways, from the residency description:
“The NMTC Incubator recognizes important and rising voices and stories in the musical canon, and aims to provide these individuals with the space and time to sharpen and strengthen their developmental goals.”
It’s taken me 12 years to make it to the O’Neill. This week in January was one of the proudest moments of my whole life.
So I was accepted to the Catwalk Art Residency where I spent a wonderful three weeks in September, luxuriating in the peace and calm of the Catskills!
Catwalk Art Residency is an artist residency program established in 2004 by James and Purcell Scheu Palmer ’62 at their historic residence, which was originally the home of Hudson River School painter, Charles Herbert Moore. The 60 acre property, now known as CATWALK, is on the Hudson River directly across from Olana, home of Frederick Church, and directly north of Cedar Grove, Thomas Cole’s home in Catskill, New York.
What I learned about myself during this residency was my process! I do my best work….by shutting myself in like
and writing all day with literally no breaks, save for the 3min it takes to heat up some midwestern-mom style casserole I made the day I got there! Also, I need candles and black obsidian.
So…admittedly this will be mostly a photo essay for memories 🙂 The National Alliance of Musical Theater Conference 2018 was so wonderful….and…energy intensive!! Just now getting around to including these memories!
What I learned is that there are a few theaters that are interested in taking risk, in changing the fabric of what theater can mean in this country, and doing the hard work of endeavoring to change who subscribes and sees shows. That was very gratifying to learn 🙂
And now for pictures of the rehearsal process and the show!
For anyone who came to the National Alliance of Musical Theatre (NAMT) conference last year, and either didn’t leave a showing fast enough or came intentionally to the Songwriters Showcase, you would have seen my writing partner Troy Anthony and I presenting a little number from our original musical THE RIVER IS ME. You also there would have heard me no-shame-in-my-game style announce that we can’t wait for the NAMT folks to pick us to be in the full conference next year…and now here we are!!
We’ll be showing a 45min excerpt from THE RIVER IS ME, which will be actually pretty much all of act I minus one song and snippets of book scenes. Very pumped!!
For non-Musical Theatre nerds, NAMT is the big leagues! It’s kinda like a trade show, but for piece of theater, that allow artists to link up with producers and carryon with their piece to a future iteration. The NAMT experience gives the authors a professional Director, Music Director, Band, Cast, rehearsal space and supplies and most importantly…hope. This is a great launching pad for emerging writers–and also weirdly fancy-already-established people do NAMT too so…you know, go figure.
Dreams following NAMT include doing an out of town co-pro then moving back into NYC off-bway and crossing fingers for a transfer. Or whatever, haven’t thought about it that much…hee hee:)
Also here’s my writing partner and me*:
*images hard won through aggressive hugging on my part 🙂
Had a blast this past weekend with Brandon Ivie, care of the Village Theatre’s At The Table residency!
Dreaming up a brand new show: I Have A Dream
I Have A Dream is about a black queer unsung hero, struggling to carve out a space where all of America can be free at last. Centering Bayard Rustin from 1955-till the 1963 March on Washington for Civil Rights, this new musical will look at the path to the March, as well as revisiting Martin Luther King at a time where he was being called a terrorist and Coretta at a time where she was being called a silly goose for wanting to have a say in more things even though she was a woman.
This is one of my Goldilocks time periods to write about. So so pumped!!
The scariest part about The MacDowell Colony Fellowship application is the part where they ask you to list the three artistic achievements of which you’re most proud. Woo. You look at the list of folks who have come before you —Alice Walker, James Baldwin, Thornton Wilder, and Aaron Copland to name a few — and you think, or at least I thought, Who The Hell Are You?
And then I said to myself, you are Sukari Marie Jacobs Jones, if you don’t start living now, you never will. So I typed in 1) Winning the W.K. Rose Fellowship in the Creative Arts from Vassar College that saved my life and lets me be real writer 2) M.F.A. From NYU Tisch School of the Arts having learned what musical theater can be and my voice in writing ever more keenly and 3) not jumping out of a window after eleven years plus of rejection in musical theater world by both institutions and collaborators for being “too scary/too black.” Then I looked at the “send button”, stutter-stepping, almost shutting the web-page off, but then I finally just said eff it, putting some stank’ on the enter button.