Moderated by Warrington Hudlin
Warrington Hudlin (Moderator)
is a veteran producer of motion pictures, television, and online media. His work challenges the false dichotomy between social concerns and popular entertainment. Best known as the producer of the landmark African American films, HOUSE PARTY, BOOMERANG, and BEBE KIDS, and television specials, COSMIC SLOP and UNSTOPPABLE, Hudlin has built online communities and online media to utilize the disruptive power of the Internet to level the playing field for creative freedom.
As the founding president of BFF (aka the Black Filmmaker Foundation), Hudlin has been a pioneering community organizer in the black film movement for over three decades.
Hudlin is the Vice Chairman of the board of trustees of the Museum of the Moving Image where he curates two monthly film series, FIST & SWORD, CHANGING THE PICTURE, and annual film symposiums: "Massa's Gaze" (2014), "Endangered by the Moving Image" (2015) and the "Color of Comedy" (2016) .
Warrington Hudlin grew up in the notorious city of East St. Louis and attended an experimental high school affiliated with the legendary artist/scholar, Katherine Dunham (who helped him get a scholarship that paid his tuition to Yale). Hudlin graduated from Yale with honors and was then mentored by two more legends, Melvin Van Peebles and Harry Belafonte.
Warrington Hudlin's accomplishments are built on the foundation laid by his ancestors, beginning with his great-great-grandfather, Peter Hudlin, who escaped from a slave plantation in Virginia, married an indigenous woman from the Cherokee Nation, and became an agent in the US anti-slavery movement known as the Underground Railroad.
Their son and his great grandfather, Richard Hudlin (1858-1918), was a writer, newspaper publisher, and shortly before his death, became one of the world's first black filmmakers.
He first became known for the 1971 New York Shakespeare Festival of his play Black Terror, which portrayed the story of a black revolution. Clive Barnes, writing for The New York Times, described the play as a "winner" that "makes the case for black revolution and against black revolution." Wesley received the 1971/1972 Drama Desk Award as most promising playwright for Black Terror, an award which came with a $100 check from Ticketron. The Jarboro Company of La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club took Black Terror on tour in Italy in 1972, performing it alongside five one-act plays by Ed Bullins.
In 1975, Wesley wrote and directed The Past Is the Past, a drama about a black man who meets the father who abandoned him years prior. The play was revived, featuring John Amos and Ralph Carter, in 1989 at the Billie Holiday Theatre in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.
His 1978 play, The Mighty Gents, is the story of the members of a gang that had conquered their rival gang, the Zombies, and ruled the Central Ward of Newark. The play depicts the gang members in their 30s and left with only the recollections of their earlier success.
His 1989 play, The Talented Tenth, borrows its title from W. E. B. Du Bois's 1903 article, The Talented Tenth, which described the likelihood of one in ten black men becoming leaders of black people by continuing their education, writing books, or becoming directly involved in social change. The play portrays six fictional graduates of Howard University (a realtor, an advertising agent, a middle manager at a Fortune 500 firm, a Republican) who have succeeded, but feel guilty about betraying their origins. Wesley considered bringing The Mighty Gents character of Essex Braxton, who achieved financial success through loan sharking and prostitution after leaving the gang, into The Talented Tenth, but dropped the idea as too artificial. The play received six awards, including dramatic production of the year and best playwright, at the 1989 AUDELCO Recognition Awards. These awards were established in 1973 by the Audience Development Committee to honor excellence in African-American theatre in New York.
In 2013, Wesley was asked by the Trilogy: An Opera Company of Newark, New Jersey to write the libretto for the opera Papa Doc, composed by Dorothy Rudd Moore and based on an essay by Edwidge Danticat from her 2010 book Create Dangerously.
In April 2015, Autumn, Wesley's first full-length play in over two decades, premiered at The Crossroads Theater in New Brunswick, New Jersey.
On November 12, 2016, Five, an opera from Trilogy: An Opera Company about the 1989 Central Park Five jogger case in New York City, composed by Anthony Davis with a libretto by Wesley, premiered at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark.