The well-known proverb, “it takes a village to raise a child” can be applied to the theatre: it takes a village to get a play to Broadway. In the case of Trouble in Mind, the Broadway premiere has been approximately 66 years in the making. The play premiered at the Greenwich Mews Theatre in 1955, and it was subsequently optioned for Broadway. Sadly, that production never came to fruition. The producers required Childress to rewrite for two years until she finally put her foot down, describing at one point that she “‘couldn’t recognize the play one way or another.’” Though she was able to defend her artistic integrity, it cost her the Broadway credit.
More recently, there have been many voices championing Trouble in Mind in the hopes of finally getting the play to Broadway. With regard to Roundabout’s production, we must specifically acknowledge the efforts of the organization Project1VOICE, whose advocacy for Childress’s work in collaboration with director Charles Randolph-Wright has been instrumental in introducing the play to theatre-lovers across the country.
Randolph-Wright, who is also a member of Roundabout’s Board of Directors, first introduced Trouble in Mind to Roundabout through his program Different Voices in 2007. The stated goal of the Different Voices Playreading Series was to “[bring] artists into...Roundabout whose work is new to the company.” The reading of Trouble in Mind, which he directed, took place on February 20, 2007 at the Black Box Theatre in the Harold and Mimi Steinberg Center for Theatre.
Soon after, Project1VOICE founder and CEO Erich McMillan-McCall was inspired into action by the national events in the year 2008, stating:
In his 2008 victory speech, President Obama remarked that “change has come to America.” I was among the 240,000 people who witnessed this speech in Chicago’s Grant Park. Like many, I was hopeful at his words, but was discouraged about America's devastating economic downturn, the Great Recession. Among the institutions heavily impacted by this crisis were Black theatres. After multiple conversations about the state and future of Black theatre, I was inspired to combine my two loves of theatre and community activism. “Yes we can” from Obama's speech became my source of sustenance and led me to establish and lead a grassroots movement Project1VOICE. Its mission was to cultivate and support artistic excellence, innovation, and creativity among African American theatre organizations as well as preserving their legacies and those of African American playwrights.
Project1VOICE’s cornerstone program is One Play One Day, a reading series in which different theatre companies across the world stage readings of the same play on the same day for their individual communities. One Play One Day is held on the third Monday of June each year in recognition of the Juneteenth holiday. McMillan-McCall chose Trouble in Mind for Project1VOICE’s inaugural One Play One Day event. On June 20, 2011, there were readings of Trouble in Mind at 18 different Black theatres across the country, spanning from New York City to Pittsburgh to Chicago to Houston to San Francisco. The New York City reading was directed by Randolph-Wright and starred, among others, LaChanze in the role of Millie. A collaboration between American Performing Arts Collaborative, New Federal Theatre, and New Professional Theatre, the reading was held at Roundabout’s American Airlines Theatre℠. A few months prior, in February of 2011, Roundabout had produced our second Trouble in Mind reading for the company’s donor base, also at the American Airlines Theatre.
Of the inaugural One Play One Day event, McMillan-McCall notes, "The readings were a huge triumph for Project1VOICE and the theatres which participated." Journalist Clay Kane penned an article for BET News on June 23, 2011 titled ‘Project1VOICE Brings Color to Broadway.’ The article’s opening sentence stated:
If you are a lover of theatre but dismayed by the lack of people of color on the big stage, Project1VOICE is an organization you should know about.
A production of Trouble in Mind followed at Arena Stage in the fall of 2011, and Two River Theatre also produced the play in 2014. Finally, this fall, Trouble in Mind arrives on Broadway at the American Airlines Theatre, where that original Project1VOICE reading took place. Project1VOICE’s efforts around Trouble in Mind have certainly helped to ensure that the play has remained in the cultural consciousness over the past decade.
So what’s next for Project1VOICE? McMillan-McCall says:
The next decade will still focus on diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging in the creative and performing arts. However, we are expanding our reach to include programming for young audiences, the LGBTQ+, people with disabilities, and the deaf/signing communities. We will continue our latest initiative called #USsupportingUS. We are extremely excited about our latest partnership with the Association of African American Museums.
Trouble In MindReturn to the Table of Contents and learn more.
|“Board Members.” About Project 1 Voice, Project1VOICE. Accessed 18 Aug 2021.
Cane, Clay. “PROJECT1VOICE Brings Color Back to Broadway.” BET, 23 June 2011. Accessed 18 Aug 2021.
Chang, Lia. “Project1Voice’s Multiple Staged Readings of Alice Childress’ Trouble in Mind features André De Shields, Peter Coyote, Roger Robinson, Leslie Uggams, LaChanze, John Mahoney, Bill Irwin, LaTanya Richardson Jackson, Irma P. Hall on June 20.” Backstage Pass with Lia Chang. Accessed 17 Aug 2021.
“History and Mission.” About Project 1 Voice, Project1VOICE. Accessed 17 Aug 2021.
Marks, Peter. “Arena Stage’s ‘Trouble in Mind’: Character Rich and Well-Acted Play about Race.”Washington Post, 20 Sept 2011. Accessed 18 Aug 2021.
McMillan-McCall, Erich. “P1V Trouble in Mind narrative.” Received by Anna Morton and Jill Rafson. 17 Aug 2021.
“Mission Statement.” Different Voices Playreading Series, Roundabout Theatre Company, 9 June 2011. Microsoft Word file.
Perkins, Kathy A. “Introduction.” Selected Plays, edited by Kathy A. Perkins, Northwestern University Press, 2011, pp. IX - XXXIX.
Project1VOICE [@project1voice]. “Program FCG NYC 6/17/14.” Instagram, 9 Jul 2014.