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Andre De Shields, Jelani Alladin and More Make An Impact With THE 24 HOUR PLAYS: VIRAL MONOLOGUES

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Andre De Shields, Jelani Alladin and More Make An Impact With THE 24 HOUR PLAYS: VIRAL MONOLOGUES

Last night, The 24 Hour Plays: Viral Monologues collaborated with several arts and advocacy organizations - The Broadway Advocacy Coalition; The Confined Arts; RAPP; Zealous, The Center for Institutional and Social Change at Columbia Law School and American Friends Service Committee - to feature real stories from those currently and previously incarcerated, their families, and the advocates serving them during this global pandemic.

Last week, celebrated playwrights were paired with individuals who are currently or formerly incarcerated and advocates to hear their stories, either from live calls or previously documented material. Overnight, the playwrights wrote brand-new monologues based on the stories from the interviews. The result was a moving, one-of-a-kind edition of the Viral Monologues, "COVID & Incarceration," now available on IGTV @24hourplays and at From 6 PM on, the new monologues were published, one every 15 minutes.

More information about the subjects of the stories portrayed last night and their calls to action is available at

Jelani Alladin performed "THE DECLARATION OF ANTHONY SWAIN," written by Hilary Bettis. The piece was based on the sworn declaration of Anthony Swain, a paraplegic man jailed in Metro West Detention Center in Miami, Florida, who just tested positive for COVID.

Shakina read because Jody Hill - a currently incarcerated woman in Michigan - was not allowed to share her story due to the conditions at her facility.

DeSean Terry performed "Freedom," written by Jordan E. Cooper. "Freedom" was based on conversations with Shedrick Blackwell, an advocate and musician currently incarcerated in New York.

"FROM KAYA," performed by Morgan Lee and written by Roger Q Mason, was based on conversations with Kaya Goings, a formerly incarcerated trans-female activist.

Ato Blankson-Wood performed "Elder's Sun," written by Lemon Andersen. The monologue was based on conversations with Yusef Qualls, a poet and artist currently incarcerated in Michigan awaiting re-sentencing on a Life Without Parole Sentence.

André de Shields performed "A Father's Sorrow," written by Shaka Senghor. This piece was based on conversations with Elder Qualls, an advocate, re-entry specialist and community leader whose son is currently incarcerated in Michigan.

"CANVAS," performed by John Clarence Stewart and written by Stevie Walker-Webb, was based on conversations with Andrew Pete, a man currently sick and incarcerated pre-trial in Harris County, Texas.

DeRay Mckesson wrote "It Ain't Right," performed by Peter Jay Fernandez. "It Ain't Right" was based on conversations with James Royall, a Specialized Reentry Advocate in Brooklyn, New York.

Alex Hernandez performed "Como se dice, Break Legs?" The monologue, written by Tony Meneses, was based on conversations with Martin Garcia, a formerly incarcerated advocate at Worth Rises and from Queens, New York.

"June," written by Lynn Nottage and performed by Rebecca Naomi Jones, was based on conversations with the sister of Lulu Benson, an incarcerated woman who died of COVID.

Pascale Armand performed "Loving Through Barbed Wire" by Liza Jessie Peterson. This piece was based on conversations with Donna Robinson, an organizer from Buffalo, New York, and mother to a daughter who is currently incarcerated.

"Las Llamadas" by Michael John Garcés, performed by Maggie Bofill, was based on conversations with Blanca Villalobos, a woman from Mexico whose husband from El Salvador is currently detained in an immigration detention center in California.

"IT COULD BE YOU," performed by Madeline Brewer and written by Emily Mann, was based on conversations with Lacie Dauzat, attorney/Public Defender and pre-trial release unit supervisor at East Baton Rouge Public Defender's Office.

Aja Naomi King performed "NIA'S WINGS OR IT'S ALL GOOD BABY BABY," written by NSangou Njikam. This piece was based on conversations with Imani Mfalme, a directly impacted Freedom Fighter and organizer in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Deirdre O'Connell performed "The Navigator," written by Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen. "The Navigator" is based on conversations with Mary Heinen McPherson, a directly-affected artivist in Michigan.

"During this pandemic, we've built an incredible platform for theatermakers to collaborate and share work through The 24 Hour Plays process," said artistic director Mark Armstrong, "and this week we're pleased to be sharing that platform and process with the amazing organizations and individuals who are demanding justice for incarcerated people during this crisis."

"The RAPP [Release Aging People in Prison ] Campaign is teaming up with The 24 Hour Plays and other advocacy groups to amplify incarcerated people and their family members' painful experiences exacerbated during this pandemic. Right now, tens of thousands of people across the country are at extreme risk of COVID-19 in jails, prisons, and immigration detention centers. We hope to build a stronger movement and put pressure on decision makers to take every available action to save lives in the wake of the global pandemic," said RAPP's Associate Director, Dave George.

"We must do everything we can to make it impossible for those in a position of power to ignore or be indifferent to human suffering any longer. Amplifying firsthand experience and perspective by those impacted by incarceration is the most compelling way to communicate the urgent need to release as many people as possible, improve conditions of confinement until release, and support people once released with housing, health care, benefits, and other social services," said Scott Hechinger, Director of Zealous.

"The Broadway Advocacy Coalition is joining with other advocacy organizations to help bring to light the catastrophic impact of the global pandemic on those who are currently incarcerated," said BAC President Britton Smith. "We know that stories powerfully told can communicate the urgency of the crisis and the humanity of those affected. We're using narrative combined with artistry to amplify the voices and experiences of those individuals, their families, and those advocating for them, who are often left out of the dominant narrative."

At the start of The 24 Hour Plays process on Monday, May 11 at 6 PM, actors shared brief orientation-style videos that allowed the writers to get to know them better. By 7 PM, writers and actors were paired, and writers went to work on crafting new monologues especially for their assigned actors, highlighting the experiences of the directly impacted advocates. This morning, advocates had the first look at the brand-new monologues before the actors started rehearsing and filming their performances. At 6 PM the video monologues will begin to be released to the world, completing the 24-hour cycle.

The 24 Hour Plays: Viral Monologues are produced by Coleman Ray Clark and Madelyn Paquette. The artistic director of The 24 Hour Plays is Mark Armstrong. The creation of this week's special edition was additionally led by Ben Wexler, Britton Smith, Alejo Rodriguez, Susan Sturm, and Robb Nanus from the Broadway Advocacy Coalition; Pastor Isaac Scott, Leia Squillace, Ivan Calaff, and Lauren Hagani from The Confined Arts; Rosie Rios and Amanda Maisel from RAPP; Scott Hechinger, Jack Duran and Crystal Maloney from Zealous; Jaqueline Williams from American Friends Service Committee; and Susan Sturm and Caroline Golub from the Center for Institutional and Social Change at Columbia Law School.

This Special Edition of Viral Monologues is made possible by the generous support of Broadway Cares / Equity Fights Aids.

The 24 Hour Plays are known for their work on Broadway, off-Broadway and around the world. Since 1995, their events have brought together extraordinary artists to create time-limited theater. Past participants including Jennifer Aniston, Laverne Cox, Billy Crudup, David Cross, Rosario Dawson, Daveed Diggs, Peter Dinklage, Rachel Dratch, Jesse Eisenberg, Edie Falco, America Ferrera, Greta Gerwig, Oscar Isaac, John Krasinski, Anthony Mackie, Julianne Moore, Tracy Morgan, Cynthia Nixon, Anna Paquin, Rosie Perez, Phylicia Rashad, Chris Rock, Sam Rockwell, Liev Schreiber, Amanda Seyfried, Michael Shannon, Gabourey Sidibe, Sarah Silverman, Marisa Tomei, Naomi Watts and more!

More information for those who would like to support The 24 Hour Plays or attend a live performance in the future is available at

Photo Credit: Walter McBride / WM Photos

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