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Interview: Theatre Life with Schele Williams

The talented director and activist on her latest project Show Way The Musical and more.

Interview: Theatre Life with Schele Williams
Schele Williams

Today's subject Schele Williams is currently living her Theatre Life as the director of the World Premiere TYA (Theatre for Young Audiences) production Show Way The Musical now running in the Family Theater at Kennedy Center through May 29th.

Recently profiled as "Variety's 2020 Top 10 Broadway to Watch," Schele Williams is a director committed to cultivating new musicals and devised work with authentic representation on stage and off. She will be helming Hidden Figures currently in development (Disney Theatrical Group). She is currently directing the upcoming Broadway revivals of Aida (Disney Theatrical Group) and The Wiz as well as the premiere of Mandela the Musical and one more new piece that you will read about at the end of her interview.

Ms. Williams has directed at regional theaters and festivals across the country and has a long history of work on Broadway in Rent, Aida, and Motown: The Musical. Passionate about pairing social justice with the arts,

She is a founding member of Black Theatre United, an organization committed to dismantling systemic racism on our streets and stages. She has been a member of Broadway Inspirational Voices for over two decades and serves as Chairperson of the Board and serves on the board of Broadway Care Equity Fights AIDS.

She is the author of the critically acclaimed children's book Your Legacy: A Bold Reclaiming of Our Enslaved History, published by Abrams Books for young readers released in 2021.

With Show Way The Musical, Schele Williams is bringing us a new musical that will appeal to kids and adults alike. That is always a delicate balance. Read on to see what drew her to the piece.

Schele Williams is an immensely talented artist who is living her theatre life to the fullest both as a creator of art and an activist for the arts. Grab some seats to Show Way The Musical and see why she is so in demand. I think the answer will be obvious.

At what age did you know that theatre was going to be your chosen profession?

My senior year of high school I played Dorothy in the Wiz and that was it, that role in that show turned my whole world upside down and I have never looked back.

What was your first professional job in the theatre?

I was one of the "muses, alter ego's" in They're Playing Our Song at Queens Theatre in the Park in New York.

How did you get involved with Show Way The Musical?

I got a call asking if I would be interested in directing a musical based on a Jacqueline Woodson book and I said yes. It didn't matter what book, you say Jacqueline Woodson, and I say yes. I was thrilled to later learn it was Show Way.

Interview: Theatre Life with Schele Williams
L to R Danyel Fulton, Emmanuel Elliot Key, Theresa Cunningham, Avia Fields, and Angela Birchette in the Kennedy Center World Premiere of Show Way The Musical.
Photo by Kyle Schick for Elman Studio.

Can you please tell us a little bit about the show?

Show Way is the story of an extraordinary legacy of women that passed down a gift that was a passage to freedom for some generations and a passage to economic advancement for others. It is a story of love and connection and importance of cherishing your history.

What was it about the material that drew you to this project?

The show has a beautiful score by Tyrone Robinson and has wonderful roles for actors to play. I wanted to direct this show because it's for kids like my black girls that don't often get to see musicals that are a celebration of their blackness and heritage.

Interview: Theatre Life with Schele Williams
L-R Seth Rudetsky, James Wesley, and Schele Williams in an episode of
Stars in The House.

You have appeared on Stars in The House a lot since it's inception. How did you come to meet the tireless hosts of that show Seth Rudetsky and James Wesley in the first place?

I've known Seth for over 20 years. He and James are so wonderful and gave so much hope to so many of us by inviting us into theirs and giving us a reason to laugh and love each other during the pandemic. I adore them.

You are one of the founders of Black Theatre United. Can you please tell us what the organization does and why it is so important for it to exist?

Black Theatre United protects black lives on our streets and on our stages. We are the founders of A New Deal for Broadway.

After Show Way The Musical, where can we see your work next?

In July, I head to Chicago to begin rehearsing The Notebook. I am thrilled to co-direct this show with my dear friend Michael Greif with a book by Bekah Brunstetter and music by Ingrid Michaelson. It will make its debut at Chicago Shakespeare in September.

Special thanks to Kennedy Center publicist Brittany Laeger for her assistance in coordinating this interview.

Theatre Life logo designed by Kevin Laughon.

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