“This is a real story about a relationship between two mature, smart people who happen to be different races, yet the play is not about race,” said playwright Jennifer L. Nelson, about her newest work, “24, 7, 365.” It is her new play running for five performances at the Harris Theater at George Mason University starting March 10.
Writing “24, 7, 365” was a “search to understand what makes people happy; and there seem to be no easy answers” for Nelson. Pursuing answers through her writing, she crafted a story about African-Americans’ attitudes about race, class and social activism. With a local touch, the characters are two Washington, D.C., couples who set out on a weekend camping trip for a birthday celebration. In one memorable night together with “a large bottle of vodka” and the addition of a “misunderstood hip-hop poet” the couples experience laughter, complications and illumination.
Nelson said the show is “funny and without being pounded over the head with race, audiences can see the characters as just people, as wonderful and muddled as the rest of us.” Juanita Rockwell directs the production.
Nelson is a past recipient of a Washington area Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding New Play in 1997 for her “Torn From the Headlines” as well as a recipient of a National Endowment of the Arts/Theatre Communications Group Early Career Director Fellowship. She is also the founding producing artistic director of the African Continuum Theatre Company.
An unusual feature about the production is that it will have been performed at three vastly different venues in the Washington, D.C., area in the past month. After a February 2011 world premiere performance at the Atlas Performing Arts Center in Washington, D.C., came several performances at the Hylton Performing Arts Center in Manassas. Now, “24, 7 365” comes to Fairfax. Nelson is “excited to see what if any difference there will be in audiences” at the three locales.
With the production of “24, 7, 365” Kevin Murray, managing director, George Mason University Theater of the First Amendment announced receipt of a $50,000 season sponsorship grant from Boeing. Murray indicated that the grant was “a significant corporate sponsorship, largely responsible for the success” of the theater’s current season. In addition to Boeing’s Season Sponsorship grant, the production is supported in part by contributions from the Arts Council of Fairfax County, the Virginia Commission for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Describing what she would like audiences to come away with after seeing “24,7,365” Nelson hoped “people will see something they can relate to and will leave thinking about why the characters did what they did because that may help us understand ourselves and others.