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Monique Midgette has performed all over — including professional theaters, dinner theaters, cruise lines, touring with “The Lion King,” and New York shows, such as “Seussical” and “Civil War.”
She’s a two-time Helen Hayes nominee.
Then her career took a turn, when, as a production assistant at Disney, Midgette began to produce her own shows and to direct.
One of her directorial efforts was “The Wiz,” at Ford’s Theatre.
She began to wonder, “God, what’s next?”
The answer came — and the window opened, as Midgette likes to put it — when Mark Minnick of Toby’s asked her to direct “Ain’t MIsbehavin’,” and she saw a listing there for Adventure Theatre.
“As a performer, it’s hard to transition; there’s no real way to get to the other side,” she said, referring to directing. “As a woman of color, I didn’t have a lot of people to ask to learn from.”
Adventure Theatre had received a grant from the Weissberg Foundation’s 2016-2019 Fund for Diversity in Theater to engage and expand new voices and audiences in DC-area theaters. As part of that grant, Adventure Theatre announced it would commit to a goal of 50-percent people-of-color representation — including artists, designers and technicians.
The theater also initiated a new Fellowship program for assistant directors who are people of color, said Michael J. Bobbitt, artistic director.
Adventure Theatre already upheld this commitment with the cast and creative team of its recent production. “Blueberries for Sal.”
The fellowship is a year-long opportunity, in which fellows are paired with known, experienced and established DC-area directors for one professional production in the Adventure Theatre MTC season. Fellows also get to participate in the entire season, including rehearsals, production meetings, season planning and openings, among other facets.
Midgette is one of those fellows, along with Angelisa Gillyard, Carlos Castillo, Ayesis Clay and Cara Hinh.
Bobbitt himself is the only black artistic director of a professional theater in the DC region.
“We want to reflect the community we’re in,” Bobbitt said.
It also goes back to his own childhood, when he played Hansel in a production of “Hansel and Gretel.”
“The theater people — it was an outside group — helped me find a home and vocation,” Bobbitt said. “I want to have a thousand little Michael Bobbitts around — to have equity and inclusivity in theater.”
In addition to working with a professional director — Michael Bannon — on “Big River,” Midgette gets to collaborate with the writer of the original Broadway production,
The book is by William Hauptman, with music and lyrics by Roger Miller. Based on Mark Twain’s classic 1884 novel, “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” the show features music in the bluegrass and country styles in keeping with the setting of the novel.
The show won Tony Awards for best musical, best score and best book.
The version Adventure Theatre is using is an hour long, for a Theatre for Young Audiences program that includes both teen and adult actors, said Midgette.
“Huckleberry Finn” has had its share of controversy, but,” said Bobbitt, “lots of times writers use a character who feels a certain way too shed light on an issue.” In this case, it’s Jim, the slave Huck befriends.
“The show will be amazing,” Bobbitt said. “We’ve taken the time to make this product Jim’s story. He really didn’t have a voice – to express his feelings of being enslaved.”
Bill, he added, referring to Hauptman, “has done an amazing job of editing and rewriting, but there’s the same story line and the same music.”
Workshops around the show will deal with slavery; artifacts from the period at Sandy Spring Museum will be shown.
More in a future article. The production runs Feb. 8-March 10.