FRESHH Inc Theatre Company
1231 Good Hope Road #105
Washington DC 20020
May 21, 2020
Since 2013, FRESHH Inc Theatre Company set out with a mission to celebrate and cultivate the voices of Black womxn and girls in theatre. This was in response to a growing sentiment that white theatre companies “could not find” the diversity they were being charged to implement within their companies, their crews and the work they presented. More importantly, FRESHH was created as a space to fulfill a need that Black womxn and girls in the DC metropolitan area had expressed: a place where they could be seen and could work on developing their theatre careers. Over the past seven years, we have worked to do just that.
Change is an inevitable aspect of life and evolution. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, I began a reflective conversation about our work in the past and considerations for our future, and invited the directors of FRESHH’s programs to do the same. I analyzed and discussed the success of our programs: The Griot Girls, The Sister Cipher playwriting group, and The Vanguard acting ensemble. I also made space to dive into our challenges and shortcomings. With this insight, and with the support of the program directors, I determined that after seven years, it was time for our change. And then the world stopped. Theatre--as an entire industry--was hit with a devastating blow and as a theatre company, we too were hit, but differently. At FRESHH Inc, we had to make the difficult decision to furlough contractors and cancel events, but there was another hit that we also had to address. The hit was answering the question: “is a recovery possible and, more importantly, necessary?”
My premise for my work with the womxn and girls we serve has always been assessing and answering the need first and then creating and producing from that call. In this time to pause and reflect, there is joy and pride in knowing that we have done what we have set out to do in so many ways. Close to all of the members of our “Tribe Called FRESHH”, which is made up of playwrights from the Sister Cipher, actors in the Vanguard and teaching artists in the Griot Girls, have had their work produced (either at FRESHH or at an outside theatre company), have advanced their career in a significant way, and/or--in perhaps what is the most profound way--built a sisterhood and community of Black womxn in theatre that meets, supports, and creates with one another; and as of this May, we have seen every last Griot Girl in our program graduate from high school, and have a 94% college attendance rate. Needless to say, we are proud of the work we have done with them.
The data that crunches the numbers of how we have paid our Black womxn artists on scale or more than larger, white-run institutions is also part of the story. Or how we have intentionally hired all Black womxn technical crew members for all of our years of producing work. Or how inspiring the college retention rate of our Griot Girls was to many of our funders and supporters. And while this data helps to tell the story, it doesn’t begin to compare to the stories of the bonds, partnerships, and theatre produced in our time operating. And even still, it is not enough to avoid the necessary change that must occur. It would be irresponsible for FRESHH to try to continue in the ways it has before now. The commitment I have to Black womxn and girls is one that requires integrity and sincerity and leaves little space, if none at all, for ego.
So, beginning June 1st we will be closing at FRESHH. Thank you tremendously to our program directors, Teshonne Powell (Sister Cipher), Fatima Quander (The Vanguard) and Ayana Patrick (Director of Youth Programs/The Griot Girls). These three women have been the backbone and heart of FRESHH for years, and the work we have been able to accomplish is a result of their work and leadership. Our plan of how we would close out involves partners and other factors that understandably are now up in the air. And so we wait. If we are able to, we will have a proper close out that will enable all of the folx who have helped to make FRESHH Inc Theatre Company all that it is and has been to be present and to celebrate with us, as we celebrate you all. We will do this, if possible, at our “Next to Kin One Act of Plays by Black Womxn,” where we will be able to not only celebrate the journey but also produce our final production of theatre. If this isn’t able to come to fruition, then we will work to determine how to close this work out at FRESHH in a way that can include all who might be interested.
We did it y’all. We had a wild imagination of what it would be like if brilliant Black womxn were given the space to create bold ideas of ourselves and our girls, on our stages, starring us in these resilient stories with mounds of us, old and young, watching, and listening, and receiving a powerful healing; and, we did just that. Until we do it again, thank you and ubuntu!!
Forever yours in service,
Goldie E. Patrick
Founder/Executive Director of FRESHH Inc Theatre Company