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BTN's Literary Salon at First Friday Films 9/2/22

On the 1st Friday night, September 2, 2022 from 8:10 to 9:30pm PST, hosted a written Meetup Discussion exploring the Black Theatre Network's Literary Salon through a interview of its founding host, Renee' Charlow. With FFF's Phillip E. Walker-MFA being the featured artist of the Salon's September 27, 2022 6:00pm EST episode, below Ms. Charlow tells us all about the Literary Salon and more.

PhilE: Elated to see you artists here at this September 2nd, 2022 FFF Discussion, I thank all who have already arrived and who are still coming for attending this interview chat. Our guest tonight is the newly installed Vice-President of the Black Theatre Network (BTN). Please welcome Ms. Renee’ Charlow!

Renee’: Hello all---glad to be here, thanks for the invite.

PhilE: The last I knew, Renee’, I think you were a theatre professor at Bowie State University. Where and in what capacity are you now employed.

Renee': I was recently hired by Fairfax County Schools in Northern VA as a Theatre Teacher. I also work for The Essential Theatre in Washington DC as Program Manager. The Fairfax School where I work is Mt Vernon High School, and I teach Theatre 1, which is like Intro to Theatre.

PhilE: Do you like it better there?

Renee’: Its different and there are pluses; these are younger students who are very eager and still love the craft. However, you have to deal with "stage parents" which is tricky---

PhilE: Yeah! I guess there are no “stage parents” with college students, huh?

Renee’: I definitely wanted a college job but those are like a commodity these days.

PhilE: It will come when the time is right.

Ethel: Renee’ ~ I'm so glad to hear about all your successes and proud of the work you are doing. It is important to encourage and train the younger students so they will want to become artists.

PhilE: I agree, Ethel!

Ethel: Renee’ ~ What was the idea behind the Literary Salon?

Renee’: Well, I came up with the idea of the Literary Salon after my time with Ntozake Shange. After her death, the book Dance We Do, which we were working on, came out. I did the Book tour along with some of the other people who contributed to the Book. I realized I liked having conversations about theatre and decided a literary salon would be a good way to accomplish this. AND it gave me a chance to be a talk show host, something I always wanted to do.

Ethel: I think this is a great concept. Are there special people with whom you want to have a conversation? Your work reminds me of the work Jim Hatch did with his oral library of artists.

PhilE: Yeah, Ethel. I remember those fondly. Thanks for continuing the tradition, Renee!

Renee’: I have worked so far with a lot of people inside of BTN---would love to chat with people such as Pearl Cleague, Ron Simons, Woodie King, and Dominuque Morriseau. Hosting the Salon is fun and it gives light to those plays that might initially go unnoticed.

Ethel: What do you hope to get from your guests? bio? artistic vision? career goals?

Renee’: I like to hear what they enjoy about making theatre and hear their why. We all have our own motivations for this work. I also like to hear their advice for up and coming artists.

PhilE: Nice!

Renee’: Oh, and I also get them to have a scene of the play read just to wet the appetite of the audience. The only artist that didn't have a scene read was Charles White because Gong Lum’s Legacy was running at New Federal Theatre at the time of that Salon.

Ethel: What a great idea. This is something else that might inspire your young students who have a creative talent.

Renee’: That is the idea. I have a lot of students who ask me about becoming successful in theatre. And I want them to know there's a lot of careers in theatre that ARE NOT on stage.

PhilE: I want to change the subject a bit. Following decades of you successfully serving as the BTN Business Manager, congratulations are in order for your ascension to the BTN Vice-Presidency. With you becoming President in 2 years, followed by 2 years as Past-President, what is your vision for that fast growing Organization during the next 6 years? Please be detailed and specific.

Renee’: I want to make certain the SIMS Institute for Educators is fully realized and becomes a place where theatre teachers come for CEU's. I also want to see us get the Executive Director in place, as I feel this will put us on equal footing with other theatre non-profits. And of course, I want to see membership numbers go up. Further, it would be great to finally bridge that gap between NBTF and BTN.

By the way I will be calling on you for wise counsel as I ascend to the role of VP.

PhilE: Well, Renee'. We are almost into an hour of our Meetup Discussion. How does the time go by so fast? I still have a few burning questions to pose to you but I know it is late on the East Coast. Are you OK with going a little longer?

Renee’: Sure.

PhilE: OK, then back to the business at hand. How many episodes of the Salon have you hosted so far?

Renee’: Let’s see----about 10: Rebekah Pierce, Omiyemi (Artisia) Green, Michael Dinwiddie, John S. Foster, Charles White, Kemati Porter, Reggie Small, Greg Horton and Melda Beaty.

PhilE: With me having been uniquely selected for featuring in the Sept. 27, 2022 Salon via the BTN 36th annual conference Auction in Detroit, MI, how do you normally select your featured guests of the Salon?

Renee’: I usually ask someone inside the Membership if they are interested and available for the Event. Most of the participants HAVE been Members, however Membership is not mandatory.

PhilE: The Salon’s Sept. 27th edition will come during the week after the Academy Award® Nomination Qualifying Standard Theatrical Run of my “2022 Black History Month – a Phillip E. Walker Video Memoir”. Well, that’s the first time I’ve announced it in the public!

To continue my too long question, your next Salon also comes just before I lead the 2022 Rancho Cucamonga 48 Hour Film Project creation of a short film during a single weekend. Then the next weekend, Ethel & I host the 8th annual Indigenous Film Retreats.

So, my question is, would you be comfortable with me inviting some of the participants in those three projects to talk about their work therein during the upcoming Salon?

Renee’: I am so excited. I would LOVE for us to stick to that Sunday but The Essential Theatre has a 4pm show that day. Please do invite the other participants. The Zoom link comes out a day or two before and the audience tunes in on FACEBOOK. I also need to send you the interview questions. FYI they are pre-arranged so you don't have to think on the spot.

Ethel: Renee’ ~ I'm going to sign off; it's past my bedtime. I'm so glad I got to hear about this incredible project. Keep working, and I know Ntozake and Vernell would be so proud of what you are doing.

Renee’: Thanks SO MUCH ETHEL---take care and I look forward to "seeing" you soon.

PhilE: Finally for tonight, how about we show film trailers from those events as the literature during Sept. 27, rather than the reading of a script?

Renee’: Trailers are great!! You can send them to Deanna prior to the 27th and she will manage the showing of them. I will give you her email.

Renee’: This HAS been great and different all at the same time (lol). At least I didn't have to be camera ready (LOL)---thanks for inviting me.

PhilE: Wonderful! I'm looking forward to a really exciting edition of the Black Theatre Network September 2022 Literary Salon!

Renee’: Take care and I will be in touch with the flyer and links within the week. Be well.

PhilE: Running a little overtime, we thank you Renee’ for responding to our Meetup / First Friday Films Sept. 2, 2022 questions. Is there any last words that you would like to share with our readers?

Renee’: Enjoy some live theatre and make certain OUR STORIES are being told.


And thank YOU Phil and Ethel Walker for this opportunity.

PhilE: I can't wait, Renee'! Thanks for being such a great interview subject! Get some sleep!

Phillip E. Walker: To be the subject of a 2022 FFF Showcase, Register your under 16 minute film/video at ALL TOTALLY COMPLETED FORMS WILL BE SCHEDULED FOR SHOWCASING. That’s a wrap! XXXXX

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