Deeper dive: A closer look at 'Last Night and the Night Before'

by John Moore | Apr 06, 2018

In the video above, playwright Donnetta Lavinia Grays talks about "Last Night and the Night Before" at the Denver Center's 2017 Colorado New Play Summit. Video by David Lenk and John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

Note: In this daily series, we are taking a deeper dive into the eight titles recently announced on the DCPA Theatre Company's 2018-19 mainstage season. Today: Last Night and the Night Before.

Last Night and the Night Before

  • Written by: Donnetta Lavinia Grays
  • Year: 2019 (world premiere)
  • Director: Valerie Curtis-Newton
  • Dates: Jan. 18-Feb. 24, 2019 (Opens Jan. 25)
  • Where: Ricketson Theatre
  • Genre: Family drama/mystery
  • Donnetta Lavinia Grays. Last Night And the Night Before. About the author: Donnetta Lavinia Grays, born in Panama and raised in Columbia, S.C., is a Brooklyn-based actor and playwright whose plays have been staged, read or developed at Berkeley Rep, the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center National Playwrights Conference. the New York Theater Workshop, Orlando Shakespeare Theater, Portland (Maine) Stage Company, Classical Theater of Harlem and more. She is the inaugural recipient of the Doric Wilson Independent Playwright Award. Acting credits include Broadway’s Well and In the Next Room Or the Vibrator Play, as well as TV's "Blue Bloods" and "The Sopranos." Grays says she seeks to write strong roles for women of various ages, races, sexual identities and economic standings. She believes the most radical theater happens when cultural specificity meets common human conflict. She also believes that humor should marry heartbreak at most turns in a narrative.
  • The play at a glance: When Monique and her 10-year-old daughter, Samantha, show up unexpectedly on her sister’s Brooklyn doorstep, it shakes up Rachel and her partner Nadima’s orderly New York lifestyle. Monique is on the run from deep trouble and brings their family’s Southern roots with her, grabbing hold of Rachel’s life more ferociously than she could have ever imagined. Poetic, powerful and remarkably funny, Last Night and the Night Before play explores the struggle between the responsibilities that are expected of us and the choices we actually end up making.

On navigating trauma: Our full interview with the playwright

  • Says new DCPA Artistic Director Chris Coleman: "Last Night and the Night Before is another testament to the amazing works that have come out of the Colorado New Play Summit. Donnetta Lavinia Grays is an incredibly special writer, and the heart she brings to all of her work as an actress shines through in this beautiful play. This is a story about families. It's about why one sibling goes one way the other goes another. It's about what comprises a family today and how this young kid finds unbelievable emotional resilience in very tricky, difficult circumstances, It's a beautiful play, a deeply human story, and I’m thrilled that we get to be the first to produce it. I’m sure that we will not be the last.”
  • Last Night And the Night Before. Photo by John MooreFrom the author: "Sam has suffered a traumatic event in her life. She is in the unfortunate position of being at the mercy of the adults in her life who are trying to safeguard her from what she has suffered. And now she is having to suffer the consequences of their decisions. I think Last Night and the Night Before is a play about the tremendous, enduring component of love in our lives. It is a play about loss. It is a play about family. And it is a play about finding your singular voice as a woman coming into adulthood."
  • What the critics have said about Donnetta Lavinia Grays' acting: "Grays is one of those actors who can enthrall while doing nothing more than standing still, listening, in character. What a treat to get to watch her do so." — OffOffOnline ... "Even before her wrenching second-act monologue, Donnetta Lavinia Grays proves the soul of the piece," — Indianapolis Business Journal, on Ruined.
  • Fun facts: This play was featured in the 2017 Colorado New Play Summit. Its original title was, simply, Sam. The new title references a line from the children’s game: "Last night and the night before, I met my baby at the candy store."... Says Grays, in describing herself on her website: "I will act for food. Or write a play. )r direct one for that matter so long as food is involved. Or, you know, whiskey."... She says her dream project "is to write something sexy with African-American roots and folk music."

Last Night And the Night Before. Photo by John Moore
Photos: Director Valerie Curtis-Newton (above) and her cast at the 2017 Colorado New Play Summit.

2018-19 DCPA Theatre Company season at a glance:

  • Aug. 24-Sept. 30: Vietgone (Ricketson Theatre) READ MORE
  • Sept. 7-Oct. 14: Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! (Stage Theatre) READ MORE
  • Sept. 21-Oct. 21: The Constant Wife (Space Theatre) READ MORE
  • Nov. 21-Dec. 24: A Christmas Carol (Stage Theatre) READ MORE
  • Jan. 18-Feb. 24, 2019: Last Night and the Night Before (Ricketson Theatre) READ MORE
  • Jan. 25-Feb. 24, 2019: Anna Karenina (Stage Theatre) READ MORE
  • Feb. 8-March 10, 2019: The Whistleblower (Space Theatre) READ MORE
  • April 26-May 26, 2019: Sweat (Space Theatre) READ MORE

  • DCPA Theatre Company tickets and subscriptions:
    New and renewing subscribers have the first opportunity to reserve tickets. Subscription packages are now available online at or by calling 303-893-4100. Subscribers enjoy 30 percent off savings, free ticket exchanges, payment plans, priority offers to added attractions, discounted extra tickets, a dedicated VIP hotline, free events including talkbacks and receptions, and the best seats at the best prices, guaranteed. Single ticket on-sale date will be announced at a later time. BUY ONLINE

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

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    John Moore
    John Moore
    Award-winning arts journalist John Moore has recently taken a groundbreaking new position as the DCPA’s Senior Arts Journalist. With The Denver Post, he was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the US by American Theatre Magazine. He is the founder of the Denver Actors Fund, a nonprofit that raises money for local artists in medical need. John is a native of Arvada and attended Regis Jesuit High School and the University of Colorado at Boulder. Follow him on Twitter @moorejohn.

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