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

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.

Last Night And The Night BeforeLast 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
  • 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.
  • 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.”
  • From 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.”