“This is a poignant story 

that should be told.”

—Emma Goldman Sherman, Dramaturg

The Griots

Cast: 1M, 2W

Set in rural Georgia in the late 1930s, The Griots focuses on an elderly African American woman (Ada) who grew up in slavery, a young woman who is the descendant of the plantation owner’s family (Lizzie), and a young white man from Ohio (John) who has been sent to the South to interview ex-slaves as a part of the WPA Writers’ Project. As John gains Ada’s trust over a period of several weeks, her stories turn from quaint tales of happy field hands, to brutal accounts of violence and intolerance. And when her tales contradict Lizzie’s family legends, exposing the truth may have too great a cost.

‘The Griots’ is a play exploring the fraught relation between memory and history when it comes to race and the American South. Big themes, yes. But Rice handles them with gentle care. A wry, wise and delightful sense of humor. An extraordinary ear for dialogue. And an overarching sense that her characters’ efforts to find meaning in their lives—often by preserving a sense of meaning in the lives preceding their own—truly matters. The past and its preservation is Rice’s great subject, brought to life in stories that she tells remarkably well.
— Mike Fischer, Theater Critic, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
‘The Griots,’ by Gwendolyn Rice, captivated our attention from beginning to end. Rice has created nuanced, intriguing characters that are simultaneously endearing and flawed. The story and skillfully crafted dialogue drew us into the rich history of the deep South, laying out racial tensions that feel all too relevant today. Rice artfully structures the story and timeline in a way that keeps her audience on the edge of their seats until the very last line. ‘The Griots’ was the well deserving First Place Winner of the 2015 Henley Rose Playwright Competition for Women.
— Danielle Roos and Kerri Koczen, Co-Artistic Directors, Yellow Rose Productions
This is a wonderful historical drama full of twists and turns as the truth gets uncovered. The characters are marvelous in their needs and their humor comes organically. Nothing is ever forced. This is a poignant story that should be told.
— Emma Goldman Sherman, Dramaturg, Great Plains Theater Conference
In 2013, Renaissance Theaterworks launched Br!NK –a new initiative for women playwrights. We created it as a platform to tell more women’s stories, create awareness, and change community behavior. Gwendolyn Rice’s compelling drama, ‘The Griots,’ was the enthusiastic first choice for the program’s inaugural year. Throughout the Br!NK process, which included a week-long script development workshop and the production of a staged reading with professional actors and directors, I found Ms. Rice to be a generous and gifted collaborator with a keen creative mind. ‘The Griots’ was very well received; the audience and the cast found the experience profoundly moving.
— Suzan Fete, Artistic Director, Renaissance Theaterworks

Production History

2017. Staged Reading, Civic Theatre of LaFayette (LaFayette, IN)

2017. Winner, Staged Reading, Lifejacket Theatre Company, (New York, NY)

2016. Winner, Workshop and Reading, Henley Rose Playwriting Award (Knoxville, TN)

2016. Finalist, FutureFest, (Dayton, OH)

2016. Semi-Finalist, Orlando Shakespeare Theater PlayFest! (Orlando, FL)

2015. Workshop and reading, Great Plains Theater Conference (Omaha, NE)

2014. Workshop and reading, Renaissance Theaterworks (Milwaukee, WI)

2014. Finalist, Boulder Ensemble Theater Company New Generations Play Contest (Boulder, CO)

2014. Semi-Finalist, American Blues Theater Blue Ink Playwriting Competition, (Chicago, IL)