Playwright Jeff Augustin won the Kennedy Center’s prestigious Lorraine Hansberry Playwriting Award in 2011, but “Cry Old Kingdom,” which opened Sunday at Actors Theatre of Louisville, is his first professional production. Augustin is a student in the Master of Fine Arts theater program at the University of California, San Diego.
Making your playwriting debut at the Humana Festival of New American Plays is an impressive coming out party. Directed by Princess Grace Award-winning director Tom Dugdale, “Cry Old Kingdom” will be seen by artistic directors, producers, directors and critics from across the country over the next four weeks.
“Cry Old Kingdom” takes place in Haiti, 1964. Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier has come into power, and Edwin, an artist with a political reputation, goes into hiding during the dictator’s oppressive regime. When he meets Henri, a young man building a boat to escape to America, Edwin offers the young man a deal: if Henri allows Edwin to paint him, Edwin will allow the young man to build his boat in his underground studio.
WFPL’s Erin Keane spoke with Augustin about the role of artists in times of tyranny, his Haitian roots and how “Cry Old Kingdom” helped the playwright examine his own politics.