Shay Youngblood: Collected Plays Collected Plays

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Collected Plays include Shakin' the Mess Out of Misery, Flying Blind, Square Blues, Talking Bones and a short creation myth, There Are Many Houses in my Tribe.

Shay Youngblood: Flying Blind Flying Blind

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Flying Blind uses blindness as a metaphor for denial, deprivation of the senses as well as the ability to turn a blind eye to brutality, ugliness, pain, war and suffering as a means of survival.

FLORAL is a seventy-nine year old woman who has always dreamed of driving across country in her vintage Buick. While sitting behind the wheel of the car at a truck stop in Surrender, Alabama waiting for her son to drive her to an assisted living home, sixteen year old CHERRY asks Floral for a ride in this comic-drama that incorporates storytelling, animation and video.

Shay Youngblood: Shaking The Mess Out of Misery Shakin' The Mess Outta Misery (1993)

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Watch a livestream production by the Houston Ensemble Theater

Jubilee Theater - Ft.Worth, TX
"The Maid's Bus:"

Afterthought Theatre - Denver, Colorado
"The Prayer Meeting:"

“This production...feels like a fresh shot of adrenaline and hope crafted just for these times..“
— Kerry Reid, Chicago Tribune
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“a master-class in delicious storytelling, and the audience is kept...riveted“
— Sheri Flanders, PerformInk
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“...whatever the theatrical tool, Shay's work soars.“
— Punch Shaw,
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“..well-crafted, funny and heartfelt...“
— Mary L. Clark, Pegasus News
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“lovingly written and intricately woven“
— Bert Osborne, Atlanta Journal-Constitution
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“This must-see performance will remind you of what matters most in life. If you have someone who cares about you and is fully supportive of everything you do and aspire to, keep them close because you may never know when you might lose them.“
— Ariel Lafayette, VOX Teen Blog
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“Horizon Theatre's brazzy, bumptious production of "Shakin' the Mess Outta Misery" feels like one those family reunions that sprawls so far and wide, it comes with its own T-shirt.“ — Curt Holman, Creative Loafing
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“You don't want to miss this production...“ — Portia Scott, Atlanta Daily World
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Shay Youngblood: Talking Bones Talking Bones (1993)

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Talking Bones is set in Ancestor's Books & Breakfast, a half empty bookstore in a small Southern town, where three generations of women, Ruth, her daughter Baybay and her grand daughter Eila, hear the ancestors through a broken hearing aid, whispers in the dark and in talking bones. The ancestors bring a message about love, faith and family.

Interview with Shay Youngblood

1. How did you come up with the idea for the play?
The title of my play, Talking Bones came after I read an article about construction workers in Africa finding bones in trees when they were clearing a construction site. I discovered that long ago the griots, storytellers, were buried in the hollow of Baobob trees. I imagined all the stories that they knew being lost if proper respect was not given to the memory of the ancestors. When I was traveling along the East Coast somewhere around Connecticut I ate at a diner that gave each person a free book with their meal.
2. How has this play been more challenging or less challenging than your other plays?
Talking Bones is set in a world where anything can happen, almost a dream world. The ancestors who have passed on speak to each person in the play in a different way. At the first reading of the play I thought that my Great Aunt would be confused by the characters straddling two worlds but at the end of the play she said, "That's about us, that's about our family me and you and Big Mama." I laughed because she was right, I was writing about three generations of women who are desperately trying to make themselves be understood and figure out how to be useful in the world and fulfill their own personal desires.
3. Which character do you identify with the most and why?
Eila the youngest character in the play is most like I was as a young person in her attempts to find out who she is and how she can be purposeful in her life.
4. What do you want the audience to take away from the play?
I would like audiences to leave the theater with a sense of hope and belief in the power of the word and the importance of family, of passing on knowledge and preserving our culture.
5. How involved are you with the actors and the director?
I want directors who are drawn to my work to feel free to put their mark on the play, to give a unique interpretation. I wrote Talking Bones and Shaking the Mess Out of Misery over a decade ago and am so pleased that the images and the stories still stand and that people are still interested in what the play has to say about family, black women, African American history and culture.
7. Do you ever find it difficult to have the actors capture what you value as the main principles of the play?
I usually don't work with the actors directly. It is the directors' job to guide the actors and work with them on bringing the words I have written to life. I have often been surprised at how much the actors and directors who are drawn to my work relate to my work and have only once had to have a discussion with a director who didn't understand one of the fundamental issues in my work.
8. What is your favorite part of the play and why?
I love watching Baybay's enthusiasm when she is with Mr. Fine. She is a romantic and believes in the power of love to save her. It is a sad and funny moment full of the contradictions of life and the complexity of human feelings and desires.
9. How long did it take you to write the play?
I wrote the play over a period of about a year while I was working on other projects. I'm always working on other projects. I've written novels, a graphic novel and a few years ago I found a new artistic expression in making paintings and artists books.
10. What was your inspiration?
Being by nature a curious person I find inspiration in everday life, traveling, reading, engaging in conversations with all kinds of people even if it means sometimes stepping outside of my comfort zone to learn something new. I was born in Georgia and have lived in many places around the world sometimes being in situations outside my comfort zone inspired me to ask lots of questions, assume less and listen more.
11. What are your main messages in the play?
Talking Bones is a play about people trying to create family and preserve their history and culture by feeding people knowledge to strengthen them, to arm them with the tools to live a full life. In the end it's all about love.

Shay Youngblood: Amazing Grace Amazing Grace (1993)

Comedy/Drama. Adapted from the book by Mary Hoffman.

Cast: 4m., 7w. (Cast: 3 women, 4 girls and 4 boys, plus extra neighborhood children, adult offstage voice.) In the words of Ms. Youngblood, "Amazing Grace is about a little girl who loves acting out stories, those told and read to her by her grandmother as well as ones she reads on her own. She also makes up her own stories, acting out the most exciting parts. When Grace is in her playworld everything to her is real. In her imagination, she becomes the characters: Anansi the Spider, Joan of Arc, Mowgli, Hiawatha. She's a pirate with a peg leg and a parrot, an explorer, and a theater director of a production of 'Cinderella' in which she casts a boy in the title role. Grace's mother is very practical and hopes that Grace will become a doctor, a lawyer or a professional person given the opportunities she herself didn't have. Her grandmother, Nana, believes that Grace can be whatever she wants to be. Grace is told by two of her classmates that she can't be Peter Pan in the school play because she is a girl and because she is black. In the end, Grace shows us that she can indeed do anything she sets her mind to. I selected the West African Anansi story and use traditional storytelling techniques such as songs, rhythm and repetition to teach Grace and her friends a bit of folk wisdom." Unit set. Approximate running time without intermission: 1 hour.

photo courtesy of
Horizon Theatre Company

production rights available:
Dramatic Publishing Company

University of North Texas, Fall 2021

Amazing Grace at University of North Texas Amazing Grace at University of North Texas Amazing Grace at University of North Texas Amazing Grace at University of North Texas Amazing Grace at University of North Texas

photos by George Warda

Shay Youngblood: Square Blues Square Blues

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read "On Square Blues" by Daniel Alexander Jones >

Square Blues follows, a reparations activist, his mother Odessa, who married a Jewish store owner in the 1940's and her grand daughter Karma, an art activist, during one summer weekend in the early 1990's during which each member of his family is challenged to stand up for their beliefs in ways that threaten to tear the family apart. Three generations in a southern family respond to oppression and injustice and find the courage to stand up for their beliefs as they redefine what makes a family and what holds it together. For many years Square has been collecting names on petitions demanding Black Pay Back, financial reparations and a public apology for slavery and using money inherited from his father to bail out political prisoners and finance a radical underground movement. During the course of the play Square paints a ‘wall of resistance' mural on the interior wall of the café depicting modern heroes and activists while his niece Karma creates art on public walls using spray paint, nude models and found objects in her art actions to bring attention to the issues she feels passion for, and Odessa is lost in her memories, grieving the loss of a most profound and dangerous love.

Shay Youngblood: Hotel Stories Shay Youngblood: Hotel Stories Shay Youngblood: Hotel Stories Shay Youngblood: Hotel Stories Shay Youngblood: Hotel Stories
Hotel Stories, Artists Books

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Hotel Stories: erotica - volume 1

In these series of funny, unsettling, erotic, heart-breaking and sensual stories set in hotels around the world, hotel guests discover private passions, unexpected pleasures, hope, redemption, small pleasures and discover the darkest parts of themselves when faced with four anonymous walls and a bed. Q spends her weekdays working a 9 to 5 in the financial district and her weekends in elegant boutique hotels exploring her fluid sexuality; On hot summer afternoons, a teenager cools down during secret visits to an air-conditioned porn theater; an aspiring opera singer spends her wedding night in a hotel room with her husband and his best friend; and a man loses his wife, but finds her again in his erotic memories.

Selected titles available in English, Spanish, French, Italian and Japanese

Available at Chambers Hotel in Minneapolis, MN

Shay Youngblood: Black Power Barbie Black Power Barbie

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Tabitha X and her younger brother, Jackson Five, the children of murdered African American Civil Rights activists, battle for Black Power Barbie as they relive vivid and frightening memories in therapy sessions in the mid 1990's. As adults, Tabitha remains psychologically wounded, living in the past, while Jackson faces the reality of living with AIDS. They both discover romantic love and struggle to hold on to it while seeking justice for their parents' murder.

Shay Youngblood: Winter Prophet Winter Prophet

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Set in the late nineteenth century, the novel follows Winter Grace, the uniquely talented daughter of former slaves, who is determined to become an opera singer and her best friend, Nathan Fitzpatrick, an undertaker's son, who dreams of becoming a boxer. There is little hope for either of their dreams to be realized in the small Kansas town where they grow into adulthood. Winter's life is transformed when a mysterious Italian voice teacher, La Signora, arrives in town on a morning train dressed in evening clothes, bearing bruises from her abusive husband, a famous tenor. On their wedding day Winter and Nathan runaway together and set out to create the lives they have dreamed about. Winter Prophet was inspired by the life of African American opera diva Sisseretta Jones known as the "Black Patti" (1869-1933).