Jefferson, who am I?… by local screen writer Chris Hopper debuted last September with a two-night showing at the historic Langston Hughes theater. Hughes was the perfect venue for a period piece centering around one of our most famous presidents. The story itself an ominous tale of mystery, intrigue, and awakening as Thomas Jefferson is haunted by the Nigerian ghost Ajamu, a cousin of Jefferson’s slave (and mistress) Sally Hemings, and forced to reckon with his failure to abolish slavery.
According to Chris the inspiration for the play was a series of civil-rights poems that he had written nearly two decades ago, while living in Atlanta, Georgia. Over the years he had wrestled with how to best introduce these poems to the public. Then, during his visit to the Kehinde Wiley exhibit, Hopper had a new vision.
“There was a particular portrait featuring an African-American male who seemed lost. And I thought to myself, what if he was catapulted back through time and came face-to-face with one of the founding-fathers, what questions would he ask? What would he say about slavery? What would you say?”
Most surprising and impressive is the news that the performance team had only two weeks to practice before opening night. Something that the audience would not have guessed while watching what appeared to be a flawless performance.
Hopper credits the success of the shows to his lead performers, veteran actors Tom Fraser and Marcel Davis, and a beautiful musical score created by Catrina Bailey, along with Greg Fields and Cydney Johnson.
But despite his humility, we must recognize that the overall success of Jefferson, who am I?… is also due to the incredible direction of Chris Hopper himself, who has been writing television and movie style scripts since he was in his teens. It was Hopper’s writing, directing, and ability to put together an astounding group of talented individuals that made Jefferson, who am I?… one of the best plays to ever come out of Seattle.
Joining Tom Fraser and Marcel Davis on stage is LaTonya Horace, Kibibi Monie, Walter Peeze, Diamond St. James, Wesley Wearings, Tya Wright, Trina B!, Tyrone Crosby and Northwest Tap Connection.
Hopper shared with us that he would like to develop a series for television at this point, and mentioned that he currently has two new projects in the works that are expected to debut in 2020 & 2021.
Chris is also engaging the Department of Neighborhoods in hopes of a new partnership that would allow an extended version of Jefferson, who am I?… to return to the stage for Black History Month 2020. The extended version would include newly written scenes and music. Chris also believes that the performances could be taken to an even higher level of professionalism and creativity with more practice time prior to opening night. ”You saw what our actors could do with only two-weeks to practice, imagine if they had double the time!”