From Broadway Usher to Broadway Playwright & Composer: An Interview with Pulitzer Prize-Winner Michael R. Jackson

On July 15, 2022, none other than THE Michael R. Jackson talked with Black And Making It contributors Ayvaunn Penn and D’Mariel Jones about his latest award-winning musical entitled A Strange Loop. Jackson — book writer, lyricist, and composer of the show — discusses: the 20-year development process of A Strange Loop; how to stay motivated in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges; the importance of never sacrificing the quality of one’s work; why it is critical to be selective about one’s inner circle; and more. Click on the video above to watch the interview. Be sure to subscribe to BlackAndMakingItTV.com for more content celebrating black excellence in art and entertainment.

Michael R. Jackson (photo credit Zack DeZon)

Michael R. Jackson is an award-winning playwright, composer and lyricist. His musical A Strange Loop won the 2022 Tony for Best Musical as well as the Tony for Best Book of a Musical for Jackson. The musical (which had its 2019 world premiere at Playwrights Horizons in association with Page 73 Productions) also received the 2020 Pulitzer Prize and New York Drama Critics Circle Award. A Strange Loop was called “a full-on laparoscopy of the heart, soul, and loins” and a “gutsy, jubilantly anguished musical with infectious melodies” by Ben Brantley for The New York Times. In The New Yorker, Vinson Cunningham wrote, “To watch this show is to enter, by some urgent, bawdy magic, an ecstatic and infinitely more colorful version of the famous surreal lithograph by M. C. Escher: the hand that lifts from the page, becoming almost real, then draws another hand, which returns the favor.” 

In addition to A Strange Loop, Jackson also wrote book, music and lyrics for White Girl in Danger. Awards and associations include: a New Professional Theatre Festival Award, a Jonathan Larson Grant, a Lincoln Center Emerging Artist Award, an ASCAP Foundation Harold Adamson Award, a Whiting Award, the Helen Merrill Award for Playwriting, an Outer Critics Circle Award, a Drama Desk Award, an Obie Award, an Antonyo Award, a Fred Ebb Award, a Windham- Campbell Prize, a Dramatist Guild Fellowship and he is an alum of Page 73’s Interstate 73 Writers Group. He can be followed on social at @thelivingmj (Twitter) and @thelivingmichaeljackson (Instagram), and online at TheLivingMichaelJackson.com.

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BAM-iT! Founder Ayvaunn Penn (Columbia University Playwriting Dean’s Fellow, Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Conference Finalist) is all things art and education. She is named by Playbill.com and Black Theatre Coalition as a Next Generation of Black Theatre Professionals honoree. Penn is a theatre professor, playwright-director, and lyricist-composer passionate about theatre for social change, applied theatre, and nurturing future generations of theatre artists.

BAM-iT! Contributor D’Mariel Jones is a senior Musical Theatre major at Texas Christian University from Austin, TX. He is Co-President of Theatre TCU Black Excellence. He plans to move to New York and pursue a career as an actor, director, and producer for stage and tv/film.

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Header image courtesy of Variety Magazine

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