Aaron Woolfolk is a 2008/2009 Ovation nominee for writing an original play for Bronzeville, produced by the Robey Theatre Company.
If you’d like to add a congratulatory message for him (or any other nominee or nominated company), to the Ovation Awards commemorative poster (distributed to all nominees and all attendees at the Ceremony), click here.
What was the moment that first inspired you to pursue working in the theater?
In high school I played in the orchestra, and every year we provided the live orchestral accompaniment for the annual musical staged by the drama department. I was a violinist and the concertmaster, and even though I was concentrating on the music, I was always fascinated by my fellow students acting on stage. I was impressed by their ability to move the audience to laughter, tears, and other emotions. I was also fascinated by how so many people doing so many different things — acting, stagecraft, costuming, music, directing, etc. — worked together to bring a single production to life. At that time I still had the idea that I would take the “practical” route in life and become a lawyer. But looking back, the first inklings I had of wanting to work in theater and film came from those three high school musicals (The Boyfriend, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, and Sweet Charity) I participated in.
What do you feel made the production you were nominated for particularly successful, either overall or for you specifically?
The success of Bronzeville was made possible by the talents and contributions of many people. However, I would single out Robey Theatre Company co-founder and artistic director Ben Guillory, who also directed the play. It was Ben who brought Tim Toyama and I together, and then shepherded us through the two years of developing and writing the play. His passion for and belief in the play kept Tim and I going when we could have easily been sidelined by various distractions. He also put together a wonderful cast, then staged a fantastic production with his innovative direction.
What project or projects are you currently working on?
Currently I’m actually on the film festival circuit for a feature film I wrote and directed, called The Harimaya Bridge. It had a nationwide theatrical release in Japan during the summer, and will be released in US theaters next spring.
What do you love most about theater in Los Angeles?
I love how there are so many racially/ethnically diverse theater companies in town that, taken together, tell the real story of Los Angeles. I also love how there are Angelenos who are willing to experience these various voices even if they are different from their own.
What’s your dream project?
My dream would be to do a three-part theatrical trilogy about the story of Motown Records. The trilogy would cover the years 1959 to 1971, and Motown founder Berry Gordy would be the central character in all three productions. It wouldn’t be a traditional musical, but music would of course be a big part of it. Though, this is definitely a “dream” project because there are too many hurdles to jump through to make it happen. I doubt even a large theater company with an eight-figure endowment could get it done, much less small potatoes like me.
Biography: Aaron Woolfork was born and raised in Oakland, California. He received degrees in both ethnic studies and rhetoric from the University of California at Berkeley. After living and working in rural Japan as an English teacher, he attended Columbia University, where he received his M.F.A. in film. For his first film Rage! he won a Directors Guild of America award. His short films Eki (The Station) and Kuroi Hitsuji (Black Sheep) won several awards, screened in many international festivals, and continue to be featured on cable television. He was the recipient of an ABC Talent Development Grant, and was later a 2004-2005 Walt Disney Studios/ABC Entertainment Writing Fellow. His feature film debut, The Harimaya Bridge, which he wrote and directed and which stars Ben Guillory, Saki Takaoka, Misa Shimizu, and Danny Glover, had a nationwide theatrical release in Japan in the summer of 2009, and will be released in U.S. theaters in the spring of 2010. Bronzeville is his first play.
For a full list of Ovation nominees, or for information about the Ovation Awards Ceremony on January 11, click here.