• Cristee Cook

Creators of Soul Rep Theatre's SOUL-O-SHORTS Reflect on 25th Season Closer

By Cristee Cook

For the final installment of our series on Soul Rep Theatre Company’s SOUL-O-SHORTS, we spoke with Production Manager Ashley Oliver and Co-Founder/Co-Executive Producer Guinea Bennett-Price about contributing to the entire project.

SOUL-O-SHORTS is a collection of 6, world-premiere solo plays created, written, directed, and performed by Soul Rep Theatre company members. The stories explore the beauty and struggle of Black men, the gift of children and their imaginations, and even stories about notable historical figures: namely, James Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston, Hattie McDaniel, and Nat Turner.

What is the inspiration behind this project?

AO: I think the this a project that showcases what Soul Rep is all about: creative, new, and moving works. We have so many writers in the company, that we wanted their voices to be heard in our company when we know that they may not get that chance anywhere else. Also we are a like a family so why not show our talent within.

GBP: As a company, our goals are to celebrate our 25 years of highlighting the black experience and artistic excellence. Also, we wanted to flex our muscles of quality and transformative performances and promote the company members who have been at the core of making our work exceptional for all these years.

Jamal McNeil - Lessons and Sessions... Playwright | Photo Courtesy of Soul Rep Theatre

What positive changes have come out of the pandemic time in regard to your work - creating what is traditionally live performance for a virtual audience?

GBP: We know how to make something out of nothing. It’s how we’re built and how we thrive. The pandemic forced us back to the roots of our origins when creative solutions were always the answer.

AO: We have been able to reach parts of the country that would have never seen our work if it weren’t for virtual performances. People can't sleep on us now; we have been trying to make sure we keep our presence on social media, since that is how many people are staying connected right now.

Why do you want to tell this story now?

GBP: I’m connected to [the short plays] Zanzi Star and Confessions & Sessions… as Co-Writer and Director, respectively. Zanzi Star was a concept developed by my husband Keith Price when we met 22 years ago as part of a joint project called Pecan Tan and the Project Kids.  Her story has grown, been passed on, and remixed by our children. The version [in SOUL-O-SHORTS] was adapted and completely modernized by our eldest son, Emir Price.

I also had the pleasure of directing a longtime friend and collaborator; Celebrity Acting Coach Jemal McNeil in Confessions and Sessions… We worked remotely as he was on set in Atlanta throughout our process. Our vision of going from the stream of conscious thoughts of a man in crisis to rediscovering buried inner child energy as a means to harmonizing with life.  It is an excerpt of a longer piece Jemal wrote for a one man show that enjoyed extended runs in L.A. some years ago.

What’s sustaining you right now?

AO: I started back crocheting again and exploring with different techniques. I also enjoy videos games, binge watching throwback sitcoms like Living Single and The Golden Girls.

GBP: I’m sustained by the young people I am around every day as a Theatre teacher at Booker T. Washington HSPVA and staying creatively immersed in something that will have future impact so as to have something to look forward to. Enjoying the elaborate production that is life in this country at the moment. All of the symbolism, the capricious players and the ever-evolving plot twists makes for interesting world to harmonize with.

Is there anything else that you want audiences to know about your project?

GBP: We continue to represent the heart and soul of the Black Theatre Movement and the quality education in the arts that was once a staple of Historically Black Colleges and Universities. We are proud of our legacy and shoulders upon which we stand.

Our intention is to do them proud!


SOUL-O-SHORTS -- Written, Directed, and Performed by Soul Rep Theatre company members is streaming through May 31, 2021. For tickets, visit: https://www.showtix4u.com/event-details/51010.

View the trailer on Soul Rep Theatre's YouTube channel.

Follow Dallas Art Beat's interview series to learn more about all of the SOUL-O-SHORTS here: https://www.dallasartbeat.com/all-news/categories/series

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