Dennis A. Allen II
An Artist's Life...
Whenever people ask me about my journey to becoming a theatre maker and educator I always start my story with when I was in my late 20’s thinking I was going to settle for my job as a marketing manager; getting fired from that job because the CEO of the company believed I should be “following my passion”; going back to school to get a degree in theatre (adding to my BA in communications); starting my own theatre company, producing a short play festival, submitting a play to the Samuel French Off Off Broadway festival competition, winning said festival which made me a published playwright and getting into Brooklyn College MFA program under Mac Wellman.
Then making connections and productions with my Black Theatre community; The New Black Fest, The National Black Theatre of Harlem, The Fire This Time Festival, The Slavery Project, 48 Hrs in Harlem, Weeksville Heritage Center and Liberation Theatre Company; along with institutions like The Lark, Atlantic Theatre (launch commission), Clubbed Thumb( emerging playwright group), Poetic Theatre, KCACTF and The Public. Acting, directing and producing; the doors just opened for me after I got fired and consciously pursued a career in theatre. That’s the narrative I’ve shared whenever someone asks but actually I’ve realized my journey started much younger.
My theatrical journey started with me in pre school entertaining a room full of pre schoolers with my reenactment of the live action movie Popeye; encouraged by me playing a young Martin Luther King Jr. in an elementary school play; encouraged by me playing saxophone in the school’s marching band and singing West Side Story songs in choir; encouraged by my mother taking me to see Broadway shows like Les Mis, ‘Cats’, ‘Phantom of the Opera’, ‘The Song of Jacob Zulu’ and most influential August Wilson’s, ‘A Piano Lesson’. ‘A Piano Lesson’ was most influential because it was the first show I had seen that spoke to the Black American experience, the first show where I saw myself. My goal as an artist and educator is to be to one soul what ‘A Piano Lesson’ was for me: a source of inspiration, encouragement and example of self love.