Vanessa Lynn’s ‘Beyond the Chitlin’ Circuit’ Guides Urban Playwrights

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    In 2012, Tyler Perry announced that his “Madea Gets a Job” stage tour would be his last. With Perry now focusing on films, it seemed that an era of upbeat and colorful urban plays was coming to an end.

    But not for successful “urban gospel” playwright Vanessa Lynn.

    “When Tyler Perry bust into the mainstream, more and more people realized they wanted to try playwriting,” said Lynn. “An enormous number of plays and DVDs from the urban gospel genre have come out as a result.”

    Lynn decided to aid and encourage these new writers with the release of her book, “Beyond the Chitlin’ Circuit, The Ultimate Urban Playwrights Guide.” The book covers topics ranging from Lynn’s creative process for writing a play to DVD production and distribution, to her own trials and tribulations before her rise on the theater scene.

    “The ‘chitlin circuit’ is considered a negative term associated with buffoonery” said Lynn.

    “We’re trying to get past that to a more sophisticated and meaningful play style.”

    “I wrote my first play in 1995, and I was going to church, and it seemed that the youth in the church weren’t paying attention in services,” Lynn noted. “I wanted to do something that would send them a message and capture their attention.”

    Lynn was initially discouraged from presenting the play to the public and put her work on the shelf. She went to work for corporate America and then started her own business.

    “My business came tumbling down in 2004. I lost everything and for the next two years, I focused on rebuilding my life,” Lynn added. “It was during that time that I was inspired to re-visit the play, so I put it out there.”

    Without a theater background, Lynn was looking for anybody to help with her specific genre of playwriting. She started a group on Facebook titled Urban Playwrights United, which eventually led to an annual conference.

    As the executive director and founder, Lynn has transformed Urban Playwrights United into the country’s number one hub for everything urban in theater. This year will mark the 4th annual conference, to be held Dec. 5-8 in Atlanta.

    “I decided to write the book for those who couldn’t make it to the conferences every year,” she said. “I deal with hundreds and hundreds of playwrights, so I wanted to capture all of the information from the conferences, add some personal experiences and provide a guide. It’s not a technical book, it just a hands-on real look at do’s and don’ts.”

    Lynn’s latest play, “Boss Lady,” follows a female music mogul of the young Berry Gordy/Sean Combs type. The play chronicles the mogul’s life from childhood to adulthood in an action-packed, suspenseful emotional journey. “Boss Lady” will premiere in Atlanta on April 13 at the Midtown Arts Cinema.

    Lynn’s next event will be her Success in Urban Theater Workshop and Book Signing April 20 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the D.A.P. Theater in Covington, Ga.

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