Alumna Lauren Whitehead '14 Adapts 'Between the World and Me' for the Stage

April 6, 2018

The Apollo Theatre just presented Between the World And Me, a production adapted from the book by Ta-Nehisi Coates based on the story of her friend and former classmate Prince Jones that was shot to death by a police officer in Virginia in 2000. The production is directed by Apollo’s Executive Producer Kamilah Forbes, who was also Prince’s classmate and is also part of the book. The play was co-commissioned by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts


Between the World and Me poster

To adapt the book to stage, Ms. Forbes enlisted two dramaturgs, Alumna Lauren A. Whitehead '14 and Talvin Wilks “who faced the challenge of paring down a text that, under 200 pages, was already concise. They decided to use the poetry technique of erasure, which consists of blacking out portions of a larger text, to expose terse emotional outbursts and visually arresting moments,” wrote Andrew Chow with The New York Times in a recent review of the play. According to the Times, the script was developed in an intensive two-week residency at Sundance in December.


"In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me, offers a powerful framework for understanding our nation’s history, the idea of race, and current crisis," according to the play description. The production ran for two nights, April 2nd and 3rd at The Apollo before it will travel to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on April 7th. The 90-minute presentation consists of 21 excerpts from the book with a different cast every performance. Among them are Susan Kelechi Watson, Joe Morton, and Pauletta Washington. The cast did not memorize lines, but rather relied on scripts onstage "to channel the effect of reading something powerful for the first time," continued Chow in the Times. 


Lauren Whitehead is a writer and performer. She has written, composed and performed two one-woman musicals; Written in Blues, was presented at the Afro Solo Festival, The Left Coast Leaning Festival at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and at DiverseWorks in Houston, Tx. and A Tribe Called Blessed, that debuted at the Women Center Stage Festival (Lynn Redgrave Theater) and was featured at The Nuyorican Poets Cafe. As a dramaturg, Lauren has worked in various capacities both inside and outside of the theater. She recently directed How Bodies Reclaim Light (New York Live Arts) and was playwright/adapter of Three Sisters: Tulsa 1921 (The Secret Theater). Most recently, she worked as a research assistant to Oskar Eusits at New York University in partnership with The Public Theater. Currently, Lauren teaches an Advanced Playwriting Lab at The New School in New York City, and she facilitates a poetry and performance workshop at Juilliard.