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Mr. Leslie Lee lectures at the University of Connecticut

 Digital Record


  • 1987 September 29


Introduced by Leon Bailey, Mr. Lee provided some details about his background and the type of writing, the multiple media in which he writes and his preferences based on the amount of control he has over his writing. Playwright Leslie Lee delivered a lecture on 9/29/1987 (2015-0002/RR214). Leslie Lee was an American playwright, director and professor of playwriting and screenwriting.

Biographical / Historical

Playwright Leslie Lee delivered a lecture on 9/29/1987 (2015-0002/RR214). Leslie Lee was an American playwright, director and professor of playwriting and screenwriting. Archives & Special Collections, University of Connecticut Library Leslie Lee was born in 1930 and grew up in West Conshohocken, Pennsylvania. He earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Pennsylvania and a master's degree from Villanova University.

Lee's early theatre experience was at Ellen Stewart's La Mama Experimental Theatre Club in the East Village, Manhattan. His play Elegy for a Down Queen was produced at La MaMa in 1970 and in 1972 by John Vaccaro's Playhouse of the Ridiculous. Cops and Robbers was produced at La MaMa in 1971 by La MaMa GPA Nucleus Company. 1997 marked the beginning of Mr. Lee's theatre collaboration (spanning twenty years) with his Dramatic Writing Student from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts whom he deemed his protégé, Sophia Romma (née Murashkovsky). Lee directed Sophia Murashkovsky's play, Love, In the Eyes of Hope, Dies Last which was produced at La MaMa in 1997, and he also directed Sophia Murashkovsky's critically acclaimed play, Coyote Take Me There! at La MaMa in 1999. In 2004, Leslie Lee directed Ms. Murashkovsky's epic, mystic play, Defenses of Prague at La MaMa. Mr. Lee continued to successfully collaborate in the theatre with Dr. Sophia Romma and in 2006, directed her heart-wrenching émigré saga, Shoot Them In the Cornfields! which premiered at the American Theatre of Actors. Mr. Lee, who seldom took on the role of director, believed that Dr. Romma's unique staccato lyrical voice, her poignant themes of advocating for multicultural tolerance, religious, ethnic and minority acceptance, and most importantly her stark depictions of the trials and tribulations of immigration/assimilation were well worth exploring on the theatrical stage. Ms. Murashkovsky (Romma) in turn, directed Mr. Lee's short play, We're Not Here to Talk About Beethoven at John McTiernan's New York Performance Works. Lee also worked with the Negro Ensemble Company along with Sophia Romma, who served as Literary Manager of NEC.

His significant work includes his history play Colored People's Time, a production of which featured Angela Bassett and Samuel L. Jackson, and Hannah Davis. He received a 1975 Obie Award for Best Play, a 1976 Tony Award nomination for Best Play, and an Outer Circle Critics Award for his play First Breeze of Summer. In 2006, the Negro Ensemble Company produced his play Sundown Names and Night Gone Things, based on Richard Wright's life in 1930s Chicago, featuring Stephen Tyrone Williams and Dewanda Wise. In 2008, the Signature Theatre Company produced a revival of First Breeze of Summer, directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson and starring Leslie Uggams, Brandon J. Dirden and Jason Dirden, and Yaya DaCosta.

Lee's film credits include Almos' A Man, an adaptation starring LeVar Burton of a Richard Wright story; The Killing Floor, which won first prize at the National Black Film Consortium; and an adaptation (with Gus Edwards) of James Baldwin's novel Go Tell It On The Mountain, starring Paul Winfield and Rosalind Cash.

Lee taught playwriting at the College of Old Westbury on Long Island, New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, The New School's Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts, and the Frederick Douglass Creative Arts Center in Manhattan, where he and Sophia Romma taught playwriting and screenwriting workshops under the leadership of Ray Gaspard, Kermit Frazier, and Marc Henry Johnson. He was a playwright-in-residence at the University of Pennsylvania, and received grants from the Shubert Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the National Foundation of the Arts.

He received a playwriting fellowship from the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in Connecticut. In 2009, he was sponsored by a Likhachev Foundation grant to travel to Russia and complete a screenplay on Alexander Pushkin.

Mr. Lee died January 20, 2014.

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1 Reels (Magnetic tape audio recordings) : RR 214 1 reel, 1:20:10; tape speed 3¾ IPS; track position ½-Track Mono; Substrate: Polyester.

Existence and Location of Originals

Original audio recordings reside in the University of Connecticut, Black Experience in the Arts Collection, Archives & Special Collections, UConn Library.

Repository Details

Part of the Archives and Special Collections, University of Connecticut Library Repository

University of Connecticut Library
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Storrs Connecticut 06269-1205 USA US