Geffen Playhouse launches a project with Sterling K. Brown, Tarell Alvin McCraney

The Geffen Playhouse
(Robert Lachman / Los Angeles Times)

The Geffen Playhouse has started an artist residency with a group of actors and writers including Emmy winner Sterling K. Brown (“This Is Us”), Glenn Davis (“Billions”), Brian Tyree Henry (“Atlanta”), Jon Michael Hill (“Widows”), André Holland (“Moonlight”) and Oscar winner Tarell Alvin McCraney (“Moonlight”).

Working under the name Cast Iron Entertainment, the artist cohort has been given the resources and dramaturgical support to develop theater projects. As a collective of black artists, Cast Iron will focus on projects centered on the experiences of artists of color, Davis said. “We feel like the theater world needs that.”

The year-long residency began in December and is the first of its kind at the Geffen, with the artists receiving full creative control and no stipulation to produce work.


“Our goal is to give them the space they need to create,” said Geffen Artistic Director Matt Shakman.

“Most times when you sponsor a group of artists, there’s a sense of quid pro quo, and you need to come up with something,” Davis said. But with the Geffen residency, “there is no end game in sight.”

The artists met more than 10 years ago at the Sundance Theatre Lab as part of the cast developing McCraney’s “Wig Out!” They approached Shakman about finding space to create in 2018, and the Geffen launched the residency after securing funding from the Pop Culture Collaborative and Steward Family Foundation.

Glenn Davis, right, with Brad Fleischer, left, and Kevin Tighe in Rajiv Joseph's "Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo" at Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City in 2009. Davis said a new Geffen Playhouse residency is a step toward addressing an inclusion problem in the theater world.
(Ringo H.W. Chiu / For The Times)

The residency provides the opportunity to “throw a few things against the wall and see what sticks,” Davis said.

“Hopefully something comes out of it ... but if that doesn’t happen, at the very least we all got a chance to get in the same room and work together and we have our own agency. There is no one else telling us what to do.”


Working with Cast Iron Entertainment is exciting, said the Geffen’s executive director, Gil Cates Jr.

“Regardless of what comes out of it, the fact that we were able to pull this off is already a success,” he said. “To have this unconditional creative think tank with no pressure from delivering anything is already a win.”

In the realm of film, television and theater, “a lot of times we’re brought in to add color to a world or to a space and not necessarily be the reason the thing is happening in the first place,” Davis said.

Working together through the residency, “there might be a project about someone who’s black or brown — or anything in between — that is not necessarily going to be a Broadway show or get the eyes on it that it would if the lead of the project were white.”

“Hamilton’s” journey from stage to screen might set a precedent for future productions and normalize the practice of capturing live shows for worldwide release.

Feb. 3, 2020