October 19, 2022

Backstage at the Egyptian: Ted Williams III of 1619: The Journey of a People

Interview with playwright, professor and performer, Ted Williams III, of 1619: The Journey of a People.

KARYN: What can the audience expect to see at your show?

TED: Audiences will journey through 400 years of American history. Our work is both contemporary and reflective, therefore they will be challenged to connect the historic dots to our present reality. Additionally, they can expect to be moved by the music and dance in a way that hopefully inspires them to become a part of the movement for social justice.


K: What do you hope the audience takes away/understands after seeing your show?

T: Our work demonstrates how history shapes our present, while inspiring us towards a better future. With such high levels of racial inequality in our nation, each one of us can choose to be a part of the problem or the solution. I desire to inspire audiences towards the latter.


K: What is it like being able to bring this show to more communities?

T: We have been grateful to share the production with a host of audiences. Our audiences are diverse as there seems to be wide-reaching interest in the topics presented. We’ve done our show at Hampton University, near the site of the arrival of the first twenty enslaved Africans in 1619. We’ve also performed for groups as ideologically different as Operation Push, Wheaton College, Elmhurst College, and the Chicago Public Schools. African American history is American history. Therefore, in 1619: The Journey of a People, there is something truly in it for everyone.


K: How is the experience different when being involved in a show as a playwright, versus being involved as an actor?

T: I have the great privilege of working as both a playwright and actor in this production. It is quite challenging in some ways, yet highly empowering in others. I often have to stop myself from re-writing scenes while rehearsing as I’m constantly evaluating the message of the work. Yet, being able to embody and convey some of the content I’ve written brings me joy. It also brings me joy to see the other performers put their unique touch on this production as well.


K: What was your reaction to finding out you were nominated for an August Wilson Award?

T: I was extremely humbled by the honor. We work diligently to share an experience with audiences that is transformative. To be celebrated in this way is more than I could have imagined. We look forward to additional acknowledgements of this critical production.