My Way to Roundabout

Posted on: October 7th, 2014 by Jeff Augustin

Augustin-Jeff---HeadshotIn Haiti, at night, entire villages gather around fires and candlelight to listen to folklore whispered by a single storyteller. My family carried that tradition with them to the states, where my six older siblings and I grew up listening to magical and fantastical stories, many based on religious and voodoo figures. I never knew what was real or supernatural, or if the supernatural was just as real as I. In these stories, characters were constantly running from their family and their land in search for a new identity. But in a world where spirits, deities, and God guide life, these characters were bound to their destinies.

These oral and mythical traditions are what brought me to where I am today. The other worldliness, the power of language, the poetry and rhythm inspired me to write all of my plays, and had perhaps it’s strongest impact on Little Children Dream of God. But I spent the first twenty-some years of my life running from this play, and from a life in the theatre altogether.

I didn’t do theatre in high school. It wasn’t a thing that a kid from Overtown Miami did. So instead my artistic outlet became singing/rapping along to Lauryn Hill (before she went crazy) and performing Spoken Word trying to emulate Lemon Andersen, Staceyann Chin, and Saul Williams.  Many of my poems came from an anger I felt towards “white hetero capitalist America.” So I did what any good revolutionary would and moved to Boston to attend a Catholic school (Boston College—go Eagles!) and study to become a corporate lawyer. But of course, something inside me (and I suppose a pesky fine arts requirement) made me register for Intro to Theatre, and it might have been the fun parties, or maybe the fact that now famous movie critic Richard Lawson was the cool senior I hoped to one day be, but I was hooked.

Fast forward five years, I’m living broke in New York City (at least back then Brooklyn was still affordable… sort of), I’ve just finished my third literary internship, and in a desperate attempt to actually make some money while still being around new plays, I started a soul sucking job as an agent’s assistant. A steady income (not to mention quitting my job at The Gap) was nice, and despite the aforementioned soul-suckery I made some great friends and got to interface with some of the country’s top artists, but something was still missing. I decided it was time to slip off my business-casual wear and stop running.

I applied to grad school and was fortunate to be accepted to my top choice, University of California San Diego, to study with the inspiring and caring Naomi Iizuka.  Every year at UCSD there is a new play festival featuring full productions of plays by all the MFA playwrights. As part of the festival, we invite ten theatre professionals from around the country to see our shows (and, if you’re really lucky, you get to have dinner with one of the playwrights at the local Applebee’s after their show). Jill Rafson was one of our guests my second year, the year we did Little Children Dream of God.

Jill became a big advocate for the play. She scheduled a reading of the play in November for the artistic staff at Roundabout. I flew out, happily catching some east coast fall breezes (something I missed deeply during my time in California), and returned to the west coast at the end of the weekend, opting to fly into LA to visit some friends and take a few days before returning to provincial La Jolla. I figured I wouldn’t hear anything for weeks—possibly months—and that it’d be best to take my mind off of things.

But on the train back to San Diego, mere days after the reading, I got the call from Jill, Robyn Goodman, and Josh Fiedler saying they’re going to program the play in the Underground. I would’ve screamed and jumped up & down, but I hate making a scene when in transit. (But I did go out dancing that night to celebrate!)

A few months later, thanks to a generous grant from the Tow Foundation, I found out I would be Roundabout’s first playwright-in-residence. Which means for the next year I’ll have health insurance, a living stipend, funds to see theatre and travel for research – in other words I can spend the year exploring the magical and fantastical, the real and supernatural. I can be what I dreamt of being as a child, a storyteller.


To learn more about Little Children Dream of God and the Roundabout Underground program, please visit our website.

Related Categories:
2014-2015 Season, Little Children Dream of God, Roundabout Underground

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