On March 25th, The Woman Who Would Be King is making its way from South Africa all the way to Washington, DC. This one woman fictional play is inspired by the life of Hatshepsut, who is known as one of the greatest women in history. In this play, the audience will be able to step into the shoes of a woman who strategically mastered her adversities to emerge as the first female ruler of ancient Egypt.
“I’m very excited to bring my one woman show to the DMV-area,” Esosa E., Creator of The Woman Who Would Be King said, “Although I am from here, this is the first time I’ve had the privilege to share my work with the community. Hatshepsut’s story really resonates with me and I am honored to share it for Women’s History month. She’s a woman who defied the traditions of her time, took power, and ruled peacefully for over twenty years. Right now our world needs more stories and examples of female leadership.”
Esosa E. is an award winning producer, writer, actress, health expert and fashion designer. She has been named an “Afro-Renaissance Woman” by the Weekend Argus and a “Young African Visionary,” by Obaasema Magazine. She has been included in Applause Africa’s list of “30 Most Intriguing Africans in New York,” and featured in The Roots list of “10 African Artists and Entrepreneurs You Should Know.” Currently she plays the role of Ngozi on the hit international TV and web series An African City, which has been featured by the New York Times, BBC, NPR, CNN, Vogue, Ebony, ELLE Magazine and the list goes on. She is a woman with many talents and is constantly adding accolades to her resume. If you want to learn more about Esosa E, you can visit her website www.esosae.com.
What inspired you to to create this one woman play?
First of all I’ve always been fascinated with ancient Egypt, but at the same time very disturbed by media portrayals of Egyptians that overall deny or imply that Egyptians were not of African descent. The other thing is that as an actress I have seen a ton of one woman and one man shows that inspired me. I think the first one I saw that made me say “I want to do that!” was Whoopi Goldberg’s “The Spook Show.” I actually found the play and read it first and then somehow got my hands on the footage. Whoopi is so brilliant in it. I love Anna Deavere Smith, I’ve seen every single one of Roger Guenveur Smith’s one man shows including “Rodney King” which I hear is coming to Netflix soon, and Sarah Jones “Bridge & Tunnel” on Broadway was the most spectacular character work I’d ever seen. As an actress I haven’t yet been represented by an agent to audition for consistent work and so I’ve focused my career on creating my own opportunities. An Egyptian Queen was a role I knew I could play, so rather than waiting for someone to find me and cast me in it, I started writing.
When you initially envisioned “The Woman Who Would Be King”, what was the driving force?
I was driven by wanting to do justice to this woman, Hatshepsut’s story. I found it incredibly fascinating that she declared herself Pharaoh and ruled successfully for over twenty years only to have an attempt to completely erase her from history. We all know about Nefertiti, Cleopatra, but Hatshepsut is just as if not more important, because she was trailblazer for women in power.
How was showing the play in South Africa? Has there been/Do you expect a different response/reaction here in the states? In what ways are they similar or different?
Having the opportunity to premiere the play in South Africa was incredible. I hadn’t exactly planned it, but I ended up there, fell in love with South Africa, and it made sense to have a play about an African woman, an African story premiere in Africa. I got an overwhelmingly positive response, so I am really grateful about that. I was scared when a group came to see the play from the Egyptian Society in South Africa, but they really loved it, and so I felt confident that I’d done the research I need to do, while of course taking creative license. South Africa and the U.S. are very similar in a lot of ways in that South Africa is the “U.S. of Africa.” People come from all over the continent to make a better life there, and so I met incredible people from everywhere: Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Angola, and more. They do still have underlying racial tensions that you can feel from apartheid, just as America still does from slavery and segregation. We unfortunately also now share something else in common with South Africa, as the President who has been holding onto power is extremely corrupt, abuses government funds, and is a misogynist.
What do you hope to accomplish/inspire with “The Woman Who Would Be King” play in the future?
After this production I’d love to continue touring it wherever people will have me! I’d love to perform at the Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center, take it to Richmond to the Black History Museum, and also take it over to Los Angeles. The big dream of all dreams is The Public Theater in New York City and maybe also The West End in London. I studied Shakespeare at the Public Theater and have been in deep love with that theater and the work I have seen there ever since.
How do you want the audience to feel after seeing this play?
I hope they feel compelled to do more research on Hatshepsut, and hope they feel inspired to empower and encourage their daughters, sisters, or female friends to go for whatever it is they want. But above all it’s a story that at its core is about having a dream and manifesting it against all odds; I think anyone can be inspired by that.
Are there themes in “The Woman Who Would Be King” that may draw parallels to our current political climate? How so?
It’s funny because I thought that when my play debuted in America we may have a sitting female president, but that’s not the case. Regardless the play is about power, and the maneuvering one may undertake to achieve power even if it requires “alternative facts.” I think that mirrors our political climate for sure. The other aspect is that it is about a woman who since her youth had to deny her talent and clear ability to lead just because her society deemed it unacceptable. Hatshepsut had to create a persona and she even told the lie that her family lineage was Divine. In essence to take power and make people more comfortable with a woman ruling she said she was the spawn of a God.
We know that our true history has been hidden from us in the past. How do you think we as a culture can make it more of a priority to learn and teach the facts of our heritage as opposed to the narrative that’s been drilled into our American school system?
It’s so important that we start teaching our kids to not take as fact everything they read, and that we acknowledge that “history” can change depending on the perspective the story is told from. It’s dangerous to have history told in our school systems that only comes from one perspective. In order to achieve a diverse narrative we all have to step up and do our part to work to introduce new curriculums and information. We also have to take the time to do our own self-study and teach our young ones what they need to know. One of the things I would love to do with this play given the funding is to create a curriculum around African rulers and ancient African empires and take it into more schools. It is not fair or healthy to begin Black history in schools with the slave narrative. Children need to know that they are the descendants of Kings and Queens as well. For now, I will be visiting Bell Multicultural High School in Columbia Heights this month to perform the play, and I look forward to having the opportunity to share with the kids.