Howard alum grapples with the death of his father in new Mosaic Theater play “Dear Mapel”


Howard University alumnus Psalmayene 24 is one of our top young playwrights, embarking on a three-year term as playwright in residence at the Mosaic Theater in northeast DC.

Jason Fraley from OMCP presents “Dear Mapel” (part 1)

Howard University alumnus Psalmayene 24 is one of our top young playwrights, embarking on a three-year term as playwright in residence at the Mosaic Theater in northeast DC.

This week, he is performing in a studio his play “Dear Mapel” streaming until January 18th.

“You have a chance to see how the sausage is made, a chance to look under the hood,” Psaume told OMCP. “Even though it’s a little over half the room, it still looks like a full meal. You still get a feel for the start, middle, and end, even in this part that we’re sharing before we go ahead and give people the full production this fall.

Instead of staging it at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, the play was filmed by director Natsu Onoda Power with playwright Jocelyn Clarke and percussionist Jabari Exum.

“When you see the stream, we didn’t do it in a theater with people, we actually shot it at Baby Wale, which is a restaurant that the director co-owns with her husband,” he said. he declares. “The director does some really exciting things with animation and plays with form.”

The play explores Psalm’s relationship with his late father through a series of letters (real and imagined) and asks if we can alter our relationships with those who have died.

“I didn’t meet him for the first time until I was 12,” he said. “We fell out and walked away. Then 17 years later, after writing a letter, I heard from him, we reconciled and we logged out again. Years later, I was on, made a connection with a cousin, and found out that my father had in fact passed away three years earlier.

Indeed, Mapel Chance died in May 2014, but Psalm did not hear about it until October 2017.

“You can only imagine the heartache and the mixture of emotions I felt when I heard this news… struggling with his absence in my life, then the heartache of losing your father”, a- he declared. “It was all weighing heavily on me, so I decided to do something creative with everything I was feeling and create this piece as a way to connect with Mapel beyond the grave.”

Psalm calls this the show he’s been afraid to write and perform for years.

“It’s like asking a flower, ‘Why did you decide to flower?’ “, he said. “It was just the right time. I felt in my soul that it was time to tell this story. I’ve written eight or nine full-length plays and countless short plays, but this is the first time I’ve decided to write a play about my life where I’m the protagonist and the people in my life are the main characters, so it’s scary. “

The trailer is in direct fire as Psalm roams his own playing field, declaring, “I am an incorrigible maverick, an urban fabulist, a black American alchemist, a rhythm maven, a peaceful scoundrel animator, a nocturnal creature, an ancient storyteller. “

“We went to Brooklyn and the neighborhood where I grew up,” he said. “We visited my father’s grave for the first time. There was a surprise waiting for us at the cemetery, which I will not give now. People will have to wait for full production. I have to go write this story and finish the play with what happened in the cemetery.

After growing up in Brooklyn, Psalm moved to Washington to study at Howard University.

“I have always been a creative kid,” he said. “I got into hip-hop dancing, and then I started playing in school plays. Then I went down to DC to go to college and eventually stumbled into writing because I didn’t see the types of roles I wanted to see in terms of portrayal for black artists, so I decided to try my hand at writing mine.

He landed the Mosaic residency last summer thanks to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

“It’s a three-year job where I’m basically paid to write, I’m an employee, I have health insurance,” he said. “The timing couldn’t have been better because this thing just started in July. … The pandemic was still fresh, so the timing was really fortuitous. “

What other projects does he plan for the rest of his residency?

“One is to dive back into ‘Les Deux Noirs’, which is about the relationship between James Baldwin and Richard Wright in a Parisian cafe after they argued over Baldwin’s reviews of ‘Native Son’,” did he declare. “Another is a musical about Marion Barry, which I’m delighted to immerse myself in. He is such a fascinating, intriguing, provocative and polarizing man.

OMCP’s Jason Fraley presents “Dear Mapel” (Part 2)

Listen to our full conversation here.


Comments are closed.