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Rachael Simpson, sophomore at the University of Georgia and recipient of the 2019 New Georgia Award for Independent Theatre poses for a picture. (Photo/Maya Giro)

A compilation of poems rooted in Rachael Simpson’s love of writing turned into a play which awarded her the New Georgia Award for Independent Theatre. 

Simpson wrote her award-winning play “The Darker Side of the Rainbow” as a part of the week-long playwright workshop Amplify organized by the Black Theatrical Ensemble. Simpson said her team began working on the play at the end of February and will continue through the end of April. The show will run on April 23 and 24 in the Cellar Theatre in the Fine Arts Building.

“That’s my way of emotionally getting out how I feel, so it was basically a compilation of poems originally, and then it became a play,” said Simpson, a second-year University of Georgia theatre and journalism major.

Simpson said the play started off autobiographical, telling a story about Simpson and her home life. After receiving feedback and learning more about playwriting and character building from the Amplify workshop, it evolved into a different story.

The play is about a queer black girl in her mid-20s named Alexander, who’s also a college student and an artist. The play focuses on Alexander’s personal conflict in pursuing her art career and facing a loss, Simpson said.

The show is student-produced, and everyone on the team is an undergraduate student, she said.

“We’re all going in here blind, but we’re all ready to work,” Simpson said.

Simpson said she came into this process really nervous, recalling her emotional discovery and the tears she shed after finding out she won. She said the first step after winning involved taking a step back to make sure she was ready to produce the play.

Simpson originally had doubts about applying to the grant, and she said she wasn’t going to apply at first because she was finishing up participating in another play, BFE, and trying to catch up on school work. However, she eventually grew comfortable with the idea of applying.

Abraham Johnson, a senior theatre and English major, previously won the award and encouraged Simpson to apply.

“I asked her if she would ever consider writing anything, and I think she maybe brushed it off at first,” Johnson said. “And I kind of, a little bit, daunted her about it, until she submitted to a playwriting festival that I was running at the time, and that play went on to win the [award].”

The production team held appointment-based auditions, which wrapped up Feb. 14. Simpson said she wants to show others her journey and inspire them to write plays. She views this award as the beginning of her journey.

“It means that this is just the start. This is like, ‘You can do it’. This is a reminder that I’m not wasting my time, and I’m going in the right direction,” Simpson said.

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