Vera Katz called me a week ago to give me the heads up on a reading she’s directing of a new work by Caleen Sinette Jennings. My ears immediately perked up. Caleen is a very talented playwright. I’ve shared the one-act festival stage with her at Source Theatre here in DC. There were those nights when I felt I was not worthy. I’ve come back for more of Caleen’s drama, even quoted from her characters. That’s when a playwright crosses over into sage.

The new work is titled UNS; it’s structured into 4 one-acts. I gave Caleen a call for the 4-1-1.

The prefix UN means, “not, removed, released, reversed”. UNDISCLOSED, UNMILKED, UNLEARNED and UNCOVERED, are four short plays about black women who are NOT responsible for their predicaments, and are REMOVED from the mainstream. Nevertheless, their energy is RELEASED. In the military, classroom, living room and in a post-Katrina backyard, they REVERSE the flow of power and triumph over their conditions.

I told Caleen about the recent Yale study siting that high-achieving African American women are more likely to remain single and childless. Michel Martin’s going to tackle that one on her NPR program “Tell Me More.” But if there’s any time to see a Caleen play, it’s after getting news like the Yale report.

Apparently the UNS reading is part of a larger festival, Page-to-STAGE, now in its 8th year at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. (Where have I been??) The festival features 3 days of free readings and open rehearsals of plays and musicals in the development stages by local, regional, and national playwrights, librettists, and composers.

Diedre Starnes (who was my dramatic reader for my first Big Read in 2007) will be reading for UNS. If there’s an actress you need to see here in Washington, DC, it’s Diedre. She’s wonderful.

UNS will be read Monday, September 7 at 2 PM in the Terrace Gallery at the Kennedy Center. The presenting theater is the African Continuum Theatre Company. For more information, visit the Page-to-Stage Festival website here.