Great Atlanta melting pot
Shorts in the Fall draws strength from diversity
Jocelyn Johnson is one of those people whose career necessitates a hyphen. She prefers to think of herself as a combination singer-writer who acts. As part of her more than 10-year Atlanta performance career, she’s sung background for Kandi Burruss, Monica Brown, and members of Prince’s New Power Generation Band and appeared in numerous musicals — most recently Motown Sound at Earl Smith Strand Theatre in Marietta. Other projects include ghostwriting a children’s book and writing and starring in play Soundtrack Covered in Black.
For Shorts in the Fall, Johnson fills the dual role of writer and director. Staged black box theater-style, the show combines four one-act plays into a night intended to engross an audience addicted to scrolling through minute-long food videos and polarizing political posts. It’s a patchwork performance of different topics and moods meant to exercise an emotional range. In one play, artsy creative types look at what it takes to be artsy creative types. In another, a child caught in the middle of domestic abuse meditates on the ordeal. Emotional rollercoaster only kind of covers it.
Johnson’s show is a diversity of diversity, perhaps. She says she wants to expose people to the variable world of one-act theater — where stories can be five or 55 minutes — as well as expand the biased narrative surrounding the black community. In contrast to the media’s stereotypical depictions of people of color, Johnson aims to tell authentic stories that encourage people to look at one another from the inside out. Atlanta’s arts scene is a melting pot, she says, willing to accept new ideas and always open to something new but where it’s also easy to get lost.
“Each of these stories says ‘I see you,’” Johnson told CL over email, “which is how all people want to feel anyway.”