Justin Emeka, director

        Justin Emeka is a member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society and uses artistic and cultural innovation to create high quality, thoughtful, entertaining theatre--specializing in new approaches to "classic” texts, as well as imaginative staging of popular and emerging playwrights.  Off-Broadway credits include A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Romeo and Juliet at Classical Theatre of Harlem; Regional theatre productions include:  Stick Fly at Intiman Theatre in Seattle;  Detroit ’67 at Karamu House in Cleveland; A Raisin in the Sun at the Oberlin Summer Theatre Festival.  At Oberlin College he directed Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman; Dominique Morisseau's Follow Me To Nellie's; Shakespeare's Macbeth; Alice Childress's Wedding Band; and Gabriel Emeka's The Compromise.  At the University of Washington Ethnic Cultural Theatre he directed Tennessee William's The Glass Menagerie; Amiri Baraka's Dutchman; and Aishah Rahman's Unfinished Women Cry in No Man's Land While a Bird Dies in a Guilded Cage.   At Yale Repertory Theater he served as the movement coordinator and played the role of Edgar in a unique African-American production of King Lear starring Avery Brooks.   He helped found the Oberlin Summer Theater Festival where he directed and/or performed in A Raisin in the Sun, Crumbs from the Table of Joy, and The Glass Menagerie. He is also a writer and has recieved awards in playwriting from the Seattle Arts Commission, and screenwriting from the Washington State Film Commission.  He recently published an essay "Seeing Shakespeare through Brown Eyes" in the book "Black Acting Methods:  Critical Approaches".   Mr. Emeka is a Drama League Fellow, and is also a tenured professor of Theatre (Directing & Acting) and Africana Studies at Oberlin College.


History

        Justin began his career as an actor at the age of 12 performing on stage, in commercials, as well as educational films.  He was a member of SAG, AFTRA, and Equity before developing his passion for directing.   He founded Jungle Creations, a Seattle company of urban performance artists that created original theatrical work at night clubs, schools, conferences, and festivals such as Pressure: A Hip-Hop Theater Experience; The Revolution will not be Televised, and Where the Wild Things At.   The Mayor's Office of Seattle and Seattle Theater Group recognized his talent and invited him to create a city-wide theatrical commemoration of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade involving orginal poetry, dance, and drama.  Working with his brother, he developed an original script, Sankofa Theater, and engaged professional and community artists; involving over 100 performers from Seattle, New York, and South Africa.   Mr. Emeka was also a recipient of the Seattle Arts Commission Literary Fellowship in playwriting and The Washington State Film Commission Screenwriting Award. 

       Later, he attended the University of Washington School of Drama for Directing--at the same time serving as the Artistic Director for the UW Ethnic Cultural Theater where he directed and/or produced works such as: Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide…;  Leroi Jones's Dutchman; Errol John's Moon on a Rainbow Shawl;  Aisha Rahman’s Unfinished Women Cry in No-Man’s Land While a Bird Dies in a Gilded Cage, in addition to numerous student plays.    In his second year as a graduate student, Yale Repertory Theater invited him to serve as the movement coordinator and play the role of Edgar in a unique African-American production of King Lear directed by Hal Scott.  This experience inspired him to begin incorporating unique cultural perspectives in Shakespeare as a director.  For his thesis production of Macbeth, he re-imagined the setting incorporating an African-American presence and set it in the American South just after the Civil War.

       After receiving his MFA in directing in 2005, he became a professor of theater and Africana Studies at Oberlin College while continuing to direct professionally both on campus and off.  At the Karamu House in Cleveland, OH he directed Julius X, an adaptation of Julius Caesar based on the life of Malcolm X written by Al Letson, Jr.  In Seattle, he directed Living History at the Intiman Theatre; and at Oberlin College.  In 2012, he directed playwright Dominique Morrisseau's regional premiere of Follow Me to Nellie's.   He also developed a new play, The Compromise by Gabriel Emeka, that explored the relationship of W.E.B. Dubois and Booker T. Washington.   He served as an Artistic Associate at the Classical Theater of Harlem and also helped start a summer profesional company, the Oberlin Summer Theater Festival.  Some of the artists that have had the largest impact on his work and vision include:  Avery Brooks, Regina Taylor, Valerie Curtis-Newton, Tim Bond, and Spike Lee.