Playwright | Dramaturge | Director
Education & Teaching
Denise J. Hart, Professor at Howard University, currently serving as the area coordinator of Playwriting advising playwriting and TV/film students.
She has previously held academic positions at St. Mary's College, 2019 Visiting Professor, where she taught in the Department of Theatre, Film and Media Studies. She's also taught at American University and Duke Ellington School of the Arts. Her professional experience includes TV Drama Limited Series Development Consultant and TV Drama Development Consultant at Amazon Studios.
Her specialties include Playwriting, TV Scriptwriting, Dramaturgy, African American Theatre, Contemporary Trends in Theatre, Aesthetics of Black Television Drama and Theatre Criticism.
Recipient of the 2021 Provost's Distinguished Service Award and the 2018 Outstanding Associate Professor, Denise holds an MFA in Playwriting from Sarah Lawrence College where she was awarded the Lipkin Prize for Playwriting. She is also the recipient of the 2014 Global Leadership Rising Star award and from 2018-2020 she was the president of the Division of Fine Arts Executive Committee and chair of the transition team for the reinstatement of the College of Fine Arts. She acquired her BFA in Acting from Howard University where she was the president (95/96) of the historic Howard Players drama organization.
Her training in TV scriptwriting was completed at Script Anatomy in Los Angeles CA; and comedy writing at Second City Chicago and Upright Citizens Brigade NYC.
One of the highlights of Hart's career has been serving as a faculty-fellow in the innovative partnership program between Howard University and Amazon Studios, Howard Entertainment. The program focuses on diversifying the entertainment industry.
In 2019, she was appointed Visiting Professor at St. Mary's College and in 2022 she participated in the Unexpected Stage Company's Artist Retreat for BIPOC Playwrights.
Hart's scholarly research focuses on stories that center the African American Experience. As a playwright and dramaturge her work explores the intersections of race, class and identity, and the impact they have on cultural memory and family. Her scholarship is driven by a commitment to document and preserve under researched narratives in the history of Black Theatre, particularly black playwrights.
Monograph (Works in Progress): Mecca Made: Howard University Theatre Production 1904-1949, is a retrospective of theatre produced at Howard University. Six chapters plus an introduction, each chapter will chronicle a 10 year period of theatre production at Howard, including the formative years of theatre which was largely led by the students from 1904-1919. Followed by the Locke/Gregory period with the creation of the Howard Players and the non-degree granting Department of Dramatic Art from 1920 -1924 and the struggle-to-keep-theatre-alive-period from 1925-1944, ending with 1944-1949 when Anne Cook arrived on the Howard Campus and her 5 year zenith to create the first degree granting Department of Drama which began in September 1950.
In 2018 Hart was selected to contribute her scholarly research in the Routledge Companion to African American Theatre and Performance in the chapter, The Howard University Players: From Respectability Politics to Black Representation.
Coordinator of the Playwriting program at Howard University, Hart is the recipient of several international playwriting honors and awards: This Joy, (former finalist in the Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights competition and the Lark Fellowship,) Nothing to Lose (finalist 2018 Bay Area Playwrights, former finalist in Black and Latino Playwrights Conference) Sistah Girl, Masquerade Parade, Ring the Bell, My Soul is a Witness (winner of ECTC playwriting competition), The Last Day, In the Realm of Shadows, Chasing Forever, Peace Declared, and A Real Black Comedy.
Dramaturge/Researcher - Ford's Theatre "An Evening with Johnathon White"
An Evening with Johnathon White will take place at Ford's Theatre in Washington DC, February 2024.
Dramaturge/Researcher - Rhyme Deferred by Kamilah Forbes, Howard University Department of Theatre Arts
On Friday September 29, 2023 at Howard University, Al Freeman Environmental Theatre Space, dramaturge, Denise J. Hart moderated the "Never Thought it Would Last" dramaturgy talkback for the production of Ryhme Deferred written by Kamilah Forbes. Guest panelists were Coordinator of Art istory, Dr. Melanie Harvey, Coordinator of Fashion Design at Howard University, Elka Stevens, Hip Hop archivist Tim Jones, Hip Hope Cultural Curator Priest and actor Greg A. Reid. Priest and Reid were original members of the team who supported the creation of the play.
Masterclass Intensive Acting Techniques - PG County Film Festival, September 2023
Learn the ins and outs to get started and navigate an actor's career, from auditions to casting. From scene study and table reads to production and reshoots, we will cover this celebrated career's good, bad and ugly. Attendees learned audition techniques for on camera comfort, confidence and how to make meaningful character and story choices. Plus, how to analyze text to bring characters to life.
TV Scriptwriting Intensive: Def Creative Lab, Stone Mountain GA, July 2023
Summer 2023, I taught a day long TV Scriptwriting intensive in Stone Mountain Georgia for students in the Def Creative Lab program!
Dramaturge/Researcher - Ford's Theatre "Taking Center Stage: Under-told Stories in the American Theatre", Washington DC
Dramaturge Panelist for the Ford’s Theatre Legacy Commissions which will serve as an artistic incubator for stories about social justice and racial history and explore the varied experiences of underrepresented characters and lesser-known historical figures and their contributions to American life. This free, three-day public festival of readings provided a preview of new plays in development with members of our first cohort of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) playwrights in The Ford’s Theatre Legacy Commissions initiative.
Dramaturge/Researcher - The Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Howard University, Washington DC
Dramaturge Consultant - Brown Girl Brownstone, Shakespeare Theatre, Washington DC
Fellowship: Amazon Studios TV Drama Limited Series Development Consultant
Amazon Studios TV Drama Limited Series Development Consultant
The Multi-Dimensionality of Mountaintop: Martin Luther King as More than an Icon Weston Playhouse, Weston, VT
Dramaturge Consultant: 1960 Television Drama adaptation of the novel, Brown Girl Brownstone, Shakespeare Theatre, Washington DC, DC
Dramaturge Panelist: Taking Center Stage: Under-told Stories in the American Theatre, A First Look Ford's Theatre Legacy Commission, various, Ford's Theatre, Washington DC
Development Dramaturge/TV writing consultant
Dramaturge/TV writing consultant - Black Girl You've Been Gentrified," Epoch Films, New York Public Radio, The Greene Space, New York, NY. (July 1, 2021 - February 8,2023).
2020 Featured Playwright/Speaker - Penn State African American Read In
Featured playwright/speaker for the 2020 Penn State African American Read In.
2019 Chapter in Routledge Companion to African American Theatre and Performance
Howard, like many HBCUs, held fast to the belief that respectability politics, or the presentation of Eurocentric acceptable standards of appearance and behavior, would protect Black people from prejudices and systemic injustices. This chapter examines how the “respectability” framework shaped the plays produced by the Howard Players from 1919 to the mid-1960s; it also reviews how this paradigm of respectability shifted as a result of the Black Power movement of the 1960s into the 1970s.
Mosaic Theatre: Twisted Melodies - post production panelist
Mosaic Theatre: Post show panelist for the production Twisted Melodies: HBCUs: A Home for Black Artists. focused on Howard University, and other HBCUs, as a nurturing ground for black artists.
Beyond Respectability Politics - the Evolution of Black Theatre at Howard University
Presenter at 2017 32nd Annual Black Theatre Network conference: Liberation Theatre When Black Theatre Works, Memphis TNIn 2015 The Dramatist Guild released a report stating that only 3.4% of the produced plays in the US were by women of color and 6% were by men of color, which sheds light on the necessity of HBCU’s to lead the charge of black people being exposed to stories on stage that reflect the black experience. This presentation will shed light on the importance of the Howard Players and the trajectory that led to their definitive role in the advancement of the black experience on stage. Attention will also be given to the organization’s early years, when there was an adherence to “respectability politics" and a resulting smattering of plays written by black playwrights, and the shift in the late ’60’s, which resulted in the Department producing more plays by black playwrights.
Blackademics TV Scholar Media Coach
Professor Denise J. Hart serves as a Scholar Media Coach for Blackademics TV, where top Black Studies and other scholars, artists and activists share projects and research focused on education, performance and empowerment.2019 - Professor Hart presenting on "Beyond Respectability Politics" at University of Texas Blackademics TV. https://www.pbs.org/video/starr-morris-hart-yyilyj/2019 - Professor Hart presenting on "Beyond Respectability Politics" at University of Texas Blackademics TV. Scholars coached by Professor Hart include: Dr. Paula Gerstenblatt, Dr. Robert Adams, Dr. Victor B. Sáenz, Dr. Venus E. Evans-Winters, Chef Kabui, Dr. Kevin Foster https://www.pbs.org/video/gerstenblattconwayshoberman-2jbsvx/2017 - Professor Hart served as Scholar Media Coach for the presenters at University of Texas Blackademics TV. Scholars coached by Professor Hart include: Dr. Sharrell Luckett, Yewande K. Austin, Rolf Straubhaar and Tequia Hicks Delgadohttp://www.pbs.org/video/tinsley-mann-austin-cvr7i8/http://www.pbs.org/… 2016 - Professor Hart served as Scholar Media Coach for the presenters at University of Texas Blackademics TV. Her episode was nominated for a Lone Star Emmy. http://www.pbs.org/video/blackademics-tv-ulmer-wests-smiths/2015 - Professor Hart presenting on "Not just Black Excellence" at University of Texas Blackademics TV http://www.pbs.org/video/blackademics-tv-foster-hart/
Genealogical Roots within Flyin' West by Pearl Cleage
2019 Dramaturgy Production Symposium facilitator and presenter for Flyin' West by Pearl Cleage to support production in the Department of Theatre Arts.