Atlanta's Movers and Shakers: Aubrey-Simone Williams
A few weeks ago, Atlanta Film and TV had the pleasure of having a virtual conversation with TV Producer, Author, Playwright, and Entrepreneur, Aubrey-Simone Williams. Ms. Williams has an extensive resume which includes, one of two founding theater directors at Charles R. Drew Charter Schoool, serving as a professional stage manager, lighting designer, acting coach, and director. Currently, Aubrey-Simone is the founder of TheACTivists Theater Company and currently serves as a Senior Producer at Fox Digital (Fox Soul).
Atlanta Film and TV: Can you tell us who Aubrey-Simone Williams is, and what it is you do in the Atlanta Film and Television industry?
Aubrey-Simone Williams: I am the founder of a theater production company called
TheACTivists, LLC, which is a production company for social justice issues. It is a safe space for all creatives to share their stories and educate those around them.
I am also the senior producer for Fox Digital (Fox Soul ) TV. Fox Soul is a niche network developed by James Dubose and is a talk show platform where we have raw, unfiltered, and uncensored discussions about taboos within the black community.
Atlanta Film and TV: You have an extensive theater background. Could you tell us a little bit about how you got your start to where you are now? How did your journey lead you to where you are now?
"I began writing stage plays at eight-years-old. My mother was an entrepreneur, and her friends owned daycare centers. I was a child that glued everyone in the center with some art form since I was always writing, creating, or coming up with dances. I would gather all the kids together and tell them that we were going to put on a play that I wrote." - Aubrey Simone Williams
Later, I attended a performing arts high school and studied theater. I tried acting until I realized that it wasn't my strongest suit. I do, however, enjoy acting, but I am also a black woman with a mental illness, not always seeing myself as the characters I portrayed. But I knew I had to learn how to portray a character in order for me to know how to direct actors.
From there, I ended up transferring to a regular public school and graduated at the age of sixteen. I went to Clark-Atlanta University my freshman year and was declared a theater major. While at Clark Atlanta, I did a few stage-management gigs. Eventually, I transferred to Georgia State University and was declared a theater major, and while there I did a lot of outside internships and volunteered with several of the surrounding theaters, and I also did a few pop-up mini productions.
Once I graduated, I pursued a few professional opportunities in theatre - but of course, in theater, you don’t get paid a lot if you don’t have the experience. I worked for smaller theatre companies and was doing a lot of freelance work, such as production and stage management. I realized I was a good micromanager, and detail-oriented, and that I was great at organizing. Though I may not have everything together with myself, I know how to keep it together while working on a production.
Later, I decided to pursue a graduate degree in African-American Studies. At the time, I was interested in identity and wanted to know why I never studied about Amiri Baraka, August Wilson, or Lynn Nottage and all the playwrights that looked like me. So, I began to dig into the Black Arts Movement, and that is when I declared my major in Africana Studies at Georgia State University.
"Once I told my professors that I was going to write a theater thesis, they looked at me and asked, 'you're going to do what?' I repeated myself and their response was, 'I don't know how you expect us to help you with that, but we're going to try and figure it out.' I was dead set on writing a theatre thesis, and I think for a while my professors loved my determination but didn't think I would really pull it off. One of my professors on my research committee helped to merge everything when it came to the creative and the logical aspects of my thesis. In the end, I was able to have the first-ever performance-based thesis in the history of the department. Now, the department models every artistic thesis after my work." - Aubrey-Simone Williams
After graduating, I taught at Charles R. Drew Charter School in Atlanta. Once I got to Drew Charter School, I made sure all my students knew that I was there to build a theatre program and that it was not just going to be your "typical" theatre class. I let them know they would be acting and producing shows as if they were professionals. I wanted to give them hands-on experience. The kids were taught everything, down to lighting design. My goal was to teach my students life skills and made sure that we put on at least one performance a year. I also took them to study abroad in the United Kingdom, where I also studied. It showed my students how theater shaped me, and I believe what I did for my students had an impact on a lot of them. I recently had two students text me the other day to let me know they changed their major to theatre or film and television.
I started my theater company while I taught at Drew Charter School. At first, I was reluctant to step out on faith because I was comfortable with teaching. That was until Ms. Erica Respress saw what I was doing with my production, Black Matter, and told me that I had more potential than just teaching, and pushed me to start my business. Eventually, I got my LLC, created a logo. We started the theater company with a few students and my best friend Nana who had his own dance company called Adinkra Dance. We eventually partnered with Cyd from The Tiny Theater Company. Now, we’re one big entity. Together, where we have toured shows, and have done theater festivals such as the Atlanta Black Theater Festival and the Rochester Fringe Fest. It has been a blessing in terms of where I started versus where I am now.
My production Black Matter got the attention of one of the executives at Fox. They were interested in what I was doing, and before I knew it, I moved to LA in 2018 to work for Fox Soul, and now we are turning Black Matter into a documentary that we are going to pitch!
Atlanta Film and TV: Most people know what they want to do as a child. Was this the case for you? If so, what were some of the things you did as a child for you to gain your interest in theater and or television?