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By Brian Robin

A Creative Answer to ‘Bullying’

Reggie D. White began his writing career because he was bullied. Not the kind of hectoring that sends its target to a secret journal to pour out their frustrations and feelings.

The kind of coercion that leads to the creation of a new voice.

“I was bullied into writing by two good friends of mine: Colman Domingo and noted playwright Lauren Gunderson, over a decade ago,” he remembered “They came up to me separately and said ‘I think you’re a writer.’ I told them I didn’t think I was, but they wouldn’t give up. Colman even gave me an award named after him with the express purpose of me delivering a script at the end of the tenure of my award.”

And thus, the first draft of Fremont Ave. was born. The play is one of the selected readings for this year’s Pacific Playwrights Festival. The nationally recognized annual showcase of new playwriting talent is May 3-5.

Fremont Ave.’s reading takes the Julianne Argyros Stage Saturday, May 4 at 10:30 a.m. It tells a story about three generations of men and the rock that holds them all together—through one house. In the 1960s, George buys a house in Southern California. Years later, his stepson Robert is still living there, but itching to start his own life. Today, Robert’s son Joseph is back in the home he thought he left for good.

The vibrant story is semi-biographical. White said Robert is based on his uncle. The character Audrey, is based on his real grandmother—also named Audrey. In fact, it was Audrey who provided the first inkling where her grandson’s occupational future lay.

White was a journalism and sociology major at Cal State Hayward, planning to either go to law school or become a reporter. He took a musical theatre class where 97% of his grade was participation-based. He auditioned for that semester's production—The Wiz—and was cast as the title character. And the moment his grandmother saw him on stage...

“She said, ‘He’s never going to be a lawyer now,’” White said.

No. Instead, White gravitated to acting, eventually performing on Broadway in the Tony Award-winning play The Inheritance, and off-Broadway in Hundred Days, I and You and For the Last Time. White later directed several regional plays and workshops. But he didn’t begin writing until close friend and playwright Korde Tuttle started the bully brigade in 2016.

“He said ‘I’m not going to leave you alone until you write two pages. I don’t care what it is. I’m not going to leave you alone until you write two pages about a character who isn’t you,’” White said.

That eventually became Act 3 of Fremont Ave.

Back to Domingo and Gunderson, who picked up Tuttle’s baton and went to work on White. Domingo, the Academy Award-nominated actor and Emmy Award winner, was one of White’s mentors at the Vineyard Theatre in New York. Gunderson, a noteworthy playwright who has had two plays (Emilie and Silent Sky) produced at SCR, is one of White’s best friends. He’s the godfather to her two sons.

Domingo gave White an award through the Vineyard Theatre that ensured White wouldn’t get cold feet—or fingers—writing his first play.

That became In Case You Hadn’t Heard, which premiered at Bay Street Theatre in New York in 2021. But—thanks to Tuttle—the foundation of Fremont Ave. was already built.

The first time Fremont Ave. was read aloud by strangers was at the Vineyard Theatre in January 2023. Eight actors read the first draft, asked White what he called “smart questions,” and gave him feedback. White went to dinner with a friend—then rewrote the entire play overnight.

“I didn’t close my eyes until 9:45 a.m., when I slept in the back of a cab on the way to the theatre for rehearsal,” he said. “The ink was wet as they were reading it aloud that afternoon.”

If that didn’t illustrate how serious White was about his newfound discipline, a later reading at Berkeley Repertory Theatre showed he wasn’t turning back. That came with his uncle, mother and grandfather in the audience and White was terrified.

“I performed in The Inheritance on Broadway with Secretary (of State Hillary) Clinton in the audience and I was so nervous that night that I said ‘If I (mess) this up, I’m going to walk off, hand in my Equity card and walk into the Hudson River,’” he said. “And I was more nervous for that reading in front of my family. That was the most profound gathering of my family since my grandmother’s funeral.

“Ultimately, this play is a gesture of healing, not just for me, but for all of us. There are ways we learn to pick ourselves up together and we walk around with scabs that hopefully, turn into scars. James Baldwin is the patron saint of my life and he has so many quotes. But one of my favorites is ‘Nothing can be changed unless it can be faced.’ And Act 2 (of Fremont Ave.) is about my uncle grieving about who he thought he was going to be.”

So does White now consider himself a writer? Did the bullying from Tuttle, Domingo and Gunderson work?

“I sadly think they have won. I have relented. I’m working on three other projects. The band-aid is ripped off, the flood-gates are opened and stories are flowing out. Everyone can now lay off,” he said, laughing.

“It’s wonderful to be surrounded by people who believe in my power, ability and voice.”

Experience White’s passionate voice, along with the other plays at this year’s Pacific Playwrights Festival. Tickets are on sale and can be purchased online at or by calling SCR Ticket Services at (714) 708-5555. Don’t miss the chance to see tomorrow’s big hit today.

About the author

South Coast Repertory

South Coast Repertory is a Tony Award-winning theatre is known for producing classics, contemporary hits and world premieres, for having the largest new-play development program in the nation and for advancing the art of theatre in service to the community. 

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