“Waiting for Giovanni”, a Play About James Baldwin’s Book

Members of the play, Waiting for Giovanni, from left to right: Desiree Rogers (Lorraine Hansbury), Fred Pitts (Richard Wright), Robert Simpson (artistic director AfroSolo Theatre and Festival), Jewell Gomez (Author), Harry Waters Jr. (Director), W.M. Hunter (James Baldwin), William Giammona (Luc).

By Jesse Brooks

 ”Waiting for Giovanni”, a dream play written by Jewell Gomez, is based on literary icon James Baldwin’s controversial novel “Giovanni’s Room”. Baldwin’s fearless book provoked threats to his career, at the time, if published. Gomez manages to capture the Baldwin’s distinctive stylistic language.


The World Premier of “Waiting for Giovanni” play kicked off the 18th AfroSolo Arts Festival at the New Conservatory Theatre Center in San Francisco on August 19. The play is scheduled to run until September 19. For ticket information visit: NCTCSF.org


Baldwin, born in Harlem in the midst of the Harlem renaissance, was an American novelist, essayist, playwright, and civil rights activist. His writing had a way of exploring unspoken intricacies of racial, sexual, and class distinctions. He was closely aligned with the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and spoke at the 1963 March on Washington, organized and inspired by union leader A. Phillip Randolph and activist, Bayard Rustin.


Gomez, the author of seven books, wrote The Guilda Stories, a novel about a Black lesbian vampire. She compares the reactions she’s received with those of Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room.


Director Harry Waters Jr., who won a gold record for his rendition of “Earth Angel” from his portrayal of Marvin Berry in Back to the Future in 1985. Waters said that Baldwin is important as a literary role model. He lauds Baldwin for having the courage to write about subjects traditionally viewed as socially taboo.