I had been living in Los Angeles for a little over six years. While I had found my social group in the city, I was missing my artistic community. As a trained and working actor, I knew being able to learn and feed off the collective energy and wisdom in the room was critical to long-term success in this industry. Sadly, what was once an easy task in graduate school and New York City had become something of an odd chore in Los Angeles.
Despite knowing so many creative, wildly talented, and dope writers and actors personally, I quickly found they didn’t know each other and rarely met to collaborate, critique, and create. Everyone was operating in their silos. It was then I had the idea to launch a reading series to help change this dynamic and bring together that special synergy that sparked and developed my career early on.
Initially, I shared my reading series idea with a fellow actor friend, who was receptive to the idea; however, I knew I would need a variety of writers to participate if the real creative magic was to happen. The problem was the writers I knew were guarded about sharing their work with friends let alone strangers. So I suggested a compromise: just present the first 15 pages of your work. This way, there would be enough material for the actors to embody and give the writers enough time to review how their work is interpreted and received.
I invited about 30 trusted actors, writers, and entertainment professionals to “an afternoon of creativity and fellowship” in my friends’ East Hollywood apartment. Fifteen people showed up to take part, learn best practices, and develop the key relationships needed in the industry. Writers were excited to have their scripts read by professionals and actors were glad to flex their acting muscles.
In that moment, I felt alive. The event was a success, a spark of something great, and I wanted to make sure others had the same opportunity to experience this feeling. Thus, First Fifteen was born!
More and more people started showing up – some to read, some to share their first 15 pages, and others simply to watch. People were connecting and First Fifteen received rave reviews from attendees. After just four readings, we were blessed to collaborate with Kimberly Hébert of Black Rebirth Collective with a theater location to host our events and open up the availability to more in the community. Finally, the spirit of community that this collaboration intended had come to fruition.
We were preparing to host our first-year anniversary in March 2020 but the pandemic helped us pivot to virtual readings. At this same time, we joined forces with the incredibly talented Kemiyondo Coutinho (P-VALLEY) who became our Resident Writing Consultant. Whether we’re in a virtual or in-person space, we’re committed to artistic collaboration, insightful critique, and invigorating our community.