Shelia Payton

Shelia Payton

Shelia Payton is an author and emerging playwright living in Milwaukee, WI. Her first professionally produced play is Facing the Shadow, which was staged by The Black Rep in St. Louis as part of the Missouri History Museum’s 150th anniversary commemoration of the Civil War (2012). The play also had staged readings at the:
. Chicago Dramatists Out the Box Festival (2021) (1 of 4 full length plays by...
Shelia Payton is an author and emerging playwright living in Milwaukee, WI. Her first professionally produced play is Facing the Shadow, which was staged by The Black Rep in St. Louis as part of the Missouri History Museum’s 150th anniversary commemoration of the Civil War (2012). The play also had staged readings at the:
. Chicago Dramatists Out the Box Festival (2021) (1 of 4 full length plays by BIPOC playwrights selected)
• August Wilson Center in Pittsburgh (2012)
• Milwaukee Artist Resource Network (2012)
• 5th POTPOURRI! World Women Works Series for New Plays by Emerging and Seasoned Playwrights in
Brooklyn, NY (2014)

As a playwright Shelia’s penchant is to mine untold or little known stories from African American life, history and culture. The works are not history plays, but rather stories about people navigating the ebbs and flows of life in the context of the times in which they live.

Her other creative work includes:
• Writing the libretto for an African/African American-themed opera: Black Caesar. The score for the
copyrighted opera was written by the late Neal Tate, the first African American music director on
Broadway.
• Lyrics (copyrighted songs and a concept album in the works).

Shelia is the author of two non-fiction books:
• Cultures of America: African Americans (part of a series produced for middle school students by New
York publisher Marshall Cavendish)
• What Counts Most is How You Finish: Thoughts on Living Life to the Fullest (Xlibris)
(Next Generation Indie Book Awards Finalist in the Motivational Category)

Here professional writing experience includes working as a:
• Reporter for the Miami Herald.
• Freelance producer for Milwaukee Profiles--a feature-style program that formerly ran on Milwaukee
Public Television

Plays

  • Facing the Shadow
    Facing the Shadow is a character driven play set in Baltimore, MD in 1859—two years before the outbreak of the Civil War. Maryland (a state located at the intersection of slavery and freedom) reflects the growing schisms and tensions in a country on the brink of war with itself. These tensions and schisms threaten to upend the way of life for free people of color in the state’s most racially “tolerant” city. As...
    Facing the Shadow is a character driven play set in Baltimore, MD in 1859—two years before the outbreak of the Civil War. Maryland (a state located at the intersection of slavery and freedom) reflects the growing schisms and tensions in a country on the brink of war with itself. These tensions and schisms threaten to upend the way of life for free people of color in the state’s most racially “tolerant” city. As the members of the Free Women of Color Literary Society hold their monthly book discussion, they have no idea they will soon face a potentially life altering decision: whether to help a slave escape to freedom. The penalty (should they be caught doing this) is that they and their families will be sold into slavery.

    Facing the Shadow is rich in history and relevant because some of that history parallels what is happening today: challenges created by an economic downturn and income disparities, racial divisions, growth in anti-immigrant attitudes, political discord, and debates about whether state or federal governance should prevail.