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Meet Terésa Dowell-Vest of Diva Blue Productions

Today we’d like to introduce you to Terésa Dowell-Vest.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Terésa. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
A writer, director, educator, wife of my wife and daughter of my tribe, I have been a creative entrepreneur since 1994. I left Charlottesville, Virginia for Southern California and got my first taste of producing theater in Long Beach. I was a grad student at Cal State Long Beach theater program. I switched my focus from acting to producing because I loved the business aspect of the arts. I also taught my first college course in the fall of 1994 and fell in love with teaching the arts. The two simply supported the other. Producing afforded me the means to creative my own opportunities. Teaching afforded me financial support to a. eat and b. put a few pennies towards growing my own production and publishing company. I launched Diva Blue Productions in October 2002 and have been happily busy in my passion for the last 26 years. I was nominated for a NAACP Theater Award for directing a production of “Flying West” and winner of three Geoffrey Awards in Los Angeles. I am also the Director of Film and Television Production at Prairie View A&M University.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Absolutely not! I’m an artist! I work in an industry of taste. It all times, creating art has to be about feed your own passion and connecting with the people who vibe on your same frequency. In my 20’s, I definitely slept on my share of couches and ate ramen but it all served its purpose. Tough skin. Knowledge that I can endure anything. It’s been a fascinating journey.

We’d love to hear more about your work.
I think the best way to describe Diva Blue Productions, or the work I’ve done in my career in general whether in the classroom or for other production companies, I amplify black voices and black stories. My superhero fantasy “Genesis” is the story of a team of superheroes who were siblings separated at a young age. They have to learn to become family and then heroes. My supernatural short story, “Tattoo” is the story of a woman who promises her grandmother she’ll continue the family tradition of quilting but decides to design her quilt as a series of tattoos on her body… that animate and take over the events of her life. I love bridging supernatural stories with black narratives and black history. Currently, I’m producing a live stream fan fiction series, “The Death of Cliff Huxtable.” Based on a book I wrote in 2015, I celebrate the Huxtable family by bringing them present, in a post 9/11-Barack Obama-Trayvon Martin world. I wrote the book during the height the Cosby sexual assault allegations. “The Cosby Show”, “A Different World”, “Fat Albert” “The Electric Company” were all an essential part of my formative years. So when the allegations of sexual misconduct, sexual harassment, and rape came pouring out, I experienced the most jarring cognitive dissonance. On the one hand, here is this work I love and have no way of “unloving” it. On the other, the work’s creator is a sexual predator. Because I believe women and have sexual violence in my past, there is NO WAY I can support this man. But for some, separating the two is impossible, seeing that two things can be separate, even the opposite, and can be true. The constant insistence that Bill Cosby was “America’s Dad” and that there was no way Cliff Huxtable could be a sexual predator was mind boggling but I also something I understood. I needed an exercise that would me the ability to separate the two. I also wanted to create work that helped drive home the fact that while Bill Cosby may have gained the moniker of “America’s Dad,” he is not OUR dad…and neither is Cliff Huxtable. Cliff Huxtable is no more our father than Max Headroom. To prove this, I decide to “kill” Cliff Huxtable. In the 12 chapter book, we follow the experiences of each Huxtable immediately after Cliff’s funeral. The final chapter of the book is Cliff’s chapter and we find out how he died. The live stream series began May 25 and runs through July 9, airing every Monday and Thursday at 8pm EST on Youtube, Facebook Live, and Twitter. Each episode features the reading of a chapter from the book, followed by a panel discussion on a topic connected to the theme of the chapter. The series has given me dynamic relief from the staleness of quarantine. With a cast and collective of panelists totaling 51 people, the series has been weekly visits with friends for play and debate. It’s been an extraordinary experience. The entire series can be viewed at www.divablueproductions.com.

What were you like growing up?
I was country kid from Charlottesville, Virginia. My grandmother inspired me to write when I was in middle school. I had a hard time with reading comprehension and my grandmother gave me my first journal and told me to write. She said, “Master the words. Don’t let them master you.” I spent a lot of time talking to myself, creating dialogue for characters. I still spend a lot of time talking to myself. I preferred Prince to Michael. I wanted to be in Salt-n-Pepa… somehow. I developed an early interest in traveling without leaving the mountains of Virginia until I moved to California for graduate school. In 7th grade I vowed to have authentic paella in Barcelona because my Spanish teacher said it was in the world and it had chicken and seafood in it. In 2009, I spent a month traveling through Europe, made my way to Barcelona and devoured a bowl of paella. I’m still curious about the world and want to see more of it. I hope she gets well soon.

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