I first met Mariam Williams, 28, last summer in a StageLab acting class. She could immerse herself completely in any character, as though she was born to perform. But Williams is more than an actor — she’s also an accomplished playwright and screenwriter.
She pretty much grew up with the arts, starting with ballet, tap and jazz dance lessons when she was only 3 years old. While studying for her bachelor’s degree in psychology at Washington University in St. Louis, more than one professor encouraged her to pursue a career as a writer.
In 2002, she attended a workshop at the Black Theater Network Conference, where she began working in earnest as a playwright. She won second place in U of L’s Seventh Annual Juneteenth Festival of New Plays for “The Breakroom,” about a collision of racial, national and ethnic tensions during the 2002 Haitian Refugee Crisis.
Williams moved to Los Angeles to obtain a certificate in screenwriting from the University of California. Now in Louisville, she hopes to save enough money to return to Hollywood “someday” and support herself as a screenwriter/playwright. But, she says, “I have been pleasantly surprised at the opportunities I’ve found to explore more creative pursuits at home while I decide exactly what I want to be when I grow up.”
In 2006, Williams received a Kentucky Foundation For Women grant to adapt her screenplay “Mary, Mary” into a stage drama. The play is about a woman who refuses God’s directive to serve as a vessel for the second Messiah.
Williams has appeared in many local theatrical productions, including Kia Corthron’s “Cage Rhythm” and Djanet Sears’ “The Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God” at U of L. She was a dancer in Locust Grove’s “A Slave Wedding” and performed with Harambee African Music and Dance Ensemble’s “Grandpa’s Nativity” last year. Her most recent appearance was in the Necessary Theatre’s presentation of Neil LaBute’s “Autobahn” at The Rudyard Kipling.
Williams is confident she’ll always be writing. “If I can find a way to raise my performance skills to another level and make a living solely on a combination of creative pursuits, I’ll do it — in Hollywood or just about anywhere else.” —Sherry Deatrick
Jen Pellerin & Samantha Griffith
Thaniel Ion Lee