Sandra Seaton Smiling

Among her twelve plays, The Bridge Party, Seaton’s first play, has been anthologized in Strange Fruit: Plays on Lynching by American Women. The play, set in Tennessee, portrays a group of Black women whose weekly bridge game is interrupted by news of a lynching. Ruby Dee starred in a performance at the University of Michigan. Seaton’s play The Will, a drama about a Black Tennessee family during Reconstruction, and her Civil Rights era play Music History, about African American college students, have been performed widely and included in a number of college courses.

Seaton’s Chicago Trilogy, three one-act plays: A Chance Meeting, The Lookout, and Black for Dinner, based on short stories by the African American Chicago writer Cyrus Colter, have featured tenor George Shirley in the lead role.

In 2020, Call Me By My Name, Seaton’s performance piece about Henrietta Lacks, starring Sweet Magnolia’s Tracey Bonner, was performed at the Atlanta Black Theatre Festival. The First Bluebird in the Morning, her commission with composer Carlos Simon, premiered with LA Opera in September 2020. In July 2021 her play with music, The Passion of Mary Cardwell Dawson, starring Denyce Graves, premiered at the Glimmerglass Festival. In July 2022 her ploratorio, Dreamland: Tulsa 1921, with composer Marques L.A. Garrett, premiered with Dallas’s Turtle Creek Chorale and then traveled to Carnegie Hall.

Dreamland: Tulsa 1921,Sandra Seaton’s ploratorio, an oratorio with play scenes, created in collaboration with composer Marques L.A. Garrett in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre, has been nominated for the 2023 Pulitzer Prize in Music.

Sandra Seaton is a playwright, librettist, and lyricist. Her plays have been performed in cities throughout the country, including New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, and the solo opera From the Diary of Sally Hemings, commissioned by mezzo soprano Florence Quivar, music by composer William Bolcom and libretto by Seaton, has been performed at such venues as Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, the Herbst Theatre in San Francisco and the Rialto Performing Arts Center in Atlanta. In a review of the solo opera’s premiere at the Library of Congress, Sandra Seaton’s text was praised by the Washington Post for its “subtle, penetrating power.” A CD of From The Diary of Sally Hemings, with soprano Alyson Cambridge and pianist Lydia Brown, is available from White Pine Music. The score has been published by Hal Leonard. Seaton’s one-woman drama Sally, in which an aged Sally Hemings recalls her life with Jefferson, has been performed by film and stage star Zabryna Guevara and Sabrina Sloan, Hamilton’s Angelica Schuyler.

In 2019 Sandra Seaton and composer Carlos Simon received a commission from the Washington National Opera’s American Opera Initiative to create an original work, Night Trip, about a young woman’s life-changing journey to the South to visit her relatives. In January 2020, on the opera’s premiere at the Kennedy Center, a review in the Washington Post singled out “Seaton’s candid, vernacular text” for “gradually revealing dramatic and poetic substance.” Seaton’s other works include a spoken word piece, King: A Reflection on the Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with spirituals sung by Metropolitan Opera tenor George Shirley and the song cycle Vegetarian Wedding with composer Erik Santos.

Black typewriter on beige background

In August 2022, an expanded version of The Passion of Mary Cardwell Dawson with two new arias by Simon and Seaton premiered at Glimmerglass Festival. In September 2022, at Colorado’s Aspen Theatre Festival, Seaton’s solo play Sally, starring acclaimed actor Sabrina Sloan, received Aspen’s inaugural Solo Flights Project Advancement Fund Grant.

In January 2023, the expanded version of The Passion of Mary Cardwell Dawson, starring mezzo soprano Denyce Graves, was performed at the Kennedy Center’s Washington National Opera. Seaton’s solo play Sally, with Sabrina Sloan and director Hannah Ryan, was performed at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival in March 2023

Sandra Seaton, formerly a Professor of English at Central Michigan University, is a recipient of the Mark Twain Award “for distinguished contributions to Midwestern Literature” from the Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature. She has been awarded residencies at Hedgebrook, Ragdale, and Yaddo artists’ colonies and is a member of Black Theatre Network (BTN), Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) and Life Member of the Dramatists Guild.



Conversation with The Black Opera Alliance Leadership Council and special guests Jane Elliott and Sandra Seaton.

Glimpse: From The Diary of Sally Hemings

The Glimmerglass Festival

For more information on Sally Hemings & Thomas Jefferson, please visit the PBS/Frontline site, “Jefferson’s Blood.”

LA Opera Podcast

Podcast with The First Bluebird in the Morning’s Creative Team: Sandra Seaton, Carlos Simon and Jamar Roberts.

Where Art and History Meet: Sandra Seaton

Front Porch Radio – History’s Hook Podcast