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Award-winning playwright Katori Hall’s meteoric rise continues to soar to new heights as she moves from the playwright’s desk to the director’s chair for her first film, “Arkabutla.” The Memphis-born writer of The Mountaintop, about the final days of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, is returning to her hometown to shoot the film.

“Arkabutla,” a short film written and co-produced by Hall, follows “Chauncey,” a contemporary “cowboy,” who is reunited with his 10-year-old daughter (“an old soul with a fast mouth,” according to casting notes) and 7-year-old son (a “brat” with charm) after a long stretch away from home on the rodeo circuit.

To give his kids something of the elation he feels as a bull rider, he buys a jet ski for a family visit to DeSoto County’s Arkabutla Lake. When a white lake official sees Chauncey with the jet ski, he assumes the recreational watercraft is stolen, leading to a confrontation that causes anger and disillusionment — “the sense of hopelessness you take from a situation like that.”

The film was inspired by an incident that Hall witnessed as a teenager and marks her first attempt at filmmaking. The award-winning playwright plans to employ an entirely local cast and crew on the project with shooting scheduled for October 20-23 in Memphis-area locations.

She hopes to follow the short by directing a feature adaptation of her Memphis-set play Hurt Village, which debuted off-Broadway in 2011 and starred Tony Award winner Tonya Pinkins.

Hall’s most recent production was The Mixed Blood Theatre‘s Pussy Valley, which closed a successful run on May 10th. The play centered around the lives of four women working in a Mississippi strip club, a world that Hall describes as “the intersection of hip hop and strip club cultures.”

Katori Hall was the first African American playwright to win the Olivier Award, for The Mountaintop. Since her rise on the Broadway scene, her work has been produced at acclaimed theatres across the nation, bringing her signature style to the forefront of the theatre scene.

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