“Hands Up” is a play featuring seven monologues written by seven different Black playwrights. The play was performed at the Alliance Theatre from October 8-31. 

The theme for the play was the variety of the Black experience in America. “Hands Up” was directed by Alexis Woodard and Arthur Bolden. 

Woodard is full-time Spelman Leadership Fellow at Alliance Theatre. Her co-director, Bolden, is one of her former professors at Spelman College. The Spelman Fellows program allows for Spelman students to apply for one of three year long paid internships with Alliance Theatre.

At the end of the internship, one of the interns becomes a fellow and is contracted for two years of full-time work on the artistic staff. 

In her internship, Woodard assisted with the development and production of the first college night at the Alliance Theatre. In her first year as a fellow, she was the Co-Artistic Director and Co-Producer of the theater’s first digital season, due to the pandemic.

Woodard has had a passion for theatrics since childhood, and has directed other productions before working with Alliance Theatre.

“During my time in undergrad at Spelman I directed a hip-hop, non-chronological version of Romeo and Juliet, and the year following I directed Sarah Ruhl’s Eurydice,” Woodard said.

Even with her experience, putting on a play in the midst of a pandemic came with several challenges.

“The pandemic changed the face of the theatre industry in so many ways,” Woodard said. “The initial shock of the global health crises was that in order to keep each other safe and healthy we could no longer gather together. Bringing people together in a physical space is the one requirement for what we do.”

“Hands Up” was originally programmed in May 2020 to debut the following fall. The team considered producing a virtual version of the play, but instead waited to perform on the Hertz Stage at Alliance in October 2021.

Woodard was drawn to co-directing “Hands Up” because it was the first play she saw in the Atlanta University Center. 

“Coming from a town where I graduated [as] one of three black people in my high school class, I was never exposed to Black theatre,” Woodard said. “Hands Up was the first time I saw myself and my narratives on stage.”

One of her favorite aspects of the play is how the monologues are fast-paced and captivating. She also thinks that the messages continue to be relevant in America, even as time passes.

“I’ve been involved with some version of this show in some way since 2016, and unfortunately, every year it seems like the themes and stories of racial violence against Black bodies exhibited in Hands Up become more and more prevalent,” Woodard said.

Despite “Hands Up” tackling some of the dark sides of being Black in America, Woodard still had fun directing the play. She credits her positive experience to the cast, crew and design team.

She hopes that those who watched “Hands Up” will take away “empathy for their neighbors and the responsibility to do better.” 

In January, Woodward will be directing “Do You Love the Dark?” and will be the associate director on “DREAM HOU$E”.

Her fellowship with Alliance Theatre ends May 2022. After that, she plans to freelance and direct across the country.

“The only thing I know for sure is that at some point in my life, I want to be an artistic director,” Woodard said. “I want to be an artistic leader.”

Marlon Andrew Burnley and the cast of the Alliance Theatre’s 2021/22 production of HANDS UP. (Photo Credit: Jessie Garret)