Sandra Seaton is a playwright and librettist. Her plays have been performed in cities
throughout the country, including New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, and her libretto
for the solo opera From the Diary of Sally Hemings, set to music by composer William
Bolcom, 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, Seaton’s text was
praised by the Washington Post for its “subtle, penetrating power.” A CD of From The
Diary of Sally Hemings, with Met 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, premiered with acclaimed film and TV star Zabryna Guevara as Sally
In 2019 Seaton received a commission from the Washington National Opera’s American
Opera Initiative with composer Carlos Simon to create a libretto for an original work
Night Trip about a young woman’s life-changing journey to the South to visit her
relatives. On January 10, , 2020, the opera premiered 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.
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, are based on short stories by the African American Chicago writer
In 2020 at the Atlanta Black Theatre Festival, Call Me By My Name, Seaton’s performance piece about Henrietta Lacks, starring Tracey Bonner, was performed at the
Atlanta Black Theatre Festival. In 2021 her play with music, The Passion of Mary Cardwell Dawson, starring Denyce Graves, will premiere at the Glimmerglass Festival. In 2022 her ploratoria, Dreamland: Tulsa 1921, with composer Marques L.A. Garrett, will premiere with Dallas’s Turtle Creek Chorale. The First Bluebird in the Morning, her commission with composer Carlos Simon, will premiere with LA Opera.
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 Ragdale,
Hedgebrook, and Yaddo artists’ colonies and is a member of Black Theatre Network
(BTN), Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) and Life Member of the Dramatists Guild.