BRAVE BESS premiered as part of The Group Rep’s production of UNHIDDEN FIGURES, a virtual play festival of new short plays celebrating African-American women from all walks of life in honor of Black History Month and Women’s History Month.

Admission to this presentation is FREE, but — as always — donations are gratefully accepted to support our year-round programming and our new streaming platform. Scroll down to view.

SKU: 2021-Unhidden-Figures-Brave-Bess Category:


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As part of Group Rep’s virtual festival, UNHIDDEN FIGURES, we proudly highlight “Brave Bess” now available to stream on demand.

Brave Bess written by Denise Downer, directed by Katelyn Ann Clark, performed by Juanita Dilia Olivo and Victor D’wayne Little.
1926. Aviator Bessie Coleman, the first African-American female pilot in the U.S., sits for an imagined interview with Robert S. Abbott, editor of the influential African-American newspaper the Chicago Defender.
From the author, Denise Downer:
My journey toward writing “Brave Bess” began in the most unlikely place. I was browsing a publisher's table at Comic-Con in San Diego a few years ago when I noticed a stack of historical graphic novels. I was intrigued, then immediately disappointed when I couldn't find much on important African-American women in U.S. history. I decided to do some research and that’s when I came upon Bessie Coleman. The story of her bravery and upbeat determination during the 1920s intrigued me. I was amazed at how this woman from humble beginnings persevered to become the first African-American woman pilot in the country. I wanted to write something about her one day. That day came with “Unhidden Figures” at Group Rep. It has been the perfect place to showcase this brave American pioneer of the skies.
Denise Downer Bio:
Denise has worked in children’s television animation for most of her career. Her television writing experience covers all age groups, having written for such shows as AVENGERS BLACK PANTHER’S QUEST, MARVEL’S SPIDER-MAN, POWER RANGERS, DC SUPERHERO GIRLS, CARE BEARS, PUPPY DOG PALS, FANCY NANCY, BARBIE DREAMTOPIA, MOTOWN MAGIC and SPLASH AND BUBBLES, to name a few. In addition to television, Denise has written for publication. TOMBSTONE TWINS is a darkly comedic, children’s graphic novel published by Stone Arch Books. She has also tried her hand at playwriting, a creative form she truly loves. Denise is happy to be part of the Group Repertory Theater where she hopes to bring her scripts to the stage. She has studied improvisation at Upright Citizens Brigade and Journalism at San Jose State University.

Juanita Dilla Olivo (Bessie/Brave Bess): Juanita Dilia Olivo is making her Zoom debut and excited to work with professionals from across the country. A graduate of FIU with some national touring experience, she's enjoying exploring this new medium of virtual theater from her very own home and would like to thank human ingenuity for making it possible for artists to connect and work together to bring art to everyone during these interesting times.

Victor D’wayne Little (Abbott/Brave Bess): (Actor, Director, Costumer) from St. Louis and a graduate of Central State University in Wilberforce, OH. Little has appeared in HBO's Native Son, as Pastor McJullian. As a member of The Group Rep, Little, directed and performed in, Nine Winning One Acts and Homeward LA. Also, Costumer, for, Otherwise Engaged and Asst Dir, Agatha Christie’s Secret of Chimneys. Member of SAG, AEA, VME.

Kathleen Delaney, Brooklyn Sample & Melanie Lee (Producers), Doug Engalla (Editor), Hartley Powers (Animation & Sound Design), Doug Haverty (Graphic Design), Heidi Mendez (Tech Director)