First student-written production part of TU mainstage season

Chloe ’21 and Kayla Harvey ’23 explore family’s creation of African American flag in “20|02,” a collaboration with Morgan State University

By Rebecca Kirkman on February 27, 2023

Two women holding a small flag
(Nick Sibol / Towson University)

When Towson University theatre studies major and creative writing minor Chloe Harvey ’21 signed up for a one-credit playwriting independent study with David White, professor of theatre arts, she never imagined that three years later the play she wrote with her sister Kayla ’23 would be performed as part of the College of Fine Arts & Communication’s mainstage season.

A collaboration with Morgan State University (MSU), “20|02: A Story of Hope Buried in a Baltimore Attic” follows the pair in 2020 as they piece together a portrait of their father, MSU alumnus David Harvey, who died suddenly in 2002 amid his plan to promote a flag celebrating African Americans

With performances in the Center for the Arts March 2–4 and at MSU March 9 and 10, the cast and crew include students and faculty from both institutions. 

“We put together the creative team to support the vision on the stage as authentically as possible,” says Chloe. “Every aspect of design has somebody in it that will be connected to this production as a Black artist.”

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“20|02: A Story of Hope Buried in a Baltimore Attic”
Directed by Ruben Del Valle Jr., written by Chloe and Kaylah Harvey
March 2–4, 7:30 p.m.
Main Stage Theatre, Center for the Arts, Towson University
Talkback sessions after the performances on March 3 and 4 will discuss the flag, the sisters’ creative process and the real-life figures behind the characters.
March 9 & 10, 7:30 p.m.
Turpin-Lamb Theatre, Murphy Fine Arts Center

White, the production’s administrative coordinator, works closely with Jan Short, interim theatre arts coordinator and lecturer at MSU, to make the collaboration as valuable as possible for students at both institutions.

“The experience teaches our student actors, designers, technicians and stage managers about touring a production and offers opportunities for TU and MSU students to collaborate with their peers and work in each other's departments, which is invaluable,” White says.

“This production has been such a big learning experience for us,” adds Kaylah, an electronic media and film major with a theatre arts minor. “One of our biggest takeaways is the value of collaboration and utilizing all the unique skillsets from each person on a team.”

The play marks several firsts: Not only is "20|02" the first student-written production to be produced at Towson University's Main Stage Theatre, a staged reading of the play in February 2022 made history as the first all-Black production with more than 10 cast members at TU.

“This play feels deserving of a historic moment,” White says. “It's in our mainstage season, it's on the Main Stage Theatre stage—this is a story our department is inspired to share.”

Directed by Ruben Del Valle Jr., assistant professor of theatre arts at TU, the play blends the past with the present, from the creation of the flag by David and Tonya Harvey in 1991 to David’s unexpected passing and the sisters’ rediscovery of the flag in 2020. It also incorporates family home videos.

“It's going to feel very homey, nostalgic of the ’90s period,” Kaylah says. “We go back and forth in time. There are some elements from our childhood that Gen Z may really identify with. Then stuff from our parents in the ’90s, and conversations about Black history and Black culture I think will resonate with a lot of people from a lot of generations.”

The sisters grew up with the African American flag but didn't realize the true impact of their parents’ efforts until Chloe saw the flag at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture as a teenager.

Her family’s story had always been in the back of Chloe’s mind as the subject of a play, but the one-credit independent study with White offered the opportunity to make it a reality. 

Through interviews with family members and reviewing home videos, the sisters reconstructed the legacy of the flag. It has been displayed at events, institutions and organizations throughout the country, including at the NAACP Headquarters in Baltimore, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Building and National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education in Washington, D.C., the National Baptist Conference Headquarters in Nashville, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Association’s multicultural department in Cincinnati.

The Harvey sisters worked closely with White for two years on the play’s development—an opportunity White says is rare, even in the profession.

“David White’s guidance and mentorship has meant the world to us,” Chloe says. “He has offered us valuable new ways to look at writing and storytelling and has prepared us to transition into the professional world of theater.”

The process offers the cast and crew the unique chance to have the playwrights in rehearsal as well as work with rewrites and multiple versions of the play, from readings to production.

“Chloe and Kaylah's work from the first draft onward has been focused and driven,” White says. “Their ambition in creating this vision for the stage reflects their love of the theater and their passion for storytelling. Seeing that passion brought to life with such an inspiring and personal story is a gift to everyone who will have the chance to attend the production.”

Three decades since the flag was created by their parents to enrich and inspire the lives of African Americans, Kaylah and Chloe aim to amplify and extend its original purpose to “a new generation of Black stars” using social media and programming such as “20|02.”

“The acceptance of our story has felt like a dream come true,” Kaylah says. “We are so grateful for the continued support from those who learned about the flag when it was first created and those who are just learning about it now. It is an honor and a blessing for us to share our parents’ dream through an artistic medium we are both extremely passionate about.”

“We hope other students will recognize that their stories hold power and deserve to be heard,” Chloe adds.