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How actor Jaysen Wright would spend a perfect day in D.C.

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In D.C. Dream Day, we ask our favorite people in the area to tell us how they would spend a perfect day in the District.

Jaysen Wright believes in theater as “a force for social change.” So in a year defined by a pandemic, the social justice movement and a presidential election, the D.C.-based actor longed for the opportunity to artistically engage with current events onstage.

“It’s been such a dark and disorienting time,” says Wright, 33. “We’ve all been kind of cut off from each other and unable to connect, as it feels like the country has kind of been on fire.”

When playwright and director Ike Holter offered Wright multiple roles in his Studio Theatre-commissioned audio play, “I Hate It Here: Stories From the End of the Old World,” Wright’s spirits lifted. The production, which premiered Dec. 10, is streaming for free on Studio Theatre’s website through March 7. A series of monologues, vignettes and songs about the complexities of modern life, “I Hate It Here” offered Wright not only a chance to get back to work but an outlet to unpack his own feelings about 2020.

“It’s speaking to the right here and right now, and that’s everything I love about theater,” says Wright, who appears in vignettes that comment on police brutality and sexual misconduct in the workplace. “[Theater] can start important conversations between people, and I think that’s what this piece is going to do. So really, I didn’t know how much I needed it until it came to me. It just really helped me more than I have the words to say.”

Imagining his ideal day in the District, Wright looks ahead to a post-pandemic world in which he can again savor trips to the library, nights on the dance floor and in-person plays.

We’re a coffee household, so in the morning that’s definitely the first priority. My husband, Christopher, would make coffee and we’d take our dog, Snowstorm, for an early morning hike in Rock Creek Park — our favorite trail is the Western Ridge Trail.

After that, we’d go for breakfast at the Coupe and I’d order the brioche French toast. We live in, well, Christopher says Petworth, I say Brightwood Park, but we used to live in Columbia Heights and that was our local diner. I miss the energy and atmosphere there.

Fitness is super important to me, so next I would go for a workout at Vida Fitness. That’s something that I miss for sure — since the pandemic started, I’ve been doing all of my classes and lifting and working out from home, but I miss the sense community. Or I would go play tennis at Marie Reed Community Center in Adams Morgan, because I actually grew up there and went to Marie Reed as a little boy.

Growing up in D.C., my godmom would always take me to the most obscure but interesting cultural events at Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library. So I’d go with my godmom to MLK library and we’d see an event and check out some books. I feel like people sleep on libraries, but there’s something really great and beautiful about them, and just being around old books.

We’re getting toward the evening now, so I would swing by Le Diplomate with Christopher. That is where we go on our anniversaries — it’s kind of our downtown special place. I’d be doing a show later, and I would never eat dinner before a show because you want to feel light on your feet. But hey, this is a magical day, so why can’t I have the duck l’orange and do a show?

Although I feel like most people’s perfect days might not include going to work, mine definitely involves doing some sort of performance. I’d want to do it at Studio Theatre because I’m a queer person of color, and the times I’ve gotten to play a gay Black character onstage have been very few and far between — and that opportunity has come at Studio. There’s something very affirming and liberating about getting to be your authentic self onstage.

After the show, I’d go out with some of the cast to pregame at Number Nine. Another thing that I miss right now as a gay person is really safe spaces for queer people — I didn’t know what D.C. pride meant to me until I couldn’t have it anymore. Then, even though Town Danceboutique is closed, it would still be open in my dream world and I would end the night there. D.C. is a really transitory city — people come and they go — so all of the friends from all over the country who have left would be there. It would be great to just get together and dance.

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