Change Maker

Phyllis MacBryde with Mamela Nyamza on location in South Africa

Writer's Statement

The story of Zinzi, a fictional character, was sparked by my interest in the African culture that gave rise to Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and the American culture that gave rise to modern jazz ­– and in what ways the two are linked. I used every means available to research these subjects and read extensively. As I did, the formative years of a girl raised in a traditional South African village, took shape in my mind. Cast into post World War II Harlem, Zinzi struggles to make a place for herself. There, she encounters real-life characters and weathers real-life events. The story came first in the form of a screenplay and expanded into a novel. The musical came later. At New River Dramatists, a playwriting residency, I hammered out the first draft. Staged readings and performances followed at the American Renaissance Theater and the Workshop Theater Company in New York. The need to tell Zinzi’s story was all-consuming. And the pull of that desire drew real-life collaborators into my experience – close associates of Dizzy Gillespie and South African artists: the internationally acclaimed dancer/choreographer, Mamela Nyamza, South African actor, Dorothy Ann Gould, and the Ngqoko Cultural Group – women who still live in the world that Zinzi was born into. These relationships, and the generosity of the gifted American actors who have lent their talents to the project along the way, kept me going. I write from my travels and personal experience, from what I have come to know, and from what is authentic to me.

Story Reception:

Academy of Motion Pictures’ Nicholl Fellowship Finalist for Zinzi, a screenplay
William Faulkner-William Wisdom Finalist for Zinzi, a novel
Kaufman Citation for Excellence in Playwriting for Zinzi the Musical


Phyllis MacBryde’s career spans the creative and business aspects of theater, film, and the performing arts. She has worked as an actor in lead and supporting roles in plays and musicals – originating roles in productions at Circle in the Square Theater, Arena Stage, Washington, D.C., and appearing in national tours, star packages, and regional theaters – ­­Papermill Playhouse, North Shore Music Theatre, and Mill Mountain Theater. A produced playwright and a writer/producer/director of independent films, she is the recipient of the North Carolina Playwriting Fellowship, Montage Entertainment’s Diversity in Screenwriting Award sponsored by HBO, a Nicholl Fellowship Finalist, a Kaufman Award Citation for Excellence in Playwriting, and a William Faulkner-William Wisdom Finalist. Her articles, interviews and creative non-fiction have been published in national media, The New York Times Arts & Leisure section, Cosmopolitan Magazine, and TV Guide, and in regional publications. She served for several years as Managing Director of the American Renaissance Theater Company and is President of the Board Emerita. Professional memberships include: New River Dramatists, The Broadway League alum, American Renaissance Theater Company, Sundance/Collab, Stowe Story Lab Alum, IFP/The Gotham, Show&Tell, ART/NY (Alliance of Resident Theaters), Southern Appalachian Historical Association, SAG-AFTRA, and Actors’ Equity Association.





Feature Film - script


Film - Documentary/Concert

ZINZI the Musical

In development

COWBOY CAFE the Musical


Phyllis MacBryde

How I got my SAG card