DBF profile: Calvin Alexander Ramsey

Author and playwright Calvin Alexander Ramsey likes to forage for his inspiration.

His work on the advisory board of special collections for Emory’s Woodruff Library introduced him to the books, letters and recordings that encourage his creative process, which produces plays, musicals and books that tell historically based stories about unsung people and events.

“Working on Emory’s advisory board opened that world up to me,” he said. “There is a treasure chest of materials to discover."

He’s been to collections around Atlanta to read copies of The Green Book, a Jim Crow-era travel guide for black motorists. He’s traveled to Yale to hear the Fortunoff audio recordings of Holocaust survivors and to Georgia State University to dig up lesser-known facts about Johnny Mercer.

From there, he’s written “The Green Book,” a play currently running at Theatrical Outfit that dramatizes unusual scenes of segregation and the intersection of African-American and Jewish culture. “Bricktop” is a musical about Ada Bricktop Smith, who Ramsey discovered when he found letters from Cole Porter to Smith. And “Johnny Mercer” is a jukebox show of Mercer’s songs. He is also the author of several other plays, musicals and the children’s books “Ruth and The Green Book” and the upcoming “Belle, The Last Mule at Gee’s Bend.”

“I need to be up to my eyeballs in research before I start writing,” he said.

Ramsey will speak at 3 p.m. Saturday at Decatur High School. Cast members from Theatrical Outfit’s “The Green Book” will perform scenes from the play, and Fracena Byrd and S. Renee Clark will sing selections from the upcoming Center for Puppetry Arts' adaptation of “Ruth and the Green Book.”