Actress, choreographer, and co-founder of Center Stage Academy, Shawn Cosby is the writer and co-director of the film 33rd and Memphis which will premiere on August 22. (Courtesy Photo)

By Cara Williams,
Special to the AFRO

Shawn Cosby decided the premier for 33rd and Memphis her latest independent film about the crossroads demanded by life’s decisions, had to premier in the Washington, D.C. area.  

“33rd and Memphis” is layered with dance, excitement, turmoil, self-awareness, love, and forgiveness and premieres at the American Film Institute’s (AFI) Silver Theatre and Cultural Center on August 22.   

Cosby’s life story, going from Prince George’s County to the film industry reveals what brings her back to the AFI screen in Silver Spring, Md.  

The busy choreographer, actress, director, and writer is co-founder and artistic director of Center Stage Academy for the Arts in Clinton, Md. and grew up surrounded by arts and culture in Prince George’s County.  

After starting in Montgomery County Public Schools, where her mother was a teacher, Cosby was ready to make the leap to the artistic world in high school, enrolling in Prince George’s County Performing Arts High School.  

After graduation, Cosby studied theatre at the University of Maryland College Park until she heard the call from the world of television and film. Cosby has produced and appeared in several films since leaving Maryland including her first independent film, “Those We Don’t Speak of,” produced in 2007.  

“Those We Don’t Speak of” premiered at the American Film Institute in 2016, where it sold out, and the Magic Johnson Theater, where it sold out twice. 

The multi-talented performer also appeared in several television roles before returning to independent film, the genre she has come to love.  

“33rd and Memphis” is set in Northeast Washington, D.C., where a young man named Memphis Braxton lives with his mother, Norma, a pastry chef, his father, who travels for work, and his free-spirited sister Natalie. 

Memphis has an overwhelming desire to be a dancer but has a debilitating heart condition called cardiomyopathy, which could be fatal if he dances. 

Memphis, the character, is based on two real-life people Cosby encountered. 

The dance aspect of the film is reminiscent of a street dancer Cosby discovered freestyling on a D.C. corner. Cosby trained the young performer who ultimately became a professional dancer.  

Actress, choreographer, and co-founder of Center Stage Academy, Shawn Cosby is the writer and co-director of the film 33rd and Memphis which will premiere on August 22. (Courtesy Photo)

The heart condition Memphis suffers in the film is based on a childhood friend who played football and tragically died of the ailment. 

The neighborhood of 33rd and Memphis includes that Afro-centric think tank at the core of every Black community – the hair salon, where people are counseled, decisions are made, and problems are resolved before the last curl or braid is meticulously layered in place.  

The film’s hair salon is filled with a dynamic group of women who are calling on the prayer line one minute and gossiping the next, reminiscent of real life in every Black community in America.  

Yet, the women all stand together in that unbreakable Black sister bond, when the time comes to pitch in and “have each other’s backs.”  

“33rd and Memphis” is a story of ambition and what can happen when you become overly ambitious. 

In the end, Memphis will have to fight to earn back their trust and get back in the good graces of those that believed in him– those he crossed chasing his dream. 

Cosby hopes her native Prince George’s County neighbors and friends as well as the entire DMV community will come out and support her area independent film debut.  

“33rd and Memphis” premiers at the Crossroads Théâtre on August 22, 7 p.m. to 10:30 p.m, at the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center, 8633 Colesville Road, Silver Spring, Md. 20910. 

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