Woolly Mammoth presents Justin Weaks’ workshop of ‘A Fine Madness’

The Helen Hayes award-winning actor writes and performs his personal reflections on being diagnosed with HIV.

Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company presents the workshop of A Fine Madness, written and performed by Helen Hayes award-winning actor Justin Weaks. Using movement, poetry, affirmations, scientific findings, and narration, the actor shares his personal experience as a Black gay man navigating a positive HIV diagnosis. The workshop will run from March 17-24 and is a pay-what-you-will event with limited capacity.  Further information can be found here.

Weaks, who was diagnosed with HIV just three weeks after coming to DC from North Carolina in 2016, didn’t set out to write a play. In March 2020, when the pandemic hit and the world was forced to isolate, he realized that he had been overconsumed with work and hadn’t even begun to process his diagnosis. He began journaling as a way to express and address his feelings, and realized much later that he had the basis of a performance piece and an opportunity to tell his own story.

Justin Weaks. Photo courtesy of Woolly Mammoth Theatre.

“Receiving my diagnosis was a surreal, scary time with many unknowns. It felt like being sucked into a black hole and I couldn’t escape,” shares Weaks. “Telling my story is a liberating experience and an opportunity to begin moving forward. There is so much joy and life to be experienced and I’m finally ready to live again.”

Weaks, who is a member of the Woolly Mammoth Company of Artists, developed this ‘Memoir’ work as part of the Weissberg Commissions program. The theater’s first dedicated commissioning program provides generative artists with the opportunity to innovate and take artistic risks in creating new theatrical works. The program allows Woolly Mammoth to support DC-based or born artists (and non-local artists) writing about topics that directly relate to life in the DMV.

“Justin is a joy to watch as a performer and an artist, and I’m thrilled that Woolly can be a part of his journey as a writer and creator as well,” says Sonia Fernandez, Woolly’s Director of New Work. “The Weissberg Commissions have allowed us to reimagine how we nurture and cultivate playwrights and generative artists, collaborating with them as they build their work. This piece is so exciting, in the way it plays with form, engages with the audience, and creates an intimate and powerful experience. It so needs to be shared with the world, and I can’t wait to see how it continues to develop.”

“It’s clear that our community needs to hear Justin’s story about his HIV diagnosis, and that it can raise awareness for the needs of real people right here in our region,” says Kimberly Douglas, Woolly’s Managing Director. “I’m looking forward to a future in which this beautiful and personal piece reaches people across the DMV — and beyond.”

A Fine Madness, a workshop presentation by Justin Weaks, performs Sunday, March 17, Wednesday, March 20, Friday, March 22 (ASL interpreted), and Saturday, March 23 at 7:00 PM, and Sunday, March 24 at 2:00 PM at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Rehearsal Hall, 641 D St NW, Washington, DC 20004. All seats are pay-what-you-will, starting at $5 (free to Woolly Mammoth Golden Ticket holders). Limited capacity for all performances. For each performance, select seats are available onstage. These onstage seats will have a much more immersive experience and may be brought into some consensual audience participation. Purchase tickets online here.


Justin Weaks has appeared in There’s Always the Hudson [2023 Helen Hayes Award, Outstanding Lead Performer in a Play], Describe the Night, BLKS, and Gloria at Woolly Mammoth. Other DC-area credits include Angels in America: Millennium Approaches [2024 Helen Hayes nomination, Outstanding Supporting Performer in a Play]; Long Way Down, The Watsons Go To Birmingham 1963, Darius & Twig, and Bud, Not Buddy (The Kennedy Center); Gem of the Ocean (Round House Theatre); Curve of Departure, FLOW (Studio Theatre); Word Becomes Flesh, Still Life With Rocket, and Dontrell, Who Kissed the Sea (Theater Alliance); The Christians (Theater J). Additional regional and New York appearances include New York Theatre Workshop, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, Shakespeare & Company, Barter Theatre, and Hamlet Isn’t Dead. Education/Training: Greensboro College (B.A. in Theatre).


The Tony Award-winning Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company creates badass theater that highlights the stunning, challenging, and tremendous complexity of our world. For over 40 years, Woolly has maintained a high standard of artistic rigor while simultaneously daring to take risks, innovate, and push beyond perceived boundaries. One of the few remaining theatres in the country to maintain a company of artists, Woolly serves an essential research and development role within the American theatre. Plays premiered here have gone on to productions at hundreds of theatres all over the world and have had lasting impacts on the field. Currently co-led by Artistic Director Maria Manuela Goyanes and Managing Director Kimberly E. Douglas, Woolly is located in Washington, DC, equidistant from the Capitol and the White House. This unique location influences Woolly’s investment in actively working towards an equitable, participatory, and creative democracy.

Woolly Mammoth stands upon occupied, unceded territory: the ancestral homeland of the Nacotchtank whose descendants belong to the Piscataway peoples. Furthermore, the foundation of this city, and most of the original buildings in Washington, DC, were funded by the sale of enslaved people of African descent and built by their hands.


In April 2022, the Weissberg Foundation chose Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company for a grant to honor the late Marvin Weissberg, a tremendous philanthropist and theatre lover. The resulting Weissberg Commissions Project is the theater’s first dedicated commissioning program.

Commissions under this new program range from $5,000 to $25,000 per project and fund completely new full-length plays, the testing of new ideas, or allowing artists to finish incomplete works. The Weissberg Commissions are given to writers, directors, designers, choreographers, or other generative artists who represent artistic innovation in their field and share Woolly’s vision for a socially just world.

In the 2022–2023 season, Gethsemane Herron, Justin Weaks, Vivian J. O. Barnes, and Jenn Kidwell were selected as artists for the Weissberg Commissions.


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