Black women are the backbone of our culture and in the theatre community, it is no different. They’re creating stories and spaces for us all. We could not be more blessed to have these voices filling the air with their words. These are not the only just FYI, these are just a few. Get into them!
Lydia R. Diamond is your author’s favorite playwright. After falling in love with theatre in high school, Diamond attended Northwestern University where she earned a B.A. in Theatre and Performance Studies. She’s best known for her adaptation of Toni Morrison’s coming-of-age story, “Bluest Eye”. Her work often reflects history and literature, and her writing is deeply academic in nature. Her newest play, “Smart People” is set to take the stage at New Haven, Connecticut’ s Long Wharf Theatre on March 15th.
Recommendations: Smart People, Bluest Eye, and Here I am…See You Can Handle It
Kirsten Greenidge is a poet and a playwright all at the same time. She’s known for her Obie Winning play Milk Like Sugar. The play follows 16-year-old Annie’s struggle to find happiness despite having a disconnected mother and a pregnancy pact to fulfill. Greenidge’s work constantly brings cadence to difficult discussions. Greenidge finds room for an impassioned language where we see awkward silence. Her work is akin to the choreopoems of Elizabeth Alexander and Ntozake Shange.
Recommendations: Milk Like Sugar, Yes, Please, and Thank You, and The Gibson Girl
Dominique Morisseau is Detroit through and through! Since her days at the University of Michigan, her work has propelled audiences into serious conversations about race and community. Her plays are celebrated for giving people of color a chance to take the stage. Morrisseau has won an Obie Award, been honored by the city of Detroit and even been awarded the Jane Chambers Playwriting Award. This award focuses on women playwrights that represent the feminist perspective and give performance opportunities to women.
Recommendations: Detroit ’67, Follow Me to Nellie’s, and Sunset Baby
Katori Hall is not only a playwright, but an actress, a journalist and an intellectual. After graduating from Columbia University in 2003, Hall made her way through Harvard’s American Repertory Theatre and Julliard’s Playwriting Program, earning her Masters by 2009. That same year, The Mountaintop premiered in London at Theatre503. The fictional retelling of Martin Luther King’s last night earned Hall a West End premiere, Broadway preimere, and Olivier Award. Hall’s excellence led her to the Pershing Square Signature Theatre’s Residency where her work is guaranteed three world premieres, two of which she’s already celebrated. Since The Mountaintop, she has brought more than six plays to audiences throughout the world. Did I mention she and Morrisseau are best friends and frequent collaborators?
Recommendations: Our Lady Kibeho, Pussy Valley, and Hurt Village
Finally, Lynn Nottage is the woman of the hour! Last year, Nottage won the coveted Sarah Blackburn Prize for her play Sweat. The play tells the story of camaraderie’s quick descent into chaos as factory workers deal with maintaining their livelihood amidst layoffs. Nottage is celebrated for telling the stories of African descendants, especially women. Her play Ruined focused on the Democratic Republic of Congo’s war and its target towards women. The play beat out Lin Manuel-Miranda’s In The Heights for the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Nottage has written over a dozen plays that have been constantly produced regionally and off-Broadway. You can find more information about the Yale grad’s Broadway debut here.
Recommendations: Sweat, Fabulation, or the Re-Education of Udine, and Poof!
Who are some of your favorite black women playwrights? Sound off in the comments below!
Iconic Entertainer Gregory Hines Honored With a Black Heritage Series Stamp
The U.S. Postal Service honored iconic entertainer Gregory Hines with a Black Heritage Series stamp in a ceremony on January 28th. As the 42nd entry in the series, the stamp featuring a 1988 photo of a smiling Hines is now available at Post Offices and usps.com.
At the ceremony Tony Award winner Savion Glover talked about the role Hines played in elevating tap into an art form and the value of his work. Joining him in the celebration were Maurice Hines, actor, dancer, choreographer, and Hines’ brother; Daria Hines, actress, costume designer, and Hines’ daughter; dancers Chloe and Maud Arnold; Tony Waag, the American Tap Dance Foundation’s artistic director, and tap dancer Jason Samuels Smith.
“I don’t exist without this man,” said Glover, “These young people that you see, they aren’t born without this. We are not here today without this.”
The Chief Postal Inspector, Gary Barksdale, who led the ceremony, said “Gregory Hines was an extraordinary artist in every sense of the word. This Forever stamp pays tribute to his life and career as an actor, singer and most importantly, as a performer whose unique style of tap dancing injected new artistry and excitement into a traditional American form.”
Gregory Hines’ Broadway credits include Eubie!, Sophisticated Ladies, & Comin’ Uptown, all of which garnered him Tony Award nominations. He became a Tony Award winner for his starring role in “Jelly’s Last Jam” in 1992. In 2003 he passed away at 57 years old from cancer.
Casts of Disney’s The Lion King, Frozen, & Aladdin Broadway Celebrate Black History Month
It’s a beautiful time to be Black on Broadway. For Black History Month, the casts of The Lion King, Aladdin, and Frozen on Broadway came together in a celebratory photo shoot with photographer Darnell Bennett involving 35+ company cast members.
Take a look at the behind-the-scenes video above and the accompanying photos below.
Cast members included The Lion King‘s Tryphena Wade, Lawrence Keith Alexander, Brian C. Binion, Lidiwe Dlamini, Donna Michelle Vaughn, LaMar Baylor, Kyle Lamar Mitchell, Bradley Gibson, Jamal Lee Harris, Elisha Bowmans, Ray Mercer, L. Steven Taylor, Bongi Duma, Kimberly Marable, Syndee Winters, Cameron Amandus, Pearl Khwezi, Jaysin McCollum, Angelica Edwards, India Bolds, Bonita Hamilton, Tshidi Manye, & Bravita Threatt.
Also, Noah Ricketts, Aisha Jackson, Donald Jones Jr. of Frozen, and Aladdin‘s Tyler Roberts, Paige Williams, Deonte L Warren, Tiffany Evariste, Major Attaway, Amber Owens, Jamie Kasey Patterson, April Holloway, Kathryn Allison, Ariel Reid, Juwan Crawley, Trent Saunders, Dennis Stowe, and Stanley Martin.