Speaking to the Harlem9 team is like speaking to a group of old friends. This group of interdisciplinary artists has been collaboratively producing the Obie Award Winning 48HOURS IN… ™HARLEM festival for the last seven years, making their family vibe strong. Harlem9 is an arts organization comprised of various producing entities that have come together in Harlem to explore the past, present, and future of Black culture and celebrate the rich history of storytelling within the African diaspora. Garlia Cornelia, Bryan E. Glover, Eric Lockley, Jonathan McCrory, and Liberation Theatre Company (Sandra A. Daley-Sharif and Spencer Scott Barros) are the producers that comprise Harlem9. The event brings together 6 Playwrights, 6 Directors and 18 actors who respond to a literary prompt. Within 48 hours Playwrights write an original play, Directors direct an original production, and actors perform it off book for audiences.
The 7th Annual 48HOURS IN… ™HARLEM takes place on August 13th at 9:30 pm. The six playwrights include Jordan E. Cooper, Kelley Girod, Daniel Alexander Jones, Donja Love, Cynthia Robinson, and Stacey Rose. Playwrights will re-imagine short stories and poems from renown writers James Baldwin and Sonia Sanchez into 10-minute plays. This year’s Directors are Steve H. Broadnax III, Rodney Gilbert, Mary Hodges, Candis Jones, John Eric Scutchins & Monica L. Williams.
On the surface, this one night only-two performance event at The National Black Theatre is an intense exercise in dramaturgy. This monumental birthing of art is driven by the Harlem 9’s deep commitment to bringing Black people together in the present moment while honoring the legacy of Harlem as the mecca of all things Black Art.
Harlem 9’s twist on the traditional 24-hour play festival is only a small part of the magic that makes 48 Hours in Harlem special. The team is deeply committed to caring for each other within those 48 hours; evident to the commitment each has made the last 7 years. Writer, Director, and Harlem9 founding member Garlia Cornelia Jones-Ly shared that in the last 7 years her life has changed tremendously, resulting in a role shift within the Harlem 9. Despite life transitions, the care her colleagues provide leaves her feeling loved and supported.
The 48 Hours in Harlem fete requires all hands on deck, as each member shared stories of needing naps and having each other’s back to incorporate self-care into the project for themselves. The holistic attention they offer each other overflows into the collective care they provide the diverse group of artists they bring together for one weekend of marathon art making. This community offering is critical in the hardest moments of the festival, especially when they are down to the wire and actors are exhausted.
The Harlem 9 team is an excellent model for collaborative community based devised theatre and risk taking in art creation, a testament to the reason they have lasted this long.
They offer compensation to their artists and are raising money for this production on Go Fund Me. Tickets are now on sale for their August 13th culminating event 7th Annual 48HOURS IN… ™HARLEM – 7PM AND 9:30PM at The National Black Theatre in Harlem NY.
Erika Dickerson-Despenza Addresses Flint Water Crisis with Cullud Wattah
There is limited seating left for Erika Dickerson-Despenza’s new play CULLUD WATTAH at The Public Theater. Opening today, Thursday, March 7th and running until Sunday, March 10th in the Public Studio is about three generations of Black women living through the current water crisis in Flint, Michigan.
“It’s been 936 days since Marion’s family has had clean water. When local activists file a class action lawsuit against the city, Marion—a third-generation employee at General Motors—must decide how best to support her two daughters, sister, and mother while lead seeps into the community, their home, and their bodies. As corrosive memories and secrets rise among them, the family wonders if they’ll ever be able to filter out the truth.”
2018 Relentless Award Semifinalist and poet-playwright makes her Public Theater debut with CULLUD WATTAH directed by Lilly Award winner Candis C. Jones; the cast includes Deonna Bouye (Marion), Alana Raquel Bowers (Reesee), Caroline Stefanie Clay (Big Ma), Nikiya Mathis (Ainee), and Kara Young (Plum).
The creative team includes Production Stage Manager Gregory Fletcher, Stage Manager Priscilla Villanueva, and Movement Director Adesola Osakalumi. Along with scenic design by Arnulfo Maldonado, Costume Design by Ntokozo Fuzunina Kunene, lighting Design by Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew, and sound design by Megan Culley
We believe in this work so much we’re giving away 4 tickets to the performances on March 10th. 2 tickets to the matinee and two the evening performance thanks to our founder Drew Shade and actress/playwright Jocelyn Bioh. Go to our Instagram to find out how!
Also, find out more about how you can help the Flint Water Crisis and support this show HERE.
Listen to Erika talk about her work on an episode of Off Book Podcast below
Surely Goodness and Mercy by Chisa Hutchinson Begins Off-Broadway
Performances begin today, Tuesday February 26th, for the New York premiere of Surely Goodness and Mercy, presented by Keen Company. A story about an exceptional boy living a troubled life in Newark, NJ who does a good deed for an often unnoticed person. Sarita Covington, Jay Mazyck, Brenda Pressley, Courtney Thomas, and Cezar Williams star under Jessi D. Hill’s direction.
Set in an under-funded public school in Newark, Surely Goodness and Mercy by rising playwright Chisa Hutchinson, tells the story of a bible-toting boy with a photographic memory who befriends the cantankerous old lunch lady. Against all odds, Tino and Bernadette help each other through the mess of growing up and growing old.
Surely Goodness and Mercy has spent the last year charming audiences across the country: “Notably absent from Hutchinson’s frank and sobering story: cynicism” – Chicago Reader; “(Surely Goodness and Mercy has) a soul-stirring quality, touching audiences with its sincerity” – Daily Utah Chronicle; “it’s impossible not to like it” – The Salt Lake Tribune. Now, Keen is honored to bring this big-hearted new play to New York for the first time.
Performances for this limited Off-Broadway engagement of Surely Goodness and Mercy will continue through Saturday, April 13th only, with opening night set for Wednesday, March 13th.
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