Black girl magic was in full effect on Monday night at the Actors Equity building as an impressive panel gathered to discuss the position of black women in the production and performance of popular theater.
“At The Table: A Panel of Black Women Creating Change in Theatre” was hosted by Actors Equity Association in collaboration with BOLD, a thriving interest group committed “to building up black women in the performing arts for the restoration of culture.”
The panel included famed producer Alia Jones-Harvey (Eclipsed, Trip to Bountiful), playwright Katori Hall (Mountaintop, Hurt Village), actor Jocelyn Bioh (Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, playwright: Nollywood Dreams), Hi-Arts artistic director Kamilah A. Forbes and choreographer Camille A. Brown. (A Streetcar Named Desire, Fortress of Solitude).
Among the issues discussed was the opportunity for presence in an industry where African-Americans are severely underrepresented in both the audience and the art. While Jones-Harvey has mastered innovative consumer outreach with partner Stephen Byrd, Hall, who now demands producer privileges in her contract, noted that she is often the only person of color in the creative room.
“Establish your rules and your voice from the start! We have to write ourselves into existence. We are becoming the norm.”
According to choreographer Brown, she is working for the dances/dancers that were appropriated.
“Katherine Dunham received no credit for her choreography in Cabin in the Sky. I’m speaking for myself but also those voices that have been silenced.”
When asked when she feels most brilliant, Brown responded, “for me, brilliance is in our resistance, power, and perseverance. I hear the stories of black folk- so rich and full. In spite of it all, we still rise and walk our paths. That’s brilliant!”
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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