The Fire This Time Festival – complete with 10-minute plays, full-length play readings and solo show excerpts – kicked off its seventh season on MLK Day with a panel discussion themed “So You Want To Direct?” The festival continues through Feb. 6, at The Kraine Theater.
Founded in 2009 by playwright Kelley Nicole Girod, the Obie Award-winning festival has been a vehicle for directing diversity on stage as it showcases emerging playwrights of African and African-American descent. The first season in February 2010 produced short one-act plays with more than 30 theatre artists and collaborators.
Presented by Horse Trade Theater Group, much of the work for the 2016 festival is world premiere and allows for reflection of 21st century perspectives. Seven playwrights were commissioned to write new 10-minute plays:
- Tanya Everett (Without Scars with Breast Friends)
- Keelay Gipson (The Lost at Planet Connections Theater Festivity; N/F at Downtown Urban Theater Festival)
- Jiréh Breon Holder (2012-13 Kenny Leon Fellow, Alliance Theatre)
- Roger Q. Mason (Onion Creek with Son of Semele Ensemble, Los Angeles)
- Stacey Rose (2015-16 Dramatists Guild Fellow)
- Korde Arrington Tuttle (Beautiful Mess in Around the Block: a 5D Project)
- Nia Ostrow Witherspoon (Global Arts Fund Grant for The Messiah Complex)
Bedford + Bowery stated: “It’s refreshing to see diversity not only present in the artists chosen, but in the work being made, as TFTT clearly demonstrates that theater and performance today is not only defined by the standard play, but so much more.”
In addition to the panel discussion, the event hosts an Open Mic Night (Jan. 28) and Inaugural Writers Group Presentations (Jan. 31). The latter focuses on excerpts of works in progress by Ngozi Anyanwu, Christine Jean Chambers, Edgar Chisholm, Danielle Davenport, Khalil Kain and Maia Matsushita. A musical reading, Hotel Harare – written by Daaimah Mubashshir and music by Tanyaradzwa Tawengwa – also is among the offerings.
Inspired of the James Baldwin-packaged essays The Fire Next Time, the festival website displays the following Baldwin quote: “There is something terribly radical about believing that one’s own experience and images are important enough to speak about, much less to write about and to perform.”
Among the team behind the festival are: producing artistic director Kevin R. Free (2012 New Black Fest Playwriting Fellow); associate artistic director Angelica Cheri (Papers and Plastics film); founding playwright and production consultant Derek McPhatter (Under the Spell Productions, Harlem Arts Alliance/Columbia University Dramatic Writing Fellow); founding playwright Germono Toussaint (A Mile In My Shoes, Inc.); and assistant producer Keila Fontanez-La Salle.