Billie Holiday Theatre Appoints Jackie Alexander New Artistic Director; Announces 2013-14 Season
The Billie Holiday Theatre's Executive Director Marjorie Moon announces the appointment of director, actor, playwright, and novelist Jackie Alexander as the Theatre's Artistic Director.
Alexander's relationship with The Billie Holiday Theatre began in 1996 when he performed in the world premiere of Raisin' Hell, a musical written by the legendary Smokey Robinson. Since then, he has continued to work as an actor in multiple shows at the Theatre, while also taking the helm as director on twelve BHT productions. In early 2009, The Billie Holiday Theatre commissioned him to write three new plays for their 2010-11 Season, making him the first playwright in the Theatre's forty-two year history to receive such an honor. As a filmmaker, his debut film Joy was honored with a 2002 Best Feature Film Award by The Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame, and his debut novel Our Daily Bread was released by Turner Publishing in the fall of 2012. The author of seven plays including Brothers from the Bottom, The High Priestess of Dark Alley, and The Legend of Buster Neal, Alexander's work has been produced Off-Broadway and regionally throughout the country.
Executive Director Marjorie Moon is thrilled to have Alexander on board, stating: "Jackie Alexander is a brilliant, multi-talented artist with a conscience. He is committed to the use of his gifts as a detailed, colorful, master storyteller that engages and galvanizes our audiences to greater awareness, potential debate, and resolution of the social and political issues facing the African/Caribbean-American community. As importantly, Jackie loves the theatre, especially The Billie Holiday Theatre as much as I do."
As Artistic Director, Alexander will focus on selecting plays for The Billie Holiday's mainstage and New Voices Play Reading Series that feature innovative work by up and coming playwrights of the African Diaspora, cultivating an artistic environment that is entertaining, fresh, relevant, and cutting edge. Alexander will also look to widen the Theatre's audience base, while staying true to the Theatre's core and exceedingly loyal following, by choosing plays with a cross-generational appeal. He notes, "There's always debate as to how others define Black Theatre, but I've noticed a disconnect between the older and younger generation within the community as to how we are represented. I believe we must find common ground in telling and appreciating our stories; hence the theme of this year's season, Generations United."
The Billie Holiday Theatre's 2013-14 Season, Generations United, includes world premieres by three dynamic playwrights- Fati's Last Dance by France-Luce Benson, Maid's Door by Cheryl L. Davis, and The Seeds of Abraham: Part Two of the Prophet's Cycle by Angelica Chéri.
The Theatre's 42nd season kicks off on Tuesday, October 1, 2013, with the New Voices Play Reading Series production of the 2012 Eugene O'Neill National Playwrights Conference semi-finalist The Grove by Mfoniso Udofia.
Adiagha Ufot is a passionate poet and a woman in love. She is also the eldest daughter of a transplanted Nigerian family and the only viable conduit of their rich culture. But, when her life choices collide with family expectation, Adiagha risks losing everything in order to remain true to herself.
The season's first mainstage production, which runs Saturday, October 19 through Sunday, December 15, 2013, is the laugh out loud, off-beat comedy Fati's Last Dance by France-Luce Benson:
Can an aging ballet diva, a princely break dancer, a reality show reject, and a Brazilian Guru move a sleeping beauty off the couch and into the spotlight? Fati's Last Dance tells the story of a young Haitian woman's journey from self-loathing to self-acceptance, and her family's gracefully awkward steps towards overcoming grief.
France-Luce Benson's plays have been produced by Crossroads Theatre, the Krane Theatre (as part of The Fire This Time Festival), New Perspectives Theatre, JACK, Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre, Harlem School of the Arts, and the Ensemble Studio Theatre where she is an honored Lifetime Member. Ms. Benson graduated from Carnegie Mellon University with an M.F.A. in Dramatic Writing and has also studied at Columbia University/Harlem Arts Alliance, Circle Repertory Theatre School, and Florida International University. Her screenplay Healing Roots won the prestigious Alfred P. Sloan screenplay competition. Most recently, the Sloan Foundation in association with Ensemble Studio Theatre awarded Ms. Benson a New Play Commission to write The Devil's Salt, a full length play about Haitian activist Jean Dominique, which was featured at EST's First Light Festival 2013. She is a two-time Schubert Fellow, as well as a two-time scholarship recipient at the Upright Citizens Brigade. Her original video sketch Black Baby Agency, developed at UCB, is currently in post-production and will premiere soon. Ms. Benson is also an Associate Professor at St. Johns University and a proud member of the Dramatist Guild of America and New York Women in Film and Television. Fati's Last Dance was honored by the Kennedy Center (Lorraine Hansberry Award) and won the Mary Marlin Fisher Prize from Carnegie Mellon University. In 2008, it was selected for the inaugural Ignition Festival at Victory Gardens Theatre in Chicago and later had a reading at Ensemble Studio Theatre.