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Lineup Announced for The New Black Fest at The Lark 2017

Lineup Announced for The New Black Fest at The Lark 2017

The New Black Fest and The Lark, two theater organizations dedicated to celebrating and advocating for extraordinary and diverse stories, have announced the third annual The New Black Fest at The Lark.

The week-long event, with talkbacks and panel events surrounding the 10-hour rehearsal processes and public staged readings of four of plays in progress, is aimed at showcasing diverse and provocative work in a festival of Black theater artists from throughout the Diaspora.

The festival will take place April 3-7, 2017, and will feature public readings of plays in process by CTG/Humanitas Award winner Ngozi Anyanwu (Nike or we don't need another hero), co-founder of The Continuum Project, Inc. and The New Black Fest playwright alumnus NSangou Njikam (When We Left), artist and activist Liza Jesse Peterson (Chiron's Homegurl Healer Howls) who has performed excerpts of her one-person play The Peculiar Patriot in over 35 penitentiaries across the country, and Paul Robeson Award winner James Anthony Tyler (Artney Jackson).

The theme of this year's festival, Black Sustainability, was conceived by Keith Josef Adkins, Artistic Director and Co-Founder of The New Black Fest, as an exploration for an answer to the question, "What does it take for a group of people, or an individual, to wake up every day and seek out normalcy while also pushing against legislative and social oppression?"

"Here's the thing: navigating extreme forms of oppression is nothing new to the black experience," said Adkins. "Our grandparents and great-great grandparents spent nearly every moment of their existence attempting social normalcy, while navigating extreme forms of institutional oppression. By example, they showed us what oppression looks like and how to survive it. Sometimes even fight it tooth and nail."

The festival will kick-off with a panel discussion titled "Black Sustainability in the Trump Era," that will feature Yvette Carnell (journalist and Founder of BreakingBrown), Tressie McMillan Cottom Ph.D (writer, researcher, and Assistant Professor of Sociology at Virginia Commonwealth University), Duarte Geraldino (journalist and former Wall Street corporate finance analyst), Dr. R. L'Heureux Lewis-McCoy (Associate Professor of Sociology in Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership and the Black Studies Program at the City College of New York), and Dorian T. Warren (President, Center for Community Change Action). The speakers and audience will engage in a collective conversation around survival, and the impact the presidential election of Donald Trump has had on shaping the way individuals in the artistic community articulate their politics and points of view.

"In truth, I decided on the theme several months prior to Trump's election, but aware his presidency was a possibility," said Adkins. "Since his inauguration many have been forced to become even more fearless in our art-making. We, for the most part, have not been blindsided by Trump's election; we have been forced to rethink our comfort levels and sharpen our tools of resistance. We're living (and rethinking) through a period in our history that challenges our notion of earned liberty, allegiances and endurance. It is a time for fearless art, uncompromised self-definition and perhaps strategic sustainability. It is time for potent conversations about our truths that lead us into courageous action."

The New Black Fest at The Lark will examine the definition and possibility of normalcy in our current cultural climate, how sustainability has been shaped in the past and present, and whether fantasy, unapologetic truth, resistance, and fear, can serve as forms of sustainability, forms of resistance, or simply self-definition. "Or perhaps those things are inherently intertwined," said Adkins. Through the panel discussion, the plays, and talkbacks, The New Black Fest and The Lark hope to provide an opportunity to build a community conversation around the development and power of new plays.

"Perhaps art's greatest value is that it helps us see the world through other people's eyes, so that we may recognize our common humanity and act with compassion," said John Clinton Eisner, Founder and Artistic Director of The Lark. "Collective conversation about enfranchisement and pluralism is critical, and our partnership with The New Black Fest is core to our mission of nurturing a community eager to engage."

Through a diverse portfolio of fellowships, residencies, workshops, and partnerships such as the one with The New Black Fest, The Lark has provided a platform for voices to enter the evolving national repertoire. Recent plays substantially developed at The Lark include Dominique Morisseau's Skeleton Crew, Kimber Lee's brownsville song (b-side for tray), Rajiv Joseph's Guards at the Taj, Katori Hall's The Mountaintop, Lenelle Moïse's Merit and Jocelyn Bioh's School Girls or The African Mean Girls Play, both of which were developed through The New Black Fest at The Lark and were featured on the 2016 Kilroy's List, and Lynn Nottage's Sweat, which opens on Broadway later this month. Nottage is also a member of the advisory board of The New Black Fest, and has said of the festival, "This [event] is not about separation, it's about inclusion. It's about inviting people who don't get access."

The Kick-Off Panel will take place on April 3, 2017 at The 52nd Street Project, located at 789 10th Avenue, in New York City. Doors open at 6:30pm. The public readings will take place April 4-7, 2017 in The Lark's BareBones Studio, located at 311 West 43rd Street, on the 5th Floor. Each reading will be followed by a talkback and reception. All events are free of charge, though reservations are required. For more information, visit The Lark's website at www.larktheatre.org/what's-happening-new-black-fest-2017.


SCHEDULE:

MONDAY, APRIL 3, 2017 at 7:00PM
Kick-Off Panel: Black Sustainability in the Trump Era
Featuring: Yvette Carnell (journalist and Founder of BreakingBrown), Tressie McMillan Cottom Ph.D (writer, researcher, and Assistant Professor of Sociology at Virginia Commonwealth University), Duarte Geraldino (journalist and former Wall Street corporate finance analyst), Dr. R. L'Heureux Lewis-McCoy (Associate Professor of Sociology in Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership and the Black Studies Program at the City College of New York), and Dorian T. Warren (President, Center for Community Change Action).

TUESDAY, APRIL 4, 2017 at 7:00PM
Artney Jackson
By James Anthony Tyler
Artney Jackson is a 25-year veteran of the Cable Company in Las Vegas, Nevada. When his supervisor resigns, Artney finally has his shot at the position, but a conflict with his adult, schizophrenic son risks Artney succumbing to his fears, and may ruin the opportunity to rise up.

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 5, 2017 at 7:00PM
Chiron's Homegurl Healer Howls
By Liza Jessie Peterson
Chiron's Homegurl Healer Howls is Black Girl magic from bud to full bloom. It weaves monologue and poetry to tell the story of how a wounded teenage loud mouth girl, Keisha, unaware of her power and magic, slowly discovers her inner mystic through a series of awakenings and steps into her ancient futuristic wizard, Merlina. All the while Chiron, the overarching spirt is guiding the journey. The Street Chorus, Chiron's magical posse, helps tell the story through transitional songs and musical testimonies.

THURSDAY, APRIL 6, 2017 at 7:00PM
When We Left
By NSangou Njikam
With America in turmoil over racial tensions and an uncertain future, a fiery Congresswoman seeks to bring justice and equality for African Americans. But as tensions grow, a mysterious organization emerges claiming they have the ultimate solution for Black people: Return to Africa. Now she must choose which battle she will fight: the side of American equality or the side of total Liberation.

FRIDAY, APRIL 7, 2017 at 7:00PM
Nike or we don't need another hero
By Ngozi Anyanwu
Is an Origin story of the Goddess Nike and
a retelling of the Olympus myth
Black Greek Super hero style


ABOUT THE PLAYWRIGHTS:

Ngozi Anyanwu is an overall Renaissance Woman. Education: University of California San Diego's (MFA acting) Point Park University (B.A.) Acting :The Pittsburgh Public Theatre, Barrington Stage, Rattlestick Playwrights Theater and The Mark Taper Forum. TV credits: Limitless, Deadbeat, The Affair, Law and Order SVU, Mysteries of Laura, and the upcoming HBO show The Deuce. Producer: National Black Theatre Producing Fellow. 1st Generation Nigerian Project, Co-Producer and Director of New Play Development of Now Africa's Playwrights Festival. She is also on the Literary committee of the Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre. Director: She Gon' Learn by Lisa Strum for the Emerging Arts Festival, United Solo Festival, National Black Theater. Playwriting: Good Grief, Victory is Ours, and The Homecoming Queen. Good Grief was presented as part of the Rising Circle Collective's 6th annual Ink Tank and the play also received a workshop production at INTAR Theatre. Most recently, Good Grief won the Inaugural CTG/Humanitas Award and will have its world premiere at the CTG/Kirk Douglas Theatre in the 2016/17 season, was listed in the 2016 annual Kilroy's List, and was a semi-finalist for the Princess Grace Award. Victory is Ours was recently presented as part of the National Black Theatre's Keep Soul Alive Monday Reading Series. An excerpt of The Homecoming Queen was presented as part of The Fire This Time's Inaugural's Writers group, and most recently had a workshopped reading that was presented at Yale with Page 73 for their summer residency. Anyanwu is also a recipient of the Djerassi Artist Residency as well as SPACE on Ryder Farm and the LCT playwrights residency.

NSangou Njikam is an actor and playwright originally from Baltimore, MD. He is the author of Syncing Ink, Re:Definition, I.D., When We Left, Search For The Crystal Stairs, and one of the authors of Hands Up: 6 Plays, 6 Testimonials. His work has been developed by The Public Theater, Penn State University, The Flea Theater, Hip Hop Theatre Festival, UNIVERSES theatre company, The New Black Fest, and the Alley Theater. Mr. Njikam's play I.D. recently made its world premiere at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, South Africa before coming to the U.S. at Penn State Centre Stage. His playwriting residencies and fellowships include 2015 Emerging Writers Group at The Public Theater, 2013 New Black Fest fellow, and Penn State University commissioned playwright. Currently, Mr. Njikam's play, Syncing Ink, will go to the Alley Theater's All New Festival, directed by Niegel Smith. As an arts educator, Mr. Njikam has worked for Brooklyn Academy Of Music, CUNY Creative Arts Team, Harlem School of the Arts, and is co-founder of The Continuum Project, Inc., an organization using African Ancestry DNA testing and the Arts to promote healing and empowerment for communities. Mr. Njikam's work focuses mainly on Identity stories and the empowerment of the human spirit by recognizing and embracing one's personal gifts, utilizing Hip Hop theatre, poetry, and West African performance aesthetics. He also aims to develop new, diverse and younger audiences by creating "theatre of the now and for tomorrow." He received his BFA in acting from Howard University. After tracing his roots to the Tikar people in Cameroon, West Africa, he was named NSangou by Sultan Ibrahim MBombo Njoya, 19th king of the Bamoun kingdom in Cameroon. He currently resides in New York.

Liza Jessie Peterson is a renowned actress, poet, playwright, educator and activist who has been steadfast in her commitment to incarcerated populations both professionally and artistically, but specifically with adolescent boys and girls detained at Rikers Island for eighteen years. She has worked as a program counselor for the Department of Corrections, a reentry specialist, a teaching artist (with poetry and theater), GED instructor for the Board of Education at Rikers Island, and a life skills workshop facilitator. She was recently featured in Ava DuVernay's documentary 13th (Netflix) and was a consultant on Bill Moyers documentary RIKERS (PBS). She has written several plays, including The Peculiar Patriot, which she performed excerpts of in over 35 penitentiaries across the country, and opened for Angela Davis at Columbia University's conference on mass incarceration. Also known for her exceptional poetic skills, Liza began her poetry career at the Nuyorican Poets Café and was a vital member of the enclave of notable poets who were part of the "underground slam poetry" movement. It was this electric group of artists that inspired Russell Simmons to bring "spoken word" to HBO where Liza appeared on two episodes of Def Poetry. As an actress Liza appeared in several feature films: Love the Hard Way (costarring with Pam Grier and Adrien Brody), Spike Lee's Bamboozled, K. Shalini's A Drop of Life, and Jamie Catto's What About Me. Liza's first book, ALL DAY; A Year of Love and Survival Teaching Incarcerated Kids, will be released spring 2017.

James Anthony Tyler has a MFA in Film from Howard University and a MFA in Dramatic Writing from New York University, where his concentration was Playwriting. Selected honors include the Paul Robeson Award and John Golden Award for Excellence in Playwriting. His plays have been developed at La MaMa and Berkshire Playwrights Lab (Some Old Black Man), Classical Theatre of Harlem (The Drop Off), Rattlestick Playwrights Theater (Talkin' To This Chick Sippin' Magic Potion), Asolo Rep and The Drama League (hop tha A), Finborough Theatre in London and LAByrinth Theater Company (Dolphins and Sharks). He's a member of Harlem's Emerging Black Playwrights Group, a 2014-2015 Dramatists Guild Fellow, a 2015-2016 The Playwrights Center's Many Voices Fellow, a 2016-2017 Ars Nova Play Group Resident, a 2016 Working Farm Playwrights Group Resident at SPACE on Ryder Farm, a 2016 Theatre Masters Visionary Playwrights Award recipient, and is currently a Playwriting Fellow at The Juilliard School. Upcoming Productions include Dolphins and Sharks at LAByrinth Theater Company and Some Old Black Man at Berkshire Playwrights Lab, starring Tony Award winner Roger Robinson and Peter Jay Fernandez.

ABOUT THE PANELISTS:

Yvette Carnell writes about politics, international and cultural issues for Your Black World and is the founder of BreakingBrown. Before embarking on a career in new media, she served as a Congressional aide, first to Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), and later to former Congressman Marion Berry (D-AR).In her time on the Hill, she also worked as Regional Field Director for America's Families United (AFU), one of the largest non-profit Get Out the Vote (GOTV) campaigns active during the 2004 election cycle. In the broader Democratic Party, she served as assistant to the Director of the Women's Vote Center at the Democratic National Committee (DNC). She has since distanced herself from the Democratic Party and considers herself an independent.Her articles have been featured in the Huffington Post and YourBlackWorld. She has been featured by national news outlets including, but not limited to; The Nation, The Guardian, Politico and NPR. She received a B.A. in Political Science from Howard University. See her in action HERE.

Tressie McMillan Cottom, Ph.D. is an assistant professor of sociology at Virginia Commonwealth University and faculty associate with Harvard University's Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society. Her research on higher education, work and technological change in the new economy has been supported by the Microsoft Research Network's Social Media Collective, The Kresge Foundation, the American Educational Research Association and the UC Davis Center for Poverty Research. Millions List, a leader in publishing, named her book "Lower Ed: The Troubling Rise of For-Profit Colleges in the New Economy" one of the most anticipated non-fiction books of 2016. She has published on race/class/gender, education, and technology in the new economy. McMillan Cottom is also co-editor of two academic books: "Digital Sociologies" from Policy Press and "For Profit U" from Palgrave MacMillan. She speaks extensively, including recent invitations to The White House, South Africa, New Zealand, and Italy. Her public scholarship has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, and The Atlantic to name a few. See her in action HERE.

Duarte Geraldino is a former Wall Street corporate finance analyst and an accomplished journalist with more than ten years of experience. He has covered the congressional showdown over extending the U.S. payroll tax cut, the banking crisis, the race for the White House, the impact of Hurricane Irene on New York City and many of the most significant stories of the past decade. He has contributed reports to Bloomberg TV, the CBS Affiliate News Service and guest anchored the CBS Morning News. See him in action HERE.

Dr. R. L'Heureux Lewis-McCoy is an Associate Professor of Sociology in Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership and the Black Studies Program at the City College of New York - CUNY. He specializes in racial and ethnic relations with research and activism that concentrate on educational inequality, race-related public policy, and gender justice. In the area of education, his research helps expand understanding and generate solutions to issues of educational inequality by going beyond discussions of "achievement gaps." His book, Inequality in the Promised Land (Stanford University Press, 2014) uses original qualitative data to tackle the meaning and influence of race and class in ethnically and economically diverse schools. He has lectured widely and been a featured expert on the role of race in the contemporary political landscape, urban-suburban regional issues, as well as Affirmative Action.

In the area of gender equity, his research and activism focus on the power of gender within communities of color. Some of his past and current work covers issues such as masculinity, ending sexual violence, and gender privilege. In New York City, he co-leads the Ndugu and Nzinga African Rites of Passage program. He is a scholar-activist with years of experience of working with grassroots organizations, not for profits, think tanks and school districts. His commentary and analyses have been featured in international, national and regional media outlets such as the Guardian (UK), National Public Radio, Diversity in Higher Education, US World New Report, Fox News, Al Jazeera America, Huffington Post Live and throughout the web publications like Ebony, The Grio, and The Root. His blog Uptown Notes won the best political writing award from the Black Weblog Awards. He was recently honored as New Yorker of the week by the historic Amsterdam News and selected as a member of the 2015 Forty under 40 by the Network Journal. Dr. Lewis-McCoy holds a Ph.D. in Public Policy and Sociology from the University of Michigan and a B.A. in Sociology from Morehouse College. See him in action HERE.

Dorian T. Warren is President of the Center for Community Change Action (CCCA) and Vice-President of the Center for Community Change (CCC). He is also a Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute.

A progressive scholar, organizer and media personality, Warren has worked to advance racial, economic and social justice for over two decades. He previously taught for over a decade at the University of Chicago and Columbia University, where he was Co-Director of the Columbia University Program on Labor Law and Policy. Warren also worked at MSNBC where he was a Contributor and Host and Executive Producer of "Nerding Out" on MSNBC's digital platform.

He currently serves on several boards including Working Partnerships USA, the Workers Lab, the National Employment Law Project, and The Nation Magazine Editorial Board. As a commentator on public affairs, Warren has appeared regularly on television and radio including NBC Nightly News, ABC, MSNBC, CNN, CNBC, BET, BBC, NPR, Bloomberg, & NY1, among other outlets. He has also written for The Nation, Huffington Post, Newsweek, Salon, Washington Post, New York Times, Medium, Ebony.com, and Boston Review.

In 2013, he was included on the list of NBC's theGrio's 100 people making history today. After growing up on the South Side of Chicago, Warren received his B.A. from the University of Illinois and his M.A. and Ph.D. in political science from Yale University. Twitter: @dorianwarren See him in action HERE.


The Lark is an international theater laboratory, based in New York City, dedicated to empowering playwrights by providing transformative support within a global community. Founded in 1994, The Lark provides writers with funding, space, collaborators, audiences, professional connections, and the freedom to design their own processes of exploration. The guiding principal of The Lark's work is the belief that playwrights are society's truth tellers, and their work strengthens our collective capacity to understand our world and imagine its future.

Last year, The Lark served 929 artists, including 106 playwrights, partnered with more than a dozen theaters and universities, and welcomed 2,618 audience members to 32 public presentations. In the past three years 121 Lark developed plays moved on to 281 productions in 111 cities around the world. In order to provide economic flexibility to writers at different stages of their careers, The Lark has created a portfolio of major playwriting fellowships. The Lark continues to offer a free and open submission process that allows any and all writers to submit to our Playwrights' Week program and maintains free admission to the public for all readings and workshops.

For more information about the artists, initiatives and plays of The Lark, www.larktheatre.org.

The New Black Fest is a theater organization committed to celebrating insurgent voices within the diverse African Diaspora through theater, film and discussion. The New Black Fest is a gathering of artists, thinkers, activists and audiences who are dedicated to stretching, interrogating and uplifting the Black aesthetic in the 21st century. The New Black Fest has developed many artists including Mfoniso Udofia, Kwame Kwei-Armah, Dennis Allen II, Eisa Davis and more. It has partnered with the National Black Theatre, 651 ARTS, the BRIC Arts/Media/Brooklyn, the Classical Theatre of Harlem and more. It also co-founded the American Slavery Project as well as commissioned Facing Our Truth: 10-Minute Plays on Trayvon, Race and Privilege, HANDS UP: 7 Playwrights, 7 Testaments, and the recent Un-Tamed: Hair Body Attitude - Short Plays by Black Women (in collaboration with Dominique Morisseau).

Keith Josef Adkins (Artistic Director) As a playwright, his plays include The People Before the Park (Premiere Stages), Pitbulls (Rattlestick), Safe House (Aurora Theatre, Cincinnati Playhouse, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis), among others. His play The Last Saint on Sugar Hill received its New York City premiere in 2013 at Dr. Barbara Ann Teer's National Black Theater under the direction of Seret Scott and earned six 2014 Audelco nominations. Other plays include The Migrant's Fight, Sugar and Needles, The Final Daze, among others. He is currently under commission by Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park. Keith is currently writing a screenplay for James Franco's Rabbit Bandini Production Company and is a writer for CBS' The Good Fight.

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