NOW AFRICA Playwrights Festival Set for NYU

NOW AFRICA Playwrights Festival Set for NYU

In cooperation with the NYU Tisch Center for Art and Public Policy, NOW AFRICA - a group of New York based African writers, actors and community activists - will present its first annual playwrights festival, conceived to showcase and raise awareness of dramatic works by African writers.

NOW AFRICA was conceptualized by playwright Mfoniso Udofia and produced with producer Chinyere Anyanwu, actor/writer/producer Ngozi Anyanwu, actor/producer/activist Erin Cherry, educator and theater specialist Gwendolen Hardwick, and actor/director/producer Bashir Solebo. The goal of the festival is to reintroduce the masters of African Dramatic Literature, including Ama Ata Aidoo, Tawfiq al Hakim, Wole Soyinka and Ngugi wa Thiong'o, while also highlighting the work of the incoming classes of contemporary African playwrights. The inaugural festival is hosted by the NYU Tisch Center for Art & Public Policy, the NYU Tisch Institute of Performing Arts, and the Anna Deavere Smith Institute on the Arts and Civic Dialogue.

"We set out to create a festival that would be representative of the continent, and that spanned pre- and post-colonial periods, but what we quickly discovered is that much of this work has been buried so deep that even we were unaware of it," said Udofia, whose play Sojourners will have its off-Broadway premiere with The Playwrights Realm this fall. "As we did our research, and we discovered so many new names, and due in part to the challenge in getting copies of these plays, we now see our objective as more urgent than ever."

As a result of the obstacles - both financial and logistical - in obtaining copies of the plays, the NOW AFRICA group also intends to create a public digital repository of African plays in order to enhance the knowledge of and appreciation for African drama.

"The disappearance of art - any kind of art - is a form of amputation, and often a deliberate political act to silence particular voices, be they women's voices, Palestinian voices, or in this case, rich and diverse African voices," said Engel, chair of the Tisch Department of Art and Public Policy. "We need access to the plays that have been disappeared, and to the new ones from the new voices. We need to experience all of them, brought to us by brilliant young artist/scholars/activists. We need the work to live in theaters, on the streets, in our bodies, as history, as culture. Every time the work lives, we are that much richer, more alive. Our students, and we all, urgently need this festival, to experience the theater created from the continent of Africa, from before, and today. I am moved by, and honored to work with this brilliant, dedicated group."

The schedule for the NOW AFRICA Festival will be as follows:

· Saturday, September 26, 7pm, 20 Cooper Square, 5th Floor, Room 503, NY, NY: Performative reading of Binyavanga Wainaina's incendiary and satirical piece, "How to Write About Africa," followed by a facilitated discussion on the implication of Wainaina's piece and the radical movements currently occurring within contemporary African dramatic arts. A showcase of excerpts from African playwrights will close this day.

· Sunday, September 27 at 7:30pm, NYU Tisch Graduate Musical Theater Writing Black-box Theatre, 715 Broadway, 2nd floor NY, NY: Performance of runboyrun followed by a talk back with author Mfoniso Udofia.

· Monday, September 28, 7pm, NYU Tisch Reise Lounge, 721 Broadway, ground floor, NY, NY: Excerpts of pre-colonial and post colonial plays will be juxtaposed with their contemporary counterparts in order to compare how African narratives are changing over time.

The NOW Africa festival is one of a yearlong, curated series of special events, performances, installations and other projects celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the School of the Arts at NYU. Centered on the theme of "honoring the past and celebrating the future," events and activities will be held on and off campus, in partnership with community organizations such as Judson Church, Town Hall, the Museum of the Moving Image and others, and ultimately culminating in the 50th Anniversary Gala on April 4, 2016 at Jazz at Lincoln Center.

Tickets are free for all events, though seating is limited. Please RSVP at:

If you would like to support NOW AFRICA: Playwrights Festival please consider donating through Fractured Atlas. All donations are tax deductible.

The Department of Art and Public Policy at the NYU Tisch School of the Arts examines the politics that make art and the politics that art makes, enabling artists and those engaged in intellectual and institutional domains of art to enhance and elaborate the value and significance of their creative endeavors through intensive study, reflection, and engagement with the university and the world. The Department's Center for Art and Public Policy is its public face, a bridge between the department, the university and the greater community. For more information on programs and events, please visit our website.

Photo by Terria Clay Photography

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