THE NEW BLACK FEST At The Lark Returns For Fifth Season
The New Black Fest and The Lark, two theater organizations dedicated to celebrating and advocating for stories that explore the intersection of art and social justice, are proud to announce the fifth annual The New Black Fest at The Lark. This week-long event is aimed at showcasing diverse and provocative work in a festival of Black theater artists from throughout the Diaspora, and will feature talkbacks, a panel event, and staged readings of four plays-in-progress. The festival will take place April 9-13, 2018, and will include works by 2017 Djerassi Writer in Residence France-Luce Benson (Deux Femmes On the Edge De La Revolution), 2018 Laurents/Hatcher Foundation Award recipient Donja R. Love (soft), 2015 Princess Grace Award-Winner Jonathan Payne (Brother Rabbit), and artist, activist, and The New Black Fest alum Liza Jessie Peterson (Sistergurls and the Squirrel) who has performed excerpts of her one-person play The Peculiar Patriot in over 35 penitentiaries across the country.The theme of this year's festival, Black Love, Black Space, and Solidarity, was conceived by Keith Josef Adkins, Artistic Director and Co-Founder of The New Black Fest, in response to the world's continued shifting. The festival will kick off with a panel discussion on this theme, moderated by Adkins, and featuring Keith A. Beauchamp (Filmmaker, The Untold Story of Emmet Louis Till), C.A. Johnson (Playwright), Dominique Morisseau (Playwright, TV Writer, Actor, and Social Justice Activist), and Quentin Walcott (anti-violence activist, educator, and facilitator). "As the worId continues to shift and reshape, I found myself asking: 'what now?'" said Adkins. "After communing with some really smart and compassionate people in the community, the answer was clear: commit ourselves to Black love, Black space, and solidarity. What does that look and sound like today?" Adkins' focus on community cuts to the heart of why The New Black Fest and The Lark have sustained this collaboration through to its fifth anniversary. "The Lark is honored to continue our partnership with The New Black Fest," said Lloyd Suh, Director of Artistic Programming at The Lark. "Keith's approach to curating a robust conversation around urgent new plays is grassroots advocacy at its most potent. These plays and playwrights, in conversation with The New Black Fest and Lark communities, provide an extraordinary opportunity to explore the varied ways that theatermakers can challenge the present moment and uplift visionary ideas." "The New Black Fest is an exciting venture of bringing Black artists and arts to the forefront of the American Theater conversation," added Morisseau. "Steeped in the ancient activism of the Black Arts Movement, but also cloaked in a new pedagogy that breaks old tropes and makes space for new identity consciousness, The New Black Fest is one of the nation's leading creative platforms for contemporary Black artists. And I'm here for all of it." 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 developed through The New Black Fest at The Lark that have received subsequent honors and productions include Ngozi Anyanwu's Nike; or, We Don't Need Another Hero (The Kilroy's List 2017), Jocelyn Bioh's School Girls; or, The African Mean Girls Play (MCC), Lenelle Moïse's Merit (The Kilroy's List 2016) and James Anthony Tyler's Artney Jackson (Williamstown Theatre Festival). Playwright Lynn Nottage (Sweat) is 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 9 at a location to be determined. The public readings will take place April 10-13, 2018 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. The New Black Fest is supported through grants to The Lark from the New York State Council on the Arts, a State Agency, and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council.
MONDAY, APRIL 9, 2018 at 7:00PM
Kick-Off Panel: Black Love, Black Space, and Solidarity
Featuring: Keith Josef Adkins, Keith A. Beauchamp, C.A. Johnson, Dominique Morisseau, and Quentin Walcott.
Sistergurls and the Squirrel by Liza Jessie Peterson
Kitty runs an erotic product business out of her home, a sales-depot of sorts. Several women gather regularly to gather merchandise and get party assignments. They are not sex workers but rather sell products and host sex-toy parties around town. Kitty's sister is Karmica SutraQuita Jones (from Peterson's Chiron's Homegurl Healer Howls) and after a squirrel jumps into the Open Window, chaos ensues, a family secret is revealed and old wounds come to the surface to be healed. WEDNESDAY, APRIL 11, 2018 at 7:00PM
soft by Donja R. Love
Slammed against a poetic backdrop of Urban America, Mr. Isaiah, a recent hire at a disciplinary boarding high school, is ready to make a difference in the lives of his six male students. When one of his boys commits suicide he is plagued with the questions: Where do Black and Brown boys go when they die? And what makes someone's struggle so unbearable that they'd take their own life? While seeking answers to this question, he sees the sorrows that each of his boys dances with, and is reminded of his own. THURSDAY, APRIL 12, 2018 at 7:00PM
Deux Femmes On the Edge De La Revolution by France-Luce Benson
A pig is sacrificed, a goddess seduces a young bride, and enslaved and self-liberated Africans on the island of San Domingue rise up to end slavery and destroy colonialism. A story of the Haitian Revolution from the perspective of two women - an enslaved healer of African nobility, and a French woman sold into marriage. The two form an unlikely alliance on the battle fields of San Domingue, and, like the revolution, their journeys will forever change the course of history. FRIDAY, APRIL 7, 2017 at 7:00PM
Brother Rabbit by Jonathan Payne
An Easter Play with a false rabbit and a dead Christ, where the scattered tribes of the inner city are alone against the horrors of a terrible plague. Brother Rabbit questions the influence of the church in the Black Community. An institution once so rooted in the upward mobility of a people, may have tragically fallen out of the prestige it once had so long ago.
ABOUT THE PLAYWRIGHTS
France-Luce Benson graduated from Carnegie Mellon University with an M.F.A. in Dramatic Writing, and holds a B.F.A. in Theatre from Florida International University. She is a two-time recipient of the Shubert Foundation Fellowship Award. Her play Fati's Last Dance received the Lorraine Hansberry Award for Playwriting from the Kennedy Center (Honorable Mention), was one of six plays selected for the inaugural Ignition Festival at Victory Gardens Theatre in Chicago, a finalist for the Theodore Ward prize given by Columbia College, and the winner of the Mary Marlin Fisher Award given by Carnegie Mellon University. Most recently, Fati's Last Dance was featured at Ensemble Studio Theatre's Octoberfest 2010. Also at EST, Risen from the Dough was produced in Going to the River 2009: River Crosses River Festival, Silence of the Mambo, Destiny's Edge, Ascension, and Floating Under Water have all had readings and/or workshops at previous EST/GTTR festivals. In 2010 Ms. Benson founded and served as Executive Director for CAFÉ (Caribbean Association for Females in Entertainment) and produced Kijan Pou'N Geri? at the Abe Burrows Theatre, to benefit Haiti's Earthquake victims. She has served as a Teaching Artist for Manhattan Theatre Club, the Paul Robeson Theatre, is a Playwriting Workshop Leader for Young Playwrights, Inc., an Adjunct Professor for Lehman College.
ABOUT THE PANELISTS
Keith A. Beauchamp found his calling as an independent filmmaker through his documentary, The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till, about the story of 14-year-old Emmett Till, who was murdered in 1955 for whistling at a white woman in Mississippi. Since his experience making this award-winning and Emmy-nominated film, Beauchamp has become passionate about seeking justice for the "voiceless" and often assists the FBI in investigating unsolved civil rights murders under their Civil Rights Cold Case Initiative. His relationship with the Bureau has led him to produce and direct several critically acclaimed and award-winning documentary reality series: Murder in Black & White hosted by Rev. Al Sharpton for TV One Networks, Wanted Justice: Johnnie Mae Chappell for the History Channel and The Injustice Files for Investigation Discovery Network. Beauchamp is currently a producer on the upcoming feature film, Till, which is being directed by Whoopi Goldberg. He is a frequent lecturer at colleges and universities around the country.
ABOUT THE NEW BLACK FEST
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).
The Lark is an international theater laboratory, based in New York City, dedicated to amplifying the voices of 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 813 artists, including 95 playwrights, partnered with more than a dozen theaters and universities, and welcomed 2,016 audience members to 31 public presentations. In the past three years 139 Lark developed plays moved on to 274 productions, reaching over 621,130 audience members 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. Plays substantially developed at The Lark include Describe the Night by Rajiv Joseph, brownsville song (b-side for tray) by Kimber Lee, Skeleton Crew by Dominique Morisseau, and Sweat by Lynn Nottage. For more information about the artists, initiatives and plays of The Lark, please visit: www.larktheatre.org.
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