Black Ensemble Theater to Host 11th Annual Black Playwrights Festival

Black Ensemble Theater announces its 11th annual Black Playwrights Festival, April 24-27, 2016, as part of the company's Black Playwrights Initiative (BPI). The Black Playwrights Festival will take place at the Black Ensemble Theater Cultural Center, 4450 N. Clark Street.

This year's festival brings three new full-length and three new ten-minute plays to the BE stage. Written by BPI members and developed through the BPI process, all featured scripts will receive engaging and innovative readings directed by Associate Director of Black Ensemble Theater Daryl D. Brooks.

The 2016 BPI Black Playwrights Festival opens on Sunday, April 24, 2016 at 7:30pm, with Opening Ceremonies honoring director, playwright and Artistic Director of MPAACT Carla Stillwell and playwright Reginald Edmund. The evening will also feature three BPI Shorties (ten-minute plays) by BPI members Audery Naomi Smith, Jill Ross and Viola Irvin, along with selections from work by the honorees. The Festival's full-length plays include work on April 25-27, 2916, by Wendell Etherly, Ervin Gardner and Leonard Maceo Ferris.

The festival continues on April 25 at 7pm with Mr. Welfare, written by Wendell Etherly. Ervin Gardner's The Lone Ranger Was A Black Man will be featured on April 26 at 7pm. Hail Hail Chuck by Leonard Maceo Ferris will play on the final evening of the festival, April 27 at 7pm.

"Black Ensemble Theater is committed to identifying and developing new playwrights. Since the BPI started eleven years ago, many members have had their plays professionally produced at Black Ensemble Theater, throughout Chicago and across the nation," says Jackie Taylor. "We invite the community to experience new readings by our playwrights in a series of entertaining evenings, and it is our mission to usher these talented Black artists into the local and national spotlight."

The BPI develops and strengthens the playwriting skills of novice and experienced playwrights. It is the purpose of the BPI to develop potential writers for the Black Ensemble Theater and also expose the playwrights to local and national theater companies who may be interested in their work. It is also the purpose of the BPI to provide opportunities, resources and exposure to the Black playwriting community; and to ensure future productions for the Black Ensemble Theater.

Black Ensemble Theater produces approximately 15 BPI readings of new scripts per year through the annual Sex in the Summer Play Series, and the annual Black Playwright's Festival.

About the Honorees:

Carla Stillwell has been an award winning actor, playwright and director for three decades. She is the Artistic Director for MPAACT as well as a Playwright-In-Residence. As a playwright, some of her credits include a one woman show Carla...In Search of My Silky Underthings (2000), Defending Myself (2003), the Joseph Jefferson Award/Black Theatre Alliance Award nominated play The Divine Order of Becoming (2005), the Blaxploitation series (4 BTA Awards) with co-writers Kevin Douglas and Inda Craig-Galvan (2005 and 2007), and the adapted and directed the work of poet Orron Kenyatta, Tad in 5th City - Joseph Jefferson Nominated (2010), which was noted in the "Top 25 Plays of 2010" by the Chicago Theatre Blog and was also featured in the August Wilson Reading Round Table Series at The August Wilson Center for African American Culture. Her show Bodies (2012) won a Black Theatre Alliance Award for Best Play and was nominated for Best New Work with Joseph Jefferson Nominated (2012.) Bodies was also selected for a reading at the New Black Play Festival in New York, October 2012. Ms. Stillwell has also been commissioned to create work for Theatre Seven of Chicago and The DuSable Museum of African American History. Her children's show When Good Broccoli Goes Bad: The Musical! - a show about healthy eating - is currently being produced by The Chicago Park District. Her newest works, "The People Who Could Fly and Other Stories of Freedom" premiered at The Beverly Arts Center and "Lawd the CVS is Burning: A Gospel Musical Stage Play", which is a satirical look at the media's handling of the recent string of police murders, opened MPAACT's 2015-2016 season to rave reviews.

Reginald Edmund is a resident playwright of Chicago Dramatists. He was a 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 Playwrights' Center Many Voices Fellowship recipient. Originally from Houston, Texas, he was the Artistic Director for the Silver House Theatre in Houston as well as the founder and producer for the Silver House Playwrights Festival and the Houston Urban Theatre Series. Reginald was the inaugural recipient of the Kennedy Center Fellowship at Soul Mountain Retreat in 2007 and the 2009 National Runner-up for the Lorraine Hansberry and Rosa Parks Playwriting Awards. In 2010, he was named Winner of The Southern Writers Competition and was recognized by TCG as a 2011 Young Leader of Color. His plays, The Ordained Smile of Sadie May Jenkins, Southbridge, Juneteenth Street, and The Redemption of Allah Black, all part of his nine-play series The City of the Bayou Collection, were developed at esteemed theaters including Ensemble Theatre of Houston, Silver House Theatre, Penumbra Theatre, the Playwrights' Center, Boston Playwrights' Theatre, Moving Arts, Karamu House, Pangea World Theater, the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, Texas State University Black and Latino Theatre Conference, the Last Frontier Theater Conference, and the Kennedy Center. In 2012, he traveled to Colombia to serve as the guest speaker at the Intercolegiado de Teatro de Buenaventura and most recently he was named a winner of the 2013 Edgerton Foundation Award for his play Southbridge.

2016 LINEUP:

Sunday, April 24, 2016 at 7:30pm

Opening Ceremonies honoring Reginald Edmund and Carla Stillwell

Wine reception at 7pm, Performances at 7:30pm

Readings from work by the honorees

and Shorteez, 10-minute plays written by BPI members, including:

"Starved" by Audery Naomi Smith

"Hairsterical" by Jill Ross

"Stealing Home" by Viola Irvin

Monday, April 25, 2016 at 7:00pm

Mr. Welfare

Written by Wendell Etherly

Mr. Welfare is a story about a tavern owner who decides to help the alderman by providing shelter to several homeless citizens within the community during one of the most volatile periods in America.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016 at 7:00pm

The Lone Ranger Was A Black Man

Written by Ervin Gardner

The Lone Ranger Was A Black Man is based on the true life story of Bass Reeves, one of the first appointed Black US Deputy Marshals and arguably the greatest lawman to ever wear a badge.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016 at 7:00pm

Hail, Hail Chuck

Written by Leonard Maceo Ferris

Hail, Hail Chuck Berry is a coming of age story in an ear of overt racism sanctioned and enforced by Jim Crow Law. Chuck Berry fights the demons of his environment and his own soul to become an icon of the Rock 'n' Roll music his genius helped to create.

Tickets are $15 per evening or $40 for a Festival Pass. Tickets are available at the box office, online at or by phone, (773) 769-4451. The Black Ensemble Theater Cultural Center is located at 4450 N. Clark Street. Valet parking is available for $10.

Founded in 1976, by the phenomenal producer, playwright and actress Jackie Taylor, Black Ensemble Theater is the only African American theater located in the culturally, racially and ethnically diverse north side Uptown community. Through its Five Play Season of Excellence, The Black Ensemble Theater dazzles audiences locally, nationally and internationally with outstanding original musicals that are entertaining, educational and uplifting. The Black Ensemble Theater has produced more than 100 productions and employed over 5,000 artists.

On November 18, 2011, The Black Ensemble Theater Cultural Center opened and is able to accommodate larger-scale productions, bigger audiences and a wider range of educational programming. The new facility includes amenities such as a 299-seat main stage theater (double the capacity of the original venue); 14 offices, classroom space, rehearsal hall, dance studio, scene shop, costume shop, and wardrobe rooms; seven dressing rooms; rehearsal room for musicians; front lobby space with concession areas; and an indoor parking garage. The completion of a 150-seat theater, which will serve as an experimental stage for the work of the Black Playwright Initiative (BPI), with construction by General Contractor Norcon Inc., is expected in 2016/17.

The mission of the Black Ensemble Theater Company is to eradicate racism and its devastating effects upon society through the theater arts.

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