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New Jersey Playwright Residency To Expand Diversity Of Works Produced On The Mainstage

BREAKZ tells the story of a popular rapper who decides to make a public statement after a young immigrant is murdered by police officers.

New Jersey Playwright Residency To Expand Diversity Of Works Produced On The Mainstage

The Paterson Performing Arts Development Council announced the first place winner of its second annual Show Me The Monologue Playwriting Competition is Houston native playwright Cris-Eli Blak. His play BREAKZ was among a group of high caliber projects selected by a panel of judges. As the first place winner, Blak is the recipient of PPADC's playwright residency. He will receive a monetary stipend and developmental support. This includes working with a dramaturg, director, and other creative team members to mount a mainstage production of BREAKZ as part of PPADC's lineup during its Hamilton Arts Festival (June 17 - 25, 2022).

PPADC's residency program was created to expand the diversity of plays produced on the main stage and to generate public value through the interaction of playwrights with local communities. According to the Dramatist Guild of America, across the U.S., just 9% of BIPOC playwrights get to see their work make it to production

"We are excited about this new residency season and in particular about the work of Chris Eli Blak," says PPADC Board President Denise E. Womack. "This is a young playwright whose rich, multi-layered characters reach deep into our communities. His writing speaks to the complexity of lives fraught with the stark realities of just living, while trying to cultivate dreams big enough to move beyond the inner city," she adds. "We are privileged to be one of the organizations poised to more broadly bring his name and work to light and know that BREAKZ is a play that will resonate with many people in our community."

BREAKZ tells the story of a popular rapper, who much to the dismay and disapproval of his white publicist, decides to make a public statement after a young immigrant is murdered by police officers for seemingly no justifiable reason. "BREAKZ is a play about community, about the way that our communities can push us out and pull us back together, how we have to protect our streets and our homes because sometimes no one else will," says Blak. "I began writing because I wasn't seeing my community accurately reflected in works of art. I wasn't seeing my friends and family. I wasn't seeing me. I wasn't seeing the people I lived around. I wasn't seeing the issues happening every day but not being addressed for some reason."

Blak says that when he read the call for submissions for the Show Me The Playwriting Competition and saw the mission and goal of PPADC, he felt a personal connection to the organization. "I am excited to start what will hopefully be meaningful, exciting and insightful work that a community will be able to experience this summer," he says.

Blak is a playwright, screenwriter, performer, and theatre practitioner. He wrote and co-produced the short film, The Brother's Survivor, which was honored at the Worldfest Houston International Film and Video Festival. He is a two-time poetry slam champion and was commissioned by the Louisville Arts Network to write the performance piece, HOPE: Living as a Black Man in America. His work has been produced, performed and/or published by Illuminate Theatre, Roaming Theatre Collaborative, The Logue Lounge, Here We Go Productions, among others.

Show Me The Monologue competitors were asked to submit a script and upload a video no more than five minutes long of a monologue taken from their script. Entrants were encouraged to submit work that depicts a unique cultural experience, heritage perspective, and/or social justice issue. An esteemed panel of judges volunteered their time and experience to review the script submissions and rate each one with constructive comments. The panel was comprised of theater professionals, actors, producers, directors, professors, and poet laureates.

The second place winner of the Show Me The Monologue Playwriting Competition is Michael McGoldrick. He will benefit from PPADC's playwright residency program through developmental support and a staged reading of his play Allies, which is a biting, satirical look at the tangled intersection of religion, progressivism, and capitalism in today's culture.

PPADC is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that is dedicated to fostering collaboration with other local organizations and community partners to provide increased access and opportunities to artists of diverse backgrounds. PPADC is on a mission to establish pathways for new and accomplished artists to develop new works and to offer cultural events to communities in Paterson, NJ. PPADC is an Affiliate Member of New Jersey Theater Alliance, the country's first statewide professional theater service organization, representing a consortium of 40 performing arts and theater companies.

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