The DOWNTOWN URBAN ARTS FESTIVAL Announces 22nd Season Lineup

This season also celebrates the 30th Anniversary of James Earl Hardy's best-selling novel B-Boy Blues with a free humanities event with the author.

By: May. 20, 2024
The DOWNTOWN URBAN ARTS FESTIVAL Announces 22nd Season Lineup
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The DOWNTOWN URBAN ARTS FESTIVAL (DUAF), under the creative leadership of its Artistic Director Reg E. Gaines, and producer Creative Ammo Inc, today announced its 22nd Anniversary season, featuring new works by Tony Award Winner Savion Glover and Tony Award Nominee Reg E. Gaines - along with new works by 16 of the nation's top emerging playwrights, all highlighting contemporary urban culture through 16 plays (nine shorts and seven one-acts). The festival has previously presented new works by playwrights such as Dominique Morisseau and Martyna Majok, and kicks off on Wednesday, June 12 and continues through Saturday, June 29 at Theatre Row. Tickets are now on sale at:

DUAF's 22nd season also celebrates the 30th Anniversary of James Earl Hardy's best-selling novel B-Boy Blues with a free humanities event on June 15 at 3:00pm at Theatre Row (410 West 42nd Street).


New York Premiere
by Savion Glover
Friday June 21 at 9:30PM
Saturday June 22 at 9:30PM
at Joe's Pub, 425 Lafayette St.

(Running time: 60 min)

Two-time Tony winner Savion Glover returns to The Public Theater with SoUNdZ.SaCRoSaNCt, his latest creation of dance and theater mastery honoring the legends of "The Dance" who mentored him while exploring the intersection of self-expression and mental health.

Savion Glover is a tap dancer, choreographer, actor, and the epitome of a living legend. The tapping marvel has graced the stage since childhood. He set a record as the youngest person ever to receive a scholarship in the Newark Community School of the Arts. Before he was a teenager, Savion made his mark starring in the leading role in the Broadway musical The Tap Dance Kid. Glover developed his own dancing style he dubbed "free style hard core." The Tony Award winning dancer eventually worked with dancing greats Gregory Hines and Sammy Davis, Jr. Among his credits are starring roles in major motion pictures like Jelly's Last Jam, a role for which he made history as the youngest ever recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts grant. As a choreographer, Glover's work has helped maintain tap dancing as an art form in the modern dance world. His starring role in the musical Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk, which he also choreographed, debuted on Broadway in 1996. The musical chronicles events in African American history and brought Glover a Tony for Best Choreographer. Glover was made known to the younger generation with recurring appearances on "Sesame Street." He also holds the credit as the live captured dancing motion behind Mumble the penguin in the film Happy Feet. Savion also served as co-choreographer for the film.

New York Premiere
Written and directed by Reg E Gaines
Friday June 14 & Saturday June 15 at 8:00PM
at Theatre Row

(Running time: 75 mins)

Set in 1972 Jersey City, Tiers follows the friendship of four young black men: Angelo, Earl, 'Heads' and 'Ice.' What starts out as a simple night of cards, drinks and jokes among close friends, quickly turns.

Reg E Gaines is a poet, playwright, director, lecturer and Artistic Director of the Downtown Urban Arts Festival in New York City since 2007. He is a two-time Tony Award nominated playwright, Grammy nominated lyricist, (Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk) and author of four books of poetry including, Abstract Sax and The Original Buckwheat. A former Nuyorican Poets Cafe Grand Slam Champ, gaines appears in numerous poetry anthologies including, Bum Rush The Page, Paterson Literary Review, Aloud: Voices From The Nuyorican Poets Cafe, and A Year in Ink. He has composed the score for the PBS documentary, Senior Year and has released four poetry albums. He has appeared on seasons 3-4 of HBO's Def Poetry as well as the Arsenio Hall Show, the John Stewart Show, MTV Spoken Word Unplugged and MSNBC's Edgewise. gaines has performed at Woodstock '94, Central Park SummerStage, The Berlin Jazz Festival, Carre Opera House in Amsterdam, Aaron Davis Hall, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center and NYU's Gallatin Center. He is currently writing and directing The 88, a musical with music composed by Calvin Gaines.

From The Page to The Stage to The Screen:
Celebrating the 30th Anniversary of B-Boy Blues
with James Earl Hardy
Saturday June 15, at 3:00pm
at Theatre Row, 410 West 42nd St.

(Running Time: 90 min)

Years before "homo thug" and "down low" became infamous catchphrases and Lil Nas X was crowned an international pop star ... there was James Earl Hardy's B-Boy Blues.

Charting the romance between a college educated journalist from Brooklyn and a homeboy/bike messenger from Harlem, the novel was released in November 1994 and surprised many when it became an out-the-gate hit, topping indie bestseller lists and setting a LGBTQIA+ press record. Praised as the first gay hip hop love story, the novel has given birth to seven bestselling sequels; the BroadwayWorld award-winning stage play produced by DUAF; and the GLAAD Media Award nominated film adaptation (which is currently streaming on BET+).

This DUAF-sponsored event will serve as the official kick-off for Mr. Hardy's tour to celebrate the novel's 30th anniversary. Mr. Hardy will trace the book's journey from the page to the stage to the screen; share fan favorite excerpts and anecdotes; and explore its cultural impact (an influence that can be seen in the television series Noah's Arc and the Oscar-winning Best Picture Moonlight) with actors from both the theatrical and screen versions.

James Earl Hardy is an American playwright, novelist, and journalist. Generally considered the first to depict same-sex love stories that take place within the hip-hop community, his writing is largely characterized by its exploration of the African-American LGBTQIA+ experience.



Written by Tenaj Smith
Directed by Marie Diamond

(Running time 30 mins)

A Diseased Feeling is a coming of age story. Do you remember those moments, at the end of adolescence? I mean, we were never taught how to be men, to be good sons, good lovers; It's just expected of us. So maybe we become sick through the searching, through the worry, through this diseased feeling.

Tenaj Smith is a playwright and poet from Queens and a recent undergraduate student at Brooklyn College. His plays include, Angels in the Sky, showcased at the Hudson Guild Theatre as a part of the New York Summerfest Theatre Festival and, A Diseased Feeling, showcased at the Manhattan Repertory Theatre, both in 2018. His most recent credit is, A Diseased Feeling, as a part of the SOOP to NUTS Theatre Festival in 2023; and now A Diseased Feeling, DUAF 2024. His work aims to represent the complexities and absurdities of life and human relationships.

Followed by:

Written by Calley N. Anderson
Directed by Nigel Semaj

(Running time: 50 mins)

Five research study participants gather in a conference room. Their task appears simple and straight-forward: select 10 events from the year 1968 that they feel impacted the nation's consciousness and view of empathy. What transpires is a reflection of what is seen, heard, and missed when history, memory, and living bodies must merge in unflinching ways.

Calley N. Anderson is a Brooklyn-based playwright from Memphis, TN. Her work has been staged at several colleges and 10-minute play festivals around the country, including commissions by the Davidson College Theatre Department and the University of Memphis Department of Theatre and Dance. Past and current affiliations include the Page 73 Writers Group, National Black Theatre I AM SOUL Playwright Residency, American Theatre Group BIPOC PlayLab, SPACE on Ryder Farm, Liberation Theatre Company Writing Residency Program, MacDowell, Clubbed Thumb Early Career Writers Group, The Civilians R&D Group, and Dramatists Guild Foundation Fellows. MFA: New School for Drama | BA: Davidson College.


Written by Jane M. Lee
Directed by Jenn Susi

(Running time 20 mins)

Two strangers. One subway station. Not just another New York City cliché.

Jane M. Lee lives and writes in New York City. Her work has been performed across the United States and in Canada, Hong Kong, and London. Her short play "Family Emergency" was praised for "fus[ing] the hostility of a Jerry Springer program with the warmth and irony of an O. Henry story." She was a semifinalist for Chisa Hutchinson's Signpost Fellowship for writers of color. Her play Closet Space won the College of Charleston's Todd McNerney National Playwriting Award.

Followed by:

Written by Gretchen Suárez-Peña
Directed by Magaly Colimon-Christopher

(Running time: 65 mins)

Searching for Abuelo is a heartwarming, comedic, and powerful production that has garnered numerous awards for its poignant storytelling and exceptional performance. Dubbed a Ted Talk overtaken by the ancestors, this one-woman show about identity is framed in the Puerto Rican musical style of Bomba.

Gretchen Suárez-Peña is a Puerto Rican playwright based in Florida. She obtained her MFA in Dramatic Writing at Carnegie Mellon University (2024). She is an advisory board member of Conch Shell Productions (NYC). Her piece Searching for Abuelo was the first-place winner at the 2023 Voices of Women Theatre Festival and the best full-length play at the 2023 Tampa Bay Theatre Festival. Her short play, The Arithmetic of Memory, has been produced across the country and was the 2023 Gary Garrison National Ten-Minute Play Award Winner at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival.


Written by Alano P. Baez
Directed by Omar Villegas

(Running time: 30 mins)

Langston Used is an allegorical Hip Hop battle rhyme between good and evil, right and wrong, corporations and culture and man versus the machine.

Alano P. Baez is a playwright, songwriter/lyricist, singer/mc, actor, poet, sharer of knowledge/teacher and community agitator. He is lead singer of the punk band Ricanstruction, mc of the Hip Hop group, X-Vandals, and lead sonero for the Latin soul outfit, Abrazos Army. He has released two books of poetry and starred in and co-wrote/performed the music soundtrack for the award-winning feature film, Machetero. This is his fifth play produced at the Downtown Urban Arts Festival (DUAF).

Followed by:

Written and Directed by Eduardo Pavez Goye

(Running time: 55 mins)

Valerie and Eric are a young political power couple whose day is derailed when a stranger picks up their son from school. When the stranger returns the son to their home, the three spend a tense and at times surreal evening together, where the truth about their history is revealed.

Eduardo Pavez Goye holds a BA in Theatre Acting. He is a six time winner (in a row) of the Chilean National Dramatic Writing Contest. Plays published in Chile and Mexico; staged in Chile, Germany, Mexico and the US. Fellow from the Goethe Institut, the International Theater Institut, and Columbia University. Has directed dozens of plays and written over 500 scripts for television and cinema. Screenwriting studies at the Internationale FilmSchule Köln. Current instructor and PhD candidate in Theatre and Performance at Columbia University.


Written by Alan Stolzer
Directed by Gha'il Rhodes Benjamin

(Running time: 25 mins)

The Faithfuls, an African-American upper middle class married couple are at odds over their (only) child's violent death at the hands of a police officer. They debate behavior: the mother, Sally, not yet attending the funeral and husband, Rafe, looking to bring her there after seeing to its preparations.

Alan Stolzer was born, raised, and educated in New York City. He studied with the late playwright, John Ford Noonan; dramaturg, St. Clements Theatre, New York Productions: Bakers Union Theater Three, American Theater of Actors, Inner Space Theatre, Lovecreek Productions, South Camden Theatre, Scripts Up!, Hovey Players, Flathead Valley Community College, Piney Forks Playwriting Festival, Metropolitan Playhouse, New York City, Southeast Asian Theater Festival 2016, 11th South Asian Theater Festival 2016, M,T. Pockets Theatre, Morgantown, WVA, Two Good Dogs Theatre Dare to Dream Play Festival, NYC. Playwright-in-residence: Red Harlem Readers, New York Member: Dramatists Guild.

Followed by:

Written by Annie Brown
Directed by Jackson Bradshaw

(Running time: 60 mins)

Daily, gun violence takes the lives of 12 American children, many being gun violence in American schools. This piece follows the lockdown journey of Auggie as they seek safety in an empty classroom. We share an hour of numbness, distractions, art, news coverage, and jazz as they ache to be okay.

Annie Brown is a New York City based and Edmond, Oklahoma raised playwright, composer, and producer. As a new work enthusiast, Annie deeply enjoys switching narratives to create theatrical work that offers differing perspectives and empowers often silenced voices. Recent works of her's include Remembering Morgan (DUAF @ Playwrights Horizons), Hillary Loves Me (The Tank), Myles To-Go (Players Theatre), and various other works with 54 Below. Annie studies Playwriting and Theatre & New Media at Marymount Manhattan College with a goal of continuing to expand the type of theatre she can help create.

FRIDAY, JUNE 21 at 8:00PM

Written and Directed by Rajendra Ramoon Maharaj

(Running time: 70 min)

Sweet Lorraine is a play inspired by the enduring friendship of Lorraine Hansberry and James Baldwin. Valerie and Eric are a young political power couple whose day is derailed when a stranger picks up their son from school. When the stranger returns the son to their home, the three spend a tense and at times surreal evening together, where the truth about their history is revealed. Originally written in Spanish and produced for a Chilean audience, the play was first adapted and had a small production in New York in 2021 through a grant from the New York Foundation for the Arts.

Rajendra Ramoon Maharaj is an award-winning, multi-hyphenate artist, educator, and activist. He's twice been a New York Times Critics Pick. He is the Assistant Professor of Theatre at SUNY Geneseo. Selected playwriting residencies: Nuyorican Poets Cafe, Alliance Theater, Arkansas Repertory, Crossroads, two-time finalist for the Eugene O'Neill National Playwrights Conference, and Negro Ensemble Company.


Written by Leif Larson
Directed by Matthew Pezzulich

(Running time: 75 min)

River, a server at a resort, opens a vortex of Queer power and rage after subverting a gay bashing.

Leif Larson is a Queer playwright. He was born in LA during the Summer of Love when Charles Manson was assembling his Family. Cults were everywhere and he was born into one. He recently woke up and got out. Now, he writes plays to share his experiences with his community in the spirit of strengthening our sense of empathy and understanding for each other. He is currently a Fellow in Literary Arts with the Lucas Artists Residency Program. Last year he had the honor of attending the Valdez Theater Conference where his play, Shake the Disease, received a staged reading.


Written by Sheila Duane
Directed by Renee' Flemings

(Running time: 11 min)

There's a world that fate plans for us. Then there's the real world: stained, twisted, and broken by hate.

Sheila Duane is a teacher, playwright, and associate artistic director of a small play-reading program in Monmouth County, New Jersey. Sheila is an alumnus of the DUAF; her plays, The Palmist, The Loom, and Restoration Parts, have been chosen to be part of the festival between 2020 and 2022. Recently, her plays have also been produced at the JSAC in Ocean Grove, in Long Branch, Middletown, Maplewood, NJ, in Florida with Femuscripts, and at the Magnetic Theater in North Carolina.

Followed by:

Written by Elizabeth Shannon
Directed by Katie Michelle Stahl

(Running time: 70 min)

Delilah is a lesbian, and Claire is confused. She could never say that, though. What started off as a friendship everyone secretly believed would lead to Claire's coming out is majorly disrupted when Claire gets a boyfriend, Tyler. When Tyler grows increasingly suspicious of Claire and Delilah's friendship, Claire must confront how far she would go to maintain the facade of her straight relationship, and how much she is willing to betray Delilah.

Elizabeth Shannon is a playwright and actor. She attends Marymount Manhattan College, working to obtain her BFA Acting and BA Writing for the Stage degrees. She has completed a residency with Young Playwrights Theatre of DC and is a four time winner of The Blank Theatre's Young Playwrights Festival. She was an inaugural winner of ENOUGH! Plays to End Gun Violence in 2020, having her play "Loaded Language" produced in 47 places across the world and counting. She was the 2023 winner of the Wichita State University Bela Kiralyfalvi National Student Playwriting Competition. She has worked with Baltimore Centerstage, Third Avenue Playhouse, South Coast Repertory, Olney Theatre of DC, The Secret Theatre, Kumu Kahua Theatre, and many others.


Written and Directed by Brandice Peltier

(Running time: 22 min)

It's the Harlem Renaissance and Jessie is a lonely jazz singer who has lost her "star power" and is now being haunted by many things, including her depression. When a younger amateur singer steps in to take Jessie's place, Jessie is forced to confront her and her own demons in order to fight and get back to living and not just surviving.

Brandice Peltier is an actor/director/playwright living in Jersey City while working and making dreams come true in NYC. Her main purpose for storytelling (other than feeding her passion) is to give a stronger and more in depth voice to people just like herself, black women and women of color who will stop at nothing to center their joy and get free. She is excited to premier her newest work 'Jessie's Blue' at the 2024 Downtown Urban Arts Festival!

Followed by:

Written by Juan Ramirez, Jr.
Directed by Omar Perez

(Running time: 30 min)

In Death Valley Desert, salty Luis embodies the angry people in his life who have left behind negative thoughts in his mind, in hopes of ridding them, to find his own voice and yet, when he's finally able to speak for himself, what will he say?

Juan Ramirez, Jr. is a Nuyorican-Chapín Bronx born-and-raised award-winning and internationally produced playwright and screenwriter, monologist, director, actor, filmmaker and poet. Works selected and produced with EST/SLOAN, Rattlestick, Yaddo, American Theater Group, Theater 4 The People, Pa'lante, Subtext Studio with Destinos Festival, Repertorio Español, Urban Stages, Bronx Council on the Arts, DUAF, Egg & Spoon, IATI, Dramatists Guild, Dramatic Question, Chain Theater, Latinx Playwrights Circle, and more. He's an NYU adjunct, MCC Playwriting Lab Director, resident playwright and facilitator with Art Defined and Dramatists Guild member. Lehman College, BA. Tisch, MFA. @AJuanManShow


Written by Daniel Duren
Directed by Marc David Wright

(Running time: 65. min)

Anna gets more than she bargained for as her coaching session with renowned actor, Robert Keusch, comes to an end. In her desperation to get the perfect take, she pleads with him to extend the session. What begins as a heated discourse spirals into deeper conversations about Robert's checkered past.

Daniel Duren is a New York based playwright from St. Paul, Minnesota. His work has been performed in New York City and Minneapolis. This past year Daniel had the pleasure of developing his latest piece, Formido, at Yaddo, The Hermitage Artist Retreat, and Ragdale, followed by a workshop of his absurdist comedy, Come Winter, at Invulnerable Nothings. His award-winning one-act, Self Tape, first premiered at Alchemical Studios, directed by Marc David Wright, presented by Jess Nahikian and Dana Seach. Currently, he is the assistant to playwright Samuel D. Hunter.


Written by Cris Eli Blak
Directed by Sabrina Lassegue

(Running time: 67 min)

Imprisoned for a crime he didn't commit, a young man learns he will be released in seven days. He must keep his head down and stay out of trouble, which becomes increasingly difficult as his personal relationships begin changing and he becomes hyper-aware of the effects of the prison system.

Cris Eli Blak is an emerging proud Black playwright whose work has been performed around the world. He is the inaugural winner of the Black Broadway Men Playwriting Initiative, the 2024 Charles M. Getchell New Play Award, the Atlanta Shakespeare Company's inaugural winner of the Muse of Fire BIPOC Playwriting Festival, and the Emerging Playwrights Fellowship from The Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre. He is currently an artist-in-residence with Abingdon Theatre Company and has had his work published by Smith & Kraus, Inc., YOUTHPlays, Applause Books, New World Theatre, Breath of Fire Latina Theater Ensemble, and in the Black Theatre Review.

About Downtown Urban Arts Festival


Downtown Urban Arts Festival (DUAF) is an annual multi-disciplinary arts event held during the spring at renowned venues in New York City. DUAF presents the best of new groundbreaking performance and visual art from storytellers from America's burgeoning multicultural landscape and from around the world who share their stories that interpret our history and our times.

CREATIVE. VIBRANT. PASSIONATE. These words aptly describe the past performances, as well as the future direction, of DUAF. Its founding program is its Theater series, formerly known as Downtown Urban Theater Festival/DUTF, which was created in 2001 with the purpose to build a repertoire of new American theatre that echoes the true spirit of urban life and speaks to a whole new generation whose lives defy categorizing along conventional lines. That purpose has been realized many times over, as 200 writers have created and refined their work for the stage and thousands of inspired audience members have applauded their performances. Theater was inaugurated in 2002 at the HERE Arts Center in SoHo to help revitalize the NYC downtown arts scene, which was experiencing a severe downturn due to the WTC disaster. Theater has been recognized as "one of the world's best festivals for new works" and described as "not only prestigious, but a slice of heaven for playwrights who want the chance to freely express themselves." (Lisa Mulcahy, Theater Festivals, Allworth Press, 2005).


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