Tonya Pinkins, Ezra Knight, Pat Bowie & Others Perform in New Works for Black Motherhood and Parenting New Play Festival

Plays include Justin’s Side, WHAT IF…?, Thirty and more.

By: May. 11, 2021
Tonya Pinkins, Ezra Knight, Pat Bowie & Others Perform in New Works for Black Motherhood and Parenting New Play Festival

In April 2021, Parent Artist Advocacy League and Blackboard Plays announced the 1st Annual Black Motherhood and Parenting New Play Festival, the four works that comprise the lineup, and the partner theatres with whom they are producing the plays: Bishop Arts Theater Center, Detroit Public Theater, Oregon Shakespeare, and St. Louis Rep-all of which are led by Black mothers. Today, PAAL and Blackboard Plays reveal casting for the festival, including celebrated actors such as Tony Award winner Tonya Pinkins, Helen Hayes Award nominee Ezra Knight, and Drama Desk Award winner Pat Bowie.

PAAL and Blackboard established #BMPFest to showcase the creative output of Black parent playwrights. They issued an open call in October 2020 for writers who identify as Black parents or caregivers to submit up to 10 pages of work that they would develop into a one-act. A review committee consisting of Martha Redbone, Tamara Anderson, and Sacha Wynne selected four finalists to make up the festival's lineup. Each of the finalists-Melda Beaty, Eureka Lewis, Julie Taiwo Oni, and Cynthia Grace Robinson-has been paired with a partner theatre. Casting for each of the plays includes talent local to the partner theatre.

Each week from May 20 through June 14, one of the plays will stream at Each play streams for 96 hours from 7pm EST/ 6pm CST / 4pm PST on their opening Thursday night to 7pm EST/ 6pm CST / 4pm PST on their closing Monday night. Captions will be provided for all performances. Ticket prices begin at $10. Proceeds from the festival will fund a PAAL/Blackboard Plays Childcare Grant for a Black Playwright Parent.

About the Plays and Casts

Troi Coleman, Alvin Christmas and Ezra Knight (Toni Stone, Pretty Woman: The Musical, Mean Girls) join the company of Eureka Lewis's Justin's Side, which opens the festival. The play is directed by Ellen Valencia. Justin's Side streams Thursday, May 20th until Monday, May 24th at 7pmEST/6pmCST/4pmPST. The presentation of the play is made possible through a partnership with Oregon Shakespeare Festival. In Justin's Side, a typical day at Roman Middle School takes a drastic turn when an incident amongst classmates warrants a parent/principal meeting.

Tonya Pinkins (Tony Award-winner - Caroline, or Change; Holler If Ya Hear Me) and Dallas local Morgan Calhoun join the company of Cynthia Grace Robinson's WHAT IF...? The play is directed by Mary E. Hodges (Slave Play, Broadway) WHAT IF...? streams Thursday, May 27th at 7pmEST/6pmCST/4pmPST until Monday, May 31st at 7pmEST/6pmCST/4pmPST.It is produced with Bishop Arts Theatre Center. In WHAT IF...?, a young woman's need to fight for justice unleashes her mother's fears for her child's life.

Pat Bowie (New Amsterdam, Orange is the New Black, The Trip to Bountiful), Nikkole Salter (In the Continuum, Carnaval), Dee Selmore, and LaKeisha Randle join the company of Thirty by Melda Beaty. The play is Directed by Dawn Monique Williams. Thirty streams Thursday, June 3rd at 7pmEST/6pmCST/4pmPST until Monday, June 7th at 7pmEST/6pmCST/4pmPST. Thirty is produced with the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, and is an explosive look at a family generation of Black women caregivers grappling with family secrets.

In The Break by Julie Taiwo Oni, directed by Anita Dashiell-Sparks Jade, a single early-twenties Black boy-mom and influencer, challenges herself to a day sans social media. It is made possible in partnership with Detroit Public Theater. The Break closes the festival, streaming from Thursday, June 10th at 7pm until Monday, June 14th at 7pm.

Halfway through the festival, a panel of Artistic Directors will be streamed following the 3rd Stream in the festival, Thirty, by Melda Beaty, on Thursday, June 3rd. The Production Stage Managers are: Kristina Jackson and Alexis McKay

*PAAL is a transgender and non-binary affirming space. "Mother" and "Motherhood" and their derivatives are used as inclusive terms for anyone who identifies with them.


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