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National Black Theatre Announces 2021/2022 Season Programming


Additional programming includes a two-part digital partnership with AllArts.

National Black Theatre Announces 2021/2022 Season Programming

The historic National Black Theatre has announced its new programmatic lineup for the upcoming 2021/2022 season.

The new season includes three New York Premieres and two brand new digital commissions, as they continue to roll out culturally centered programs throughout 2021. In addition, NBT is announcing the fifth Soul Producing Resident, Jordan Flemming, who will be in residence at NBT during this upcoming season.

Already underway, this announcement comes on the heels of the world premiere of Dreaming Zenzile, a modern jazz play based on the life of late South African singer and political activist, Miriam Makeba, written by and starring GRAMMY award-winning international musician Somi Kakoma and directed by Obie Award-winner Lileana Blain Cruz. Dreaming Zenzille, done in partnership with Octopus Theatricals, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, McCarter Theatre Center, Arts Emerson, Apollo Theater & New York Theatre Workshop, officially kicked off in St. Louis and will wrap its rolling world premiere in New York as a co-production between New York Theatre Workshop and NBT in June of 2022.

Additional programming includes a two-part digital partnership with AllArts. The collaboration launches with The First Twenty, which asks the question "what has occurred in the first two decades of the 21st century which has caused a shift in the collective American consciousness and how has that changed American culture and art?" NBT and AllArts have commissioned two artists, Ngozi Anyanwu and Lelund Thompson, within the NYC community to respond to this call with a 15-30 min digital creative piece that will be broadcast on the AllArts platform. The second installment is The Roll Call: The Roots To Strange Fruit conceived and directed by Jonathan McCrory. As a visual, sonic opera, this commission looks at weaving auction block notices, fugitive notices, and find-your-family notices together from the peculiar institution of slavery. The work looks at these historical documents as a space of reclamation, healing, and as an intervention to unearth the indelible impact of the journey of black people on this foreign, stolen soil. Both of these works are scheduled to premiere in early 2022.

The New York City Premiere of Fat Ham, as a co-production with The Public Theatre, written by James Ijames and directed by Saheem Ali, will open in May 2022. In this re-envisioned Shakespeare masterpiece of Hamlet, the comic tragedy follows a young queer man on his journey to avenge his father's death. In a New York Times Critic's Pick review, they exclaim "'Fat Ham' refuses the tropes of Black suffering even as it engages the seriousness of the Shakespeare. It is the rare takeoff that actually takes off - and then flies in its own smart direction."

The Gathering: A Collective Sonic Ring Shout, co-presented by the American Composers Orchestra and the Apollo Theatre and co-curated by the National Black Theatre, will also open in May 2022. Conceived and Directed by Jonathan McCrory, the chamber musical event is a sonic quest rooted in the African and African-American ritual of the Ring Shout. A Shout, or Ring Shout, is an ecstatic, transcendent religious ritual, first practiced by enslaved Africans in the Caribbean and in the United States, in which worshipers move in a circle while shuffling, stomping, and clapping. The program features Carlos Simon's Amen!, Courtney Bryan's Sanctum, and the New York premiere of Seven Last Words of the Unarmed by Joel Thompson. These works are in conversation with new commissions from Herb Alpert Award-winner Toshi Reagon, Tony Award-winner Jason Michael Webb, and Lelund Thompson, created to honor our present needs for a collective space of remembrance. The performance is anchored by an 80-member orchestra and a 50-voice choir composed of singers, professional and amateur, from multiple African American churches and choral ensembles in New York.

Programs that were rolled out earlier this summer included The Public Theater's recent Mobile Unit activation. Mobile Unit's Summer of Joy was a pop-up experience in New York's open spaces touching all 5 boroughs through 9 local community-driven plazas and pavilions during the month of August. Each performance began with National Black Theatre's Stage for Healing and Resilience, co-produced by The Public Theater, in continuation of a relationship that dates back to the 1960s. The audience was invited into a space of reflection and meditation that focused on mental wellness, environmental health, and economic empowerment.

The renowned and powerful production, HANDS UP: 7 PLAYWRIGHTS, 7 TESTAMENTS, was also released as a radio play earlier this summer after originally being introduced in 2015 following a series of state violence that plagued America. The radio play's American premiere directed by Jonathan McCrory includes works from Nathan James, Nathan Yungerberg, Idris Goodwin, Nambi E. Kelley, Nsangou Njikam, Eric Micha Holmes, and Dennis A. Allen II. Earlier this Spring, NBT teamed up with the NY Philharmonic to curate a three-day public event at Marcus Garvey Park in Harlem, New York as part of their Bandwagon 2 rollout.

While the National Black Theatre's major capital redevelopment campaign was launched earlier this summer, the theatre brought to life some of the most authentic and thoughtfully curated stories that shed light on the Black experience through their partnerships. This gives NBT the opportunity to intentionally identify and invest in some of the most compelling Black voices in the theatre space today. The upcoming and ongoing programming speaks to the collective body of work as part of this exciting new season in theatre.

Sade Lythcott, CEO of National Black Theatre states, "This season of work is exceptionally meaningful as NBT's return to in-person programming is forged out of a vision to amplify the needs of our community at this catalytic moment in time. This season is reflective of our listening and desire to produce unique and diverse offerings that lean into art as a healing tool to anchor our resilience. We are proud to do this on a NATIONAL scale bringing NBT's visionary founder Dr. Barbara Ann Teer's pedagogy to even more communities around the country."

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