Discussion: The New Black Fest: Revolutionary Writing at The Martin E. Segal Theatre Center in New York—Monday 4 April 2016
The Martin E. Segal Theatre Center in New York City presented a discussion The New Black Fest: Revolutionary Writing livestreamed on the global, commons-based peer produced HowlRound TV network at howlround.tv on Monday 4 April at 3:30 p.m. PDT (San Francisco) / 5:30 p.m. CDT (Chicago) / 6:30 p.m. EDT (New York) / 22:30 GMT / 23:30 BST (London). On Twitter, use #howlround to join the conversation.
Keith Josef Adkins, New Black Fest’s Artistic Director writes: “As the national conversation intensifies around the lack of diversity within leadership, the impact of the white gaze and the efforts to find a new truth for our country, we are reminded of Assatu Shakur, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Fannie Lou Hamer who worked tirelessly to eradicate injustice. The evening will bring together some of our community’s most brilliant and incisive minds for a town hall gathering to lay out how we as a community can help to bring equity.”
Featuring short readings by Dennis Allen II, Lenelle Moïse, Nsangou Njikam, and Liza Jessie Peterson, followed by a discussion with Keith Josef Adkins and the playwrights.
Keith Josef Adkins is the artistic director of The New Black Fest, an organization dedicated to new and provocative playwriting, films, and discussion from the African Diaspora. The New Black Fest recently commissioned Facing Our Truth: Ten-Minute Plays on Trayvon, Race and Privilege, HANDS UP: 6 Playwrights, 6 Testaments, and the newly-curated UN-TAMED: Hair Body Attitude—Short Plays by Black Women. Samuel French recently published Facing Our Truth in Spring 2015. As a playwright, his plays include The People Before The Park which will premiere at Premiere Stages in September 2015. His play Pitbulls received its world premiere Off-Broadway at Rattlestick Theater, NYC in November 2014. His play Safe House received its world premiere October 2014 at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park with a subsequent production at Repertory Theatre of St. Louis (Winter 2015). His play The Last Saint on Sugar Hill received its New York City premiere in 2013 at Dr. Barbara Ann Teer’s National Black Theater in NYC. Other plays include The Final Daze, The Dangerous, and Sugar and Needles. Keith is a recent recipient of a 2015 Helen Merrill Mid-Career Playwright Award.
Dennis Allen II’s play When We Wake Up Dead was recently produced at Brooklyn College under the direction of Christopher Burris. His play The Mud is Thicker in Mississippi was a winner at the 35th annual Off Off Broadway Samuel French festival in 2010. He is a recipient of Atlantic Theater Company’s inaugural 2014-15 Launch Commission and National Black Theatre’s, 2016-17 “I Am Soul Playwright Residency.” He’s received the Himan Brown Creative Writing Award two years running, and has developed and produced plays with The New Black Fest, The Lark Play Development Center, the Classical Theatre of Harlem, The Fire This Time Festival, Working Theater, New York Madness, The Bowery Poetry Club (Sticky), JACK, The Naked Expedition Project, 48 Hours in Harlem, and the National Black Theatre. He has also kept up his cutting exploration of racial interaction and black identity in collaborative writing projects with The American Slavery Project’s Unheard Voices, 2014 Schomburg Junior Scholars theatrical reading of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” and The New Black Fest’s Hands up: Six Playwrights, Six Testaments. In 2013 he received his MFA from Mac Wellman and Eric Courtney’s Brooklyn College Playwriting program.
Lenelle Moïse is a poet, playwright, and performance artist. She won the 2012 Southern Rep Ruby Prize for Merit, a black feminist comedy. She was a 2012-2014 Huntington Theatre Company Playwriting Fellow and the 2010-2011 Poet Laureate of Northampton, Massachusetts. She wrote, composed, and co-starred in the critically acclaimed drama Expatriate. Her plays have been developed with the Culture Project, the Hansberry Project, Hedgebrook, the Jewish Plays Project, the Kitchen Theatre Company, Serious Play Theatre Ensemble, and New Rep, among others. She has also been an artist-in-residence at Clark University, Northwestern, and UT Austin. Moïse is the author of Haiti Glass, a winner of the 2015 PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Literary Award. She is currently working on Where There Are Voices, a solo performance, fusing music, movement, video, and poetry. www.lenellemoise.com
Nsangou Njikam is an actor and playwright originally from Baltimore, MD. He is the author of Syncing Ink, Re:Definition, I.D., When We Left, Search For The Crystal Stairs, and one of the authors of Hands Up: 6 Plays, 6 Testimonials. His work has been developed by The Public Theater, Penn State University, The Flea Theater, Hip Hop Theatre Festival, UNIVERSES theatre company, New Black Fest, and the Alley Theater. Mr. Njikam’s play I.D. recently made its world premiere at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, South Africa before coming to the U.S. at Penn State Centre Stage. His playwriting residencies and fellowships include 2015 Emerging Writers Group at the Public Theater, 2013 New Black Fest fellow, and Penn State University commissioned playwright. Currently, Mr. Njikam’s play, Syncing Ink, will go to the Alley Theater’s All New Festival, directed by Niegel Smith. As an arts educator, Mr. Njikam has worked for Brooklyn Academy of Music, CUNY Creative Arts Team, Harlem School of the Arts, and is co-founder of The Continuum Project, Inc., an organization using African Ancestry DNA testing and the Arts to promote healing and empowerment for communities. Mr. Njikam’s work focuses mainly on Identity stories and the empowerment of the human spirit by recognizing and embracing one’s personal gifts, utilizing Hip Hop theatre, poetry, and West African performance aesthetics. He also aims to develop new, diverse, and younger audiences by creating “theatre of the now and for tomorrow.” He received his BFA in acting from Howard University. After tracing his roots to the Tikar people in Cameroon, West Africa, he was named NSangou by Sultan Ibrahim MBombo Njoya, 19th king of the Bamoun kingdom in Cameroon. He currently resides in New York.
Liza Jessie Peterson is a renowned actress, poet, playwright, educator, and activist who has been steadfast in her commitment to incarcerated populations both professionally and artistically for seventeen years. She has written several plays, including, The Peculiar Patriot, where she performed excerpts of it in over 35 jails and penitentiaries across the country and opened for Angela Davis at Columbia University’s conference on mass incarceration. Also known for her exceptional poetic skills, Liza began her poetry career at the Nuyorican Poets Café in the mid-90’s and was a vital member of the enclave of notable poets who were part of the “underground slam poetry/spoken word” movement. It was this electric group of artists that inspired Russell Simmons to bring “spoken word/slam poetry” to HBO where Liza appeared on two episodes of Def Poetry. She has shared the stage with luminaries such as Angela Davis, Nona Hendryx, Toshi Reagon, Amiri Baraka, The Last Poets, Craig Harris, Vernon Reid, Rakim, Carl Hancock Rux, Ron Carter, and Sandra St. Victor to name just a few. Liza’s first book, ALL DAY; A Memoir of Love and Survival Teaching Incarcerated Kids is due to be released fall 2016.
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