Just Announced: Where Culture Takes Shape! The Apollo's Stages at the Victoria Open in February | Learn More

Arts & Ideas

New Black Fest: Readings


How did the artists of the Harlem Renaissance respond to the historic events that shaped their time? And how are contemporary creatives dealing with the issues of the present moment in their own work? These questions lie at the heart of the Apollo commission of the New Black Fest, which has engaged 18 contemporary playwrights to explore these themes in 10-minute plays.

Over the course of three staged readings, each playwright will premiere their new work, dramatically performed by an exciting cast of actors and readers.  Participating playwrights include James Ijames, Eric Micha Holmes, Dahlak Brathwaite, Donja Love, Dennis A. Allen II, Christina Anderson, and Mfoniso Udofia. This event will be taking place on the Apollo’s Soundstage.​

Please note that each reading features different playwrights.  

Part of Apollo New Works, the Apollo’s first major commissioning initiative launched in 2020.

Leadership support for the Apollo New Works initiative is provided by the Ford Foundation. The New Black Fest is funded by the HBO Fund for Theater, The Black Seed, and is also supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts. Commissioning support for The New Black Fest is provided by the New York State Council on the Arts.

Ticket Information

Buy Tickets

Please contact the Apollo Box office at [email protected] or (212) 531-5305 if any other special assistance is required for your visit.

Additional Readings

Buy April 23 Tickets

Buy April 25  Tickets

New Black Fest: The Harlem Renaissance Then & Now

Date: April 23 at 3 PM

Robyne Walker-Murphy explores the impact and transformative power of Black artists of the past and today with contemporary artists, Zora Howard (award winning playwright and screenwriter) and Carl Hancock Rux (multidisciplinary artist and Associate Director of Harlem Stage).

Learn More

Covid-19 Guidelines

For the safety of our audiences and staff, all ticketholders and attendees of this event must provide proof of vaccination in order to enter the theater. In addition, all attendees are required to wear face coverings while inside the theater. Click here for more information about our COVID safety policies.

Friday Readings Schedule

Directed by Cezar Williams
Directed by Goldie Patrick


Liza Jessie Peterson

Liza Jessie Peterson

Liza Jessie Peterson

Liza is an artivist; an actress, playwright, poet, author and youth advocate who has been steadfast in her commitment to incarcerated populations both professionally and artistically for over two decades. Her critically acclaimed one woman show, The Peculiar Patriot, was nominated for a Drama Desk Award and an Audelco and was featured at the 2020 Democratic National Convention. The play is now available on Audible. There is currently a documentary, Peculiar Silence, about her historic performance of The Peculiar Patriot at Louisiana State Penitentiary (aka Angola) where she performed the play in front of 700 inmates and was live streamed throughout the entire prison. During the early years of this play’s uncanny trajectory, Liza performed The Peculiar Patriot in 35 prisons across the country in a self-funded prison tour spanning the course of four years. 

Liza is author of a memoir, ALL DAY; A Year of Love and Survival Teaching Incarcerated Kids at Rikers Island (Hachette publishing) and was recently commissioned by The Old Globe Theater to adapt the book into a stage play. Liza was featured in Ava DuVernay’s Emmy award winning documentary, The 13th, and was a consultant on Bill Moyers documentary Rikers (PBS). 

In addition to The Peculiar Patriot Liza has written several other plays which received development support from The Lark, Syracuse Stage, The McCarter Theater, Manhattan Theater Club, New York Theater Workshop, New Black Fest, The Apollo and The Atlantic Theater. Her play, SistahGurls and the Squirrel, is in development for a stage production and is being adapted for television. Also known for her exceptional poetic skills, Liza began her poetry career at the Nuyorican Poets Café and was a vital member of the enclave of notable poets that inspired Russell Simmons to bring spoken word to HBO where Liza appeared on two episodes of Def Poetry. 

As an actress Liza will appear in a new Showtime mini-series by Sacha Jenkins, (Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics and Men, Bitchin’: The Sound and Fury of Rick James). She can be seen in A Luv Tale (BETplus), Love the Hard Way (co-starring with Pam Grier and Adrien Brody) Spike Lee’s Bamboozled, K. Shalini’s A Drop of Life and Jamie Catto’s What About Me. Liza wrote and starred in two short films, MERLINA (www.merlinaproject.com) and Black Love Manifesto, which premiered at Urban World Film Festival. 

Eric Micha Holmes

Eric Micha Holmes

Eric Micha Holmes

Eric Micha Holmes is a playwright and audio-dramatist whose work has been heard on Audible (“Rapture Season”), the BBC (“Care Inc.”), and seen at The National Black Theatre (“Mondo Tragic,”) The New Black Fest (“Pornplay; or, Blessèd Are The Meek”), New York Theatre Workshop (“Nimpsey Pink”), and Guild Hall (“Falls For Jodie”). Residencies and fellowships include Djerassi Artist Residency, The Dramatist Guild Fellowship, Space At Ryder Farm, ‘I Am Soul’ Playwright’s Residency at The National Black Theatre, The Actor’s Studio Playwright/Director Unit, and more. 

“Walking Next To Michael Brown: Confessions Of A Tragic Mulatto,” was commissioned by The New Black Fest and has toured with Kennedy Center’s Civic Artist Award winning “Hands Up: 7 Playwrights / 7 Testaments” to theaters across the country including:  The Alliance Theatre, The Brooklyn Museum Of Art, Red Door Theatre, Crowded Fire Theatre, The Museum Of The Moving Image, The Hansberry Project, and Flashpoint Theatre (world premier). 

Kareem Lucas (1)

Kareem M. Lucas

Kareem M. Lucas

KAREEM M. LUCAS is a Brooklyn born and Harlem based Actor/Writer/Producer/Director. His solo pieces include “The Maturation of an Inconvenient Negro (or iNEGRO)”, “Black Is Beautiful, But It Ain’t Always Pretty”, “RATED BLACK: An American Requiem”, “From Brooklyn With Love”, “A Boy & His Bow”, and “A Warm Winter”. He’s performed his work at The Public Theater, New York Theatre Workshop, American Repertory Theater, The Greene Space, Aaron Davis Hall at City College, The Town Hall, The Fire This Time Festival, Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, HERE Arts Center, Hi-ARTS, JACK, IRT Theater, The Brick Theater, Teatro Circulo, Judson Arts Wednesdays, AFO Theater, The Slipper Room, among others.  He’s an inaugural Jerome Hill Artist Fellow and a Usual Suspect at NYTW, and a teaching artist with the Classical Theatre of Harlem and The 52nd Street Project. MFA: NYU Graduate Acting Program.

Lisa Strum

Lisa Strum

Lisa Strum

Lisa Strum is a director, actress, playwright, singer and wedding officiant! Most recently, the virtual film production of BALTIMORE that she directed for Ramapo College won FIVE Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival Awards. She was also one of the directors for “All Hands On Deck”, a Virtual Series with Project Y Theatre Company and will premiere her short new play, “An Actor Prepares” for the festival this year. As Resident Theatre Director at Five Towns College, she directed Flyin’ West, For Colored Girls… and SWEAT (Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival Award Winning Productions). Lisa also directed FALL by France-Luce Benson for the 2019 One Act Play Festival with Ensemble Studio Theatre. She starred as Rose in FENCES with the REP and Virginia REP. She also starred in the Michigan Premiere of PIPELINE at Detroit Public Theatre, and SWEAT at People’s Light. Her solo play, She Gon’ Learn had sold out performances at the United Solo Festival on Theatre Row, and received one of the festival’s Best Solo Show Awards. The show was also featured with The New Black Fest at the Lark. As an actor, Lisa worked at Lincoln Center Theatre with Tony Award winning director Thomas Kail, appeared at Summer Stage, Signature Theatre, New Federal Theatre and The Obie Award Winning 48 Hours in… Harlem. Lisa also had a recurring role on Law & Order: SVU, co-stared on New Amsterdam, The Blacklist, and the television pilot Citizen Baines with James Cromwell. As an arts in education theatre instructor, Lisa is a staff facilitator at Columbia University for The Literacy Unbound Summer Institute and was the Theatre Specialist for the Abrons Arts Center at Henry Street Settlement for nine seasons. Lisa was a Finalist for the Doric Wilson Independent Playwright Award and the recipient of the Playwrights Fellowship at the Djerassi Resident Artists Program. She was nominated for a New York Innovative Theatre Award for Best Outstanding Actress, and received a Broadway World Award for Best actress for the Regional production of FENCES. This year, Lisa will direct BLKS by Aziza Barnes at the University of Iowa, and will premiere her short new play, By the Way… with the Obie Award Winning Fire This Time Festival. 

Mfoniso Udofo

Mfoniso Udofia

Mfoniso Udofia

Mfoniso Udofia, a first-generation Nigerian-American storyteller and educator, attended Wellesley College, obtained her MFA from the American Conservatory Theater and, while at ACT, co-pioneered, The Nia Project, which provided artistic outlets for youth residing in Bayview/Huntspoint. 

Productions of her plays Sojourners, runboyrun, Her Portmanteau and In Old Age have been seen at New York Theatre Workshop, American Conservatory Theater, Playwrights Realm, Magic Theater, National Black Theatre, Strand Theater Company, and Boston Court. Zoom Productions of her modern-day PlayON! translation of Othello have been seen at the Woman’s Theater Festival and Actor’s Shakespeare Project. She’s also had a virtual viewing of her short play, Mediations on Love, with MCC. She’s the recipient of the 2021 Horton Foote Playwright Award, the 2017 Helen Merrill Playwright Award, the 2017-18 McKnight National Residency and Commission at The Playwrights’ Center and is a member of New Dramatists. 

Mfoniso’s currently commissioned by Hartford Stage, Playing on Air, The New Black Fest/Apollo, Denver Center, The American Conservatory Theater, and South Coast Repertory. Her plays have been developed by Manhattan Theatre Club, McCarter Theatre, New Dramatists, PCS’s JAW Festival, Berkeley Rep’s Ground Floor, The OCC, Hedgebrook, Sundance Theatre Lab, Space on Ryder Farm, Page 73, New Black Fest, Rising Circle and more. 

She has worked as a television writer on: 13 Reasons Why, Little America, Pachinko, A League of Her Own and Let the Right One In. 

Christina Anderson

Christina Anderson

Christina Anderson

Christina Anderson is a playwright, screenwriter, educator, and creative. Her plays have appeared at The Goodman Theatre, OSF, The Public Theatre, Yale Repertory Theatre, Kansas City Rep, and other theaters in the United States and Canada. Awards and honors include: 2021 Prince Prize, 2020 United States Artists Fellow, MacDowell Fellowship, Lily Awards Harper Lee Prize, Herb Alpert Award nomination, Barrymore Nomination, and New Dramatists Residency. Christina’s plays include: HOW TO CATCH CREATION; THE RIPPLE, THE WAVE THAT CARRIED ME HOME; MAN IN LOVE; PEN/MAN/SHIP; THE ASHES UNDER GAIT CITY; and BLACKTOP SKY. She taught playwriting at Wesleyan University, Rutgers University, SUNY Purchase College, and served as the interim Head of Playwriting at Brown University. Current projects: an original hip hop instrumental album titled BALDWIN LANE, and an original tv pilot GAIT CITY.