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

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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 22 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).

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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.

Saturday Readings Schedule

Directed by Cezar Williams
Directed by Goldie Patrick


Michael Bradford

Michael Bradford

Michael Bradford

Michael Bradford is currently Vice Provost for Faculty, Staff and Student Development at the University of Connecticut. Prior to this position he was the Department Head of Drama and Artistic Director of the Connecticut Repertory Theatre. As a playwright, his work has been produced at various theatres, to include The American Place Theatre, the LARK Play Developmental Center, the Ensemble Studio Theatre, the HERE Art Center and regionally at eta Creative Arts Foundation, Inc., Chicago, Il., the Playhouse on Park, Hartford, CT., ACT, Seattle, WA. internationally at Teatro Rita Montaner, Havana, Cuba and Brixton East Theatre, London, UK. His workshops and readings include The Negro Ensemble Company, Urban Stages and Liminal Studios (London, UK). His residencies and fellowships include the Manhattan Theatre Club Fellowship, Connecticut Office of the Arts Fellowship, and various residencies with the LARK Developmental Theatre, NY. He is a 2010 Fulbright Research Scholar (OLIVES AND BLOOD, Granada, Spain) and his work is published by Broadway Play Publishing, Inc., Smith and Krause and Dr. Cicero Press. 

Dennis Allen

Dennis A. Allen II

Dennis A. Allen II

Dennis A. Allen II is from Hempstead, New York. His play The Mud is Thicker in Mississippi won the 35th annual Off Off Broadway Samuel French festival. Dennis’ full length play, When We Wake Up Dead and his monologue contribution to The New Black Fest’s Hands Up : 7 Playwrights 7- Testaments (How I Feel) are also published through Samuel French (Concord Theatricals).  He is a recipient of Atlantic Theater Company’s inaugural Launch Commission; National Black Theatre’s, I Am Soul Playwright Residency and Clubbed Thumb’s Early Career Writer’s Group. He has developed and produced plays with; The Lark Play Development Center, the Classical Theatre of Harlem, The Fire This Time Festival, The Naked Expedition Project, 48 Hours in Harlem, TBTB and The New Black Fest.. He is faculty member of the Theatre Departments at Montclair State University, Laguardia Community College, Primary Stages ESPA and serves as a Co-Vice Chair for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (region 1) National Playwriting Program. Dennis received his MFA from Brooklyn College Playwriting program and and will be taking over as its Program Coordinator this spring 2022. 

Lauren Whitefield

Lauren A. Whitehead

Lauren A. Whitehead

Lauren A. Whitehead is a writer, performer and dramaturg. In 2018, Whitehead adapted “Between the World and Me,” for staging at the Apollo Theater and for the TV adaptation on HBO (2020). In her most recent performance, she originated the lead role of “Un/Sung” in the 2017 opera “We Shall Not Be Moved” (Dir. Bill T. Jones). Whitehead has been a Sundance Theater Lab Fellow and a Sundance Talent Forum Fellow. She has worked as a dramaturg at Hedgebrook and at The Denver Center for Performing Arts. Currently, she is a Professor of Drama at NYU Tisch School of the Arts. 

FranceLuce Benson

France-Luce Benson

France-Luce Benson

Named “Someone to Watch” by American Theatre magazine, France-Luce Benson is the 2021 winner of the Lily’s Lorraine Hansberry Award, and was just awarded a new play commission from the Atlantic Theater Company, supported by NYSCA’s Individual Artist Award. Additional honors include Sony Pictures Television Diverse Writers Fellow, Zoetrope Grand Prize for her screenplay Caroline’s Wedding; Miranda Family Foundation grant recipient for her play Detained, Alfred P. Sloan New Play Commission for The Devil’s Salt, Princess Grace Award runner up for Boat People, Dramatists Guild Fellow 2016-17, Sam French OOB Festival Winner, NNPN Award for Risen from the Dough, and her play Talking Peace topped the list of most impactful plays in the Together L.A.: ATLA 2020 Virtual Theatre Festival. She has been a playwright in residence at The Camargo Foundation in France, Sacatar Institute in Brazil, Djerassi Foundation, and Space on Ryder Farm. Her plays have been produced and/or developed in by The Ensemble Studio Theatre where she is a company member, The Billy Holiday Theatre, The New Black Fest, Williamstown Theatre Festival, Crossroads Theatre Company, City Theatre of Miami, Juggernaut Theatre, and Loyola Marymount University, among others. Tigress of San Domingue, the second in her trilogy about the Haitian Revolution, was featured at the Atlantic Theatre Company Afro-Caribbean Mixfest 2021, was named a finalist of the Bay Area Playwrights Festival in 2020, and was selected for The Playwrights Center’s Afro Atlantic Playwrights Festival in 2019. Her work has also been staged internationally at the Afropea Festival in Marseilles, France and Global Voices Theatre in London. She’s been published by Dramatists Play Service, Samuel French, and Routledge Press. Her play Detained will have its world premiere at The Fountain Theatre in Los Angeles in February 2022. She is currently a television staff writer for Viacom/CBS and 101 Studios.  

James Ijames

James Ijames

James Ijames

JAMES IJAMES is a playwright, director and educator. He has appeared regionally in productions at The Arden Theatre Company, The Philadelphia Theatre Company, The Wilma Theatre, Baltimore Center Stage, Mauckingbird Theatre Company, and People’s Light and Theatre.  

James’ plays have been produced by Flashpoint Theater Company, Orbiter 3, Theatre Horizon, Wilma Theatre (Philadelphia, PA), The National Black Theatre (NYC), Steppenwolf Theatre, Definition Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre (Chicago IL) Shotgun Players (Berkeley, CA) and have received development with PlayPenn New Play Conference, The Lark, Playwright’s Horizon, Clubbed Thumb, Villanova Theater, Wilma Theater, Azuka Theatre and Victory Garden.  

James is the 2011 F. Otto Haas Award for an Emerging Artist recipient, and he has two Barrymore Awards for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Play for Superior Donuts and Angels in America and two Barrymore Awards for Outstanding Direction of a Play for The Brothers Size with Simpatico Theatre Company and Gem of the Ocean with Arden Theatre. James is a 2015 Pew Fellow for Playwriting, the 2015 winner of the Terrance McNally New Play Award for WHITE, the 2015 Kesselring Honorable Mention Prize winner for ….Miz Martha, a 2017 recipient of the Whiting Award, a 2019 Kesselring Prize for Kill Move Paradise and a 2020 Steinberg Prize. 

 James was a founding member of Orbiter 3, Philadelphia’s first playwright producing collective. He received a B.A. in Drama from Morehouse College in Atlanta, GA and a M.F.A. in Acting from Temple University in Philadelphia, PA. James an Associate Professor of Theatre at Villanova University and a co-artistic of the Wilma Theater. He resides in South Philadelphia. 

dhalak brathwaite

Dahlak Brathwaite

Dahlak Brathwaite

Dahlak Brathwaite is an award-winning playwright, composer, and performer. His work has been presented at The Smithsonian, Brooklyn Academy of Music, The Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, REDCAT, MCA Chicago, Ars Nova, The Public Theater, SXSW, by Creative Time, and on HBO’s last two seasons of Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry. Dahlak has been commissioned as a playwright by TheatreWorks and the Apollo Theater.  He made his debut performance at the Apollo in the reading of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between The World and Me, directed by Kamilah Forbes. Dahlak’s trilogy of works – Spiritrials (solo play), Try/Step/Trip (musical), Adapting History (documentary film) – take a personal look into the criminal justice system and the relationship between Black American music and Black American subjugation. He is a graduate of NYU’s Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program, where he was awarded the Dean’s Full-Tuition Fellowship, and currently serves as the Assistant Director for the national tour of the Tony-winning revival of Oklahoma!