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Arts & Ideas

New Black Fest: Readings

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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 R. 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 7 pm Tickets

Buy April 23 7 Pm 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.

Monday Readings Schedule

Directed by Cezar Williams
Directed by Goldie Patrick


Playwrights

Lee Edward

Lee Edward Colston II

Lee Edward Colston II

Lee Edward Colston II is a Black, Queer, former prison guard & MMA Fighter turned multi-hyphenated artist. This Philly native’s multi-hyphenates include; actor, playwright, screenwriter, director, producer, acting teacher, writing coach, and author. In 2017, Colston became a finalist for the Shonda Rhimes ‘Unsung Voices’ Playwriting Commission and a recipient of the National Black Theatre ‘I Am Soul’ playwriting fellowship. His play, THE FIRST DEEP BREATH, was selected to be part of the Victory Gardens IGNITION Festival of New American Plays in 2018 and received a full production in Chicago of November 2019. The Chicago Sun Times called it “the kind of theatrical event you’ll want to be able to say you saw first” and theatre critic Kris Vire named it “one of the best Chicago plays of the decade.” Recently, it was announced that Colston is one of three recipients of the 2020 ATCA/Steinberg New Play Award given by the American Theatre Critics Association. Past recipients include August Wilson, Lynn Nottage, and Horton Foote. Colston was staffed on the latest season of FARGO (FX) starring Chris Rock and wrote on ABC’s FOR LIFE. He previously developed KILL CRAZY for HBO with Academy Award Winners Laura Dern, Eric Roth and Alex Gibney. He has also developed at FX with Emmy Award winners Joe Fields & Joel Weisberg.  Currently, he is writing on Ryan Murphy’s highly-anticipated AMERICAN CRIME STORY spin-off AMERICAN SPORTS STORY: GLADIATOR about disgraced NFL player Aaron Hernandez. Colston earned his MFA in Acting at The Juilliard School. 

Chisa Hutchinson

Chisa Hutchinson

Chisa Hutchinson

Chisa Hutchinson (B.A. Vassar College; M.F.A NYU – TSoA) has presented her plays, which include She Like Girls, Somebody’s Daughter, Surely Goodness & Mercy, Whitelisted and Dead & Breathing at such venues as Atlantic Theater Company, Contemporary American Theater Fest, the National Black Theatre, Second Stage, and Arch 468 in London. Her radio drama, Proof of Love, can be found on Audible (with a boss rating). She’s been a New Dramatist, a Dramatists Guild Fellow, a Lark Fellow, a NeoFuturist, and a staff writer for the Blue Man Group. Chisa has also won a GLAAD Award, a Lilly Award, a New York Innovative Theatre Award, a Helen Merrill Award, and the Lanford Wilson Award. Currently, she is standing by for production on a new TV series she helped write for Showtime, and is creating another with producers Karamo Brown (Queer Eye) and Stephanie Allain (Hustle & Flow, Dear White People). Her first original feature, THE SUBJECT, in which a white documentarian dealing with the moral fallout from exploiting the death of a black teen, is available on various VOD platforms after a successful film festival circuit during which it won over 30 prizes. To learn more, visit www.chisahutchinson.com. 

James Scruggs

James Scruggs

James Scruggs

James Scruggs is a writer, performer, producer, teacher, speaker and arts administrator who creates large scale, topical, theatrical, multi-media work usually focused on inequity or gender politics. He is currently working with Rattlestick Theater to produce BRAVADO, a transmedia piece that will be experienced virtually, exploring viruses, mortality and 9/11.  His work in progress version of A Voluptuary Life was a solo performance work about one man musing same gender loving lives across the ages. It was shown at HERE Arts Center, NYC in March, 2019. MELT !, was a site specific, fully immersive work with actors musicians and radical audience participation. It was commissioned and performed for one day on The High Line in NYC. “It’s The Annual Post Racial America Day Rally!” It’s May 17, 2060! White people in America have been a minority for 17 years. The Mixed Race, gender fluid president of USA, who refuses to disclose birth gender or race has come to speak. He is currently a Fieldwork facilitator for The Field and a Professional Development Program facilitator for Creative Capital.  James Scruggs has a BFA in Film from School of Visual Arts.

Dane Figueroa Edidi

Dane Figueroa Edidi

Dane Figueroa Edidi

Dubbed the Ancient Jazz Priestess of Mother Africa, Lady Dane Figueroa Edidi is a Black Nigerian, Cuban, Indigenous, American Performance Artist, Author, Educator, a Helen Hayes Award winning Playwright (Klytmnestra: An Epic Slam Poem), a 2021 Helen Merrill Award Winner, Advocate, Dramaturg, a 2x Helen Hayes Award Nominated choreographer (2016, 2018) and co-editor/co-Director of the Black Trans Prayer Book. 

She is the curator and co-producer of Long Wharf Theater’s Black Trans Women At The Center: An Evening of Short Plays. Her radio play, Quest of The Reed Marsh Daughter, can be heard on the Girl Tales Podcast. She wrote episode 1 of Untitled Mockumentary Project and acted on the series as well, and wrote episode 9 (Refuge) of Round House Theater’s web series Homebound.  She also narrated The Netflix Docu-series Visions of Us.  

Zora Howard

Zora Howard

Zora Howard

Zora Howard is a Harlem-bred writer and performer. Plays include STEW (2021 Pulitzer Prize Finalist, Drama League nominee for Outstanding Play; Page 73 Productions), THE MASTER’S TOOLS (Williamstown Theatre Festival), AtGN (Oberlin College), BUST, and HANG TIME. Her work has been developed with SPACE at Ryder Farm, Ojai Playwrights Conference, Primary Stages, and Cape Cod Theatre Project, among others. In 2020, her feature film Premature (2020 Film Independent John Cassavetes Award nominee), which she co-wrote with director Rashaad Ernesto Green, opened in theaters following its world premiere at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. She was the 2020-2021 Van Lier New Voices Fellow at the Lark and is currently under commission from Seattle Rep, MTC, and Wessex Grove.

Donja Love

Donja R. Love

Donja R. Love

Donja R. Love (he/him) is Black, Queer, living with HIV, and thriving. A Philly native, his work examines the forced absurdity of life for those who also identify as Black, Queer, and living with HIV. He’s the recipient of POZ’s Best in Performing Arts Award, the Horton Foote Playwriting Award, the Terrance McNally Award, the Antonyo’s inaugural Langston Hughes Award, the Helen Merrill Award, the Laurents/Hatcher Award, and the Princess Grace Playwriting Award. Other honors include The Lark’s Van Lier New Voices Fellowship, The Playwrights Realm’s Writing Fellowship, and the Philadelphia Adult Grand Slam Poetry Champion. He’s the co-founder of The Each-Other Project, a digital media platform that celebrates and fosters community through art and activism for Black queer and trans communities, through which he’s produced numerous short films and digital series. He’s also the creator of Write It Out! – a playwright’s program and prize for people living with HIV. Plays include soft (MCC), one in two (The New Group), Fireflies (Atlantic Theater Company), Sugar in Our Wounds (Manhattan Theatre Club, Lucille Lortel and Outer Critics Circle Nominations), and What Will Happen to All That Beauty? He sits on the board at The Lark and is an Artistic Councilmember at People’s Theatre Project. He’s a graduate of the Lila Acheson Wallace American Playwrights Program at The Juilliard School.