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Announcing The New Black Fest at The Lark

Lark News
The New Black Fest 2016 Writers

NEW YORK, NY - The Lark, a 22-year-old play development lab dedicated to expanding the range of perspectives represented on stage in the United States, is proud to announce the continuation of its partnership with The New Black Fest, a theater organization celebrating provocative storytelling, film and discussion from the African Diaspora. The New Black Fest at The Lark, a week-long festival, will feature the following artists and their works: Actor and playwright Jocelyn Bioh (Schoolgirls; or The African Mean Girls Play) whose work has appeared on The Kilroy’s List; Co-founder of Team Play Eric Micha Holmes (Pornplay; or Blessed Are the Meek); Poet, playwright and Ruby Prize WinnerLenelle Moïse (Merit); Actor, playwright and an alumnus of the Emerging Writers Group at the Public Theater NSangou Njikam (When We Left); and actor and playwright Lisa Rosetta Strum, whose one-person play She Gon’ Learn won a Best Solo Show Award at the United Solo Festival at Theatre Row last fall.

The partnership between The New Black Fast and The Lark is both organic and essential.  Both organizations are committed to creating community and movement around new work that contributes to the representation of a contemporary national vision. The Lark’s mission centers on the belief that targeted support for historically underrepresented playwrights is crucial to a culture of equity, access and inclusion, and a theatrical field that represents the vibrancy of our collective voices. 

“As our country and theater community continue their fight for complexity and equity, I am beyond thrilled to continue our relationship with The Lark that believes the creative well-being of the playwright is central to everything,” said Keith Josef Adkins, Artistic Director and Co-founder of The New Black Fest.

Through a diverse portfolio of fellowships, residencies, and workshops, The Lark has provided a platform for voices to enter the evolving national repertoire.  Recent plays substantially developed at The Lark include Dominique Morisseau’s Skeleton Crew, Mona Mansour’s The Way West, Rajiv Joseph’s Guards at the Taj, and Katori Hall’s The Mountaintop.

“The current trend in which funds are systematically redirected from smaller, culturally explicit theater companies to larger, predominately white-led institutions, ostensibly for the sake of ‘efficiency,’ hampers diverse leadership in the arts and dampens voices and perspectives that are critical to a free society” said John Clinton Eisner, The Lark’s Artistic Director.  “Working with The New Black Fest is core to our mission of championing the next wave of innovative theater artists and leaders by putting them in the driver's seat to leverage public awareness and financial resources.”

Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and The New Black Fest’s advisory board member Lynn Nottage, who was The Lark’s 2013-14 Writer-in-Residence, told The New York Times, “This [event] is not about separation, it’s about inclusion. It’s about inviting people who don’t get access.”

Public readings of these works and a kick-off panel, “The White Gaze, the Truth Gaze and a New Revolution,” will take place March 14 – March 19 at The Lark’s BareBones® Studio, located at 311 West 43rd Street, on the 5th Floor, in New York City.

The New Black Fest is supported in part by a special grant from the Ford Foundation.

Additional support provided through grants to The Lark from the New York State Council on the Arts, a State Agency, and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council.

CALENDAR OF EVENTS

Monday, March 14 @7pm
Kick Off Panel: THE WHITE GAZE, THE TRUTH GAZE AND A NEW REVOLUTION

This event will be followed by a reception.  Moderator and panelists to be announced.

Tuesday, March 15 @7pm
SHE GON’ LEARN
by Lisa Rosetta Strum

With old school wisdom, her childhood, a string of bad dates, and a one night stand gone wrong with a smooth talking would be ex-boyfriend, Lisa navigates her personal mishaps with poetry, comedy and poignancy on her journey to discover self-love.

Wednesday, March 16 @7pm
MERIT
by Lenelle Moïse 

Nestled in small-town Vermont, Merit follows Mona, the only student of color (and Southerner) in a prestigious MFA Fiction program. When she befriends distinguished professor Dr. Sive, they struggle to strike a balance between passion and professionalism, power and trust. 

Thursday, March 17 @7pm
PORNPLAY; or BLESSED ARE THE MEEK
by Eric Micha Holmes

Pornplay: or, Blessed Are the Meek is a dark, comedic plantation drama about how the legacy of slavery plays into our sexual desires and online-avatars. The story centers around the hiring of Austin, a Black veteran, by the mysterious porn mogul, Bob 3, to build a swimming pool for his renovated estate in Virginia. When Austin meets Bob 3’s pornstar wife, Sephie, and Jackie, her gender-fluid son, their lives, races and desires intersect to reveal the horrifying truths of sex, history, and power. 

Friday, March 18 @7pm
SCHOOLGIRLS; or THE AFRICAN MEAN GIRLS PLAY
by Jocelyn Bioh

Inspired from actual events, School Girls is set at the prestigious Aburi Girls Boarding School and tells the story of Paulina, the most popular (mean) girl in school, and Ericka, the new girl with a unique background. Stakes run high as Paulina and Ericka face off in a battle of wits and beauty as they compete to be named Miss Ghana 1985.

Saturday, March 19 @7pm
WHEN WE LEFT
by NSangou Njikam

In the near-future, a secret organization puts out a call to Black Americans: leave America and return to Africa. This extraordinary call promises jobs, housing and a better way of life. But is it real? When We Left follows two members of Congress, two cousins in the inner city, a pair of Black advertising executives, and an interracial, lesbian Black Lives Matter couple as they tackle perhaps the most monumental issue they will ever face: is the American dream for Black people?

Talkbacks will follow each reading. A reception will follow the panel and the final reading on March 19.

All events are free and open to the public; reservations are required. Reservations can be made beginning Monday, February 22. Visit www.larktheatre.org for more information.

THE NEW BLACK FEST PARTICIPANTS (2016)

Jocelyn Bioh has her B.A. in English and Theater from The Ohio State University and MFA in Theater-Playwriting from Columbia University School of the Arts. As a playwright, Jocelyn has been produced in New York City, Columbus, OH, Baton Rouge, LA and Washington D.C. Plays include: African Americans (Produced at Howard University 2015; Southern Rep Ruby Prize Award Finalist 2011; O'Neill Center Semi-Finalist, 2012), Nollywood Dreams (Kilroy's List 2015) and her new play School Girls. Her musical The Ladykiller’s Love Story, for which she conceived the story and wrote the book with music/lyrics by Cee Lo Green, is currently in development with Hi-Arts NYC. As an actress, Jocelyn's credits include: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Broadway; Tony Award Winner for Best Play, 2015), An Octoroon (Soho Rep, Obie Award Winner for Best Play, 2014), Booty Candy (Wilma Theater), Seed (Classical Theater of Harlem, Audelco Award Nominee), and Marcus; or The Secret of Sweet (City Theatre). She also originated the role of "Topsy" in the World Premiere of Neighbors (The Public Theater, Audelco Award Nominee). TV: The Characters (Netflix) Louie (FX) One Life to Live (ABC). Former Cover Girl spokesmodel (National commercial/Print ads).

Eric Micha Holmes is a playwright whose work has been seen and developed at Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre (World Without Names), New York Theatre Workshop (Nimpsey Pink) and The Lark (Red All Over) among others. Former residencies and fellowships include Space on Ryder Farm (The Stick Up) and LaGuardia Performing Arts Playwriting Lab (Falls For Jodie). His mono-play, Walking Next To Michael Brown: Confessions Of A Light-Skinned Half-Breed, was commissioned by The New Black Fest and has toured with “Hands Up: 6 Playwrights / 6 Testaments” to theaters across the country including: The National Black Theatre (Harlem, NY), Museum Of The Moving Image (NYC), The Hansberry Project (Seattle, WA) and Flashpoint Theatre (Philadelphia, PA). His monologue, “W.F.C.,” is published by The Good Ear Review. Holmes co-founded Team Play, a theater-for-young-adults education program at Primary Stages Theatre Company. Holmes is currently a third-year MFA Playwriting student at University of Iowa’s Playwrights Workshop.

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

Lisa Rosetta Strum’s She Gon’ Learn  performed to sold out audiences during the United Solo Festival at Theatre Row last fall and garnered one of the festival’s Best Solo Show Awards in New York City. The play had its inaugural showing with the Emerging Artist Theatre Festival at TADA! Theatre and was performed at The Kraine Theatre for the Obie Award Winning Fire This Time Festival and just recently at the National Black Theatre. Lisa has also performed at Lincoln Center Theatre, Summer Stage, Signature Theatre, New Federal Theatre, Intiman Theatre, The Obie Award Winning 48 Hours in…Harlem, ACT Seattle, and The Fifth Avenue Theatre. She has had a recurring role on Law & Order: SVU and co-stared in the television pilot Citizen Baines with James Cromwell. As an educational consultant, she has worked in numerous public schools throughout New York, conducted theater workshops for Teachers College at Columbia University, and has acted as the Theatre Specialist for the Abrons Arts Center, Barbara L. Tate Arts Camp for the past nine seasons. Lisa is an MFA graduate of the University of Washington Professional Actor Training Program.

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, The 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 theater, poetry, and West African performance aesthetics.  He also aims to develop new, diverse and younger audiences by creating “theater 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.

ABOUT THE NEW BLACK FEST

The New Black Fest is a theater organization committed to celebrating insurgent voices within the diverse African Diaspora through theater, film and discussion. The New Black Fest is a gathering of artists, thinkers, activists and audiences who are dedicated to stretching, interrogating and uplifting the Black aesthetic in the 21st century. The New Black Fest has developed many artists including Mfoniso Udofia, Kwame Kwei-Armah, Dennis Allen II, Eisa Davis and more. It has partnered with the National Black Theatre, 651 ARTS, the BRIC Arts/Media/Brooklyn, the Classical Theatre of Harlem and more. It also co-founded the American Slavery Project as well as commissioned Facing Our Truth: 10-Minute Plays on Trayvon, Race and Privilege, HANDS UP: 7 Playwrights, 7 Testaments, and the recent Un-Tamed: Hair Body Attitude - Short Plays by Black Women (in collaboration with Dominique Morisseau).

Keith Josef Adkins (Artistic Director) As a playwright, his plays include The People Before the Park (Premiere Stages), Pitbulls (Rattlestick),Safe House (Cincinnati Playhouse, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis), among others. 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 under the direction of Seret Scott and earned six 2014 Audelco nominations. Other plays include The Migrant's Fight, Sugar and Needles, The Final Daze, among others.  He is currently under commission by Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park.

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