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Featured Playwrights

Erika Dickerson-Despenza

Erika Dickerson-Despenza

Erika Dickerson-Despenza is a Blk feminist Pushcart Prize nominated poet-turned-playwright, educator and grassroots organizer from Chicago, Illinois. She’s a 2018-2019 Dramatists Guild Foundation Playwriting Fellow and The Lark’s 2018 Van Lier New Voices Fellow. She is a member of Ensemble Studio Theatre's Obie-winning Youngblood collective. Her work has been developed at The Public Theater, The Lark, New York Stage and Film and Jackalope Theater. Select stage plays include: a water tetralogy examining water as a reflection of Blk women’s bodies as sites of consciousness development and exile during key events in Black History: ocean’s lip/ heaven’s shore (the Middle Passage), took/tied hung/split (Jim Crow), shadow/land (Hurricane Katrina) and cullud wattah (Flint Water Crisis). In addition to this fourfold work, she is currently developing a 10-play Katrina Cycle, focused on the effects of Hurricane Katrina and its state-sanctioned man-made disaster.

As a former classroom teacher, Erika is intentional about disrupting the school-to-prison pipeline. She has implemented culturally savvy pedagogical practices in metropolitan area schools and community centers across the nation and in Cape Town, South Africa. She has also designed theater-based creative action curricula for various arts organizations, including People’s Theatre Project.

She is the founder of The For Colored Girls Project, UW-Madison’s first theater ensemble exclusively for women of color, and The Love Well Series, a Dallas-based citywide monthly teach-in for Christian leaders, designed to foster education about social injustice in an American context. Erika is an associate organizer with the #LetUsBreatheCollective, a Chicago-based alliance of artists and activists. In 2016, she co-organized and launched Freedom Square—a 41-day occupation of a Chicago police torture site that became a nationally recognized community laboratory for police abolition and divestment. She is also an artistic associate of Black Lives, Black Words International Project. 

Erika’s life mission is to practice sci-fi living. Her work resists Blk feminine erasure and examines the intersections of race, gender, sex(uality), imperialism and spirituality, offering a kaleidoscope of Blk womanhood. As an interdisciplinary theater-maker and cultural worker, she hopes to use world travel as a gateway for transnational coalition building, and playwriting as a mirror and place of possibility for Blk women’s liberation. 

Facebook: Erika Dickerson-Despenza | IG: @erikajanea


last edited 10/16/2018

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