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The Importance of Radical Queer Narratives on Stage and Beyond

Equity in the Arts

Last week, The Lark's Studio Retreat program featured a reading of Donja R. Love's new play in progress, In the Middle. Part of his trilogy The Love* Plays, the play explores Queer love during a pivotal moment in Black History, in this case, the Black Lives Matter movement. The Love* Plays speak not only to each other, but also to the times we find ourselves in today. To help illuminate why stories like Donja's are incredibly necessary, both to the theatrical field and to the world at large, The Lark hosted a panel discussion, moderated by Andrew Shade (Founder of Broadway Black), on the topic of The Importance of Radical Queer Narratives On Stage and Beyond. The panel featured Donja and the director of The Love* Plays, Saheem Ali, as well as fellow playwright C.A. Johnson, and Hari Ziyad (Editor-in-Chief of RaceBaitR). Hear their conversation in full in the video above, and join in by commenting below!

Actors rehearse around a table. Two of them hold their hands to their chins, two have their backs to use. One speaks, and all are looking at her.
From the rehearsal room of IN THE MIDDLE.


Andrew Shade (Moderator) has a burning passion that lies in the arts. Originally from Fort Wayne, Indiana, he resides in the heart of Harlem, helping to lead the way in building a more diverse and knowledgeable audience in the theater world. He is the Founder and Editorial Director of Broadway Black, a digital platform dedicated to highlighting the achievements and successes of African-American theater artists on and off the Broadway stage. Broadway Black has taken the theater industry by storm and has been excelled by the likes of Ben Vereen, Jennifer Hudson, and Misty Copeland just to name a few. However, Shade feels the greatest achievement has been using his experience and knowledge of the industry to create a community celebrating his own. Recently awarded The Mountaintop Award by Actors Equity Association and BOLDNYC for being a trailblazer. "There is no greater joy than fueling  inspiring those who once thought the theater was a foreign place to which they were not welcome," he says. He lives the life of the Broadway Black slogan, and shows what can happen "When The Theatre Goes Dark."

Saheem Ali, originally from Nairobi, Kenya, is a director of plays and musicals with an emphasis on new work. Recent credits include Twelfth Night (The Public), Nollywood Dreams (Cherry Lane), Dot (Detroit Public Theater), The Booty Call (Inner Voices) and A Lesson From Aloes (Juilliard). He has workshopped new plays by Donja R. Love, Jocelyn Bioh, Jen Silverman, Nathaniel Shapiro, Phillip Howze, Eric Micha Holmes, and James Ijames at Playwrights Realm, MCC, New York Stage & Film, National Black Theater, and PEN World Voices. He has co-written two musicals with composer Michael Thurber: The Booty Call (Roundabout Underground Reading Series) and Goddess (O’Neill Musical Theater Conference). He was the associate director of The Tempest at the Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park. He is a Usual Suspect and former Directing Fellow at New York Theater Workshop.

C. A. Johnson is a Louisiana native currently living in Queens. Her full length plays include Mother Tongue, The Climb, Waitin’ on the Moon, Elroy Learn his Name, and Thirst. She is The Lark's 2016-17 Van Lier Playwriting Fellow, a member of The Civilians’ 2016-2017 R&D Group, and a 2016-2017 Dramatists Guild Fellow. Her work has been developed at NYU Tisch, The Lark, Open Bar Theatricals, UC San Diego, The Dennis and Victoria Ross Foundation, and The Fire This Time Festival. Most recently, C.A.’s play Thirst was selected for the 2017 PlayPenn Conference. BA: Smith College MFA: NYU

Donja R. Love is an Afro-Queer playwright, poet, and filmmaker. His work examines identity by unapologetically dramatizing the multifaceted nuance of Blackness and Queerness. He's The Lark's 2016 Van Lier New Voices Playwriting Fellow, and The Playwrights Realm’s 2016-2017 Writing Fellow. He’s also the 2011 Philadelphia Adult Grand Slam Poetry Champion, and a Eugene O’ Neill 2017 National Playwrights Conference finalist. His work has been developed at Rising Circle Theatre, The Lark, and The Playwrights Realm. He’s the co-founder of The Each-Other Project, an organization that helps build community and provide visibility, through art and advocacy, for LGBTQ People of Color, ( Selected stage-plays include: Soft; Or The Dead N---- Poem (New Dramatists Resident Playwright Semi-finalist), and Sugar In Our Wounds (The Arch and Bruce Brown Playwriting Award). Selected film work: Modern Day Black Gay (web series), and Once A Star (short film). 

Hari Ziyad is an artist, writer, and the editor-in-chief of the literary and media publication RaceBaitR. They received their BFA from New York University, where they concentrated on Film and Television, and Psychology. Their work is informed by their passion for storytelling and wrestling with identity as a Black, non-binary child of Muslim and Hindu parents while growing up in Cleveland, Ohio. Their work has been featured on GawkerOutEbonyMicThe GuardianColorlinesPaste MagazineBlack Girl DangerousThe Feminist Wire, and in the peer-reviewed journal Critical Ethnic Studies (upcoming 2017). They are also Deputy Editor for Black Youth Project, an Assistant Editor for Vinyl Poetry & Prose, and writer for AFROPUNK.