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The Drinking Gourd to Fill Up With New Plays by Black Authors

True Colors and the Hansberry Project have created a new commissioning program to address the dearth of Black work on American stages.

ATLANTA: True Colors Theatre Company, in partnership with the Seattle-based Hansberry Project, has announced the pilot year of The Drinking Gourd: Black Writers at Work. This new-play program will create a network of Black theatres to co-commission, co-develop, and co-premiere the work of Black theatremakers. The idea was conceived by True Colors artistic director Jamil Jude in response to the scarcity of Black work being produced on American stages. Hansberry Project director Valerie Curtis Newton provided the name for the program.

“True Colors’ mission challenges us to connect our audience with leading and emerging voices in American theatre today who are illuminating the experiences of Black people and telling bold stories that grow from the African diaspora,” said Jude in a statement. “The Drinking Gourd allows True Colors to search out and support Black voices through a national network that will uplift more Black voices and nurture their stories within Black theatres.”

The ultimate goal of this multi-year program is to create a coalition of five Black theatres, with True Colors and the Hansberry Project piloting the program this year by presenting readings of four plays. Eventually, the goal is to have all five member theatres produce staged workshops and readings, providing a path toward eventual full productions for the new work. This program looks to give Black artists an opportunity to work with theatres serving different communities of color across the country.

Newton described the program in a statement, saying it is a way to “create a space where the entire community can be enriched by the voices of professional Black artists, reflecting autonomous concerns, investigations, dreams, and artistic expressions.”

So far, the two theatres have commissioned a total of eight writers. True Colors will be working with Addae Moon, Gabrielle Fulton-Ponder, and Trey Anthony. The Hansberry Project has commissioned Faith Bennet Russell, Aviona Rodriguez, Porscha Shaw, Ty Greenwood, and Brian Jones Mooney. Readings will begin in February, kicking off with Moon at True Colors and Russell at the Hansberry Project. The 2021 series will culminate with a Juneteenth Community Conversation hosted by the Hansberry Project.

A full schedule is set to be released at a later date.

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