NEW YORK: Parent Artist Advocacy League (PAAL) and Blackboard Plays have announced the finalists for the inaugural Black Motherhood and Parenting New Play Festival. Playwrights who identify as Black parents or caregivers were invited to submit up to 10 pages of a work to be developed into a one-act play, with the ultimate goal of committing festival proceeds to a childcare grant for a Black playwright and parent. The four finalists, who have been paired with partner theatres, are Melda Beaty, Eureka Lewis, Julie Taiwo Oni, and Cynthia G. Robinson.
The festival will be executive produced by Garlia Cornelia Jones, Blackboard Plays founder and artistic director and PAAL producing director and chief representative for New York City. “Black parenthood is often overlooked in our national and artistic conversations and represented without the nuance that white parents and parenting stories often include,” Jones said in a statement. “My journey as a parent has been alongside the growth of my artistic career.”
Lewis’s Justin’s Side follows a typical day at Roman Middle School that takes a drastic turn when an incident among classmates warrants a parent-principal meeting. The play, which will run May 20-24, is made possible through a partnership with Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Ellen Valencia will direct.
Next up will be Robinson’s WHAT IF…? (May 27-31), which follows a young woman’s fight for justice and her mother’s fears for her life. The play will be produced with Bishop Arts Theatre Center and directed by Mary E. Hodges.
The festival will continue with Thirty by Beaty, an explosive look at a generation of Black women caregivers grappling with family secrets. Thirty will be produced with the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis and will stream June 3-7.
The final play will be The Break by Oni, which follows Jade, a single, early-20s mother and influencer who challenges herself to a day without social media. The Break is made possible through a partnership with Detroit Public Theatre and will stream June 10-14.
In advance of the weekly streams, a panel featuring the four finalists will be held May 13. A panel of the partner theatres’ artistic directors will also be held June 3. The production stage managers for the festival are Kristina Jackson and Alexis McKay.
Blackboard Plays has been devoted to Black playwrights throughout the African diaspora since 2008, and holds a reading series and community nights to support the development of new work by Black playwrights. Parent Artist Advocacy League is a national organization serving as a resource hub, community, and solutions generator for caregivers in the performing arts and media. PAAL is a trans and non-binary affirming space, and they use “mother,” “motherhood,” and their derivatives as inclusive terms for anyone who identifies with them.
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