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Clockwise from top left: Kwaku Fortune, Felispeaks, CN Smith, and Jade Jordan.

Irish Rep, Fishamble to Commission Irish Playwrights of Color

Kwaku Fortune, Jade Jordan, Felispeaks, and CN Smith will develop new work under the mentorship of playwright Dael Orlandersmith.

NEW YORK CITY and DUBLIN: Irish Repertory Theatre and Fishamble: The New Play Company have announced their first collaboration, the 2022 Transatlantic Commissions Program, an endeavor that aims to address head-on the historical inequalities in representation that have existed in the theatrical canon. Together, Fishamble and Irish Rep have commissioned four Black Irish artists and writers of color to work with a mentor over the coming year to create new works that will be workshopped and presented in public readings by Fishamble in Dublin, Ireland, and Irish Rep in New York City in early 2023.

Dael Orlandersmith.

The inaugural cohort comprises Felispeaks, Kwaku Fortune, Jade Jordan, and CN Smith. These writers will spend the next year working under the mentorship of the Obie-winning playwright and Pulitzer Prize finalist Dael Orlandersmith (Yellowman, Until the Flood). In a statement, Orlandersmith said, “I am thrilled to be a part of the diaspora of new work and new voices. It’s a privilege.”

In a statement, Maureen Kennelly, director of Ireland’s Arts Council, said, “The Arts Council is committed to ensuring that the arts landscape is more reflective of Ireland in all its diversity, and we are delighted to support this collaborative program. Increased diversity and equality in the arts makes a richer creative arena for everyone, and we look forward to the development and performance of these new works.”

Kwaku Fortune is a busy screen and stage actor, with credits including The Beauty Queen Of Leenane for the Lyric Hammersmith & Chichester Festival Theatre, Line of Duty for the BBC, Normal People for BBC and Hulu, Asking for It at Birmingham Repertory Theatre, and Caitríona McLaughlin’s acclaimed production of Marina Carr’s Raftery’s Hill at the Abbey Theatre. Kwaku trained at the Lír Academy, Dublin (in association with RADA).

Jade Jordan is a mixed-race Irish actor and author of Nanny, Ma & Me. Her screen credits include upcoming roles on ITV dramas No Return and Redemption and the feature film You Are Not My Mother. Her theatrical appearances include Citysong & Dear Ireland for the Abbey Theatre and Coole Park Poetry Series & Four Days in July for Druid Theatre Company.

Felispeaks (Felicia Olusanya) is a Nigerian-Irish poet, performer, and playwright from County Longford, currently based in Dublin City. As well as being a member of the Poetry Ireland board of directors, Felicia is a member of the Poetry Collective WeAreGriot. Her poem “For Our Mothers” is in the English Ordinary Level Leaving Cert Curriculum for examination year 2023. In 2020, Felispeaks was commissioned to write a new piece for RTÉ’s The Big Picture project on the theme of “The New Normal”; her poem, titled “Still,” has been performed to audiences all over the country.

CN Smith is a playwright and director from County Louth. He holds an MFA in playwriting from the Lir Academy and is a graduate of Trinity College Dublin, where he directed Van Gogh’s Sunflowers (Samuel Beckett Theatre, 2019), and Eden (ISDA, 2019). He was an inaugural member of the Abbey Theatre’s Young Curators programme in 2018/2019, and he participated in Smock Alley’s Baptiste Programme and Dublin Fringe’s WEFT Studio Group, both in 2021, where he developed his plays A Trip to the Beach and Before You Head Off.

Irish Repertory Theatre, now in its 33rd season, is currently the only year-round theatre company in New York City devoted to bringing Irish and Irish American works to the stage. Fishamble is an Irish theatre company dedicated to discovering, developing, and producing new plays of national importance with a global reach.

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