On DAY 3 we begin with a performative reading of acclaimed poet, Derek Walcott’s, “A Far Cry from Africa.” Derek Walcott’s poem published in 1962, is a painful and jarring depiction of ethnic conflict and divided loyalties. The opening images of the poem are drawn from accounts of the Mau Mau Uprising. The ongoings in Kenya highlight an internal strife within the poet concerning his own mixed heritage. Walcott has both African and European roots; his grandmothers were both black, and both grandfathers were white. In addition, at the time the poem was written, the poet’s country of birth, the island of St. Lucia, was still a colony of Great Britain.
After the performative reading, there will be a presentation from 7 commissioned playwrights, who have written their responses to Walcott’s piece.
MEET THE PLAYWRIGHTS
Dennis A. Allen II (Black-American) is from Hempstead, New York. His play The Mud is Thicker in Mississippi won the 35th annual Off Off Broadway Samuel French festival in 2010 directed by Dennis’ frequent collaborator Christopher Burris. He is a recipient of Atlantic Theater Company’s inaugural 2014-15 Launch Commission and National Black Theatre’s, 2016-17 “I Am Soul Playwright Residency”. He has developed and produced plays with, The Lark Play Development Center, the Classical Theatre of Harlem, The Fire This Time Festival, The Naked Expedition Project, 48 Hours in Harlem and The New Black Fest. Dennis received his MFA from Brooklyn College Playwriting program.
France-Luce Benson (Haitian-American): Dramatists Guild Fellow 2015-2016; Lifetime Member at Ensemble Studio Theatre; Winner of the 41 st annual Samuel French OOB Festival, Winner of the National New Play Network Award for Short Playwriting, Playwright Observership at the Eugene O’Neil NPC; Alfred P. Sloan New Play Commission; Ensemble Studio Theatre New Play Commission, and Djerassi Resident Artists Program Fellowship. Her plays have been produced by The Ensemble Studio Theatre, The Fire This Time Festival, City Theatre of Miami, Crossroads Theatre, The Billy Holiday Theatre, and Loyola Marymount University, among others. She holds an M.F.A. in Dramatic Writing from Carnegie Mellon University.
Kemiyondo Coutinho (Nomadic African) Uganda’s 2011 young achiever recipient, Kemiyondo Coutinho has been writing for the African woman since age 17. Her first one-woman show about Swazi women, Jabulile! went to tour internationally performing in Swaziland, South African, Uganda, Canada, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Portland. Her second play Kawuna…you’re it which explored HIV positive women in Uganda, was selected for a reading in New York by Hybrid Theater Works. Kawuna…you’re it was selected to be a part of the Main Program at the National Arts Festival in South Africa. Most recently it was selected to be the main event at 2015 The Gates Foundation annual World Aids Day Celebration. She was the artistic director and founder for NuVo Arts Festival in Uganda, an arts festival geared at social change. Kemiyondo Coutinho graduated with an MFA in acting from The American Conservatory Theater and holds a diploma from UCLA in Writing For Television. She continues to write for the African Women she never found in the the plays or on her television screen that she watched at a young age. Keeping in line with the nature of all her work, she hopes to vocalize unheard voices one script at a time.
Donette Lavinia Grays(African-American) Brooklyn based actor/playwright. Plays include LAST NIGHT AND THE NIGHT BEFORE (NNPN New Play Showcase. Todd McNerney National Playwriting Contest Winner. O’Neill Theater Center National Playwrights Conference Semifinalist), THE REVIEW (O’Neill Theater Center National Playwrights Conference Finalist), among others. Doric Wilson Independent Playwright Award (inaugural recipient). 2016-2018 Time Warner Foundation WP Theater Playwright’s Lab Fellow. Notable acting credits: Broadway’s “IN THE NEXT ROOM OR THE VIBRATOR PLAY,” “WELL,” “O, EARTH” (The Foundry), MEN ON BOATS (Playwrights Horizons/Clubbed Thumb). Film/TV: BOOK OF HENRY, WILD CANARIES, THE WRESTLER, BLUE BLOODS, THE BLACKLIST, all LAW & ORDERS, MERCY, RUBICON and THE NIGHT OF.
Professor Darrel Alejandro Holnes (Afro-Latino) is a member of the Arts Faculty at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University, where he teaches dramatic writing and ethnographic playwriting courses at NYU and mentors students in the Gallatin Summer Theater Lab and the Gallatin Theater Troupe. Holnes’ most recent play, TRIGGER, a play based on ethnographic interviews he conducted with African American military veterans suffering fromPTSD, was recently presented at a reading at the National Black Theater in New York. Holnes’ plays have won him various awards, residencies, and fellowships, including recognition from the Kennedy Center for the Arts and work with the Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Conference. He is also a published poet. Learn more about him at darrelholnes.com
Velina Hasu Houston is an internationally celebrated writer with over 20 commissions in theatre/opera. In New York, US nationwide, and globally, her work has been produced to critical acclaim at prestigious institutions. Honored by the Kennedy Center, Smithsonian Institute, Rockefeller Foundation, Japan Foundation, Wallace Foundation, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, and others, she founded graduate playwriting studies at the School of Dramatic Arts, University of Southern California, where she is Distinguished Professor of Dramatic Writing. A Fulbright scholar, she served on the US Department of State’s Japan-US Friendship Commission for six years. Archives: Library of Congress, The Huntington Library. https://matchabook.wordpress.com, http://www.velinahasuhouston.com
Aroji Otieno (Kenyan) is a cultural activist, drama teacher and writer. He is the founder of Aroji Drama Academy and An Actor Develops Studio, both located in Nairobi. Aroji blogs regularly on anactordevelopsstudio.wordpress.com and has a monthly forum event [by the same name] where performing artists discuss topics affecting their profession. He has directed several successful plays and trained more than 2,000 theatre practitioners across East Africa. He also wrote and performed My Moving Home in 2010 and directed the same play in 2014. Other plays written by Aroji include: Githaa (Co-writer), My Tenth Muse, A Russian Roulette in Ngara, Lords of Anarchy, Chaos and The Epic of Gor Mahia.
Join us afterwards for food, drink and mingling. Food will be provided by African restaurants from across the city.