New Black Fest 2011 Started This Week

A few months ago I wrote a post that made some waves called “Why Aren’t There More African-Americans In Contemporary Performance?” The responses to it, quite honestly, were more illuminating than what I wrote, including one by Parabasis contributor 99 Seats, a.k.a., Jason Holtham. Well, I was reminded of all this this week when I realized I’d already missed the opening of New Black Fest, the three-week long series of readings and lectures, co-organized by Holtham, that’s doing what it can to support new work from emerging black theater artists. (You can read an interview with him about the festival here.)

You can check out the whole line-up of events on their calendar here; tonight, Friday, Oct. 14, there’s a cool mixer going on up in Harlem at Nectar Wine Bar at 2235 Frederick Douglas Blvd. starting at 7 p.m. Saturday there’s a lecture discussion on progressive culture in contemporary capitalist society, while Sunday features a healthy line-up of new play readings, including a new work from Ugandan playwright Judith Adong exploring the consequences of that country’s now notorious anti-gay political agenda. The playwright will also be taking part in a roundtable discussion at New York Theater Workshop on Monday with other specialists and artists, including the UN’s senior advisor on sexual diversity.

In short, there’s a lot of cool stuff happening. Holtham and his co-presenter Keith Josef Adkins (he’s got a recent interview, too) are working hard to generate new conversations and to help playwrights whose work doesn’t fit comfortably into the narrow categories reserved for black artists in mainstream theater. Most of the events are free or have only a nominal suggested donation, so peruse the site and get involved.

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