by 99 Seats
I've been fairly radio-silent about the New Black Fest, which happened last week. While I was in it, there was just no way to write about it. I was a bad Co-Artistic Director and didn't even contribute to our blog. There was just literally too much to do. It wrapped up on Sunday, I cleaned out the space on Monday with one of my partners, collapsed and have been slowly returning to my pre-New Black Fest life all week. But I wanted to get some observations out there while it was still fresh in my mind:
- The black theatre community in New York is alive, thriving and vibrant. There is passion, courage and talent burning in this city, creating great work, new work, exploring big topics. And they are largely making their own work in their own spaces. (More on that soon.) Any talk about a dearth of black artists, a lack of playwrights or performers, an inability to find black work is just laziness and fear. It's there, right under your nose.
- New York needs, deserves and doesn't have a world-class black producing organization or two. There are some great young upstarts out there, and some old greats trying to mount comebacks, but that we don't have a major institution devoted to producing new plays by black playwrights is a crying shame. And the community is clamoring for it.
- I know it, but it's always a good reminder: producing something from scratch is hard freakin' work. That is all.
- I don't think I have felt the segregation in the New York theatre community more acutely than I did last week as our theatre was crammed with black people, night after night, and the only play that drew a truly mixed house was the play that featured a mixed cast. The black artists all know each other because they've been working with each other almost exclusively, doing productions of Ruined or Danai Gurira's Eclipsed just about everywhere. And no one from any of the "white" institutions showed their faces anywhere near us. And it wasn't just us: last week also featured The Hip-Hop Theater Festival. Again, there is a lot of work out here. Just not here, here or here.
- That said, a number of "white" and interracial institutions provided us with a TON of support and help (interestingly, including MTC). And we are eternally grateful for that: BRIC Arts Media Bklyn, New Dramatists and The New School for Drama (I'm an alum) all went out of their way for us.
- A bit of dialogue:
Person A: Wait, where is all of this happening?
Me: BRIC in Brooklyn.
Person A: The Brick? In Williamsburg?
Me: No, BRIC. In Fort Greene.
Person A: Oh. Oh. Okay. I was confused. This would never happen at The Brick.
Why is that?
It was an amazing experience. There is so much more work to do.