October is the New Black.

October marks a  flurry of events centered around contemporary Black artists. There is the inaugural festival of The New Black Fest in NYC (Oct. 9-17), featuring panel discussions with writers like Suzan-Lori Parks (Topdog Underdog), Kia Corthron (Breath, Boom), Danai Gurira (Eclipsed), and Lynn Nottage (Ruined) and staged readings and concerts from a host of black playwrights and musicians. Locally, there are a host of African and African-American plays on tap as well for October and November, wrapping up with The Theme Is Blackness Festival of Contemporary American Playwrights at Manbites Dog.

North Carolina Central University just closed the musical Sarafina! on October 10.

NCCU's Sarafina!

August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, The Piano Lesson, opened at the Raleigh Little Theater on October 8.

RLT's cast for The Piano Lesson. Photo by Jack Morton

October 28-November 14, PlayMakers Repertory Company presents August Wilson’s other Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Fences, starring Charlie Robinson (best known to audiences as “Mac” in the television series Night Court) in the role of Troy Maxon. Fences’ first Broadway revival this past spring garnered 10 Tony award nominations and 3 wins for Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Revival of a Play.

Playmakers Fences Poster.

On October 20 at 8pm, one night only, Duke’s Duke University Center for International Studies, Concilium on Southern Africa and John Hope Franklin Center present Jonathan Khumbulani Nkala’s one-man show, The Crossing, directed by Bo Peterson. The show is autobiographical, chronicling Nkala’s  journey “from Zimbabwe to South Africa, and the challenges he faces and overcomes on the way. It provokes debate around issues of xenophobia, life choices, personal motivation and the struggle for human dignity, while increasing awareness and understanding of necessary life skills” (from COSA publicity). The performance is free and open to the public and takes place at the East Campus Coffeehouse.

Duke University’s fall production of The Beatification of Area Boy by Nobel Prize-winning playwright Wole Soyinka runs at the Reynolds Theater in the Bryan Center on Duke’s campus Oct. 21-24, 28-31. See previous post, “Laureates visit Duke” for a schedule of public events related to Professor Soyinka’s visit to campus.

La ida by Fausto Ortiz

ARTiculating Caribbean Imaginaries opens Thursday, Oct 21 @ 5:30pm in the Franklin Humanities Institute’s Gallery (C104, 1st Floor, Bay 4, Smith Warehouse). This is the inaugural exhibition at the FHI’s new gallery at the Smith Warehouse!  Featuring the works of Christopher Cozier, Mario Marzan, Fausto Ortiz, and Gelsy Verna. The exhibit is curated by Duke faculty Michaeline Crichlow (African & African American Studies/Sociology).  This show, which will be on view through December 3 (Gallery hours 10am to 4pm – or by appointment), kicks off a year-long series on contemporary African American, Caribbean, and Afro-diasporic arts at the FHI Gallery.

On Friday, Oct 22 @ 4:30pm in the FHI Garage (C105, 1st Floor, Bay 4, Smith Warehouse), curator Michaeline Crichlow will host a conversation with exhibit artist Fausto Ortiz.

Cast of Beatification.

UNC’s Process Series sponsors The Ladies Ring Shout in Gerrard Hall, October 29 & 30 @ 8pm.

The Laides Ring Shout. Photograpy by Kahlil Nommo.

For the first two weekends in November, Duke’s College of Arts and Sciences, The Mary Lou Williams Center and the Departments of African-American and Theatre Studies team up with Manbites Dog and Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern for The Theme Is Blackness Festival of Contemporary American Playwrights, November 3-13 at Manbites Dog Theater in Durham.

The festival features the world premiere of Night Beast by Ed Bullins (Nov. 3-6) and Lydia Diamond‘s Harriet Jacobs (Nov. 10-13). Both weekends will include a sneak peek of  Howard L. Craft’s comic-book spectacular, Jade City Chronicles: Vol. 1, which will have a full production courtesy of Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern at Manbites Dog Theater in Durham in May of 2011.

Margo Crawford (Cornell University) be visiting during the final weekend of The Theme is Blackness Festival, delivering a guest keynote as part of the PERC Graduate Student conference, “What is Performance Studies?” This last weekend of the festival is also shared by Duke’s Franklin Humanities Institute’s W.E.B. DuBois’ Black Re-Construction Symposium featuring keynotes by Stephen Hahn, Thomas C. Holt and Stephanie McCurry.