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.

Laureates visit Duke.

October is flush with visits from award-winning literary figures to Duke University.

First, in conjunction with Duke Theater Studies and with support from the Franklin Humanities Institute, Nobel Prize-winning playwright Wole Soyinka will take time out from launching a new political party in Nigeria to be on campus during the week of October 18.

Photograph: Graeme Robertson for The Guardian

Soyinka will participate in public events around the opening of his play The Beatification of Area Boy (Reynolds Theater, Bryan Center, Oct. 21-24, 28-31). The events listed below are free and open to students and the public.

  • On October 21 there will be a reception outside Reynolds Theater lobby after the show’s opening night performance.
  • On October 22, there will be a lunch discussion with Professor Soyinka titled “Mega-Cities/Mega-Slums: Urban Ruin and Renewal on the Global Stage.” This event will be held in C105, Bay 5, Smith Warehouse. Lunch begins at 12:30 pm; discussion at 1 pm.
  • Also on October 22, there will be a pre-show discussion with Professor Soyinka in the Rare Book Room, Perkins Library at 6:30 pm.

Don’t miss these opportunities to meet and hear from a Nobel laureate whose career illustrates the struggle and power of combining art, politics, and activism.

Second, at month’s end, 2010-2011 US Poet laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner W.S. Merwin will visit Duke as part of the William Blackburn Visiting Writers Series. Mr. Merwin will give a public reading at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 28, in the Gothic Reading Room at Perkins Library. A reception and book signing will follow the event.

Image: The Barclay Agency

The reading is free and open to the public, but tickets are required. Tickets can be picked up beginning October 25 from the English department in the Allen Building. You can also email rebecca.gibson@duke.edu to reserve your ticket. Remaining tickets will be distributed at the door on the evening of the event.

In honor of Merwin’s visit, I’ve linked a 2009 episode of Bill Moyers Journal (PBS) in which Moyers interviews the prolific poet and translator about the writing life.

Beatification Blog

You can find the production blog for Theater Studies’ production of Nobel Prize-winning playwright Wole Soyinka’s The Beatification of Area Boy at http://beatificationofareaboy.blogspot.com/.

Original production photo of Beatification, West Yorkshire Playhouse, 1995.

Keep checking the blog for insights from the director, dramaturg, performers, and the playwright.  Soyinka will be back on campus for opening weekend: October 21-24, 2010. Reserve your tickets now at the Duke University Box Office.