The Theme is Blackness Festival

The time is drawing near for the Durham/Duke, Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern/Manbites Dog Theater collaboration: The Theme is Blackness Festival. Tickets available NOW!

Gil Faison, Utrophia Robinson and Regenna Rouse prepare for a fight in Night Beast by Ed Bullins.

Nov. 3-6 is the world premiere of Night Beast by Ed Bullins, directed by Jay O’Berski, Artistic Director of Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern.

On a dystopian Black planet, a Brother awakes to find himself in the midst of a civil war.

The show features Lakeisha Coffey, Gil Faison, Trevor Johnson, Utrophia Robinson, and Regenna Rouse. On opening night there will be a post-show discussion with playwright Ed Bullins moderated by Durham playwright Howard L. Craft.

You can find an interview with Jay about the Festival at behindthefringe.

Nov. 10-13 is the regional premiere of Harriet Jacobs by Lydia Diamond, directed by Dana Marks.

A lyrical, moving adaptation of Harriet Jacobs’ landmark American classic, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.

The show features Hazel Edmond, Edward Evans, J. Alphonse Nicholson, Marilynn H. Rison, Tara-Whitney Rison, Justin Smith, and Amaris Whitaker. On opening night, Nov. 10, there will be a discussion with the playwright, moderated by Renee Alexander Craft.

There will be a video sneak-peek during these performances of Howard Craft’s Jade City Chronicles: Vol 1, a comic-book drama which will play at Manbites Dog in May of 2011.

The following is a trailer for the festival created by Jim Haverkamp.

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.


Vorticism, Britain’s early 20th century avant-garde movement, never caught the same critical or academic fire as its aesthetic siblings Futurism, Cubism, and Constructivism. Like its more successful relations, Vorticism exemplified inter-media artistry (poetry, novels, paintings, sculpture) but found its evolution cut short by World War I. Its founders and fiercest advocates, Canadian born portraitist/critic Wyndham Lewis & American poet Ezra Pound, admired unsavory political figures (Hitler, Mussolini) and advocated then disavowed the war machine and antisemitism. Lewis loathed mass culture but the two (and only) volumes of BLAST!,  which contain Vorticism’s most coherent statements of aesthetic purpose, anticipate commercial pop art and modern advertising with the use of text as visual art.

BLAST image from Harry Ransom Center Collection’s online module “Teaching the 20s.”

If they had only seriously considered theatrical performance, Lewis and Pound might have found the best medium to merge language, action, and social commentary. Lucky for Durham, the Vorticist retrospective at Duke University’s Nasher Museum will try to rectify this gap in the movement. Not with a production of Lewis’ unstageable script Enemy of the Stars (1932). But with the world-premiere of a new work, Western Men, commissioned from award-winning playwright Adam Sobsey and produced by Durham’s own Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern with generous support from the Duke University College of Arts & Sciences Collaborative Grant.

Western Men is part biographical study, tracing the friendship and intertwining careers of Lewis and Pound from pre-WWI Britain until the late 1950s. Western Men also enacts scenes from Shakespeare’s rarely performed tragedy Timon of Athens, which Lewis visually annotated between 1911-1913. Finally, Western Men creates an Vorticist-inspired musical landscape of Country-Western, Punk rock, Elvis in Vegas, and Dylan unplugged that will BLAST your ears and your senses.

For $5 (Duke students free with ID) you can see Western Men perform Vorticism by performing like Vorticists. One weekend only! October 15 & 16 @ 7pm and Oct. 17 @ 2pm. No reservations required.

The cast of Western Men, clockwise left to right:
Victoria Bella Facelli, Jeffrey Detwiler, Bart Matthews & Tony Perucci.