Black playwrights will showcase their works at the third annual Juneteenth festival, June 6-8 at the Los Angeles Theatre Center. The festival is a showcase for the final projects of young playwrights involved in the Blacksmyths, the Mark Taper Forum's black playwrights project.
The project was founded three years ago by former director of CrossRoads Theatre, Lee Richardson, who said, "I am concerned about the future of black theatre. I am concerned about the future of black playwrights."
Since the 1970's he has seen a decline in the number of African American playwrights and feels that those writing for theatre tend to write "safe" works in order to adhere to mainstream philosophies and beliefs of what black theatre should be.
The Blacksmyths program helps the writers develop their plays "from the heart," to make the play "what they want, what they feel," Richardson said. This year Richardson has taken on six playwrights and worked with them over the past nine months to improve their plays for the Juneteenth showcase.
The title of the festival is drawn from the name of the annual celebration marking the freeing of the last black American slaves in Texas in June 1865. During the three-day play festival, six writers will exhibit the skills they developed in the Blacksmyths program. They were chosen based on the plays they sent to Richardson.
The festival opens June 6 with Silas Jones', Born to Preach, in which a determined young man aims to rid his neighborhood of undesirables.
On June 7 three more will be presented:
* Kira Arne's Life on the Edge of Dementia, a chronicle of three generations of women in the March family. Kira Arne had an earlier play workshopped at the program, Two Divas and a Dog which will be going to Off-Broadway at the New York professional theatre next year.
* Ken Cosby's Barred for Life, about a young man who must sell the neighborhood bar left to him by his father to get out of debt.
* Christina Ham's 626 Broadway, a story of loyalty and betrayal as South Central L.A. bookies go head-to-head with a local politician.
Finishing the festival June 8, are two plays, Kathleen McGhee-Anderson's Five Mojo Secrets, a story of a failing marriage between a physician and a feminist literature professor, and David Lee Lyndsey's coming-of age story, Of Gods and Supergods, which is set to the rhymes and rhythms of rap music.
Readings of the plays will be held at Los Angeles Theatre Center's Theatre Two. For reservations and more information: (213) 972-0719
-- By Honey Freilich