The Public Theater presents the world premiere of Erika Dickerson-Despenza's audio play Shadow/land April 13 as part of its spring digital theatre season. The play is available for free, on-demand streaming at Public Play Now as well as on all podcast platforms.
Playwright Erika Dickerson-Despenza is the Public's 2019-2020 Tow Foundation playwright-in-residence and a Laurents/Hatcher Foundation Award and Lilly Award recipient. She recently won the 2021 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for cullud wattah, which was meant to debut at the Public last year but was canceled due to the pandemic.
Candis C. Jones, also a recipient of a New York Women's Foundation Lilly Award, helms the production featuring Te'Era Coleman, Lizan Mitchell, Lance E. Nichols, Lori Elizabeth Parquet, Sunni Patterson, and Michelle Wilson.
Shadow/land is the first installment of a 10-play cycle examining the ongoing effects of Hurricane Katrina and urban renewal in New Orleans. The story centers on Ruth, who coaxes her mother to sell the family business, Shadowland, New Orleans’ first air-conditioned dance hall and hotel for Black people, just as Hurricane Katrina begins its strike on the city.
“Shadow/land began as a recovery project through which I resurrected my family's business, as all photographs of Shadowland were claimed by the flood that followed Hurricane Katrina,” says Dickerson-Despenza. “The play grew into a timely meditation on how apocalypse clarifies or redirects our wanting. It is an epic exploration of queer Black southern women navigating disaster, duty and desire.”
The audio play features original music from composer Delfeayo Marsalis and sound design by Palmer Hefferan. Listen to a trailer below.