First-Ever Now Africa Festival Will Showcase Lost Classics and New Works | Playbill

News First-Ever Now Africa Festival Will Showcase Lost Classics and New Works A group of New York-based African writers, actors and community activists will present its first annual playwrights festival, Now Africa, this fall. The new event is presented in collaboration with the NYU Tisch Center for Art and Public Policy.

Now Africa is conceptualized by playwright Mfoniso Udofia, whose play runboyrun will play on the second day of the festival. The event is produced by Chinyere Anyanwu, Erin Cherry, Erin Cherry and Bashir Solebo and will run Sept. 26-28.

While dedicated to nurturing the voices of contemporary African playwrights, the festival's mission is also to highlight some of the masters of African dramatic literature, including Ama Ata Aidoo, Tawfiq al Hakim, Wole Soyinka and Ngugi wa Thiong'o. Some of these landmark works will be shown in the U.S. for the first time in decades, if not ever.

"We set out to create a festival that would be representative of the continent, and that spanned pre- and post-colonial periods, but what we quickly discovered is that much of this work has been buried so deep that even we were unaware of it," said Udofia, whose play Sojourners will also have its Off-Broadway premiere this fall.

"As we did our research, and we discovered so many new names, and due in part to the challenge in getting copies of these plays, we now see our objective as more urgent than ever," he continued. Part of this objective includes creating a public digital repository of African plays in order to enhance the knowledge of and appreciation for African drama.

"The disappearance of art - any kind of art – is a form of amputation, and often a deliberate political act to silence particular voices," commented Kathy Engel, chair of the Tisch Department of Art and Public Policy, in a press release. 'We need access to the plays that have been disappeared, and to the new ones from the new voices. We need to experience all of them." The schedule for the inaugural festival, with all events free of charge in New York City, is below: 

Sept. 26 at 7 PM: 20 Cooper Square, 5th Floor, Room 503:  Performative reading of Binyavanga Wainaina’s incendiary and satirical piece, “How to Write About Africa,” followed by a facilitated discussion on the implication of Wainaina’s piece and the radical movements currently occurring within contemporary African dramatic arts. A showcase of excerpts from African playwrights will close this day.

Sept. 27 at 7:30 PM, NYU Tisch Graduate Musical Theater Writing Black-box Theatre, 715 Broadway, 2nd floor: Performance of runboyrun followed by a talkback with author Mfoniso Udofia. 

Sept. 28 7 PM, NYU Tisch Reise Lounge, 721 Broadway, ground floor: Excerpts of pre-colonial and post-colonial plays will be juxtaposed with their contemporary counterparts in order to compare how African narratives are changing over time.

Now Africa is part of a year-long series of curated special events celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the School of the Arts at NYU. To RSVP for all events email [email protected]

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