Another mainstage production is Danai Gurira’s “Eclipsed.” Produced by the Star Theater of Gainesville, Fla., it follows the stories of five women during the upheaval of civil war in Liberia. The original production made history in 2016 when it became the first play with an all-black, female cast and creative team to premiere on Broadway.
K-9 Officer Honored In Heartbreaking Farewell
Atlanta’s New African Grove Theatre will present Gus Edwards’ classic romantic comedy focusing on the domestic ups and downs of an African-American couple living in New York, “Louie and Ophelia.” Other festival highlights include “Tongues That Move to Ears That Eat,” a compendium of monologues by Macon-based playwright Winisphere Jones; Atlanta-based playwright Nykieria Chaney’s production of her biographical drama about the life of writer Zora Neal Hurston, “Zora! Let The People Sing!”; the gospel musical “Daughters of the King” from She Reigns Ministries of Charlotte, N.C.,; and the children’s play “Black Girls (Can) Fly” from Chicago’s Sydney Chatman about a 10-year-old girl dealing with violence in her Chicago neighborhood.
The festival culminates with an award ceremony honoring Doris Derby, Atlanta-based documentary photographer and retired Georgia State University professor. The ceremony honors Derby’s work as the founder of the New Freedom Theatre, an advocacy troupe that traveled the South in the 1960s to help inform people about their voting rights. The event will include a video montage of Derby’s life and a celebratory reception afterwards.
There are currently three major festivals in the country focused on African-American theater. The largest and oldest, the National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem, N.C., was created in the 1980s and takes place every two years. The D.C. Black Theatre Festival of Washington, D.C., is an annual, 10-day event.
Toni Simmons Henson, founder of the Atlanta Black Theatre Festival
Henson says that in its six-year history, the Atlanta Black Theatre Festival has spotlighted the work of more than 100 emerging playwrights and 1,300 performing artists.
“There’s just so much great work out there that’s not getting produced,” she says. “To be able to open this platform for emerging playwrights is just a joy.
“Theatre gives people an opportunity to process,” says Henson. ”The beautiful thing about art is that it always reflects society. It comes from the pain or pleasure of people who have lived it and experienced it.”
Cirque takes ‘Luzia’ to a new level with water
Fall arts in Atlanta: 12 don’t miss events
Atlanta Black Theatre Festival. Oct.4-7. Free-$35; free events and festival passes available. Porter Sanford III Performing Arts and Community Center, 3181 Rainbow Drive, Decatur. 404-687-2731, www.atlantabtf.org.