Monday + Tueaday, May 22 +23
4:30pm + 6:30pm Readings
FREE + Open to public. First come, first served.
Please join us as we expand our collective knowledge of the classical canon with an exceptional group directors and actors for this unique series—curated by Awoye Timpo as “an exhibition of rarely seen Black classic plays.” Play readings are followed in the evening by a discussion with the theatre artists involved. Alice Childress, Kathleen Collins, Bill Gunn, and Ron Milner are just four out of a long line of writers whose extraordinary plays were produced in the 20th century. This series celebrates classic plays that feature dynamic characters, extraordinary dialogue, and compelling stories—all written by an eclectic group of Black writers, whose plays speak to their own time in a way that deeply resonates with our own.
Monday, May 22
4:30pm Wine in the Wilderness by Alice Childress
A timeless and thrilling play, Wine in the Wilderness (1969) revolves around a young girl who befriends an artist in the midst of painting his triptych. In this piece Childress explores the depths of Black womanhood.
6:30pm What the Wine-Sellers Buy by Ron Milner
Written in 1974, What the Wine-Sellers Buy was originally produced by Joseph Papp at the New York Shakespeare Festival at Lincoln Center. The play centers around Steve Carlton, a carefree high school student, who wrestles between his dream to become a professional basketball player and the other possibilities in his life.
Tuesday, May 23
4:30pm The Forbidden City by Bill Gunn
Bill Gunn’s final play, The Forbidden City, premiered at New York’s Public Theater in 1989. Set in the 1930s the play reckons with the nature of family and the excesses of love and power.
6:30pm The Brothers by Kathleen Collins
In this memory-drama, Collins weaves together a series of scenes and monologues about black men who “should have been born white’’ because they “spent their entire lives trying to jump out of their skins.’’ The Brothers (1982) was originally produced by the Women’s Project at the American Place Theater.
Playwright, novelist, actor, and screenwriter Alice Childress was a visionary artist. Born was in Charleston, South Carolina in 1916 she later moved to Harlem where she began writing and immersing herself in the vibrant arts scene. Ms. Childress wrote over a dozen plays over the course of her career including Florence, Wedding Band:
A Love/Hate Story in Black and White, Trouble in Mind, Mojo: A Black Love Story, and Wine in the Wilderness. She also wrote the novels Like One of the Family and A Hero Ain’t Nothin’ but a Sandwich which was later turned into a film. A Tony Award nominee for her performance in Anna Lucasta, Ms. Childress was also a tireless advocate for actor union rights.
Born in 1942, raised in Jersey City, and educated at Skidmore and the Sorbonne, Kathy Collins was an activist with SNCC during the Civil Rights Movement who went on to carve out a career for herself as a playwright and filmmaker during a time when black women were rarely seen in those roles. She was married twice, and had
two children who she raised in Piermont, New York. She died young, at age 46, from breast cancer. Her most known work is the film Losing Ground, followed perhaps by two plays, In the Midnight Hour, and The Brothers. A never-before released collection of short fiction, Whatever Happened to Interracial Love?, was published by Ecco Press in Fall 2016. kathleencollins.org
Bill Gunn was an extraordinary artistic force with an exceptional body of work across various mediums. He began his career as an actor and appeared on Broadway in The Immoralist and off-Broadway in the classic play Take A Giant Step by Louis Peterson. Several of his plays were produced at the New York Shakespeare Festival
under the leadership of Joseph Papp and include masterpieces such as Black Picture Show, Johnnas, and The Forbidden City. In addition to his extensive work in the theater, Mr. Gunn wrote and directed films including his best-known work Ganja and Hess as well as the film Stop. He is also the author of two novels, All the Rest Have Died and Rhinestone Sharecropping. Bold, inventive, and surprising the work of Bill Gunn is impressively resonant and dynamic as ever.
Ron Milner was a legendary playwright with an extraordinary body of work including the plays Who’s Got His Own, Season’s Reasons, The Warning—A Theme for Linda, Jazz Set, and Roads to the Mountaintop which was a tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.. Born and raised in Detroit, his work is infused with a rhythmic and regional
authenticity and an uncompromising depth of character. His play Checkmates appeared on Broadway in a production directed by Woodie King Jr. and featuring extraordinary an exceptional cast including Denzel Washington, Ruby Dee, Paul Winfield and Marsha Jackson. Mr. Milner is also the author of the book for the musical Don’t Get God Started, written in collaboration with the Winans family.
Awoye Timpo is a New York-based director. Credits include Sister Son/ji (Billie Holiday Theater), Carnaval (National Black Theatre), Ndebele Funeral (59E59; South African tour; Edinburgh Festival), The Libation Bearers (Shakespeare Theatre NJ), Chasing the Bird (Joyce Theater), Children of the Road (NYU Grad Acting), In the Continuum (Juilliard), Tears of Anatolia (Columbia), Araby (La Mama), Clybourne Park (Farmers Alley), Ruined (WMU), The Vanished (Novisi, site-specific), Rhinoceros (Novisi). Broadway: Assistant Director, Shuffle Along; Associate Director, Jitney. Segal Center: PEN World Voices, Feast (Fall 2016), Other: Page 73, TerraNOVA, Ma-Yi, Royal Shakespeare Company, WNYC, ABC/Disney, Soho Rep Writer/ Director Lab, Cherry Lane Mentor Project, Lincoln Center Directors Lab.