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New plays for the new place

The Black Ensemble Theater does its seventh Black Playwrights Festival



This will be the Black Ensemble Theater's seventh annual Black Playwrights Festival—and its first in the company's brand-new, $19 million cultural center. The six-night event features work from the Black Playwrights Initiative, a mentoring program whose mission, according to BE executive director Jackie Taylor, is to usher "talented black artists into the local and national spotlight."

The festivities kick off with a tribute to Regina Taylor, who's probably as well-known by now for writing the gospel musical Crowns as for her roles on TV series like The Unit and I'll Fly Away (Mon 3/19). The rest of the fest is taken up with staged readings of full-length and short plays.

In The Diversion of Barbara Jean Williams (Tue 3/20), Leonard Ferris tells the tale of a man who shuts down emotionally after the death of his wife. Creola Thomas's Sisters from Belzoni details a "simple love story . . . complicated by a generation of secrets and lies" (Wed 3/21). Next comes "BPI Shorties," a program offering one ten-minute play apiece by Wendell Etherly, Loy Webb, and Cory Andre Wright (Thu 3/22). Etherly comes back the following evening with The Red Summer (Fri 3/23), a full-length work about the infamous 1919 Chicago race riot. Finally, a hurricane blows through the town of Bayou Port, Louisiana, in Rueben Echoles's musical Reverend Lee (Sat 3/24).

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